Thursday 22 March 2018

Cheltenham - Betting Ring

Wayne Bailey

I'm certainly no expert on Chinese philosophy, but I reckon one of their most famous sons, Confucius (551-479 BC), was right on the money when he said: "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."

For those of us lucky enough to be involved in horse racing, this is the busiest week of the year, but it hardly feels like work to be honest and I'm like a kid at Christmas waiting for the Cheltenham Festival to begin.

In some ways, the excitement is part of the problem for punters and it's very hard not to get carried away with your betting on day one.

It may be a hackneyed phrase but this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the best thing to do is split your betting pot into four parts, making sure you don't dip into the following days' allocation if you happen to find yourself losing early on!

Today's Champion Hurdle (3.20) is shaping up to be the race of the Festival, although the absence of Binocular, which was treated for an allergy two weeks ago, is a big blow for organisers.

Ante-post punters should note that a number of firms have offered refunds on the seven-year-old, so if you've thrown that docket in the bin, go fish it out and see if you are due a couple of quid back.

The early books have Hurricane Fly and Menorah battling it out for favouritism, but a strong case could be made for at least half the field here so I'm going to take a value-based approach and look outside the market leaders for my bet.

Despite the fact that he only found Binocular too good in this race last year, Khyber Kim has been somewhat forgotten lately and currently trades around 10/1 in the early markets.

That price is certainly good enough for me and I'm going to take him each-way. Punters have been put off by his fourth place from six in the Christmas Hurdle at Cheltenham, but I'm not too bothered about that as the course didn't suit and he found the pace too quick.

Besides, his astute trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, confirmed that his classy hurdler was unwell afterwards so there are plenty of reasons to forgive that race.

He proved that he had stamina when winning the Aintree Hurdle previously and there's no reason to believe that he won't be one of those battling up the hill in the final stages of the race.

Watching brief

Odds-on horses have a poor record at the Festival in recent years so think twice before you plough into Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle (4.40).

While reports from the yard are good, I don't fancy taking 8/11 about a horse that hasn't been seen in almost a year.

Stat Attack

Twelve of the last 14 Supreme Novices' Hurdle winners had won last time out. On that basis, Cue Card's second place in December's International Hurdle gives reason to oppose.

Lay of the day

Quantitativeeasing trades at 5/2 in Betfair's place market for the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase (5.15), but the handicapper has his measure and at these weights it seems doubtful that he will be able to repeat his Fontwell and Market Rasen form quite so easily.

My money says he'll start to struggle as they come around the final bend.

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