I got sidetracked yesterday with work and it’s going to be a busy week with the Cheltenham Festival getting underway today.
Sunday’s bet went down with United failing to score despite hitting the woodwork twice and forcing Bernd Leno into a couple of smart saves, but the points went Arsenal’s way.
I get a bet for tonight’s football and then I’ve outlined my Cheltenham picks for Champion Day.
Carlisle vs Notts County (19:45)
Notts County sit seven points adrift at the bottom of the League 2 table and they are staring National League football right in the eyes.
On Saturday, they went to fellow strugglers Cheltenham and were hammered 4-1. The bloke doing the EFL highlights put in a masterful voiceover with at least 11 horse racing gags relating to the Festival and he did point out that the Magpies found the going heavy, which they have all season.
It’s just ten points picked up on their travels this season and Neal Ardley’s side are facing mission impossible going into the closing stages of the season.
Carlisle got back to winning ways here at Brunton Park on Saturday when beating Swindon 2-1.
Goals from Hallam Hope and Callum O’Hare earned the three points in a hard-fought game meaning United have won six of their last eight games.
The only games they’ve dropped points of late here were against Exeter (8th) in a 1-1 draw and MK Dons (3rd) in a 3-2 defeat.
Those sides are doing well and battling Carlisle for promotion, which is a challenge unlike the one Notts County are facing.
The Magpies reached 70 goals conceded at Cheltenham and that’s the leakiest defence in League 2, while it doesn’t get any better at the other end, with them being the third-lowest scorers.
Only the top three sides and Colchester have scored more goals than Carlisle this season, so a victory for Steven Pressley’s men looks on the cards.
The Blues have scored two or more goals in eight of their last ten home matches and if they achieve that then they should pick up the three points.
Carlisle and Over 1.5 Goals (8/5 – Ladbrokes) does look rather good considering Notts County’s awful defensive record but I’m playing the safe option with the hosts looking banker material.
Carlisle to Win (11/10 – Bet Victor)
Cheltenham Festival Day One Picks
13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Well, my pick here Elixir De Nutz has been declared a non-runner after being found to be lame, so I’ve had to go back to the research. Money for Klassical Dream throughout yesterday has to be noted considering the Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins factor given their recent success in the race. However, Getabird failed to make an impact for the pair last year when hyped up. This five-year-old has won twice at Leopardstown, including getting the better of Aramon last time and the pair are closely matched on that run, yet there is some disparity in price.
Al Dancer won the Betfair Hurdle in emphatic fashion and that race is usually a good guide for this race. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey has won on all four starts this season and has improved on every outing. He ticks plenty of boxes and would be a fair favourite, especially with how well he travelled at Ascot in that re-arranged Betfair Hurdle.
Fakir D’Oudairies could become the first four-year-old to win the race since 1999 and given the weight allowance that isn’t out of the question after the way he ran away with a Grade 2 here at Cheltenham in January. Mister Fisher may be Nicky Henderson’s second string behind Angel’s Breath but he won a good trail in solid enough fashion despite idling when hitting the front. He still looks a nice prospect.
Thomas Darby wouldn’t want it too soft and if the rain has hit Cheltenham then that could hamper his chances because he wouldn’t want it too soft. He won his Maiden Hurdle over C&D back in October in very nice style and if today’s not his day then Aintree could be.
I’ve chased my tail around here. Al Dancer looks solid but I’m going for Aramon (14/1) at the prices. He was only reeled in by stablemate Klassical Dream in the closing stages last month. He won a Grade 1 over Christmas and he has generally improved with every run. His jumping is good and if they go a good gallop then that’ll help him find a rhythm, plus did showed a good turn of foot to go away from the field that day. He won a Maiden Hurdle over further, so if it turns into a slog that shouldn’t be an issue, especially after winning on soft ground while running on the flat in Germany. With him at a double-figure price then he’s the one to plump for if going for an each-way punt.
William Hill are paying 7 places!
Glen Forsa (4/1) was mightily impressive when winning the Kingmaker at Sandown last month and that blew his handicap mark forcing Mick Channon’s hand to run him in this Grade 1. He beat a good rival in Kalashnikov by 19 lengths that day and he jumped beautifully, so if finding the same rhythm could be hard to beat. There could be plenty of pace in this race and I’ve no issues with his jumping, while if it is quickly run then he’s won over further, so there are no stamina concerns either.
14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase
The first of the week’s handicaps and Mister Whitaker could give Mick Channon a quick double. Last year’s Close Brothers winner is 14lb higher in this but has won twice at the track, while Coo Star Sivola won this last year after being well supported. He’s 3lb higher this time and hasn’t had the same preparation.
