CUE Card is aiming to do what Cousin Vinny and Dunguib couldn’t by becoming the first Supreme Novices’ Hurdle banker to win since Brave Inca in 2004.
Colin Tizzard’s stable star has produced some tremendous performances over hurdles this season, but the stats are against him. Montelado in 1992 was the last Champion Bumper winner to take this race the following season and 13 of the last 15 winners won last time out.
There is no doubt that Cue Card is the likeliest winner, but it’s always a tough race and he’s too short for me at 2/1.
Paddy Power are once again offering their excellent Supreme Novices’ concession and will refund all bets if Cue Card wins. Barry Geraghty has opted to ride SPIRIT SON and that should be a tip in itself as Sprinter Sacre also looks a top class novice.
I was hugely impressed with the selection’s jumping at Exeter last time and he looks an each-way bet to nothing at 5/1 with Paddy Power, especially with the Cue Card insurance.
It’s interesting that Brian Ellison runs Marsh Warbler in this rather than Friday’s Triumph Hurdle and he might be able to sneak into a place getting 8lb off the field.
The Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase (2.40pm) is always one of the big betting handicaps of the week. Blazing Bailey has been revitalised this season and Alan King’s popular nine-year-old heads the weights on 11st12lb. However, it’s the stable’s other runner Bensalem who is set to be sent off favourite after two promising hurdles runs this season.
He was travelling like the winner in this race last year when he came down two out, but that was still a long way from home and it’s a worry that the last 11 winners of this race carried less than 11 stone (he must shoulder 11st2lb).
David Pipe’s Great Endeavour won the Byrne Group Plate at last year’s Festival and ran a stormer in the Vote AP Gold Cup in December. He clearly loves Cheltenham, but with 11st7lb on his back I’m prepared to look elsewhere.
There’s no-one better at preparing a horse for a big Cheltenham handicap than Jonjo O’Neill and he has a great chance with SUNNYHILLBOY. Second to Great Endeavour at last year’s Festival, he was just six lengths behind the same rival here in December and has always looked as though he’d relish this step up in trip. He’s a knocking each-way bet at 6/1 with Paddy Power and William Hill.
I wouldn’t put anyone off having a small each-way interest in Malcolm Jefferson’s KING FONTAINE at 33/1 with Victor Chandler. He hated the heavy ground at Haydock last time and will be much more suited to today’s conditions.