The weirdest version of the Cheltenham Festival that any of us are likely to experience, or not experience as the case may be, is nearly upon us. In what will feel like just a matter of moments, the horses will begin the first race with the lack of the Cheltenham Roar being the most notable thing about it. Just because we can’t be there to watch it and celebrate as the event gets underway doesn’t mean that we can’t place a wager or two.
Whether it be the lack of crowds or just the state of horse racing in general, for one reason or another this feels like a Cheltenham Festival that may well send up a few surprises. That is often good news for the bookmakers if it means that the favourites aren’t winning, but it could also be good news for us punters who like to back longer odds horses each way. Here’s a look at some horses that might let us do just that in Festival week. For those looking for horses to back to win see our top 10 horses for the Cheltenham Festival.
Samcro – Gold Cup
At the time of writing, we can’t say for certain which race it is that Samcro will be entered into at the Cheltenham Festival. What we can tell you, though, is that he’s currently available for a price of 33/1. That is massive for a horse that was labelled as a ‘future Gold Cup winner’ as long ago as 2017. It’s also interesting to note that he’s even allowed in the Festival at all, given Gordon Elliott’s ban from the meeting.
The loophole that has allowed the Irish trainer’s horses to take part in one of jump racing’s most important meetings is good news for punters, though, with Samcro having impressed last year when holding off Melon to claim the opening win of the Festival. Admittedly it was a close run thing, with a photo-finish handing him the win, but it’s enough to mean that he’ll head into any race this year in a confident mood.
Magic Of Light – Gold Cup
Such is the extent to which Al Boum Photo is the favourite for the Gold Cup, you can actually get decent value on a number of the runners. When it comes to a horse that has experience of running in the biggest races potentially being undervalued by the bookies, though, you can’t look much past Magic Of Light. She finished as the runner up in the Grand National in 2019, yet is currently available at odds of 66/1 for the blue riband event.
Trained by Jessica Harrington and often ridden by Robbie Power, she got a win under her belt in December in the Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase at Newbury that means that she’ll be in a good space heading into Cheltenham. She is a horse that ‘loves jumping’, with the fact that Power has won the Gold Cup in the past likely to work in her favour, should she end up with him on her back for the main event of Cheltenham.
Aspire Tower – Champion Hurdle
The chances are high that Honeysuckle will be the outright favourite for the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the meeting at Prestbury Park, having won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. It’s likely that Epatante will also be well-fancied, having won this event last year. With that in mind, there are a few horses making it under the radar for this renewal, including Aspire Tower.
He finished second in the Triumph Hurdle in 2020, having made a strong impression over hurdles at the start of his career. His performance in the race at the last Festival left many disappointed because they know he can travel and jump better than he did. He looks in great nick this time around, winning a Grade 2 race at Down Royal before just missing out on the Matheson Hurdle to Sharjah. At 14/1 right now, that could be worth an Each-Way punt.
Put The Kettle On – Champion Chase
10/1 might not seem like amazing odds given some of the others we’ve flagged up here, but given the extent to which Chacun Pour Soi is being seen as the favourite for the Champion Chase on Wednesday it’s definitely worth a ponder. Put The Kettle On has raced at Cheltenham three times to date and has won every time, including the Arkle this time last year, so an Each-Way wager seems eminently sensible.
The key thing to bear in mind is that Chacun Pour Soi struggles with fitness, having only started seven races over the past three seasons. Yes, he’s won all three of them and that’s why the bookies won’t look much past him in the Champion Chase, but his finishing hasn’t always been as good as you’d imagine. If Put The Kettle On can keep up with him heading over the last, therefore, we might well have an exciting race on our hands.
Sam Spinner – Stayers’ Hurdle
Paisley Park is the runaway favourite in the Stayers’ Hurdle to such an extent that it’s difficult to find any value in a bet on him right now. It’s worth remembering that his performance in the same race last year was really poor when there was a large amount of expectation on him to do well, so looking elsewhere presents you with a much better opportunity of getting some decent odds.
