Cheltenham Festival 2016 Betting: Garde can land victory for Hobbs and Johnson in JLT Novices' Chase

 
Bill Esdaile
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Cheltenham Races
Garde La Victoire won last season’s Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham (Source: Getty)

DOUVAN proved on Tuesday that the trainers who were running scared of him in the Arkle were absolutely spot on.

He put in a monstrous performance and is now 3/1 with the sponsors for next year’s Betway Champion Chase.

Philip Hobbs made the wise decision to switch GARDE LA VICTOIRE to tomorrow’s JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30pm) and he can be rewarded for doing so.

The winner of last season’s Greatwood Hurdle at this track, the seven-year-old is three from three over fences, including a success here in November.

He beat Bristol De Mai on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter, giving him 9lbs, and tomorrow’s ground will undoubtedly suit him better than Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner.

Although bigger earlier in the week, Sky Bet are now offering him at 4/1 and they will again give you £25 back in free bets if you lose in this race.

It’s fair to say that Bristol De Mai has improved since that start, but all his best form is on very soft ground and I’m happy to swerve him.

Outlander and Black Hercules are Willie Mullins’ two contenders. I’d prefer Outlander of the two, although I’m not convinced he’s absolutely top class.

With the ground drying out all the time, the biggest danger to Garde La Victoire may well come from Zabana who I recommended backing in early February at 12/1.

That was prior to his run in the Flogas Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown when he disappointed in the soft ground, so his price remains roughly the same.

He’s a much better horse on a sound surface and ran an absolute cracker when beaten a neck by Aux Ptit Soins in last year’s Coral Cup.

That proved he can clearly handle this course and I wouldn’t put anyone off him at 12/1 with Paddy Power.

The Brown Advisory Plate (4.10pm) is one of the most competitive handicaps of the entire week – no surprise then that the average winning price over the past eight years is just over 30/1.

Last month I advised Johns Spirit at 20/1 in our ‘Road to Cheltenham’ box and Jonjo O’Neill’s nine-year-old is now 6/1 favourite with Sky Bet.

He is incredibly well-handicapped off a mark 15lbs lower than when beaten in last year’s Ryanair Chase. However, there’s no need to go in again at such a short price.

Paul Nicholls has never won this race, but he has three fair chances. Stilletto won well last time, while Salubrious won the Martin Pipe Hurdle three years ago.

However, at 16/1 with Sky Bet, I’d just favour ART MAURESQUE.

He was quite well fancied for the Paddy Power Gold Cup earlier in the season after winning well over course and distance on decent ground in October.

It’s been too soft for him over the winter and the return to this surface should see him go close.

Don’t miss CAUSE OF CAUSES in the Kim Muir (5.30pm) for Gordon Elliott and JP McManus at 5/1 with Betway.

The owner’s Minella Rocco landed the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday under Derek O’Connor, but last year’s winning jockey Jamie Codd rides tomorrow.

Cause Of Causes won the four-miler last year and a win this afternoon would give Codd his fourth Kim Muir in the last eight years.

David Pipe’s Doctor Harper looks the main danger, although he isn’t certain to stay the trip.

Pointers

Garde La Victoire 1.30pm Cheltenham

Zabana (already advised 12/1) 1.30pm Cheltenham

Art Mauresque 4.10pm Cheltenham

Johns Spirit (already advised 20/1) 4.10pm Cheltenham

Cause Of Causes 5.30pm Cheltenham