Cheltenham Festival antepost preview with Paddy Power: Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase was the platform 12 months ago for Sprinter Sacre to really emerge as a superstar.

Paddy Power

In just over a week’s time, Nicky Henderson could be sending out another 2m-chasing powerhouse in Simonsig and it looks likely that either the Albert Bartlett-owned seven-year-old or Donald McCain’s unbeaten chaser Overturn will win this race.

Click here to visit Paddy Power’s Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase antepost page.

The antepost favourite is SIMONSIG at 4/6 and unlike other market leaders at the Festival, I am not going to oppose.

Simonsig

The son of Fair Mix has looked outstanding in all of his races under rules, and his only defeat to date, when under the tutelage of Henderson, was when finishing second to Fingal Bay in December 2011.

Seven Barrows rate this horse very highly. The master of the Lambourn-based stable has suggested recently that Simonsig is only a few lengths behind Sprinter Sacre in his work at home.

If that is not an indicator as to how good he is, I don’t know what is.

Again, recently, Henderson also stated that Simonsig ‘annihilated’ at home a 114-rated Flat horse in a 9f gallop thought to be Forgotten Voice, who breezed to a five lengths victory in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown a fortnight ago.

All of the above reasons factor in to make him my nap of the entire Festival.

I have been really struck by the enthusiasm connections have with this horse and I have the same vibes as I did last year when they were talking about Sprinter Sacre.

I can see Simonsig winning this comfortably, even with Overturn (11/4) setting up a rapid pace, but in essence, I believe McCain’s charge will only be that – a pacemaker.

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Overturn is a horse I like a lot. He has been even more special over fences this year than he was over hurdles.

However, he is coming up against a future giant in this and he will be beaten.

The thought of Simonsig v Sprinter Sacre in next year’s Champion Chase is already an exciting thought, and I fully expect it to capture the sport’s imaginations for years to come in a similar fashion as the Denman v Kauto Star duels.

There are brilliant times ahead racing fans.

Advice:

Simonsig @ 4/6 (Paddy Power) win advised (NAP).

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Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @JamesYellen. Special thanks to Paddy Power. Click here to visit their website now.

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Nicky Henderson Media Day

Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard is the envy of racing trainers either side of the Irish Sea at the moment.

Nicky-Henderson-Long-Run-stables_2725683

With a string of horses that include the likes of Sprinter Sacre (pictured), Bobs Worth and Long Run to name a few, it is fair to say that the 62-year-old is currently looking after a golden generation at his stable.

The winning-most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival is estimated to send around 40 horses to Prestbury Park in 21 days time, but despite the 1–2 odds about Henderson becoming leading handler, he says he would settle for just one winner.

He said: “People have asked me whether achieving the seven winners from last year, this year, can be done again and my answer to them is that it’s a completely impossible thing to repeat.

“We go into Cheltenham this year, like any other year, thinking that we would be extremely happy with one winner because anything can happen at The Festival.

“I think if you manage to get one on the first day then it can set you up for the rest of the meeting. I mean look at last year.

“It just gives everyone a huge lift and gives you a lot of confidence.”

Henderson currently looks after five antepost favourites for Cheltenham this year, and thus, his media day was jam-packed with racing’s top journalists and photographers trying to get the up-to-date news ahead of The Festival.

The horse that everyone came to see, though, was Sprinter Sacre.

Sprinter Sacre

At odds of 1–3, the seven-year-old will be the shortest-priced horse to run at the Cheltenham Festival since Arkle at 1–10 in the 1966 Gold Cup.

It is easy to see why.

The son of Network loves the attention and his physical presence when trotting around is commanding to say the least, as he demonstrated when biting at a camera crew’s fluff mic after being paraded.

It is a trait that Henderson believes sets him apart from the rest.

He said: “Sprinter is a gorgeous horse. He is so naturally talented that he finds everything so easy.

“He knows how good he is and he is very flashy about it.

“People question what he has beaten, but it all comes back down to the age-old saying, ‘you can only beat what is in front of you’.

“He just thoroughly enjoys what he is doing all the time.

“He and Simonsig are the best workhorses I have ever seen. They are just both magnificent.”

On the subject of Simonsig, Henderson was very bullish about his chances to win the Arkle.

