Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Bryan Keane/INPHO Neverushacon, ridden by Paddy Kennedy.
5 long-shot bets to consider as Cheltenham takes centre stage
Johnny Ward brings you his tips as all eyes turn to Prestbury Park.

THE BIGGEST WEEK in the racing calendar, the Cheltenham Festival, is nearly upon us once again.

Thanks to William Hill, top racing journalist Johnny Ward will be bringing you tips over the coming days.

First up, we’re taking a look at some long-shot prospects to keep an eye on…

Backing a victorious long shot is a rare thing; at Cheltenham, it is a rare and wonderful thing.

Over the years, I have enjoyed the odd big-priced winners at Cheltenham. The one that sticks out is Sublimity at 59/1 in advance of the 2007 Champion Hurdle, though the victory in the same race last year of Espoir D’allen was also really sweet.

Off the top of my head, there was also Synchronised in the Gold Cup and Dabiroun in the Fred Winter, but no doubt in those 15 years or so I backed plenty of duds too: it is just easier to remember the winners.

One winner at 10/1 or bigger can cover a hell of a lot of losing bets over the week.

Here are five to consider:

Darasso — 66/1 (Champion Hurdle, Tuesday)

A horse I’m a big fan of and Joseph O’Brien has today decided to run him in the Champion Hurdle (Tuesday) rather than the Ryanair Chase (Thursday). His first run this season was his relatively underwhelming last of four in the New One Hurdle, in which he looked rusty and in need of the run, but far from disgraced. He then came on from that to finish an honourable second to Cilaos Emery at Gowran, even if he had to give him considerable weight.

Last year, he ran a nice race in the Galmoy before bolting up over two miles, firstly at Gowran hurdling then over fences at Navan.

The endearing quirk of Darasso is how much he finds after racing lazily and the horse he beat easily last term at Navan, Cadmium, hacked up in the Topham Chase next time, bringing his rating to a whopping 162. How good could Darasso be?

Though the Ryanair Chase (over perhaps his ideal trip) would have been my pick, the Champion Hurdle is very weak. Back him anyway, with William Hill notably a top price (66/1) about him in the Champion Hurdle.

La Feline –  33/1 (Mares’ Novice Hurdle, Thursday)

Paul Nolan goes to Cheltenham with three or four realistic fancies, including La Feline, who will be ridden by Bryan Cooper, who has plenty of Cheltenham experience, in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle. Whilst she did not cut much ice in bumpers, she has been notably progressive hurdling, and I love how much she found for a squeeze when winning by 18 lengths at Limerick in late January.

The softer the ground the better her chance; she will not be disgraced irrespective. If she can travel within herself, she should have more stamina than many of her shorter-priced foes.

Neverushacon – 16/1 (Cross-country Chase, Wednesday)

This race is obviously all about Tiger Roll for many people, the son of Authorised not only bidding to win it for the third time but bidding to do the same in the Grand National. However, there is an each-way angle in the race, especially considering his pretty chequered season so far. Neverushacon spent time in Paddy Kennedy’s pre-training yard and, while brother Jack will not have a ride at Cheltenham due to injury, he will be cheering his mentor on. He is far from hopeless.

Rated 140 over fences already before going down this discipline, it seems to suit him, to judge from his easy win at Punchestown, with Yanworth in third. Hills are a top-quote 16/1.

Theatre Of War – 14/1 (Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle, Wednesday)

Given by Gavin Cromwell as his long-shot hope of the Festival, he would not be the first maiden over hurdles to win the Fred Winter. Said to have done a sparkling bit of work recently, The son of War Command finished second to Leagan Gaeilge in a juvenile maiden hurdle at Christmas when last seen.

In fourth was Gordon Elliott’s Tronador, who his own trainer fancies for the race. Both look interesting, with Hills a best-on-the-high-street 20s about Theatre Of War.

Fury Road – 12/1 (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, Friday)

Odds this horse has been sent off so far: 6/4, 2/5, 9/2. 8/11, 1/25, evens, 9/4. However, due to his somewhat laboured effort on ground that was not soft enough at Leopardstown last time, he is a top-quote 14s here with William Hill.

Eddie O’Leary, Gigginstown’s racing manager, was talking this horse up big time in his Cheltenham preview offering on Saturday evening for Kiltormer GAA club in Ballinasloe. Gordon Elliott is similarly sweet. Very well-regarded, he is better than his Leopardstown form (somewhat messy race) and has more to give.

Odds above correct at the time of writing. For all the latest prices, visit 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see

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