Wednesday 21 February 2018


1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The Festival curtain raiser has a habit of producing surprises and the last horse to win at less than 6/1 was Brave Inca in 2004 – caution is advised. However,

My Tent Or Yours' performance in the Betfair Hurdle was outstanding and it's rare we see a novice dismiss very good handicappers that way. I'm struggling to find a reason to oppose at 13/8.

2.05 Arkle Chase

Nicky Henderson's Simonsig is the Festival banker for many but his odds are restrictive and it might be worth looking elsewhere for better value. Overturn looked a natural in his three unbeaten chase runs to date and if he goes off in front at a good clip as expected, he'll give Simonsig his toughest workout to date.

2.40 JLT Specialty Handicap Chase

A tricky race where stakes should be kept fun-size. Pete The Feat came on in leaps and bounds this term but was showing the effects of a long campaign when pulled up at Kempton last time. He's had a few weeks to recover and gets a tentative each-way vote at 33/1.

3.20 Champion Hurdle

Rock On Ruby bids to become the first horse since Hardy Eustace to do the Champion Hurdle double while Hurricane Fly seeks to emulate Comedy Of Errors (1975) by regaining the crown he lost the previous year. Both have serious claims and dutching (backing both) the pair at an overall price of even-money should be considered. Fifth in the race last year, Zarkandar is another one for the short-list.

4.0 Cross Country Handicap Chase

Enda Bolger has had the winner or runner-up of this race in seven of the last eight renewals. The race went to Philip Hobbs' Balthazar King last year but Bolger's Arabella Boy can reclaim it for the Irish in 2013 with Nina Carberry on board, priced around 7/2.

4.40 OLBG Mares' Hurdle

Willie Mullins' Quevega is impossible to oppose as she goes for her fifth win in this race. The last horse to win five consecutive Festival races was Golden Miller (1932-1936 Gold Cups) but this high-class mare is in a league of her own. With 21lb in hand on official ratings, she should win with ease.

5.15 R4R Novices' Handicap Chase

Gordon Elliott knows how to raid a prize and C&D winner Carlito Brigante is respected. However, Venetia Williams' Shangani is on an upward curve with recent handicap wins at Sandown at Catterick. He may have a bit more to come before the handicapper catches up and odds of 8/1 have each-way appeal.

Irish Independent

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