Monday 22 January 2018

Ballyandy's experience gives him Supreme edge

Petit Mouchoir and Bryan Cooper, here winning The Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, look a value option in today’s Champion Hurdle. Photo: PA
Petit Mouchoir and Bryan Cooper, here winning The Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, look a value option in today’s Champion Hurdle. Photo: PA

Wayne Bailey

I read recently that the phrase to 'have the upper hand' goes back as far as the 15th century. Like tossing a coin, it was a way to find a random winner.

One person would start by gripping their hand around the bottom of a stick or pole. A second person would place their hand above, and this hand-on-top-of-hand motion would continue until someone reached the top of the pole. The person who finished with their hand on top was the winner.

It later became a common way to see who would play first in certain sports involving sticks, such as baseball.

One thing I love about the Tuesday morning of Cheltenham week is the somewhat innocent optimism we all have as we prepare for battle with the bookmakers.

By close of business on Friday, one side will have had the upper hand, but there's a bit of a swagger about the punters this time around, considering the hammering the bookies took last year.

Too much confidence can be a dangerous thing, but 2016 was one of the worst festivals for the layers in recent decades, with around 40pc of clear favourites winning.

The battle commences with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30) and although Willie Mullins has produced three of the last four winners, I'm not overly keen on backing Melon at 11/4.

The reason he's favourite is largely due to the reports coming from Mullins' yard about what he's doing at home, and while we've certainly no reason to doubt those accounts, I prefer to back horses on what I've seen on the racecourse with my own two eyes rather than what I've heard.

Melon was a decent flat horse in France and looked highly promising in his sole race over hurdles at Leopardstown, but it was a maiden that lacked any real depth and the horse which finished second, Broken Soul, was subsequently beaten in a maiden hurdle at Navan, despite going off at 4/11.

Instead, Ballyandy is tipped to get the day off to a good start for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Last year's Champion Bumper winner beat some experienced handicappers in the Betfair Hurdle last time out which makes the form look reasonably solid. He's a speedy sort which will handle the sometimes frantic pace in the Supreme and the 7/2 available yesterday evening seems more than fair to me.

Yanworth is set to go off as favourite for the Champion Hurdle (3.30) but his jumping is suspect and this is wide open. Preference is for Petit Mouchoir, which is expected to go off at 7/1 or thereabouts. Henry de Bromhead's six-year-old has the form in the book with two Grade One wins including the Irish Champion Hurdle last time, and his front-running style is likely to suit.

Stat attack: JT McNamara Novices' Chase

Lay of the day

At 3/1 on the exchanges, I'm happy to click pink for Vroum Vroum Mag in the Mares' Hurdle (4.10). Sent off at 1/5 last time at Doncaster, she made hard work of a race she should have won with ease.

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