2012 Cheltenham Festival Antepost Yankee

It’s that time of the year where there’re not much to write about until the action over the jumps between Christmas and New Year takes centre stage so I thought I’d take the opportunity to look ahead to the Cheltenham Festival and make my selections for my annual “antepost Yankee” as a Christmas present to myself.

Big Bucks and Quevega both look like “banker material” at this stage, proven Festival champions, each having won their respective races for three years running and are the favourites this season to make it four each. Big Bucks of course is unstoppable in Staying Hurdles having won his last 14 starts at Grade One level. Quevega meanwhile looks equally as unbeatable in the David Nicholson’s Mares Hurdle over 2½ miles. The two are therefore form the cornerstone of the Yankee and better still, they are both priced extremely fairly, with Big Bucks 4/7 odds on to win the World Hurdle and Quevega 6/4 to take her race. Whislt both short in real terms, come Festival week, they’ll seem huge!

The trick is now to find two others selections who should be finding the winners enclosure at the Festival, not an easy thing to do but not impossible either. Some obvious candidates would include the likes of last season’s Gold Cup winner, Long Run, or indeed the 2011 Champion Hurdler, Hurricane Fly. Sizing Europe would be the pick of many to repeat his success of last season by winning a second successive Queen Mother Champion Chase. Certainly on his last outing when he won the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown at the beginning of this month, then he looks like he will be the one they all have to beat at Cheltenham.

However, the first of the two elected is the Donald McCain trained Peddlers Cross, who is in his novice chasing season and is the current 4/1 favourite to win the Arkle Trophy Challenge at the Festival.

Peddlers Cross of course finished second behind Hurricane Fly in last season’s Champion Hurdle and is so far unbeaten this season over the bigger obstacles having been out twice in fairly low key races at Bangor on Dee. The very obvious aspect to look at however is that the seven year old has taken to fences extremely well and although he is yet to be tested, he looks every bit a champion chaser in the making.

The other that will make up the Yankee is the David Pipe good thing, Grands Crus, who, like Peddlers Cross, has taken to the bigger obstacles in great style. Second behind Big Bucks in last season’s World Hurdle, Grands Crus has won both of his chasing starts this season including a cosy success last time in the Grade Two GPG Chase at Newbury over three miles a month ago.

As a result of these fine victories he has been installed as the 5/1 antepost favourite for the RSA Chase over 2m5f. This of course is a race designed to produce a future Gold Cup winner like Denman who won the RSA in 2006 a year before winning the Gold Cup a year later. Grands Crus is clearly on a similar route which is why the grey, even at this stage of his career has been made the 16/1 favourite for the 2013 Gold Cup by Boylesports!

The prices quoted are all best prices for the singles, the best prices at one bookmaker to allow for the bet to be placed are at Boylesport where a £5 Yankee (total stake £55) would return £1,150 if they all won based on the following odds.

Big Bucks @ 1/2 – World Hurdle

Quevega @ 5/4  – Mares Hurdle

Peddlers Cross @ 3/1 – Arkle Trophy Chase

Grands Crus @ 5/1 – RSA Chase.

The Festive Season Racing Review – Plenty of Cheltenham Festival Pointers

With the weather causing all sorts of problems over the Christmas and New Year period, us poor National Hunt racing fans will have to wait even longer to see if the great Kauto Star can make history in the King George VI Chase. The race has been rearranged from its traditional Boxing Day slot to that of January 15th where it, along with the Christmas Hurdle will be added to the Kempton Park card.

These two fantastic races were not the only victims of the weather, the Welsh National was also lost but happily that too has been rearranged and included in a cracking looking seven race card at Chepstow this weekend.

It was not all doom and gloom however, over in Ireland the traditional Leopardstown meeting managed to conclude successfully giving punters plenty to cheer about. The meeting threw up several potential winners for the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival, none more so than Hurricane Fly, who was a mighty impressive winner of the Festival Hurdle, where he defeated his arch rival, Solwhit for the third time in four races.

So good was his performance that Bookmakers immediately made the Willie Mullins trained five year old the favourite for the Champion Hurdle, but there are so many potential winners of the Festival’s first day feature, that there will be much more movement before the runners go to post. The betting in fact is so close at the top of the Champion Hurdle market, that there is little to choose between the top three, Hurricane Fly is around 4/1 generally; Menorah is next best at 9/2 with reigning Champion Hurdler, Binocular at 5/1.

Champion Chaser, Big Zeb also put in a solid and impressive performance when winning the Grade 1 Dial-A-Bet Chase. He had only three in opposition which included the Willie Mullins trained duo of Golden Silver and Scotsirish who had to settle for second and third place respectively, while a disappointing Captain Cee Bee brought up the rear. Big Zeb’s trainer, Colm Murphy was well pleased with the performance and confirmed that he will probably have one more run before Cheltenham.

Noel Meade’s Pandorama, who was pulled up when well backed in the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury in November, bounced back in good style to take the Grade 1 Lexus Chase. He won the race by a very impressive 6 lengths from the Nicky Richards trained, Money Trix, with Paul Nolan’s Joncol ¾ of a length further back in third. The win has probably earned the seven year a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he is likely to be the major threat from across the water.

Probably the biggest shock at the Leopardstown meeting was the defeat of Zaidpour in the Grade 1Future Champions Novice Hurdle, by the Mouse Morris trained, First Lieutenant. Despite going off as the 1/4 odds on favourite the previously unbeaten Zaidpour did not run smoothly at any time, he still had had every chance in fact after the last flight but failed to get his head in front on the run in. It is possible that the race had come a little too quickly for him after he won the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle just a fortnight previously at Fairyhouse.

Morris was delighted with his horse and will now keep him off track until he lines up in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, for which he looks more than reasonable each way value at 20/1. Zaidpour is the 10/1 second favourite for the Festival opener, behind Cue Card at 5/1.

Fortunately Newbury also got the go ahead to run its card on 29th December however the fog bound course did not provide fans with much of a spectacle. Nonetheless the Long Walk Hurdle certainly provided a look at a horse which must be regarded as the only Cheltenham Festival banker in Big Bucks, who romped away with the race winning by 6 lengths on the bridle. It was the Paul Nicholls trained superstar’s second win in the race and forced Bookmakers to shorten him once again for the World Hurdle for which he is now the 4/7 odds on favourite in the Cheltenham Betting for the race.

The other Grade 1 winner at the Newbury meeting was the Jonjo O’Neill trained Backspin, who looked a very good prospect indeed when taking the Challow Novices Hurdle over 2 miles 5 furlongs. The five year old was only making his second appearance over hurdles, having won on his debut only two weeks previously at Bangor on Dee, but to win by a massive eight lengths against a good quality field speaks volumes regarding his ability.

The win has earned the 6 year old a 14/1 quote for the Supreme Novices Hurdle but he has been made co-favourite at 10/1 for the Neptune Novice Hurdle for which will be his more likely target.

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