THE Cheltenham Festival is galloping into view — with just 51 days until the famous roar which greets the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
We all want to back winners over the four days but you can make a nice few quid from some canny each-way bets too.
A whole host of Willie Mullins runners look like Festival winners – but Templegate has picked out Blue Lord in particularSportsfile
Here are a few of my best ante-post picks for some of the Festival’s biggest prizes. It only takes a couple of them to hit the frame to come out on top.
PAISLEY PARK – Stayers’ Hurdle (10-1)
I WAS a little surprised Emma Lavelle’s flagbearer managed to win the Long Walk Hurdle after it was rerouted to Kempton at Christmas when Ascot was frozen off.
After all, he’s a horse who needs every yard of a punishing trip to hit top gear.
Flat Kempton is not known for helping those tactics yet he started his challenge a bit sooner than usual and kept finding. He hit the front at the last and ran right away from Champ and Goshen who seemed to really enjoy this step up in distance.
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Paisley Park has an excellent record at Cheltenham which, whatever happened at Christmas, suits his style a lot better.
He won this race four years ago and has taken third in the last two renewals, so we know the track is right up his street.
He looks a cracking bet to hit the places at the grand age of 11.
Irish raider Teahupoo is at the other end of the age spectrum — with Gordon Elliott’s unexposed stayer a youthful six.
He looked a leadingcontender for the Stayers’ Hurdle when ending Honeysuckle’s unbeaten record in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
Elliott reckons he will relish three miles and we will find out if he stays in the Galmoy at Gowran Park on Thursday.
It’s well worth taking a risk and backing him today at 7-1.
NOBLE YEATS – Gold Cup (7-1)
IT feels like we are all late to the Noble Yeats’ Gold Cup party.
The Grand National hero was 50-1 to win the Blue Riband before bolting up in the Many Clouds’ Chase at Aintree.
With L’Homme Presse out Noble Yeats is now the 7-1 second favourite and has proved himself a serious contender for the Gold Cup.
And trainer Emmet Mullins is top class at getting one to peak.
He won the National as a seven-year-old which shows the depth of his stamina, but he seems to have gotten quicker.
The bookies will no doubt cut him if he puts in another stormer before the big day.
His team have had to abort their run at Lingfield tomorrow due to his vaccination status being out of date but will head to the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham a week today.
Favourite Galopin Des Champs has all the makings of a wonder horse but has yet to fully prove he stays and we know Noble Yeats does that and more. It’s hard to see him out of the places at the very least.
The Skeltons are having a dream season and could cap it by winning their first Cheltenham Gold Cup with Protektorat.
He was an excellent third in the big race last season and he comes back a stronger proposition after his excellent win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
He has a good novice chase win at Cheltenham on his CV and had no issues with the track last year. He looks solid to make the frame again at a fair 9-1.
HONEYSUCKLE — Champion Hurdle (8-1)
THE dual Champion Hurdler is one of the best each-way bets of the week. How a mare of her class has drifted to 8-1 is utter madness.
She has won at Cheltenham for the last three years and the negativity is largely down to her losing her unbeaten record in the Hatton’s Grace.
Constitution Hill is the heir apparent and will probably win with ease, but the battle for the places is wide open.
State Man is second favourite after winning two Grade 1s with plenty in hand, but odds of 4-1 are skinny enough.
He’s set to face Henry de Bromhead’s super mare in the Irish Champion Hurdle in two weeks’ time and will have his hands full there. At the prices I prefer the reigning champ to fill the runner-up spot.
Another mare who could be a spot of value is 2020 winner Epatante — who has finished third and second in the last two renewals.
Odds of 20-1 are decent value considering she will be more than likely ridden for a place having twice see the backside of Constiution Hill this season.
My spy at Seven Barrows says she has been in sparkling form on Nicky Henderson’s gallops and will show that today if Haydock gets the go ahead.
At the prices for the Festival big one, she’s a rock solid bet to make the first three for an impressive fourth time.
BLUE LORD — Champion Chase (6-1)
THIS looks to be a battle between Energumene and Edwardstone but there should be room on the Prestbury Park podium for Blue Lord who took a big step forward when romping home at Leopardstown.
He clocked a massive personal best in seeing off Captain Guinness and Chacun Pour Soi without breaking sweat.
Willie Mullins’ hope will clearly have much stronger opposition in the Champion Chase — but apart from the big two he has nothing else to worry about.
Blue Lord looks a live Champion Chase contenderSportsfile
His level of form is a good way ahead of everything bar the big two and he’s improving so could get a lot closer.
He ran well in the Arkle 12 months ago when he burned a little too much gas early on.
Blue Lord is a more mature chaser now and offers of 6-1 look fair as he’s the clear third best going into the race — with scope to find more.
BALLYGRIFINCOTTAGE — Brown Advisory Chase (16-1)
LET’s hope the Skeltons choose this contest over the National Hunt Chase for this rising star of the staying ranks.
He won impressively on his chase debut at Haydock in November.
Some give in the ground would be ideal and the way the weather has been in the past few years, there’s every chance it will be testing at Cheltenham in March.
He has a bright future and looks a fair price at 14s.
SAINT ROI — Turners Novices’ Chase (14-1)
HE could end up in the Arkle — against another JP McManus star in Jonbon — but this looks a more suitable target for this improving novice chaser.
Willie Mullins’ hope was excellent on just his second spin over fences when winning a Leopardstown Grade 3 on Boxing Day.
He has earned a shot at next month’s Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival, but whatever happens there he looks a big each-way price for the Turners.
FAVORI DE CHAMPDOU — Albert Bartlett Hurdle (14-1)
IMPAIRE ET PASSE — Ballymore (6-1)
BLOOD DESTINY — Triumph Hurdle (6-1)
IMPERVIOUS – Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Chase (advised at 4-1)
EPATANTE – Champion Hurdle (advised ew at 50-1)
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