Betting ring: Min looks exciting but the figures add up for Altior
Published 15/03/2016 | 02:30
These days, the sport known as bandy is similar to ice hockey - but the original game came from 16th Century France, and was actually a form of tennis.
It later became a stick-based game and while the Irish already had hurling, Bandy became popular for a while in Britain.
When the ball was passed from player to player, it was said to be 'bandied' about and keeping the ball out of the hands of the opposition by regular passing was one of the skills of the game.
With Cheltenham finally here a lot of tips and information, reliable and otherwise, will be bandied about this week but as I say every year, the form book is your best friend when it comes to the top class races and the quality doesn't get any better than this.
While horse racing and betting is often accused of being corrupt, at least you can be sure that every single horse will be trying its best this week.
And with so many special offers from bookmakers, it's actually become a little easier to make a profit following the top horses in recent years.
Although we all love bagging a nice-priced outsider, you certainly need a good reason to oppose the better horses at Cheltenham and those that dislike backing favourites should consider being a little more flexible in certain races for the week that's in it.
To illustrate my point about the form standing up, take the clear top-rated horse (on official ratings) in the non-handicaps: such horses have won 36 times from 112 races (32pc) since 2008.
Had you stuck a tenner on each, you'd show a profit of €240.
I'm not suggesting you blindly bet without further analysis, but considering that simple approach has shown a profit in seven of the last eight festivals, the top form horses should always be your starting point.
On that note, the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior looks a solid bet around 7/2 in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30) with a rating of 155, 2lbs ahead Willie Mullins' favourite Min.
My main worry for Min is that he can get slightly worked up at the racecourse and tends to race keenly.
While the likely speed of the Supreme Novices' might suit him, the hustle and bustle nature of the race, plus the atmosphere from the crowd, might be unsettling.
Altior won a significant contest last time at Kempton and although he hit a flat spot mid-race, he showed true class when asked to up his game by Nico de Boinville.
Henderson hasn't won this since 1992 but with a place strike-rate of 47pc in the last ten years, his horses are almost always thereabouts.
The Champion Hurdle (3.30) has been blown wide open with Arctic Fire and Faugheen out, and I get the feeling that some punters are latching on to Annie Power almost by default.
She was supplemented for the race as expected which is a big vote of confidence, but it's over two decades since a female horse won and a price of 7/4 or thereabouts is a little short for me.
Instead, a chance is taken on stablemate Nichols Canyon, expected go off at 5/1.
A below-par run in the Irish Champion Hurdle is forgiven as he'd had a tough race previously and I expect him to bounce back to form today.