Calipto is inconsistent but Venetia Williams has already got two wins out of him in 2019, including in a Listed race at Ascot, so he has each-way claims but I’m taking a chance on Magic Of Light (22/1). The mare does look a thorough stayer when staying upright. She made a couple of bad errors at Fairyhouse, which saw Robbie Power unseated last time but there’s potential in her, as she showed in a Listed Mares’ Chase at Newbury in December. Give Me A Copper could be a talented type but is yet to show it all on the track due to injuries.
Paddy Power paying 6 places!
15:30 Champion Hurdle
Buveur D’Air looks to make it three in a row following in the footsteps of Istabraq and See You Then but the mares look set to give him a stern test considering he only just got up last year to beat Melon for his second crown. He got his season back on track in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last time but he could be vulnerable giving weight to two smart mares.
Apple’s Jade (2/1) has done nothing but improve and it is hard to crib her with her versatility. She won over 2m4f to start her season then backed it up in the Hatton’s Grace before going up to 3m and winning the Christmas Hurdle by 26 lengths. Last month, she won the Irish Champion Hurdle by 16 lengths beating Supasundae (2nd) and Melon (4th). Gordon Elliott’s charge jumps well and has an engine. She looks the one to dethrone Buveur D’Air.
Laurina is one I find hard to weigh up. She beat a nice sort in the Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown last time but did look a little awkward at a couple of hurdles and that could prove costly in this sort of contest. At a big price, Brain Power might have been overlooked. Nicky Henderson reverted him back to hurdles in December when we saw him win the International Hurdle when he showed some of his old spark after the chasing experiment failed. There’s no doubt he’s quirky but he does have talent, so could outrun those odds.
16:10 Mares’ Hurdle
Benie Des Dieux is expected to be one of the bankers of the week, especially for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins backers. She’s won all five starts since joining Mullins from France, including this last year, so a repeat looks very much on the cards.
Stormy Ireland could see support if Laurina wins the Champion Hurdle with their interlocking form after there meeting at Punchestown last time but I do like Lady Buttons (14/1). She hasn’t put a foot wrong this season and has continually progressed. If she was with another trainer then she is likely to be shorter but because she’s with an unfashionable yard, then you’re getting this sort of price. Philip Kirby has had her over fences too this season where she’s jumped beautifully and she’s won her last four. Her last defeat came in the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase when taking on the males, so here against her own sex shouldn’t be a problem, as she’s shown already this season.
You can back Lady Buttons without the favourite at 7/1 and that is an equally attractive angle.
16:50 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
Horses towards the fore in the betting tend to go well and A Plus Tard has done well since joining Henry de Bromhead with a win and two seconds. He could give Rachel Blackmore a Cheltenham Festival winner and after his second in a Grade 3 at Punchestown last time there is no reason he can’t go one better here. Riders Onthe Storm won a Novice Chase last time after running a fair race in a Grade 1 on Boxing Day. He’s improving and could have more to offer over this sort of trip.
But for me, Tower Bridge (8/1) is interesting. His chase form doesn’t look too appealing but chase maidens have a good record in this race, as do horses wearing first-time headgear and this six-year-old has cheekpieces on for the first-time. He jumped left at Gowran Park last time when behind Duc Des Genievres, so the configuration of Cheltenham is likely to suit him and I wouldn’t be surprised if Joseph O’Brien has campaigned him to peak for this race. He was a smart novice hurdler where he did record a win in a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival, so has talent and if building on his previous run, he can go well.
17:30 Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase
Quite a bit of hype has surrounded Ok Corral for this 4m contest with Derek O’Connor booked to ride, as he did at Warwick last time. He was second in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle last year when staying on late and hasn’t done too badly over fences. He finished ahead of Ballyward when they met last year but Willie Mullins was very impressive at Naas last time when looking like he would stay further and looks a fair favourite.
Discorama fell when looking to mount a strong challenge to Ballyward, so it would be no surprise if Paul Nolan’s charge has been given plenty of schooling to iron on that jumping blip. However, I find Impulsive Star (16/1) of real interest here. He was fourth in this last year and with some firms that’ll get you a return if he does the same here. The nine-year-old won the Grade 3 Classic Chase at Warwick in January and that form has been boosted with Crosspark (third) since winning the Eider at Newcastle and Carole’s Destrier (fourth) winning at Newbury earlier this month.
Neil Mulholland’s charge was behind Ok Corral at Plumpton in December but that was his first run back in nine months since racing in this contest, so he was bound to improve for the run. Sam Waley-Cohen is an experienced amateur and won the race back in 2009 on-board Tricky Trickster and he can replicate that here.
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