Racing UK

Cheltenham Festival: How To Bet £20 on the novice and juvenile hurdlers

Thursday 2 February 2017

Entries for the Triumph Hurdle and Cheltenham's three novice hurdles were announced today. Andy Stephens picks out the best ante-post wagers among them.

By Andy Stephens

Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle

Where and when: Cheltenham, Tuesday March 14; Number of entries: 83

and

Race: Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle

Where and when: Cheltenham, Wednesday March 15; Number of entries: 118

Neon Wolf is most exciting novice hurdler I’ve seen this season and I want to be with him in whichever race he contests at the Cheltenham Festival.

The problem is that he has a couple of options at the meeting and, to complicate matters further, it has been suggested he could miss the gig completely because his owners apparently have an equal passion for Punchestown.

I will be surprised if he skips Cheltenham because opportunities have to be grasped when they are available in jump racing and, once losing your maiden tag, you only get one chance at taking on your peers. In any case, there is a seven-week gap between the four-day bonanza at Prestbury Park and the similar jamboree in Ireland.

Harry Fry has suggested the 2m5f Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, rather than the 2m Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle, may be the best fit for Neon Wolf.

You can half understand where he is coming from because the strapping six-year-old won a point-to-point at Ballyragget in County Kilkenny 11 months ago.

However, he looked anything but short of speed when thrashing Elgin - previously a good winner at Kempton - over a trip short of 2m at Haydock (a track much sharper than Cheltenham) last month and, personally, I’d love to see him in the opening race.

He looked the complete package that day in Lancashire as he travelled strongly, jumped superbly when the tempo increased and accelerated on command. He also clocked a time that was 1.6sec quicker than The New One recorded when all out to land the Champion Hurdle trial later on the card.

Before that dashing display, Neon Wolf had bolted up in a bumper at Uttoxeter before making a good impression when winning with comfort on his hurdling bow at Exeter.

None of us got to see what happened on the first occasion because the track was shrouded in fog but he won by 12 lengths despite apparently being short of peak fitness and gassy.

The ground could determine which route he takes at Cheltenham. Timeform have assessed it as soft for each of his British runs, although his win between the flags was achieved on good to yielding.

Even if there is a dry spell, Cheltenham do a grand job with the watering these days and it will be a surprise if the going on the first day is any quicker than good to soft. Without rain it is likely to be a bit faster 24 hours later, but the Fry camp will not need telling that.

He is a general 14-1 for the Supreme, but the sponsor make him 10-1 non-runner no bet and that looks a fantastic wager. The lack of strength in the division is reflected by the fact that Melon has shot to the head of the market after winning a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown.

Betfair, Sky Bet and Stan James make Neon Wolf 7-1 for the Neptune but I again prefer the non-runner no bet option. Bet365 make him 9-2 with this concession.

Back him for both races because he is more than capable of winning either.

Race: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Where and when: Cheltenham, Friday March 17

Number of entries: 103

Death Duty looks plenty short enough at a best price of 5-2 for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and I can only presume the bookmakers have liabilities at bigger prices and are effectively shutting up shop.

I’m not sure he would have beaten Augusta Kate had she stood up at Naas last time and, while three miles promises to suit, he has done most of his racing on a soft or heavy surface.

A much better option, at 8-1 with Betfair, has to be Wholestone, who we know will stay every inch of the trip and whose record at Cheltenham this season reads 1211.

His jumping has not been without blemish and he is not the type to cruise round and win with his head in his chest but the Albert Bartlett is usually won by a streetwise stayer prepared to dig deep and he fits the bill.

He again showed a good attitude to win with something to spare at the course last weekend and, while soft ground helps bring his stamina into play, he seems equally at home on good going.

West Approach’s battling third to Unowhatimeanharry on the same card will make him popular but he has run against Wholestone three times this season and finished behind him on every occasion.

Race: JCB Triumph Hurdle

Where and when: Cheltenham, Friday March 17

Number of entries: 55

Finally, I’m going to have a small play on the Joseph O’Brien-trained Housesofparliament  - one of seven JP McManus entries in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Defi Du Seuil and Charlie Parcs, who head of the market, are considered the owner’s principal players but I imagine one of that pair will represent him in the Supreme, much as Binocular did when runner-up in the 2008 renewal. All of McManus's possible Triumph runners are also in the Supreme, so all options are open. 

The Supreme, run on the Old Course, is more of a speed test than the Triumph, run over farther on the more demanding New Course, and for that reason I reckon Charli Parcs could be the one diverted to it because he looked to have loads of gears when winning on his British debut at Kempton.

Defi Du Seuil has not been extended to win any of his five races over hurdles - three of them at Cheltenham - but his jumping has been scruffy on his past two starts and whether he will get away with that in a bigger field on quicker ground remains to be seen.

Housesofparliament is more appealing at 16-1 with bet365 (non-runner no bet), even though last year’s St Leger third found the Willie Mullins-trained Marie Devie too good on his hurdling bow at Leopardstown over Christmas. The latter is a general 8-1 for the race.

In need of the experience that day and not subjected to a hard time, I fancy Housesofparliament, who is 20-1 with other firms, will be much sharper on his next intended outing in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday week.

And whatever he does there, the 113-rated Flat performer could be a different proposition again granted a decent surface at Cheltenham a few weeks from now.

If he does not come up to scratch at Leopardstown there must be a chance he will miss Cheltenham. In that case, we would get our money back.  

How To Bet £20 on the novice and juvenile hurdlers at the Cheltenham Festival

OPTION 1

Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: £20 win on Neon Wolf at 10-1 with Sky Bet (non-runner no bet)

OPTION 2

Neptune Investment Management Baring Novices’ Hurdle: £20 win on  Neon Wolf at 9-2 with bet365 (non-runner no bet)

OPTION 3

JCB Triumph Hurdle: £5 each-way on Housesofparliament at 16-1 with bet365 (non-runner no bet)

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: £10 win on Wholestone at 8-1 with Betfair

OTHER BETS ALREADY ADVISED:

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup:

£6 each-way on Djakadam at 14-1 with 32Red, Sky Bet and William Hill

£4 each-way on Minella Rocco at a general 40-1

Stan James Champion Hurdle:

£20 win on Vroum Vroum Mag at 8-1 with Paddy Power (non-runner no bet)

Betway Champion Chase:

£16 on God’s Own at 7-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power in the market without Douvan

£4 on Vaniteux at 20-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power in the market without Douvan

Stayers’ Hurdle:

£4 win on The New One at 25-1 with Stan James

£16 win on The New One at 16-1 with bet365 (non-runner no bet)

Ryanair Chase:

£6 win and £3 each-way on Valseur Lido at 10-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power

£4 each-way on Sub Lieutenant at a general 16-1

The novice chasers:

National Hunt Chase: £4 win on Arpege D’Alene at a general 14-1

JLT Chase: £10 win on Charbel at a general 33-1 plus £2 each-way

Plus a £1 each-way double on the pair

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