The odds-on favourite has seemingly scared off his opponents for the 2m Festival race and the Lambourn-based trainer is confident of success, even with the threat of Donald McCain-trained Overturn in the field.

Henderson said: “Unlike Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig is very relaxed, but still as efficient.

“It doesn’t worry me at all the lack of races he has had because, judging by his homework, he looks in fantastic order.

“He rode with a 114-rated Flat horse last Saturday and the poor horse got absolutely assassinated by him (Simonsig).

“Trust me, if you were there last Saturday, you would have been impressed.

“It doesn’t matter if there is a pacemaker (Overturn) in the race, he won’t be able to keep that far away from him (Simonsig).”

Amongst his elite for The Festival are Bobs Worth and Long Run.

Bobs Worth wins the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

Henderson claimed that the Gold Cup this year was a ‘wide-open’ affair, but remained assured that his horses would have as good a chance as any.

He said: “I would have liked to have got another run into him (Bobs Worth), but we can get him to Cheltenham in great shape, I’m sure of it.

“He needs to improve yet again from his Hennessy run, but he’s a class act and he loves Cheltenham. It all should work out nicely for him.

“Long Run hasn’t been flashy at home, but he has been working well with Binocular and he will be there or thereabouts in the Gold Cup.

“We have given him a break from his King George win, but that’s not a bad thing.

“He went to the Gold Cup in 2011 in exactly the same way, so who knows.”

Amongst the other stable stars that Henderson has lined up for the Gloucestershire meeting is Oscar Whisky.

Oscar Whisky

The eight-year-old was originally set to miss Cheltenham, but the omission of Big Buck’s from the World Hurdle has meant that connections have been persuaded to run in this before Aintree.

Oscar Whisky is in ‘good order’ and the yard is confident of reversing the Cleeve Hurdle form with Reve De Sivola. Henderson stated that the Dai Walters-owner horse could go chasing next year.

He also reported that Grandouet was ‘perfectly fine’ ahead of the Champion Hurdle.

Henderson explained that the six-year-old bumped himself above the knee joint a week ago, which caused the area to ‘blow up to the thickness of an arm’. He continued to say that he would be back to his normal schedule next week and he was not worried about his Festival participation.

Other items said that were noteworthy:

Binocular has come on a lot since his last run in Ireland. The 2010 Champion Hurdle winner has been working well at home with Long Run since and should outrun his 14–1 odds.

My Tent Or Yours will go to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Henderson believes that he is unproven in a Grade 1 race and it is therefore logical to head down the novice hurdle route before going for bigger things next season.

Molotof and Captain Conan will run in the Jewson. Captain Conan should be a “different” horse at Cheltenham from the one that ran at Sandown. He starts work again this week.

Finian’s Rainbow will “go back to two miles” and will only run on good ground in the future. Connections regretted running him at Ascot, but felt he needed the run. The Gold Cup is completely ruled out.

Riverside Theatre was found to have ulcers after his King George run. He’s in good form and is entered for the Ryanair.

Oscar Nominee will “definitely” run in the Martin Pipe.

River Maigue will run in the Supreme, while Chatterbox may skip Cheltenham altogether.

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Cheltenham Tips: The Handy Handicapper – Oscar Nominee

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of National Hunt racing.

It showcases the very best of the sport, but it is also a superb opportunity for the professionals to get away with huge gambles in the meeting’s handicaps, as was evident last year with Donald McCain’s Son Of Flicka.

A horse that could be well handicapped at Cheltenham in 24 days time could be Nicky Henderson-trained Oscar Nominee.

Horse_Titan_de_Sarti-big

Following Henderson’s media day today, the Seven Barrows master confirmed that the Michael Buckley-owned horse would run in the Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Handicap Hurdle after tomorrow’s race at Taunton.

It is a race that Oscar Nominee finished third in last year, missing out on a place in the winners’ enclosure by the tiny distance of one quarter of a length.

When Henderson was asked to nominate a good chance for the handicaps at the Festival today, he chose to speak about the son of Oscar first, despite having not run since Cheltenham last year.

The 20-1 shot is at a very lucrative price for a race he has more than enough quality to win on his day.

The form of the Conditionals’ Handicap Hurdle from last year has turned out well, with Attaglance displaying good consistency in his five performances since (winning one and finishing third three times).

