RACING fan Gerry Taylor (@thefurlongpole) shares his NAP, his next best and his each-way fancy on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
The NAP, the next best and the each-way on Day 1 at Cheltenham Festival
The best four days of the racing year are upon us and racing fans have a feast of action to look forward.
The Prestbury Park meet gets underway on Tuesday and I’ll be looking at my NAP of the day, my lay of the day and a horse to back at a nice each-way price on each day of the meeting.
The NAP: Honeysuckle (2/1 Bet365) in the Champion Hurdle (3:05)
When owner Kenny Alexander attended the Punchestown Festival in 2018, little did he know that trainer Henry de Bromhead, and racing manager Peter Molony would steer him towards the Sulamani mare Honeysuckle – who was one of the lots up for grabs at the Goffs sale after racing. This has since proved to be an inspired purchase for €110,000.
The Ayrshire-born Kilmarnock supporter, is the ex-chief executive of GVC Holdings. He stepped down last summer, and it's maybe no coincidence that he's been increasing his string over the last couple of years, in particular his mares and breeding operation.
The exceptional mare is now an unbeaten 10/10 for him, including bagging six grade ones. She is also a previous Festival winner having triumphed in a fantastic duel in the Mares Hurdle last season with Benie Des Dieux.
The 7lb weight allowance the girls receive here is a bonus, but whilst Honeysuckle goes into this with a flawless record, the reigning Champion Hurdler Epatante does not. She has got to questions to answer for Nicky Henderson, after being well beaten by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle. You really want your selection to have won last time out, going in to this.
I respect Gary Moore's Goshen, whom I backed in last season's Triumph Hurdle, unfortunately he tripped up at the last, when about to bolt up. He finally bounced back to form last time out, after previously looking out of sorts.
Therefore, my NAP is the unbeaten mare HONEYSUCKLE to be crowned Champion Hurdler, in what should be a cracking renewal, which promises to be run at a strong pace.
Goshen, Silver Streak and Abacadabras could fight it out for the places – the latter two having excellent Cheltenham course place form which is paramount.
The Next Best: Galvin (5/2 William Hill) in the National Hunt Chase (4.50)
The two market leaders Galvin and Escaria Ten were until very recently trained by Gordon Elliott, who as everyone knows is now serving a ban. The Cullentra stable did have a superb record in this – 4 winners from only 8 runners in the National Hunt Chase so it would be no surprise to see these two be bang on the premises jumping the the 23rd and final fence.
Out of the two I do prefer Galvin as he ticks a lot of the boxes, he's a 7 year-old, rated 152, so is well in at the weights with almost all of his opponents. In fact he is only 1lb ‘wrong' at the weights with the Paul Nicholl's trained Next Destination, but remarkably the Ditcheat handler has never won this race.
Another big change this year, is there are no amateur jockeys riding in this due to covid. Jack Kennedy has the leg up for Ballymena trainer Ian Ferguson, who has had plenty of Airdrie-born owner Ronnie Bartlett horses over the years. So hopefully the recent stable switch won't be much of a hindrance. If you get the chance, I'd recommend watching the re-runs of Galvin's previous two Cheltenham runs.
In October, the Gold Well gelding bolted up over 3m 1/2f at the course, and the extra 5 ½ furlongs should suit him really well. Then last year at the festival, he ran second in the Ultima, on the face of it, there was no disgrace in getting run out of it close home to the 143 rated Imperial Aura – Kim Bailey's horse is subsequently now rated 163!
Galvin will be running after an 144 day break, this seems to suit the lightly raced seven year old as he goes really well fresh, as he has won or run well after similar breaks. So the well-touted Galvin rates as the next best bet on Tuesday.
The Each-Way: Aye Right (6/1 William Hill) in the Ultima Handicap Chase (2.30)
Harriet Graham combines being a clerk of the course at Musselburgh and Hamilton with training her racehorses at Jedburgh in the Scottish borders. Without doubt her current stable star Aye Right, will be by far the best horse she has had trained in her 27 years of having a licence.
In fact it took her over seven years to get her first winner from her small string of horses.
Here are some form lines, stats and trends to support the selection for the 3 mile Ultima Handicap Chase:
- Ran in the RSA last season as a novice, mixing it with the likes of Champ, Minella Indo and Allaho – finished a well beaten 5th after chasing the fast pace.
- Finished an excellent 2nd to the 176 rated Cyrname in the Charlie Hall chase in the Autumn.
- The Ladbroke Trophy has been a good race to farm winners for the Ultima – 4 winners have came from this in last 7 years. Aye Right ran a great race in 2nd to hot Grand National favourite Cloth Cap.
- 7 or 8 year olds go well in this race – seven winners in last ten runnings.
- Winners should be 11/1 or less and progressive, rated above 142.
Aye Right's regular pilot Callum Bewley is suspended at the moment, so the in-form Richard Johnson is a great replacement and will be delighted to pick up the ‘spare', especially as his intended Stayers Hurdle mount Thyme Hill who was joint favourite for the three miler on Thursday, is now out due to injury.
The main danger in my opinion comes from the successful stable last year – with Kim Bailey's Happygolucky. This novice could still be unexposed, but at the short prices and given the mistakes at he made at much less testing Fakenham, I'd be willing to take the likely short-priced favourite on.
I backed Aye Right each way at 14/1 for this a couple of weeks ago. Although he is much shorter – 6/1 with Bet Victor now, I'd still recommend an each way interest as he ticks a lot of boxes in this handicap, and arguably has the best form on offer.
There hasn't been much to cheer about for Scottish owners at the Cheltenham Festival in recent times, maybe that will change on the Tuesday this year.
Champion Hurdle – Honeysuckle (2/1 Bet365)
National Hunt Chase – Galvin (5/2 William Hill)
Ultima Handicap Chase – Aye Right (6/1 each-way William Hill)