Best Bet – Santini to win the Cotswold Chase @3/1 (Sky Request a bet)
The first of this year’s antepost punts will come in the Cotswold Chase on trials day where I’m hoping defending champion Santini can repeat last year’s success. Neither of his two starts so far this season will have seen him in his best light. They didn’t jump the fences coming up the straight on his reappearance in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree and even by his trainers own admission Kempton was never going to suit in the King George last time out. A return to Prestbury Park will help this galloping machine rediscover that winning feeling and I expect to see him power on up the hill and throw his name back into the Gold Cup picture. Let’s not forget he was only beaten a neck in last year’s running where some punters will argue the race wasn’t run to suit. Odds of 3/1 look generous considering there may not be too much to oppose him. Fingers crossed Santini gets the Calendar off to a flyer!
Best Bet – Sky Pirate to win the Betfair Hurdle @12/1 (Betfair)
Jonjo O’Neill is no stranger to a big handicap win and I’m hoping he can strike with the inform Sky Pirate. Dropped significantly in trip for his last two chase starts, Sky Pirate has bolted up off marks of 134 and 145 to see his chase mark rise to 152. His hurdles mark currently sits at 140 which would give him a lovely racing weight should connections opt for a crack at Newbury’s showpiece handicap hurdle. Dropping back to 2 miles over fences seems to have unlocked the secret to Sky Pirate who has always travelled sweetly through his races and lacked a finishing kick. It was particularly nice to see how game he looked last time out when Amoola Gold came to challenge but Sky Pirate stuck his neck out and found plenty to win a shade cosily. I believe the style of the Betfair Hurdle should really suit. There’s going to be plenty of runners and they usually go a proper gallop. Sky Pirate can cruise round and pounce late given he translates his chase form to hurdles. 12/1 is the standout price with Betfair and I’d be amazed to see that on offer should connections come here.
Best Bet – Each Way Lucky 31 for the Greatest Show on Turf, The Cheltenham Festival
There are endless possibilities for suggested antepost bets in March so I’ve decided to combine a few horses who look a little overpriced at this stage and throw them into a Cheltenham Festival each way Lucky 31. It’s worth noting that the prices I have taken are all Non Runner No bet (NRNB) so should a horse not make the festival or switch targets; the leg of the bet will be voided. There are bigger prices elsewhere but you won’t have the safety blanket of NRNB.
Leg 1 – Bob Olinger to win the Ballymore @9/2 (NRNB with Paddy Power)
The first leg of the each way Lucky 31 comes in the Ballymore and the selection is Henry De Bromhead’s Bob Olinger. Henry has confirmed he’s heading straight to Cheltenham on the back of a facile success in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle. He looks every inch a high-class chaser in the making but I believe he’s got what it takes to win this before going chasing. His form with Ferny Hollow over an inadequate 2 miles looks strong and I think he may have an extra gear or two over current favourite Bravemansgame, who again, looks a fine chaser in the making.
Leg 2 – Melon to win the Ryanair @8/1 (NRNB with Paddy Power)
Next up we have Melon in the Ryanair. Depending on how the Irish Gold Cup goes he may well go for the Gold Cup itself but he looks sure to run a massive race if he rocks up here. Form figures of 2222 at the Cheltenham Festival highlight his love for the track and he’s been in better form in the lead up to this year’s festival. 2 miles 5 furlongs around Cheltenham will be right up his street and I’m hoping connections decide to roll on from the front and make use of his exceptional jumping. I find it hard to see him outside the first three.
Leg 3 – Royal Kahala to win the Mares Novice @7/1 (NRNB with Paddy Power)
Royal Kahala at 7/1 just looked far too big a price. With all due respect to connections, if she were trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Rich Ricci she’d be half the price and clear favourite. Her form to date looks strong and the manner in which she beat Hook Up would suggest there’s more to come. Royal Kahala found trouble in running coming into the home straight, forcing her to switch and was two lengths down jumping the last but finished strongly and won by the 5 lengths in cosy fashion. Shewearsitwell looked to be Willie’s star mare for the race this season but she’s out injured and I believe current favourite Gauloise may want a bit further than 2 miles. 7/1 looks a lovely price.
Leg 4 – Fakiera to win the Albert Bartlett @20/1 (NRNB with Paddy Power)
Onto the final day now and leg 4 of the each way Lucky 31. Fakiera is a horse who looks to be crying out for a step up to three miles and I believe he fits the profile of an Albert Bartlett winner. Being a second season novice, he’s had 6 starts over hurdles and never finished out of the first two. On numerous occasions, especially in his last two starts he’s been outside the first two jumping the last and stayed on strongly to firstly win the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle and then to run on into the runner up spot against Ashdale Bob last time out. Both occasions the trip was 2 miles 4 furlongs, highlighting this horses’ need to step up to three miles. Given his experience and battle-hardened profile I believe he can outrun his current odds of 20/1.
