Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05


Get off to a Champagne start in the Supreme


Robbie Wilders

IT ALWAYS eases the pressure if you can get off to a flyer by nailing the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner on the opening day. There is every chance Appreciate It will reward favourite backers at 7-4, but he isn’t bulletproof and I’m keen to oppose him. The Henry de Bromhead-trained Champagne Gold has come through the handicap route and looks overpriced at 50-1. He was set a stiff task on his handicap debut in the Ladbrokes Hurdle at Leopardstown last time, but he ran a stormer in second behind the much more battle-hardened Drop The Anchor. Champagne Gold has some Graded form in the book by virtue of his three-length third over 2m4f to Albert Bartlett fancy Fakiera two starts back, and being a strong stayer definitely helps in the Supreme. His Racing Post Rating of 144 in the Ladbrokes Hurdle was only 2lb shy of what Soaring Glory achieved in the Betfair Hurdle and Soaring Glory is now a single-figure price for the Supreme. If he turns up I’d be hopeful Champagne Gold can run a massive race at a much shorter price than 50s. The Mares’ Hurdle sees another short-priced favourite trained by Willie Mullins in Concertista. With Honeysuckle poised to tackle the Champion Hurdle and Roksana a candidate for the Stayers’, the market has a decent shape to it for each-way betting. The runner who appeals most at the prices is Dolcita at 33-1. This six-year-old has run for three different yards on her last three starts, bursting a blood vessel for Paul Nicholls after leaving Willie Mullins. She bounced back to form with a decent third in a Listed race at Warwick for Fergal O’brien, finishing on the coattails of French Grade 1 heroine Paul’s Saga on her first start following wind surgery. That was much more like it from Dolcita and, after finishing second to Concertista in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last season, we know she handles Cheltenham. Dolcita has plenty on her plate bridging the gap with Concertista, but the Mares’ Hurdle doesn’t look a deep race this year. There’s reason to think we haven’t seen the best of her yet. Chacun Pour Soi is another Mullins favourite I’m looking to take on in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I have nothing against Chacun Pour Soi – he is the most likely winner – but odds-on about a horse who has never run at Cheltenham doesn’t appeal. The two-mile highlight has so far eluded Mullins and, if Chacun Pour Soi does underperform, then perhaps Cilaos Emery will pick up the slack for the trainer. The nine-year-old was fourth in last year’s Champion Hurdle before not seeming to be in love with the 2m4f trip in the Clonmel Oil Chase on his first outing this season. He was then a comfortable winner over 2m at Naas last month, relishing the drop in distance, and he now looks a credible candidate to finish in the Champion Chase frame. Cilaos Emery consistently delivers Racing Post Ratings in the 160s. I’d be surprised if the 11-year-old Altior still has what it takes and I can see one finishing in the places at a big price. The selection has two decent runs at the festival to his name and he has only run in six chases, suggesting he could still be improving. Royale Pagaille will be a tough nut to crack if tackling the National Chase but he has multiple entries and trainer Charlie Longsdon has confirmed that talented mare Snow Leopardess is on course for the race. The nine-year-old took a couple of runs to get going over fences and, after being easily brushed aside by Marsh Novices’ Chase hope Shan Blue at Wetherby, she broke her duck over fences at Haydock in good style. Snow Leopardess was then sent off a hot favourite for the Rowland Meyrick but was outsprinted on the run-in by the Alan King-trained Canelo. The 3m distance looked short enough for Snow Leopardess and she promises to improve again given a greater test of stamina over this 3m6f trip. She needs to raise her game about 10lb on her career-best RPR of 143 to be in with a chance, but she is lightly raced and has the 7lb mares’ allowance to aid her cause. She looks overpriced at 33-1.



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