Bearing in mind that Oscar Nominee was not as fluent as he can be at Cheltenham suggests that he can perform better.

His run at Taunton tomorrow will be a big indicator as to whether he can put in a decent performance on his comeback. It must be said, though, that connections will no doubt use it as a prep run for Cheltenham.

Click the link to the right for more Cheltenham Tips.

Advice:

Oscar Nominee @ 20-1 for the Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Handicap Hurdle.

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Cheltenham Festival antepost with Paddy Power: Cheltenham Gold Cup

In part four of our antepost review series with Paddy Power, we take a look at horseracing’s Holy Grail, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Paddy Power

Last year’s renewal was billed to be a clash of the titans, with Long Run and Kauto Star seemingly battling it out for the sport’s ultimate crown. However, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Synchronised spoilt the party that day, in what was to be sadly his final race, but his greatest victory.

This season’s renewal is as competitive as ever, with some new additions to the old guard.

As it stands, it is already shaping up to be one of the best Gold Cups of recent times.

Visit Paddy Power’s antepost Gold Cup page here.

Here the Stable View blog picks out the horses fancied for Cheltenham glory.

The antepost favourite for the Gold Cup is Bobs Worth at 3-1, and it is incredibly hard to oppose Nicky Henderson’s charge for this race.

The eight-year-old won on his seasonal reappearance in the Hennessy Gold Cup with a magnificent show of jumping, after travelling so effortlessly around Newbury.

Bobs Worth wins the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

This combined with the fact that Bobs Worth is a Cheltenham specialist, and that he won a very competitive RSA Chase by two and a half lengths at last year’s Festival, bodes well for those that have already backed him.

However, his absence in Saturday’s Argento Chase is a big worry for me, mainly because he possibly could just go straight to the Festival without another preparation run.

This is a dangerous tactic, as I personally believe it is imperative that most horses should race after Christmas before heading to Cheltenham, unless the horse goes best fresh.

For this reason, and the low odds on offer about him, I would want to oppose Bobs Worth.

I find myself in a similar position when talking about Silviniaco Conti (7-1), who will be next seen in March at the Festival.

The young pretender was a visually impressive victor of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last year, before beating Long Run in the Betfair Chase in November.

However, I would argue that, despite Paul Nicholls holding this horse in high regard, that Long Run will be a much fitter horse by the time they next meet.

Ditcheat’s other charge, Tidal Bay, interests me more, and it is my understanding that Nicholls is desperate to run him in the Gold Cup.

If it were possible to read into the future to find out what the conditions will be in six weeks time, the 14-1 shot would be one of my picks.

But, the uncertainty of whether he runs in this or the World Hurdle means that he is not great value at all.

The Irish contingent is strong for this renewal. Sir Des Champs (9-2), Flemenstar (11-1) and First Lieutenant (12-1) all have excellent claims.

However, I am put off by all of them.

Despite the besotted love affair of some punters for Flemestar, I really doubt he will be able to stay the distance for the Gold Cup.

Flemenstar

In my opinion, a Gold Cup horse needs to be able to keep on further than the 3m2½f if they are to win at Cheltenham. This is mainly down to the exertions needed for the daunting hill.

However, I do argue that he can stay 3m on the basis that he finished half a length behind Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase, despite travelling best of all with three furlongs to go. Connections are also desperate to run in this.

Sir Des Champs is a tremendous stayer and will relish conditions for the Gold Cup. Though, I have serious reservations on his jumping. His price, therefore, does not interest me.

First Lieutenant seems a decent price for each-way, and has good form behind Bobs Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup and RSA Chase in 2012. But, I have found a more lucrative bet to claim a place with.

That horse is The GIANT BOLSTER.

It amazes me how some punters are incredibly fickle and impatient with certain horses and this is the case with the David Bridgwater-trained eight-year-old.

After an outstanding second-place in last year’s Gold Cup, he reaffirmed his ability when finishing third in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, behind Long Run and Silviniaco Conti.

The Giant Bolster in the 2012 Gold Cup

Though, a disappointing run in the King George on Boxing Day has meant that some punters have left him stranded.

Excuses can be made for this effort.

The Giant Bolster goes best when running on a left-handed track, which Kempton is not, and also the omission of regular jockey Tom Scudamore will have had an affect on his performance.

