Steve Hughes reflects on the weekend’s major racing action and highlights another ante-post bet for the Cheltenham Festival.
There was not so much action over the past week with the big Saturday card at Sandown washed out, but Naas staged a decent card on Sunday with the Grade 2 Slaney Hurdle the highlight. Briar Hill was expected to make short work of his two opponents, but in the event he had to work hard both to get past and then to hold off the outsider Apache Jack.
However although he is by no means flashy, Briar Hill just seems able to get the job done and he remains unbeaten in five races under rules. A lazy sort, he can get off the bridle in his races, but he has always responded to the jockey’s urgings so far and a stiff track and fast pace like he should get at Cheltenham should suit him down to the ground.
As always with a Willie Mullins runner, it will be difficult to know which race he will be aimed for at the Festival, but bookies are now starting to offer more odds on horses to win any race at the Festival so the 6/1 looks a fair wager at this stage.
Cheltenham staged a fine card despite the weather on New Years Day and our ante-post selection for the four miler Mendip Express greatly enhanced his reputation by defying top weight and unsuitably soft ground to win the staying handicap chase. He is now a clear favourite with most bookies (best priced 10/1) to win a race that has now been moved to the Tuesday card.
Oscar Whisky won for a sixth time at Cheltenham in the Grade 2 novice chase, but he has always been found short of what is required at the Festival and I am happy to be against him for whichever race he goes for (probably the Jewson) as they missed out half the fences last week which suited him more than his opponents and his tendency to jump a little right could cost him in the top grade.
1pt win – Briar Hill – to win any race at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival at 6/1 (Paddy Power)
Already advised: Ante – Post Portfolio
0.5 pts each-way – Salubrious – World Hurdle at 25/1
1pt each-way – Felix Yonger – Arkle Chase at 14/1
1pt each-way – Mendip Express – National Hunt Chase at 16/1
1pt win – Bobs Worth – Cheltenham Gold Cup at 5/1