Road to Cheltenham

Bill Esdaile
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EVERY Friday between now and the start of the Cheltenham Festival, I’ll be taking a look at the feature races and will attempt to identify some value in the current ante-post markets.

The first race we are going to look at is the Racing Post Arkle Chase, where the betting is currently headed by the much-touted Un De Sceaux.

Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old would have been a perfect 11 from 11 under rules if he hadn’t fallen on his chasing debut at Thurles, but he made amends at Fairyhouse just before Christmas. However, I’m not interested in taking 9/4 about a novice chaser that’s never been to Cheltenham before.

The vibes are that his stablemate Vautour is now more likely to head for the JLT Novices’ Chase over an extra half a mile. He was well beaten by Clarcam last month, but the Gigginstown Stud-owned runner may well have been flattered.

Josses Hill is respected, but doesn’t look a natural, while Ptit Zig is another heading for the JLT. So that leaves the JP McManus-trained GILGAMBOA as the value call at this stage at 12/1.

The seven-year-old was in the process of running a mighty race in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when he made a shuddering mistake at the second last. I’m not saying he’d have beaten Vautour, but he’d have finished a lot closer.

Since then, he’s won both his starts over fences in really eye-catching style and supposedly heads to the Irish Arkle next weekend. If he beats, or even shakes up Un De Sceaux, you can expect the 12/1 to disappear fast.

■ Pointers…
GILGAMBOA (12/1) Arkle Chase