Cheltenham Countdown: Three below the radar…

So it’s cold, damn cold, and there’s only Southwell on the box, a good time to hit some of those Cheltenham Festival markets.

There is an unusual shape to the markets at this stage with only a couple of very short favourites, and many races, particularly the novice events, looking wide open for this stage of the season.

The target for today is to pick out some longer priced fancies who may have escaped attention so far.  We won’t take on the handicaps quite yet, that joy still awaits.

Getaway Trump, Supreme Novices Hurdle, 16/1.

Paul Nicholl’s novice may not look an obvious choice having been soundly beaten by Champ in the slowly run grade 1 Challow hurdle at Newbury last time.  He could however be tailor-made for this test, which the stable have picked up a few times.  He looks like a really strong traveller in his races and the sort that will look at his best in really strongly run races.  We may get a chance to see that in the big handicap at Newbury in a few weeks time, and whilst not guaranteed at Cheltenham, a blistering pace is the norm.  There is a sound argument to back him at Newbury (currently 5/1) and then let the winnings ride as that will amount to something bigger than his Supreme price. Either way he looks dangerous in a field that lacks star talent, albeit favourite Angels Breath remains in the could-be-anything category.

Janika, Ryanair Chase, 25/1 NRNB

The Ryanair is one of the best races to get involved in early. We get the benefit of it’s early inclusion in the non-runner no-bet concession, yet it remains a hard race to predict with the Champion Chase and Gold Cup offering higher profile prizes.  Balko Des Flos won last year having won a handicap the year before, and there isn’t much room between quality handicappers and champions at this trip. Frodon would be our idea of favourite but looks Good Cup bound.  If the race does cut up a bit, then progressive French import Janika looks interesting if raised in class.  His was an eye-catching effort in defeat at Cheltenham last weekend under a big weight.  He ran freely there, came to win and just got worried out of it by a good horse getting lumps of weight.  A  stronger pace looks likely to help, and he is now rated on the heels of many higher profile runners here.  That rating probably necessitates an end to handicaps, and he is a big price here given the NRNB insurance.

Indefatigable, Mares Novice Hurdle, 25/1

This race has been hugely uncompetitive since its inception, basically acting as a coronation for Willie Mullins’ leading mare.  That shape is lost his year with another Irish mare Honeysuckle heading the market.  That’s interesting as this race will have a field size and pace unlike any race these mares will have seen.  We’ll risk that the emphasis will end up on stamina up that hill on the arduous Thursday track.  Indefatigable looks like a mare improving fast for the low-key Webber yard.  She lost out to Posh Trish (a leading U.K. challenger here) at speedy Taunton but made it close, and was closing down an idling Lady Buttons at a Doncaster track that also rewards speed.  A strapping mare, she looks the type to take a big stride forward given a sterner test, and she may well spring a surprise here, a target indentified by her trainer as the next stop.

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