Leg 5 – Santini to win the Gold cup @9/1 (NRNB with Paddy Power)
What better way to bring up the last leg of the each way Lucky 31 than in the big one itself, The Cheltenham Gold Cup. Santini is a horse who is bound to divide opinion but he looks criminally overpriced after last seasons runner up effort in the race. He went down a neck last year and would have won had the line come a few strides later. It’s worth noting the race wasn’t run to suit, they went a muddling gallop and I’m sure a more truly run race will see Santini in a better light. His two runs to date this season haven’t played to his strengths at all but on both occasions, he’s run respectable races (see January for reasons). In my opinion this fella is built for one race and that’s the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He jumps for fun and will eat up the ground up the Cheltenham Hill. Odds of 9/1 may look pretty big should he defend his Cotswold Chase crown on trials day.
Best Bet – Cloth Cap to win the Aintree Grand National @25/1 (William Hill)
This year’s Ladbroke Trophy winner, Cloth Cap, looks a cracking each way bet for the National. Owner Trevor Hemming’s is on the hunt for a fourth National winner after successful attempts with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015). Trainer Jonjo O’Neill always knows how to train a winner having saddled Don’t Push It to victory back in 2010. By Beneficial, Cloth Cap has a decent staying pedigree but it was his jumping in the Ladbroke Trophy that really got me thinking Grand National type. He was so quick and slick through the air gaining lengths over rivals at each fence. The Aintree fences aren’t quite the jumping test they used to be and as Tiger Roll has proven you can be quick and nimble over them. Cloth Cap is a horse who is quite ground dependent. He thrives on a sounder surface, recording all his 4 career wins when “good” is in the going description. Thankfully for Cloth Cap “good” has appeared in the official going description in 8 of the past 10 renewals. At 25/1 I believe he represents a solid each way bet for connections who love to target Aintree’s show piece.
Best Bet – “Very special” High Definition to notch up 2000 Guineas/Derby Double @25/1 (Sky Bet)
High Definition looks another potential superstar for team Ballydoyle to go to war with in 2021. Unbeaten after winning his 2 starts to date, the son of Galileo looks every inch a high class middle distance horse. On his 2 year old debut, High Definition was last at the half way stage and powered home to secure quite an eye catching win. This performance didn’t go unnoticed and he was sent off favourite for the Group 2 Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford Stakes. There seemed to be a case of DeJa Vu as High Definition delivered a carbon copy of his debut win, storming home on the outside, eating up plenty of ground late on. Currently 7/1 favourite for The Derby, I believe he’s worth chancing for the 2000 Guineas, Derby double. Yes, he looks a strong stayer at the trip but he has still shown plenty of gears to pick up horses that didn’t appear to be slowing down either! Described as “very special” by his masterful trainer Aiden O’Brien in an interview on racing TV, Aiden was quick to point out that he believes High Definition to “have an extremely high cruising speed” and suggested the 2000 Guineas could be on the agenda depending on how well he trains through the winter and into the spring. At 25/1 I think High Definition can follow in his father’s footsteps and notch up an historic classic double.
Best Bet – Palace Pier to win the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot @6/1 (Sky Request A Bet)
John Gosden’s son of Kingman looked to have the world at his feet last season. Most people had him down as the real deal before he was beaten on Champions Day in the QE2 at Ascot. To my eye, Palace Pier ran way below form and looking at the race and race write up afterwards he had his excuses. He broke awkwardly out the stalls and as a result conceded plenty of ground early on to eventual winner, The Revenant, who was up with the pace throughout. Palace Pier made eye catching headway around 4 furlongs out and made up a huge amount of ground in testing conditions. His effort petered out but Frankie wasn’t hard on him and the post-race report told us he lost a shoe in running. If you put a line through this run the 6/1 on offer for the Queen Anne looks a big price. After all his form prior to that had been extremely strong, beating Pinatubo on his first
Group 1 start before going on to thump a high-class field at Deauville in another Group 1. With just the 6 career starts to date there’s also the possibility Palace Pier could continue to improve and given we don’t have a stand-out miler in the division I think he represents a solid antepost proposition at 6/1.
Best Bet – Aramax to win the Galway Plate @16/1 (Sky Request A Bet)
I’d be the first to admit picking out the Galway Plate winner on the day is hard enough let alone 7 months before! That being said I do like the profile of Gordon Elliott’s 2020 Boodles hurdle winner, Aramax. Aramax has since been sent chasing and started life a little slowly over the larger obstacles putting in two poor performances. He put those two chase starts far behind him last time out with a cosy success in a beginners chase at Fairyhouse. Given he is only 5 there is plenty of room for improvement to come and Gordon Elliott is on record saying how much this horse will love good ground, conditions he’s likely to get at Galway. He ran at the meeting last year and disappointed so fingers crossed he goes there again this year and excels!