That’s why Sam Spinner might be one to think about, especially with odds of 33/1 at the time of writing. It will be the horse’s third go at winning the race and you know what people say about things being third time lucky. He was fifth in the Stayers’ in 2018 and then came second behind Paisley Park the year after. He couldn’t take part in 2020 because of an injury, so will be keen to prove himself this time around.
BallyAdam – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins has won this race more than any other trainer and he’ll be hoping to add to his list with as many as five entries this time around. One of them is Appreciate It, who is the runaway favourite for the event. If any horse can give him a run for his money then it might well be BallyAdam, who Jamie Codd described as the best horses that had ever run at Downpatrick when he raced him there last year.
A couple of disappointing outings followed, meaning that those that had been keeping an eye on him strayed off and looked elsewhere. That means that his odds for the Supreme have drifted, meaning that at the time of writing you can get him at 10/1. The fact that he finished fourth at Leopardstown over Christmas in a race that Appreciate It won won’t have helped his price, but that’s exactly the sort of thing we want to take advantage of with an Each-Way wager.
Kalashnikov – Ryanair Chase
There was a time at which the Ryanair Chase was gearing up to be the most exciting race of the Festival, but the likes of Imperial Aura, Min and Saint Calvados have all disappointed in recent starts and the event has lost its lustre. Min is probably still going to be the favourite, but that does mean that some other options are available at longer prices than the likely runout would suggest they should have been.
One such example is Kalashnikov, who you can pick up at a price of 25/1 at the time of writing. Of course, the actual lineup for the event is yet to be decided, with names like Melon possible runners. Kalashnikov won in his last race before heading to Prestbury Park and has a record of placing in events about 40% of the time, so a bet on him to do the same this time around could see you get some money back on your stake.
Remastered – National Hunt Chase
Royale Pagaille is the runaway favourite for the National Hunt Chase, having his odds slashed as the race approaches. That’s not overly surprising, considering he was being touted for the Gold Cup before Venetia Williams appeared to decide that the seven-year-old would be better suited for the National Hunt. He won at Haydock by 16 lengths recently, meaning that it’s tough to look anywhere else.
That is why an Each-Way bet on Remastered at 12s is worth considering. David Pipe’s offering in the race has won the Reynoldstown recently and will almost certainly have Tom Scudamore riding him. That’s a tasty match-up that will have plenty of punters thinking long and hard about. The course will have cut up by the time the National Hunt Chase gets underway, meaning that it could be anyone’s if things don’t go Royale Pagaille’s way.
Plan Of Attack – Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Another horse that’s available at 12/1 at the time of writing is Plan Of Attack, whose odds are longer than many might have expected because he’s disappointed in recent outings. Henry De Bromhead is no fool as a trainer, though, and will almost certainly have been getting the horse ready for Cheltenham in the past few weeks. When a decent horse has a good trainer and long odds, it’s difficult to look anywhere else.
Plan Of Attack was fourth in the Kim Muir last year, going off a mark of 140. He’s carrying two pounds fewer this time around, so if he gets the ground that he likes and remembers what it’s like to run at Prestbury Park then there’s every chance that he could pull off something of a surprise. This is one that might be worth leaving until closer to the race getting underway, given that his price might well drift.
Does He Know – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
If there’s one major question heading into this year’s Cheltenham Festival then it’s about which horse is going to take the title from Monkfish as the champion of this novice’s event. Willie Mullins’ Stattler took the lead in the early betting, which offers a degree of value if you decide to look elsewhere. It’s likely to be a competitive renewal of the race, so an outside sneaking into the places isn’t out of the realms of the possible.
Does He Know has drifted out to 25/1 at the time of writing, which is a very tempting price for a horse that absolutely has a chance in this race. Many of the experts are saying that this one is ‘impossible to call’, so the fact that you can get a decent horse at that price is something that will tempt many. Most of the money is going to shift towards Barbados Bucks and Stattler, so Does He Know might well be a dark horse.