Thursday 12 December 2019

Look to Bolger the master

THEY say that good news rarely comes in a brown envelope, and that phrase rang true yesterday morning as the postman stuffed numerous utility bills though my letterbox.

Do these people not realise that it's Cheltenham week? Everything is on hold for a few days in the Bailey household, including the bills! The war chest has been built up and only the bookmakers will see any of that cash -- and hopefully they'll only get to hold onto it for very short periods.

Yes folks, the waiting is finally over and at 1.30 today, the big roar will go up over the Cotswolds, a sound that will be echoed around the pubs and bookie shops all over Ireland. Many punters will have their biggest bets of the year this week and the festival offers the chance to act like a high-roller, if only for a short time.

Win or lose, there'll be some serious money changing hands and punters will have to have their wits about them if they want to come out alive by Friday evening. As exciting as it may be, try your best not to go over-board with your betting on day one.

The Irish 'bankers' are usually on show today and it's hard not to fall into the old patriotic punting trap, especially once the drink gets flowing. Don't let your guard down for one minute, as there will be plenty of takers for your dough.

A good or bad week will have been determined for many by roughly 1.35pm today, and Dunguib is definitely the banker for most Irish racing enthusiasts. Regular readers will know that I'm a fan but there's been acres written about him already so there's no need for me to add to that.

It's sufficient to say that I reckon a strong pace against good horses will keep him alert -- and this may eliminate the lazy jumping mistakes we seen at Leopardstown. Others hold a different view, but that's what makes is so intriguing.

I'm sure you are all aware of the Paddy Power 'money back if Dunguib wins' offer, so I'll also take Get Me Out Of Here and Menorah each-way with that firm.

I'd never win the 'Mr Original' award for putting up Dunguib as my main bet of today so Garde Champetre has the honour or misfortune of representing 'The Betting Ring' column in the Cross Country Chase (4.0).

It may be a handicap, but weight doesn't really matter too much as they just trundle along for the most part then make a dash for it in the last couple of furlongs. Trainer Enda Bolger is the master here, winning four of the past five renewals; he filled the first three places in 2009.

Risk-averse punters should consider dutching (ie, backing both) Bolger's Garde Champetre and L'Ami for an overall price of 4/5 or so -- but the former is a Cheltenham specialist and is a fairly confident selection on his own with Nina Carberry doing the steering. Don't worry about his seventh place last time out at Punchestown: the gelding was just stretching the legs over hurdles and his trainer will have him spot on for the big one today.

Watching Brief

I already have some ante-post vouchers on Solwhit and Go Native, but the Champion Hurdle looks extremely hard to crack and I doubt I'll go back to the well again.

The value hunters are eating away at Celestial Halo's price, while one of the punts of the year will be landed if Binocular (matched at 999/1 on the exchanges) comes up the hill in front. A good case could be made for at least five horses, so I'll have a Kit Kat at 3.20 and just enjoy the spectacle instead.

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