Cheltenham Ante-Post Service 2017/18
Hello and welcome to this FREE SAMPLE of my Cheltenham Ante-Post service. The full service is updated each Tuesday from now until the start of the Cheltenham Festival in March, and here’s a taster as to what you can expect with my initial thoughts, and my ante-post bet, for the Gold Cup.
Before we move on to the Cheltenham showpiece a quick introduction…my name is Andrew Fletcher and although last year’s service didn’t yield a winner, we still had some good each-way returns on the likes of Wholestone (16/1), Sub Lieutenant (14/1), Divin Bere (10/1), Messire Des Obeaux (10/1), Native River (9/1) and of course Barney Dwan, who was second in the Pertemps Final having been advised at 33/1. In truth I thought we were a little unfortunate not to have a winner and with a bit more luck, we would have had a profitable week. The season before we fared much better with Ballyandy (12/1), Don Cossack (7/1), Thistlecrack (3/1) & On The Fringe (5/2) all getting their heads infront.
For those of you who may be new to this service, I will run through the general format from week to week. In each update I plan to go through the four Championship races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, World Hurdle & Cheltenham Gold Cup) initially before discussing the novice divisions over hurdles and fences. Obviously as we get closer to the Festival the handicaps will also be discussed in depth as well as some of the other shoulder races and bets will be recommended where necessary.
For me, there is only one place to start here and that is with Thistlecrack who looks all set to make his return to action over hurdles at Newbury on Friday. Colin Tizzard has been pleased with the nine-year-old’s preparations and all being well, he should be able to see off whatever turns up in the race. Looking ahead, this looks likely to be a prep for the King George, which he won so well last year before heading to the Gold Cup. Those of you who have subscribed to my Jumpers to Follow service in the past will be aware of my allegiances to Thistlecrack and I have to say that at this stage, I think he is the one they have to beat come March. Clearly he has to prove all is well on Friday but I am led to believe that the setback he had wasn’t too serious and there shouldn’t be any danger of him suffering a recurrence. The only question mark I have is whether he would really see out the Gold Cup trip but looking at those around him in the market, I think he looks the most attractive at this stage.
Second in on most lists is last year’s winner Sizing John who swerved Saturday’s Betfair Chase with connections unwilling to run the horse on heavy ground on his seasonal reappearance. He has plenty of form on soft ground but with the season ahead, it seemed the sensible decision to wait for an alternative target. There is no question that he improved immensely once stepped up to 3m last term but having run two big races at Cheltenham and Punchestown last Spring, I wonder whether those may leave their mark this term.
Of last year’s novices, at this stage Might Bite looks the most likely to play a leading role in the Gold Cup picture but given his wayward tendencies at Cheltenham in particular, I would be unwilling to back him with any confidence. He is clearly a very talented performer and would have won the Feltham in a very quick time but for falling at Kempton last year but I think there are more reliable options in the race.
One of our ante-post selections last season Disko could also develop into a Gold Cup horse come the end of the season, having won a Grade 1 over 3m at Punchestown. I have to admit it is a little frustrating to read comments such as ‘I’ve always seen him as a three miler’ from his trainer, having tipped him for the RSA last term but it might be that wasn’t the right sort of race for him at that stage of his career. His bold front-running style means he rarely finds trouble in his races and if he continues to improve, there is no reason why he can’t end up in the Gold Cup picture come March.
The fly in most ante-post markets for the Cheltenham Festival is Yorkhill who is towards the head of the market for most of the Championship races. Personally, I didn’t feel he was a natural over the larger obstacles last term but there is no question that he was very impressive when winning the JLT at last year’s Festival. The form of that race is strong and on breeding at least, he looks to have every chance of staying 3m. Having said that, I would be inclined to go down the Champion Hurdle route with him but it is likely to be a case of wait and see with him.
THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) – 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)
I discussed a number of the concerns I have about the other leading contenders a little earlier on and with that in mind, I think this is the right time to be backing Thistlecrack for the Gold Cup. Friday’s assignment is unlikely to tell us anything other than that he is fit and well but even so, it is hard to see him not shortening afterwards. The indications are that he is as good as ever and all being well I think he will head to the King George before going to the Festival. There was clearly something amiss when he was beaten at Cheltenham last term but the rest of his form in the past two seasons suggests he is a cut above his rivals. At 6/1, I think he has the potential to shorten as the season goes on and although there is a small risk involved in backing him before we see him, I think this is the time to get on.
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