Gary Poole the Bookies’ Enemy shares his thoughts on this years Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham Festival 2023
Who can stop the Mullins machine?
The Cheltenham Festival is now only 6 weeks away and with Willie Mullins becoming more and more dominant in the top races it’s more & more becoming the ‘Mullins Show’! This gives trainers (and punters) a huge headache as to whether or not they want to pitch their runners up against so many ‘good things’ trained by Mullins, and with so much doubt about who will run, who won’t, ground conditions needing to be perfect to hold any chance at all of winning etc etc, It’s becoming trickier and trickier to find each-way value.
Thankfully, a few bookies have now priced up races with a NRNB rule (non-runner no bet) so should any horse not run, although the prices are shorter than the other bookies, it at least gives us a safety net in terms of getting our money back should they not turn up.
At what’s a fairly late stage in terms of ante-post betting, with plenty of the real value now gone, it might be worth keeping a close eye on the races/markets to see if you can spot a late entry from one of the top trainers. I can remember seeing a few big late punts going on a week or so before last years renewal, and if you can spot one this year, then you could be quids in, especially with the NRNB cushion.
Cheltenham Ante-Post bets – All NRNB
Supreme Novice Hurdle – Diverge 16/1 1pt e/w NRNB Hills/B365 20/1 Skybet + 0.25pts e/w 33/1 general price
It’s hard to see past the Mullins trained Facile De Vega here, but with him being so short in price, it opens the door for an each-way bet on one of the others. Diverge is also trained by Mullins, and he won so impressively in a good time last time that, should he line up on the day, I very much doubt that he will be anywhere near his current price of 33/1 or even the 16/1 NRNB. He won on soft ground last time which he probably won’t get on the opening day of the festival, but, after a decent return run behind High Definition at Leopardstown, who’s to say that his win wasn’t by credit to a fast improving son of Frankel? Mullins often runs a handful of his best prospects in this race, and with NRNB offers starting to pop up in a few places, with Diverge already having an entry to the race, he looks the one to be on in the hope that Mullins decides takes him along, probably to watch his stablemate cruise to victory!
Of the big races, I’m really struggling to find much value at this stage as there’s either a very short priced fav at the top of the market, leaving just two places up for grabs without the place offers that we get from bookies closer to the day of the race. Or as with the stayers Hurdle, it’s very tight between the top two and neither of them look like value.
So, (and this is going against everything I preach about value) instead try to look all around for wood when there’s a tree right in front of you! I’m going to suggest a cheeky 4-fold acca with the obvious, shall we say it? ‘Good Things’. These are all my best bets of the festival.
Go NRNB firms then if you get any pulling out the bet will got to a treble/double…..
1 pt win acca 25/1 Skybet 22/1 B365 19/1 Hills all NRNB
Dublin Racing Festival
This weekend we have the Dublin Festival at Leopardstown, which should give us a few potential festival pointers with many horses having their final runs at Leopardstown over the weekend before heading to Cheltenham. Many Irish raiders take this route, so it might be worth having a few bets on horses that will be aimed at Cheltenham and are fancied for their Leopardstown races this weekend.
Those that might fit the bill are (feel free to have a bet in their Leopardstown races as well).
Ballymore Novice Hurdle, Good Land 1pt win 8/1 NRNB Hills/Sky/B365 (runs 1:20 Leoardstown Saturday)
Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle, Quais De Paris 1pt win 16/1 B365 14/1 Hills NRNB (runs 1:20 Leoardstown Saturday)
NOTE: If (and its a big IF) American Mike jumps well he could win that 1:20 as he’s got tonnes of ability. But he’s far from the full article so I have my doubts. if he does win then feel free to have a bet on him for Cheltenham, if you can surmise which race he’ll be running in!? (Possibly the shorter distance Ballymore)
That’s about it from me at this stage, but as I mentioned earlier, keep your ‘ear to the ground’ and keep a close eye on the Cheltenham handicap markets and you could unearth some great value if/when one of the top trainers (Henderson/Mullins/Elliott/De Bromhead) add a late entry in one of the big handicaps.
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