Scudamore knows the horse inside out and will no doubt partner The Giant Bolster in this year’s renewal of the Gold Cup, following Grands Crus’ failure to impress in the Argento three days ago.

For these reasons, the 20-1 available for The Giant Bolster is excellent each-way value.

The other horse in the race that takes my eye is LONG RUN.

After nearly losing faith in him following another second place finish in the Betfair Chase as favourite, I managed, just, to convince myself that he would win the King George.

He duly did.

Long Run

Henderson’s only Gold Cup winner, in 2011, has never finished outside of the top three in all of his starts under rules in England and France, which is some record when on a closer look he has ridden in 12 Grade 1s (six wins), three Grade 2s (three wins) and four Grade 3s (two wins).

These statistics suggest that he is almost a certainty to place – if he turns up.

Long Run last year was in the shadows of Kauto Star. Many believed that he had an off-season, which in all honesty makes his track record achievement in last year’s Denman Chase even more astonishing.

Kauto Star and Denman won the race, which has been more commonly known in the past as the AON Chase, in the year’s they both went on to win the Gold Cup.

Long Run managed to beat their times last year, during a season not in his prime, whereas when Denman and Kauto Star won, they were.

After seeing him at Haydock, it was quite visible that the eight-year-old had become much stockier and powerful.

This enthused me greatly. It makes me believe that this could be his year again at Cheltenham and with conditions in the United Kingdom being softer than they have been for many years, the conditions could be perfect for a stamina race.

That is why 7-1 at Paddy Power for Long Run to win the Gold Cup is a bet you cannot afford to miss out on.

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Advice:

Long Run @ 7-1 (Paddy Power) – straight win advised

The Giant Bolster @ 20-1 (Paddy Power) – e/w advised

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Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @JamesYellen. Special thanks to Paddy Power. Visit their website here.

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Reve De Sivola makes World Hurdle claim with Cleeve triumph

Reve De Sivola showed he has the credentials to be a top World Hurdle contender at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, after beating Oscar Whisky in an exhilarating finish to the Cleeve Hurdle.

Reve De Sivola

The Nick Williams-trained hurdler, who won as the 15-8 favourite, went eye-to-eye over the last with Oscar Whisky, but he kept on marginally better than his opponent to score by a neck in a tantalising battle.

Reve Di Sivola (15-8 favourite) was prominent throughout the race, but allowed Knockara Beau (25-1) to make the early headway, before taking it from him past the sixth flight.

Oscar Whisky (2-1) was held up at the rear to try and rally home late on, which he did as they were approaching three out.

Nicky Henderson’s mount, who was aiming to give the Seven Barrows trainer a Cheltenham treble, following Rolling Star’s and Sprinter Sacre’s victories earlier in the day, looked after the final flight as the favourite to win this race, putting all stamina issues to bed.

However, when Oscar Whisky drew level with the leader, Reve De Sivola ground out just that little bit more and saw out his opponent right to the finishing line.

After the race, the winner was made the antepost favourite for the Ladbroke World Hurdle at 5-1 with the race sponsors, whilst Oscar Whisky is now best-priced at 6-1 for the third Championship race of the Festival.

Kentford Grey Lady (11-1) completed the placings, when she managed to finish six lengths behind the leading duo, beating Knockara Beau.

Following the race, Reve De Sivola’s trainer was ecstatic with his horse’s performance and now looks forward to the Festival with him.

Williams said: “He’s put in another brilliant performance today. He just stays so well and the World Hurdle will definitely be next.

“He runs his race every time and he’s just so tough and genuine. The second horse (Oscar Whisky) certainly stayed and they will be confident of beating him (Reve De Sivola) in the World Hurdle.”

Henderson was also delighted with Oscar Whisky’s run, and believes that he has proved his doubters wrong about whether he can stay three miles.

Oscar Whisky

He said: “I’m very happy with that. We came here to answer a question and no one can say he didn’t stay. He might be better suited to better ground and we’ll now be able to ride him closer than that as we know that the trip is not a problem.

“There is a lot to discuss but if it’s good ground you will probably see him running in the World Hurdle come March, but the race we want to go after is the Aintree Hurdle, which he has won for the last two years.”

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