Lucky 15 for Cheltenham 2017

With the Cheltenham Festival just weeks away, there’s much talk on social media about Ante Post betting, so why not get popular twitterer Stuart ‘Jimbo’ Williams to take us through the horses which may have slipped under the radar:

So why not have a long range Lucky 15?

Here’s 4 horses I like the look of at solid each way prices.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE:

CHAMPERS ON ICE – 16/1

Ever since backing the tenacious grey when successful in a Punchestown Festival bumper in April 2015, I’ve been looking forward to seeing David Pipe’s son of Robin Des Champs tackle staying trips over fences, and the National Hunt Chase looks the ideal target come March.

Champers On Ice followed up a cakewalk chase debut win at Uttoxeter with a fine second placed effort behind the smart looking American in a Class 3 Listed contest at Warwick, where it’s fair to say the 7-year-old looked fairly one paced.

However being fairly one paced is no bad thing in a 4 mile race, and the attitude displayed by the dashing grey in races such as his bumper win and when third in last season’s Albert Bartlett should stand him in good stead in this demanding contest.

Second and third placed efforts in Grade 2 events at Prestbury Park over hurdles, allied too a gutsy winning performance when conceding weight to all of his rivals in a Class 3 contest in January last year, further showcase the geldings ability to handle the track. While winning form on ground varying from Good to Heavy means there’s no need to worry about underfoot conditions.

Having a top Amateur Jockey on board is a major advantage here, and it would look a nigh on certainty that Jamie Codd would get the leg up considering the success he’s shared with David Pipe in the past. Including when teaming up with Champers On Ice at Punchestown.

Pipe saddled Vieux Lion Rouge to be sixth in last year’s renewal, who was sent off an unfancied 25/1 shot. If Champers On Ice does indeed line up here, I expect him to be much shorter than the current 16/1 available.

His form at the course, versatility in terms of ground, game attitude and the likelihood of a top Amateur in Jamie Codd doing the steering make Champers On Ice a good value antepost wager in my opinion, and would certainly pay for a few bottles if he came home in front come March.

NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES HURDLE:

FINIANS OSCAR – 5/1

Finians Oscar looks to be the latest Colin Tizzard trained top notcher to hit the track.

Purchased for the princely sum of £250,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November sale, the form of his win between the flags has already been boosted not once, but twice by the runner up Mr Clarkson, who won an Exter bumper on his debut for David Pipe on New Years Day, before getting off the mark at the first time of asking over timer at the same venue 2 weeks later.

It was the seemingly effortless way in which the 5-year-old put the race to bed between the penultimate flight and the last in the Tolworth that gave the impression this gelding was well above average. And the extra yardage of the Neptune looks like it will suit the strong travelling youngster down to the ground.

Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls has openly stated the high regard in which he holds the runner up Capitaine, who won a very decent Class 1 novice event at Ascot on his previous outing, conceding weight to all of his rivals in the process. While third home Chalonnial had already landed a Bangor maiden hurdle with ease, and the fifth horse to cross the line, Charlemar, went in to the race with an unblemished 2/2 record over obstacles.

I was lucky enough to be at Sandown that day, and was very taken by the way Finians Oscar overcame signs of greenness to win in such impressive fashion, as was Colin Tizzard, who i managed to snatch a word with immediately after the race.

It’s also worth noting that the son of Oscar won a schooling bumper in Ireland, as well as working with some of Willie Mullins’ string prior to the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. Experience that appears to have served the gelding very well indeed.

Alan and Ann Potts clearly have a very smart horse on their hands, and Colin Tizzard must be licking his lips at the prospect of unleashing his young new star on Prestbury Park in March.

5/1 may not be the biggest price, but given the apparent lack of depth in the race a present, that 5/1 could easily halve by the time the tapes rise in March.

RYANAIR CHASE:

SIZING JOHN – 10/1

Sizing John has always been a high class horse, but unfortunately for him, and for his connections, Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci have a monster called Douvan in the stable, who has bullied Sizing John and stole Alan and Ann Potts dinner money for the last 2 years!

Transferred from Henry De Bromhead to Jessica Harrington over the summer, the son of Midnight Legend chased home Douvan once again at Christmas on his first start for the yard.

Last season I was hoping and praying connections would step the gelding up in trip for the JLT Novices Chase, but instead they kept the 7-year-old over the minimum trip and finished second to you know who.

Thankfully connections seem to be bored with watching Douvan disappear in to the distance and gave the green light for Sizing John to contest the 2m4f Grade 3 Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles yesterday, and the step up in trip proved just the tonic.

Sizing John battled on gamely to defeat 11/10 favourite Sub Lieutenant, putting his head down and running all the way to the line, confirming the step up in trip is just what the doctor ordered.

The Ryanair Chase is always a trappy looking event at this stage of the season, with the likely field extremely hard to predict. With that in mind, the Irish raider halved in a price as a result of his victory yesterday. But given that connections have Fox Norton for the Champion Chase, it looks odds on Sizing John will line up here. And if he does, he’ll almost certainly be shorter than the 10/1 currently available.

A Grade One winner over Hurdles, and Grade 2 scorer over fences, it’s fair to say the talented gelding would be nigh on a superstar himself if Douvan wasn’t around, having finished second to Willie Mullins’ machine on no fewer than 5 occasions. With 4 of those defeats coming in Grade One contests.

Third in the 2015 Supreme Novices Hurdle, and second in the Arkle last year, Cheltenham Festival form is always a huge bonus.

But the biggest bonus of all is that Douvan will be in the Champion Chase!

10/1 looks a fair price to me.

FESTIVAL HANDICAP PLATE:

BOUVREUIL – 16/1

Cheltenham Festival handicaps are traditionally tougher to work out than the times crossword, and no doubt they will prove to be titanically tricky again when March rolls around this year.

However there’s one horse I’ve had my eye on all season, and while I’m in danger of falling off the proverbial cliff, I’ve long thought this race could be his main target this season.

People who regularly read my work will know that I’ve been keen on Bouvreuil all season. Backing him for both the Betvictor Gold Cup and Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, only to see the price shorten and the same result play out.

However neither of those efforts could be described as poor, with fifth and sixth place finishes achieved on ground that had probably gone against him on both occasions.

JP McManus swiftly whipped out his chequebook to secure the son of Saddler Maker in the summer when news of Jared Sullivan’s withdrawal from the game was announced. And we all know that JP loves a long term plan.

Rated 145, the 6-year-old sits 2lbs below the mark he carried in to the Betvictor Gold Cup at the start of the season. Which looks a fair mark judged on the performances the youngster has recorded over fences to this point.

Bouvreuil also boasts some solid Festival form, having finished second on the big day in March for the last 2 seasons. Firstly in the 2015 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle, before a narrow defeat in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase last year.

It could simply be that the gelding thrives in the spring, and relishes the hurly burly environment of big field Cheltenham Handicaps. With the likely good ground also being a positive.

16/1 looks a fair price about Bouvreuil in the Festival Handicap Plate, with the form of his efforts this term looking solid.

Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls will no doubt have him spot on for the day, and Barry Geraghty knows the gelding from his trip to Cheltenham in December. He’s definitely worth a flutter carrying the famous Green and Gold bands.

Cheltenham Tips