WITH just under two months to go until the start of the Cheltenham Festival, the time is right to start building our ante-post portfolio. The purpose of any bet placed such a long way in advance of the event itself is to take a price about a horse that will supposedly be a lot shorter on the day. All 27 races have now been priced up by the bookies and the one horse that screams out to me above all others is MOURAD in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the freely available 14/1.
Willie Mullins’ young staying hurdler will certainly have his work cut out to prevent the odds-on Big Buck’s landing the hat-trick, but there are grounds to believe he can go close.
Even though he was an impressive winner on soft ground over three miles last month, his trainer has reiterated that he is far better suited to decent ground – a surface he is likely to encounter on the penultimate day of the Festival. He has also shown he handles the track (placed in a Triumph Hurdle), stays the trip and possesses enough speed to unsettle the hot favourite. He looks a rock solid each-way bet at 14/1 and is also worth supporting at 6/1 with William Hill in their market without Big Buck’s.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s action and all eyes will be on Master Minded as he attempts to justify odds-on favouritism in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot. He should win comfortably, but he is not totally invincible and I’ll be watching rather than getting involved.
The same can also be said for Champion Hurdle bound Peddlers Cross who seems to have been found an even easier opportunity in Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial. Donald McCain’s talented six-year old should land the spoils without breaking sweet.
The best bet on Haydock’s card looks to be the Pat Murphy trained MAKTU in the Peter Marsh Chase who we backed in the Welsh National a fortnight ago. He ran a really decent race that day, but was a little too keen in the early stages. The nine-year-old will appreciate the drop back to three miles, loves bottomless ground and has a massive 11lb pull in the weights with King Fontaine for a head defeat over course and distance back in November. Snap up the 6/1 available with Paddy Power.
Willie Mullins’ string always starts to come to the boil at this time of year and FLAT OUT holds solid claims in Sunday’s Arkle Chase at Leopardstown. He was a smart hurdler last season and looks to have taken to fences really well. I’ll also be having a few quid on the John Joseph Hanlon trained HIDDEN CYCLONE as he steps up to 2 1/2 miles for the first time in the Grade Two Hurdle on the same card. This is the trip he has been crying out for and he is the apple of his trainer’s eye.
It’s great news that City AM have become the official newspaper of the Investec Derby Festival. We’ll be looking at all the key trials, giving ante-post selections, running a big preview on the Friday and of course the Derby Special Edition, City A.M.’s first ever Saturday newspaper.