Woolstone the One to give your Cheltenham coffers a boost
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Cheltenham begins on Tuesday. While having a look at the early entries the other day, I realised that my attitude towards the festival has changed considerably as I get older.
Around 400 years before Christ, a bloke by the name of Aristippus set up a school of philosophy in the ancient Greek-controlled city of Cyrene, which is situated in modern-day Libya.
A hedonistic bunch, the Cyrenaics considered the pursuit of pleasure to be the purpose of life and they always made hay while the sun was shining, enjoying the moment no matter what the consequences.
When in my late teens and early Twenties, I suppose you could have described my attitude to Cheltenham as Cyrenaic.
The goal for the week was to drink and bet as much as my body and wallet would allow - and hopefully wake up with enough energy, and my bus fare, to go to work the following Monday morning.
But perhaps the Cyrenaics realised that burning the candle at both ends can't last forever because 100 years later, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came up with a new school of thought which became far more popular. The Epicureans took a much more measured view of life and believed that one can find pleasure in moderation.
I suppose I've moved in the Epicurean direction myself with regard to the festival and these days, my main piece of advice to punters is to be selective with your bets.
The fact that we don't have to bet in every race is possibly the greatest advantage we have over the bookmaker.
Speaking of being selective, I was watching a replay of Sire De Grugy winning the 2014 Champion Chase and was reminded of a simple strategy I wrote about on these pages a few years ago. It's ideal for those that want to be quite careful yet don't have the time to study every race.
Thankfully, it's paid its way since then, and you simply back the festival favourite in non-handicap races provided it's the top horse on official ratings and is in good form (won its latest race). That strategy has provided a profit of €138 to a €10 stake since I last wrote about it - and an overall profit of €199 since 2008.
You won't get a huge amount of bets each year and the prices are often short - but last year there were six winners from 10 bets including Moon Racer in the bumper (9/2), Don Poli in the RSA Chase (13/8) and Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle (2/1).
With six winning years out of the last seven, it's something to keep in mind if you are short on time during the week. But before we hear the famous roar go up over the Cotswolds on Tuesday, we've a handful of chances to give the readies a boost and Woolstone One is my idea of a great value bet around 6/1 in the Listed EBF British Stallion Studs & TBA Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race at Sandown (3.45).
A half-sister to a number of useful flat winners, Harry Whittington's filly got her career off to the best possible start in December when winning a bumper on very testing ground, beating the Philip Hobbs-trained favourite Little Miss Poet.
With Little Miss Poet going on to win a similar race with plenty in hand in February, the form has been given a boost and the selection also earned a second win last time at Wetherby, albeit at the short price of 1/2.
After the Wetherby race, Cheltenham was suggested as a possible goal but Whittington made it clear that the festival is not an option, stating: "It's hard enough for geldings, never mind four-year-old fillies". Instead, he nominated today's race as the target so she's been trained with Sandown Park in mind.
While she's stepping up in trip, her breeding suggests she'll be able to stay and I've stuck her in my notebook as one to keep onside with further progress highly likely.
On the Tapeta surface at Wolverhampton, Supersta makes appeal at a price of 6/1 or thereabouts in the Ladbrokes Lincoln Trial Handicap (2.15). A Pivotal gelding trained by Michael Appleby, he's running off a career-high mark of 90 having won two on-the-trot in quick succession last month off 77. Considering he had a double penalty at Chelmsford last time, a third-place finish was commendable and he's come on in leaps and bounds sine joining this stable last September.
I must admit I'm quite surprised to see Sunshine Corner chalked up as a 20/1 outsider in the Close Brothers Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle at Sandown (3.10).
Lucy Wadham's mare races for the first time in a handicap, and her mark of 126 for a racing burden of 10st 3lbs near the bottom end of the weights seems reasonable considering she was fourth in a Grade Two last time.
On that occasion, she travelled quite strongly and only began to struggle in the closing stages as the two-and-half mile trip on heavy ground wore her down.
Previously, she won a novices' hurdle at Plumpton with plenty to spare over today's shorter distance and I'll be pleased if jockey Leighton Aspell takes her out in front early as she's seen to best effect when given a prominent ride.
2.0 Sandown: Robin Of Locksley (e/w)
2.15 Wolverhampton: Supersta
2.50 Wolverhampton: Chookie Royale
3.10 Sandown: Sunshine Corner (e/w)
3.45 Sandown: Woolstone One