Posted on 26th January 2022
The start of the Cheltenham Festival is just under seven weeks away, which means that punters are actively looking for ante-post value in the list of horse racing bookmakers that are currently open.
All the leading sportsbooks are currently offering prices on the races taking place at the Festival this year, which means that gamblers can begin looking around to get the best price.
So, which outside picks could be overlooked at present?
Back in October, it looked extremely likely that Dan Skeleton could have a special horse on his hands over fences. Third Time Lucki started the season in exceptional form at the home of the Festival winning over the two-mile distance by eight and a half lengths from Buddy Rich. Fans were anxious to see whether it was a flash in the pan, and we got our result just under a month later.
Once again at Cheltenham, the seven-year-old romped home to win by four and three-quarter lengths from Sebastapool. His reputation was hit slightly when third in the G1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown. But, that form is already looking pretty decent with War Lord coming out since and winning the Cazoo Novices’ Chase at Lingfield. Third Time Lucki shouldn’t be underestimated back at Cheltenham in the Arkle.
Another Dan Skelton-trained horse that should have an excellent chance at the Festival is Molly Ollys Wishes. The eight-year-old bas won two from three this season, with her only defeat coming at Ascot against a returning-to-form Buzz. However, that was certainly put straight behind her on her return to Ascot at the end of January, as she won G2 Mares’ Hurdle.
She was controlled throughout that entire run, and didn’t look for catching when taking the lead with three hurdles remaining. Molly Ollys Wishes stayed on strong to finish a length and three-quarters ahead of My Sister Sarah, and more improvement could be made at Cheltenham. She is currently around a 14/1 chance in the betting, with Telmesomethinggirl leading the way despite failing to finish in the top two on her last three appearances. Instead, Royal Kahala could be the more serious danger.
We aren’t going to make any secret about it that Honeysuckle for trainer Henry De Bromhead and jockey Rachel Blackmore is going to win the Champion Hurdle. The superstar mare boasts a perfect 13-0 record on track, and it’s unlikely that she will be beaten by any of the entries for the Festival race this year. Instead, the betting without the favourite could be the way to go, and Tommy’s Oscar would be a very popular winner.
Trainer Ann Hamilton only has five horses in her yard, and a runner at Cheltenham has long-been the goal. This year, she has Tommy’s Oscar, who not only looks set to line-up, but also has place claims on the form that he has shown this term. He has won his last four races, with the most high-profile of those coming at Haydock on January 22nd, as he landed the G2 ‘The New One’ Unibet Hurdle. A victory of five lengths from Global Citizen was a commanding victory, and another strong run at Cheltenham could make for one of the stories of the Festival.
I was very much on the bandwagon for Royale Pagaille in the Gold Cup last year off the back of his run in the G2 Peter Marsh, and fast forward 12 months and I’m in exactly the same boat when it comes to the featured race of the meet. Galvin is the outstanding selection on the back of the Irish form that he has shown, beating both A Plus Tard and Kemboy in the G1 Savills in December. However, the value pick on the back of British form is once again Royale Pagaille.
His run in the Peter Marsh this year was arguably better than last year, despite winning by a smaller margin of half a length. The eight-year-old was carrying top weight around Haydock, but looked ever so impressive with his jumping. A second crack at the Gold Cup could be on the agenda, and with many sportsbooks likely to offer five places, we wouldn’t turn down Royale Pagaille. Especially considering the red-hot form that trainer Venetia Williams has been in so far this year.
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