RACING fan Pete Hamill (@RiskForRewards) takes a look at the market leaders on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
Cheltenham Festival Tips: Day 2 Bankers or Blowouts
Welcome to the Cheltenham Festival, the greatest sporting event on this planet.
Last year there were 18 horses 3/1 or shorter – 16 of them lost. There were 6 odds-on favourites, of which only one of those obliged.
A man responsible for a large percentage of these is leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins. Of his short priced favourites between 2006 – 2020 he has had 63 runners of which 48% have won, 78% placed.
Almost 50% of his runners when short priced win at the Festival. That is some strike rate and exception to the rule that short price favourites often get turned over.
Of the 9 current favourites priced below 2/1 he is responsible for five of those. Over the next four days I will look to exploit those favourites.
Brown Advisory Novices Chase | Wednesday 17th March 2021, 13:55 | ITV1
Monkfish (1/2 SkyBet)
Statistics: 19/19 winners contested a graded novice chase. 13/14 finished 1st or 2nd in a graded novice. 5/11 contested year before Albert Bartlett (Monkfish won this event). 6/6 from top three in betting. Only 1/10 won this race after only 2 chase starts (Eklat De Rire negative).
Festival form: As the Albert Bartlett winner he looked very raw when headed by two horses before getting back up to win in a four way battle. The fourth that day Thyme Hill has won the Grade 1 Long Distance Hurdle with Latest Exhibition (second that day) has finished second in two Grade twos and a Grade 1 (last two behind Monkfish).
This season: Since taking to fences he has done everything so easily, a real natural. Since the Festival he has continued to grow both mentally and physically, maturing with each run and he is developing more in to a man. The new course looks the perfect test.
In the past it is hard to find a single horse who has achieve an RPR of 170 prior to Cheltenham yet he did in the Flogas Group 1 at the Dublin Racing festival. To put this in perspective Denman didn't even achieve this when winning his RSA back in 2007 and had to wait until his second season of chasing to reach that level in the year he won the Gold Cup.
Dangers: Big Breakaway is a good horse but cannot jump of which he will not get away with round Cheltenham so will need to improve to feature and his trainer has been out of form all season.
Eklat De Rire is thoroughly unexposed having only run twice of which goes down as a negative in a race that normally goes to a hardened horse. So whilst he looked good last time out it would be a very big ask on only his third start to win here.
I cannot find a fault in the horse. He has Festival form, handles the track, jumps, stays and travels. He is going to be very difficult to beat and should take this in his stride on route to the Gold Cup next year.
Eklat De Rire a lively alternative but having only had two starts would be a concern for me.
Cross Country Chase | Wednesday 17th March 2021, 15:40 | ITV1
Easyland (11/10 Bet365)
Statistics: 7/16 McManus winners. 13/16 Irish trained. 13/16 run on the course previously. Willie Mullins 0/15. Nicholls 0/13. Elliot 3/5 winners for Gigginstown who have had 3/6 (Tiger roll & Rivage D'Or).
Festival Form: Last year was a demolition job in this event beating Tiger Roll 18 lengths on soft ground having won four in a row previously.
This Season: This year has been a very different preparation and he has not been seen since a perfectly adequate return in November.
There are a few concerns with this horse.
Ground – whilst Easysland has form on good ground it has been very dry over here for weeks and the Cross Country is apparently very difficult to water. There has been 12mm of rain but we are yet to see how much of that will get in to the ground. It is not to say he won't handle it but it is just a question mark for a horse of such nature over the marathon trip.
Stable form – It is important to come in to a race fresh but this horse has been off the track for four months with issues. During this period the yard did have to close for a period and since the New Year they have only had 4 winners from 65 runners.
Bigger targets – a strong consideration must be in that whilst winning at Cheltenham is of huge importance connections do have the Grand National in the back of their mind as well.
Easysland is the best of this field on paper (16lb clear of rivals) and this could turn out to be even weaker than the field he beat 17 lengths last year.
So he in effect has himself to beat but there still remains enough concerns to look for something else to back in the race.
Champion Bumper | Wednesday 17th March 2021, 16:50 | ITV1
Kilcruit (15/8 William Hill)
Statistics: 21/28 winners from Ireland. 17/17 won their last start prior to the Festival. Only 2/11 failed to run in the calendar year (negative Sir Gerhard). Cheveley Park has had the last two winners (Sir Gerhard).
This season: for Kilcruit the Dublin Racing Festival performance was beyond impressive the way he travelled through the race, picking off his rivals on the bridle, powering away to win by 12 lengths.
It is important to view this with context however and the sectionals show that whilst the performance was impressive Kilcruit just slowed down slower than the others, rather than on initial viewing that he found another gear in the straight.
In previous years if you back the horse with the highest RPR in the Champion Bumper you would have made a profit of which Kilcruit is 11lb clear. The consideration with bumper horses is that they all carry different levels of maturity throughout the season therefore develop at different stages.
Some will be coiled ready to go from the off, others will be trained to peak later in the year and others may not be seen to best effect as a bumper horse.
Dangers: Sir Gerhard is his closet pursuer, not far behind him on talent or form and is a very worthy opponent. There are also 13 other unexposed unbeaten horses that have had only a few starts. He does look the most likely winner and it will take a serious one to stop him but it is not unfathomable that others could catch up.
He is a very narrow framed horse that takes very little work and whilst soft ground may suit the question will lie if it is soft enough. He looks a stayer for the future so at this trip (2 miles) with so many unexposed horses in the field, firmer ground and first time at Cheltenham it is enough to take him on.