DONN MCCLEAN CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL BLOG: Racing TV’s Donn McClean will be covering this year’s festival on Betdaq Tips previewing the biggest races and sharing his tips.
I’m delighted to be working with BETDAQ for the four days of the Cheltenham Festival. I’ll be providing a daily blog previewing the main races on each day as well giving my best bets in any of the other races. Tuesday is always a fantastic spectacle with four Grade Ones, so here are my thoughts on all of the action.
⭕ Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
We kick things off with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm) and on paper it looks a very strong renewal with all of the market principles standing their ground. It’s good to see the Joe Donnelly-owned pair of ASTERION FORLONGE and Shishkin are taking each other on.
I’m not sure there is too much value left in the market, but on the likely softer ground I just favour Asterion Forlonge at 3.75. On better ground, I’d probably be more in the Abacadabras camp, but you had to be impressed by the Willie Mullins’ runner the last day at Leopardstown. Considering Willie thought he was a three-miler, the performance he put in over two miles there was really good and the way he put distance between himself and a good horse in Easywork was visually very impressive.
He’s got a good profile for the race and looks a similar type to Klassical Dream last year. Even looking back further to the likes of Vautour and Champagne Fever, they shaped as if they could get further and given Willie’s comments about Asterion Forlonge’s ability to go three miles, he makes a very solid proposition.
⭕ Arkle Challenge Trophy
Henry De Bromhead’s NOTEBOOK (pictured) heads the market for this year’s Arkle (2.10pm) at 3.5 and although plenty are saying he’s a highly-strung type, he’s clearly very talented. He got very lit up at the start the last day and still won, so he’s deserving of his place at the head of the market. He’s a typical De Bromhead horse who has improved markedly from hurdles to fences. He was rated 135 over hurdles but is 158 over fences and is four from four over the bigger obstacles. I think he’s the right favourite, especially with the fact Fakir D’oudairies doesn’t get any weight for being a four-year-old now.
I expect Joseph O’Brien’s charge to go well though and if he drifts a bit from his current price of 5.0, he could be the value. Having said that, you can make a case for the likes of Brewin’upastorm, Espirit Du Large and Rouge Vif too, but I probably just favour the Irish horses.
⭕ Champion Hurdle
I think it’s safe to say the 2020 Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) isn’t the strongest, but in some ways that makes it more interesting from a betting perspective. I’ve been through the race and I can honestly say I could make a case for five different horses!
That’s the type of race it is and I’d probably just be leaning towards SHARJAH, especially if the ground dries up. He has won a Galway Hurdle on soft ground so it’s not like he doesn’t handle it, he’s just a better horse on good ground. He was disappointing the last day and although nothing came to light in the aftermath, it was so bad I’m inclined to just put a line through that run. If you forgive him that performance and look back to his Matheson Hurdle win over Christmas, he’s surely a big player.
Patrick Mullins gets on with him really well and at around 13.0, he could be the play.
I also wouldn’t put anyone off backing Ballyandy at 17.0. He’s a Cheltenham Festival winner and even though he beat Pentland Hills the last day, he’s four times the price. He ran on the worst of the ground during the run-in of the International Hurdle at Cheltenham and was only beaten a neck by Call Me Lord and if the ground does get bad, he’s a contender too.
Epatante is the rightful favourite at 4.3 after her Christmas Hurdle win and if there is to be a future star in the line-up it’s probably her.
Darver Star would be a fantastic story for BETDAQ ambassador Gavin Cromwell too, so all-in-all it’s a very open Champion Hurdle and one it’s very hard to be so sure on just one of them.
⭕ Mares’ Hurdle
As the betting suggests, the Mares’ Hurdle (4.10pm) looks a straight match between Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle. I think it’s pretty hard to split them, but I do think Benie Des Dieux sets the standard.
You could argue she is better over three miles given how impressive she was in both the French Champion Hurdle and the Galmoy Hurdle. After that win at Gowran Park it was as much the performance as the way both Mullins and Paul Townend talked about her that spoke volumes. To say she could be the best mare he’s ever trained is some statement and personally I would have liked to have seen her take on Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle getting the 7lb mares’ allowance.
That said, this is still a fantastic race and Honeysuckle is a top-class mare in her own right. She wasn’t at her best in the Irish Champion Hurdle but I was impressed with the way she battled back to win over a trip that’s probably short of her best.
They should probably be a bit closer in the market and therefore at 3.25 Honeysuckle could perhaps offer a bit of value.
⭕ Other races
I’m keen on the chances of GALVIN in the Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase (4.50pm). His form is very solid including a sixth in the Ballymore last year where he didn’t jump well at all. He made a really bad mistake coming down the hill and so did very well to finish as close as he did. That was a very strong race and this year it looks as if this race has been the target for quite some time.
He hasn’t run since a good second to Salsaretta in November and he looks pretty well treated off a mark of 142. He’s available at 6.5 currently and if the Irish get a few on the board early, he could go off a lot shorter.
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