With the countdown to Cheltenham fully underway, the antepost betting is beginning to paint a picture with some runners taking clear dominance in the markets.
But as the Festival proves time and time again, not every favourite is the best selection.
Here are six top of the market selections to take on at this year’s meeting.
Appreciate It – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Current Price: 11/4)
After an impressive Bumper campaign, Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old was tasked with tackling obstacles for the first time. With a Grade 1 success landed at Leopardstown over Christmas, Appreciate It has clearly established favouritism for the Supreme. However, it should be noted that some of the stats are going against last year’s Champion Bumper runner-up. Only two of the last 12 winners of this race were SP favourite in the market, but it must be remembered that last season’s victor Shishkin was a long-time antepost favourite before drifting out to 6s on the day. 10 of the last 12 winners had also run at least four times that season before heading to the Festival and at the time of writing, Appreciate It has only been seen twice this season. He could well be a talent, but it may be worth looking elsewhere for some value.
Monkfish – RSA Chase (Current Price: 2/1)
Monkfish has developed into one of the most exciting novice chasers in the division, and has even been tilted to be the next Al Boum Photo in the years to come. His price for the RSA is fully justified with two impressive victories over fences and there is no question that the seven-year-old has the ability and talent to land a second Festival success. But this race is known to be a tactical minefield, and Willie Mullins has only seen one victory in this since 2010. It could be the case that this exciting prospect may just be too classy for this contest.
Easysland – Cross Country (Current Price: 2/1)
On only his second appearance on British soil, David Cottin’s runner announced himself to the racing world after overcoming dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll by 17 lengths in last season’s renewel of this contest. Owned by JP McManus, Easysland captured the imagination of many in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. However, he was a disappointing fourth in the November edition of the race, producing a lacklustre performance that saw Kingswell Theatre land the spoils at Prestbury Park. The seven-year-old may not be as untouchable as it first seemed and might be worth taking on.
Sir Gerhard – Champion Bumper (Current Price: 3/1)
The Champion Bumper can be a puzzle of a race at the best of times, with the top eight selections in the betting all claiming victory on their last run out. In spite of that, Sir Gerhard is hotly tipped to continue the Cheveley Park team’s winning run in the contest. The six-year-old has drawn comparisons to Envoi Allen’s early days and has two impressive bumper wins under his belt already. But the stats go against Gordon Elliot’s potential star, as only two of the last 12 winners went off as favourite in the race. Furthermore, Willie Mullins’ last six victories in this race has come with horses that had double-figure SPs and with Kilcruit (10/1), Brandy Love (16/1) and Ramillies (16/1) all being targeted for the race, there could well be better value among other runners.
Min – Ryanair Chase (Current Price: 6/1)
Min heads to Cheltenham with the target of becoming the second horse to win the Ryanair Chase twice. Willie Mullins’ runner looks to still have the fluency and ability to land another Festival win, but several stats go against the six-time Grade 1 winner. 11 of the last 12 winners have been between the ages of 7-9, and with Min now being 10 years old, there could be a question about his age. Eight of the last 12 winners also have had at least three runs that season before heading to Cheltenham. At the time of writing, Min have only raced once, landing the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown. Min is a worthy favourite for the race, but there could be value found in other entries.
Zanahiyr – Truimph Hurdle (Current Price: 11/4)
Zanahiyr has been an impressive recruit for Gordon Elliott’s yard, claiming two Graded successes in his first three starts over hurdles for the County Meath trainer. He has established himself as an impressive sort over in Ireland and is well deserving of favouritism in the Triumph Hurdle. However, only 3 of the last 12 favourites in this race have won and his clear-cut chances of winning are being threatened by another talented novice. French Aseel has shown a scarce mix of pace and fluent jumping ability on his one start in Ireland, bolting up to win by 22 lengths. With both meeting in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, that race could give some clues on which horse is worth backing.