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5 ante-post Cheltenham bets to consider before prices are cut

Johnny Ward makes five super-early selections, and two more for this weekend’s racing in Ireland.

Chacun Pour Soi and Robbie Power winning ahead of Defi Du Seuil and Richard Johnson at the Punchestown Festival this year.
Chacun Pour Soi and Robbie Power winning ahead of Defi Du Seuil and Richard Johnson at the Punchestown Festival this year.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

WITH OCTOBER DRAWING in, it is time to consider some ante-post bets for Cheltenham before prices are cut and the serious jumping action commences.

It will be an exciting campaign as ever, but there will be some significant losses too.

Espoir D’allen’s death was pretty horrible in the champion hurdling division, Topofthegame is also out for the season.

Here are five selections to think about with March in mind and two more for the more immediate pursuit of this weekend’s Irish action:

Chacun Pour Sois

Altior seems to be heading towards the staying division this season, even if serious doubts remain about the Gold Cup for a horse who has been pretty incredible over two miles.

This means that the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase is up for grabs and Chacun Pour Soi looks to have a great chance of reaching the level required.

Having routed his rivals at Naas on his Irish chasing debut, he was pitched straight into Grade 1 company at Punchestown, hammering the high-class Defi Du Seuil by four and a quarter lengths, giving the impression that he had a lot more to give for Willie Mullins.

All roads surely lead to the Queen Mother, Cheltenham remaining a place that the same connections’ Min has tended to fall short in. Whilst he is only 6-1 for the Betway-sponsored race, there is so little depth to this division his odds will surely only be going one way as the season develops.

Gypsy Island

Gypsy Island is four from five and it is still a sore point for me that she is not unbeaten, as the only day I backed her was when she somehow got beaten in a maiden hurdle at Navan, when given far too much to do.

Since then, she reverted to bumpers, winning a Grade 3 in a canter at the Punchestown Festival and a Listed race beforehand every bit as impressively. JP McManus loves Cheltenham winners – who doesn’t? – and the mares’ novice hurdle is surely the race she will end up in.

She would not be eligible for it had she won at Navan back in November so perhaps all will work out well in the end for Peter Fahey’s daughter of Jeremy. She can be backed at 8/1.

Malone Road

As a point-to-point winner, it was quite extraordinary the pace that Malone Road showed to win a bumper at Down Royal in November that was run at a crawl; he followed that up by hammering his rivals at Punchestown and looking like a horse who genuinely could be anything.

He then missed the Cheltenham Bumper due to a knee injury. The Supreme Novice Hurdle looks the obvious race for him, he has buckets of pace and is in the right hands. He is available at 16/1. It was encouraging that he was seen cantering recently at Gordon Elliott’s yard.

Of course, Envoi Allen took top honours in the bumper division last year but that was no fault of Malone Road’s. I see one of these going for the Neptune, with Malone Road far more obviously a Supreme type.

Speaking to The42 this morning, Elliott said: “Malone Road is in great form. All good.”

Presenting Percy

Betway is dodging Presenting Percy to an extent for the Gold Cup, having recently cut him into 14/1, with 20/1 available elsewhere, but he is arguably worth a good bet at that considering he was sent off 100/30 favourite in the race last year and can surely be forgiven that.

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davy-russell-celebrates-winning-with-presenting-percy Davy Russell and Presenting Percy. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

His prep was, in hindsight, a bit of a disaster, and he just never got into a rhythm in a race that puts enormous emphasis on jumping.

Connections will be a year older and wiser come next March, as will the horse, most significantly. His preparation this year should be altogether more conventional.

Saldier

With Saldier, Espoir D’allen and Mr Adjudicator in the line-up, Naas’ four-year-old hurdle early last season was a cracking race, and Ruby Walsh took the steer on Saldier, who had three different riders when campaigned as a juvenile. Saldier fell when travelling well at the last and still in front.

I see this horse maturing into a major contender for the Champion Hurdle. He could easily have beaten Espoir D’allen had he stayed on his feet and seemingly he has bounced back well from his subsequent injury. He is available at 20-1 in what looks a winnable Champion Hurdle division.

Before all of that, there is some decent racing in Ireland over the weekend, with Dundalk hosting two divisions of the intriguingly named Tapas & Cocktails @ Dundalk Stadium Handicap. In division two (8.45), Lady De Vesci looks really solid each-way at a top-price 5/1 with Betway.

I also like the chance of Theatre World in the Dun A Ri Blinds Handicap Hurdle at Navan (2.55). Be lucky.

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