Best Bet – Battaash to win the Nunthorpe @4/1 (Sky Request A Bet)
August now and let’s hope the brilliant Battaash has scorched the turf in the early parts of the summer because I’m banking on him making it 3 in a row in the Nunthorpe. Cartier Champion Sprinter in 2020, Battaash is quite simply head and shoulders above his rivals at this stage and seems to be getting more professional with age. In his younger days he tended to get very worked up before hand and blow his chances in the stalls but last season saw him record a perfect 3 out 3 which included a fourth King’s Stand at Royal Ascot. As a gelding we know Battaash is coming back as a 7-year-old and I see no reason to take him on at this stage until something emerges from the pack.
Best Bet – Wembley to win the St Ledger @33/1 (Unibet)
A poke at the St Ledger in January won’t be to everyone’s liking and it’s extremely difficult to analyse the market given the lack of exposure 2 year olds have had and especially over any sort of staying trip! I will make a case for Aiden O’Brien’s Wembley who looks to have a nice pedigree for the race. By super sire Galileo he ticks plenty of boxes but his Dam, Inca Princess, brings plenty of stamina to the pedigree. 2017 Melbourne Cup runner up and officially rated 116 Johannes Vermeer is a full brother to Wembley and he excelled once stepped up to stamina sapping trips. Wembley has already shown plenty at shorter trips, second in both the Dewhurst and Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. Both times he was held up and finished like a train suggesting a step up in trip is likely to suit. Whether a step up to 1 mile 6 furlongs is on the cards I cannot be sure but at 33/1 he may be worth chancing.
Best Bet – Tarnawa to win the Prix de l Arc de Triomphe @12/1 (William Hill)
Dermott Weld’s superstar filly, Tarnawa, went a scintillating 4/4 last season, culminating in Breeders’ Cup turf success in Keeneland. Starting her season in early August, Tarnawa was late to the party but looking at the calibre of horses that were second to her, you get a gauge for just how good this filly is. The four runners up to her last season were Group 2 winning filly Cayenne Pepper, Arc fifth Raabihah, Royal Ascot heroine Alpine Star and the Multiple Group 1 winning Magical. A winner on Arc day last year, we know Tarnawa handles the track and crucially heavy French ground. Conditions current antepost favourite Love may not be suited by and conditions we have seen for 3 of the last 4 renewals. Tarnawa is a classy filly who I believe will be suited by the demands of an Arc. Receiving the mares allowance puts her right up there on official ratings with recent Arc winners. Her current price of 12/1 could look a gift come race day.
Best Bet – Master Tommytucker to win the Betfair Chase @14/1 (Sky Request A bet)
Master Tommytucker has gone from strength to strength this season and up to now is yet to take a tumble, a big relief after last season! One thing he’s always possessed is an abundance of talent and I’m hoping Nicholl’s may have him fully tuned up for a crack at this year’s Betfair Chase. Bristol Du Mai has farmed this race over the years but isn’t getting any younger. Horses don’t tend to come here fully wound up either. Plenty use it as a stepping-stone to the King George or don’t want a big bust up too early in the season with big spring targets such as the Gold Cup in mind. Nicholls has never been shy of fully winding one up for early season targets and I believe Master Tommytucker is the perfect candidate. With just the 11 lifetime starts to date, this 9-year-old could still be improving. We know he likes Haydock as a track after a facile success back in November. We also know he handles soft Haydock ground which can often cut up a Betfair Chase field. Master Tommytucker also loves a small field which the Betfair unfortunately seems to always have and I can’t see that changing this year. He’s going to have beat Bristol Du Mai on his stomping ground but at odds of 14/1 it’s a chance worth taking.
Best Bet – Envoi Allen to win the King George @12/1 (Paddy Power)
What more can I say that hasn’t already been said about Envoi Allen. 11 wins from 11 lifetime starts including 2 Cheltenham festival wins and a handful of Grade 1’s has seen him propelled to superstar status. Envoi Allen has always been described as a Gold Cup Horse by connections but to this date is yet to be tested over 3 miles. He looks set to contest the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival which is run over the intermediate trip. Connections have the chance to step him up to 3 miles later in the season at Punchestown where there is no intermediate option. By this time odds of 12/1 for this year’s King George could look enormous. A large part of that price is based on his participation in the race but it’s not that long ago that Gordon saddled a certain Don Cossack in the race before going on to win The Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Envoi Allen jumps beautifully and seems to have the perfect blend of pace and stamina. His seriously high cruising speed and jumping efficiency will massively play to Kempton’s demands as a track and at 12/1 I think it’s a risk worth taking. Staying in Ireland may mean a clash with Monkfish, A Plus Tard and co in the Savills Chase. It’s a long way off but I’d
hazard a guess at saying the King George may be the easier option too! Over to you Mr Elliott, you know what to do!
All prices correct as of the 22/01/2021
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on Twitter – @TheTr17pleP