‘Annie’ takers for this flyer in Cheltenham?

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MOST of you will be digesting these words of wisdom with the Cheltenham Festival already half way through, but if you are reading them before 3.20pm on Wednesday, my fancy for the Queen Mother Champion Chase is Arvika Ligeonniere.

Thursday’s feature World Hurdle is an important race for us with Big Buck’s a huge loser, but I don’t fancy him and am opting for Annie Power, who many of you will know as ‘Annie Price’, in what is a fascinating clash.

The former is one of the stars of the sport and I obviously have a tremendous respect for him, but while plenty of better judges than me were satisifed with his comeback effort in the Cleeve Hurdle, I thought he was a shadow of his former self.

Sure Big Buck’s will come on for the run, but the old Big Buck’s would have devoured and spat out the Cleeve winner Knockara Beau, who is rated over 20lb behind the former champion even after the weight allowance is taken into consideration.

The hype surrounding Annie Power has been immense even before she beat subsequent Grade 1 winner Defy Logic in the paddypower.com Novice Hurdle at Naas 13 months’ ago.

Since then she has done nothing to show that she is anything but a machine and an ear plug malfunction wasn’t enough to stop her still bolting up on her last start at Doncaster. That will be remedied this week and I fully expect her to settle, see out the three miles and win easily.

While I think last year’s Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth will retain his crown in Friday’s renewal, I’ve just tipped a favourite and can’t possibly go for another one so instead I will opt for Nigel Hawke’s Anay Turge, who caught my eye when winning the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at our meeting at Cheltenham in November, in the Grand Annual Chase.

Since then connections have endured two uncompleted starts over fences with their charge, but I still think he is off a tidy handicap mark over the bigger obstacles and, hopefully, a couple of wins over hurdles at Southwell will have restored his jumping confidence.

Former jockey Rodi Greene, who is still a fitness fanatic and is attempting to break the Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle record later this year, was on the panel at a recent Cheltenham Preview evening and he now rides out for Hawke and was very bullish about the nine-year-old’s chance.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that I’m very keen on the old adage ‘horses for courses’ and in that respect this fellow really fits the bill as he has won two of his three starts at Prestbury Park.

The win here in November really emphasized to me how this horse is suited by a stiff test up the hill as I watched him on his previous start at Aintree where he just found Eastlake too powerful and I’m sure he would have won there as well but for the flat track.

Turning to the footy I’m taking Arsenal to beat their bitterest rivals Spurs at 6-4 at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

I think Tottenham look a team in disarray at the moment having experienced too many drubbings from teams at the top of the Premier League including a 4-0 thrashing from Chelsea last Saturday.

Granted there wasn’t much in it in the first half of that game, but they certainly managed to hit the self-destruct button in the second period with a series of defensive lapses. And playing footballing masters Benfica on Thursday is like putting a punchdrunk pub bouncer in the ring with one of the Klitschko brothers as confidence boosters go.


Thursday, 3.20pm, Cheltenham - Annie Power; Friday, 5.15pm, Cheltenham - Anay Turge; Sunday, 4pm - Arsenal to beat Spurs




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