THE PUNTER'S EYE: A 33/1 Cheltenham accumulator that could make you a fortune this year
Arkle Chase - Day 1 - 14:10
Footpad is perhaps the most fancied Willie Mullin's runner on Day 1 of the festival, and will be in many people's multiple bets on Tuesday. Since finishing third behind Uknowwhatimeanharry at Punchestown last year in a Grade 1 hurdle, this horse has been foot perfect over fences. He has recorded three wins from three starts since November. He slammed Brelade by 11 lengths on chasing debut, Any Second Now by 11 lengths next time out, and Petit Mouchoir by five lengths most recently. No horse has come close to laying a glove on him and he has won all three races without hitting top gear. This year's renewal of the Arkle is far from vintage and Footpad's main opposition will be Petit Mouchoir, a horse he proved he had the measure of recently. The challengers from England in this race this year don't look up to much to me and I think it could be a 1-2-3 for the Irish.
Mare's Hurdle - Day 1 - 16:10
This year, it looks like Gordon Elliott's Apple's Jade is once again the horse to beat at 4/7. She could very well have been sent to the Champion Hurdle and had a good chance, but Elliott has chosen to enter her in the race she won last year. She saw off Vroum Vroum Mag that day in a head-bobbing finish, and remains unbeaten since. She's brushed aside the likes of Nichols Canyon and Supasundae in that time, and should have far too much class for anything thrown at her next week. An interesting outsider for each-way punters is Jer's Girl.
Ballymore Novices Hurdle - Day 2 - 13:30
Samcro has been labelled a monster, a freak, and a 'sure-thing' by many a shrewd judge, and by all accounts, the hype is justified in this instance. Gordon Elliott himself has been taken aback by his quality and admits he was purchased to be a big three-mile chaser, meaning we could see him wearing the Gigginstown colours to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the coming years. For now, he sets his sights on the Ballymore and looks a cut above the rest of an ordinary field. If the hype is real, and I think it is, this one will be bounding up the hill to victory at Prestbury Park.
Mare's Novices Hurdle - Day 3 - 16:50
Like many of Willie Mullins recent mares, Laurina is a french import who has been hugely impressive in her two Irish starts. She made her debut over two miles at Tramore in December, and despite the heavy ground in the south east, she bolted up to win by 15 lengths. In late January she went to Fairyhouse, again on heavy ground, and demolished a decent field, including next-time-out winner Alletrix who was 11 lengths behind her in second. The manner in which she went clear on the bridle that day and won without really breaking sweat suggests she could be of the ilk of Vroum Vroum Mag or even Annie Power in time. For that reason many a shrewd judge has pegged her as their festival banker, and the fact that she'll handle the ground, which could be soft come Thursday, is a major plus for a young horse.
RSA Chase - Day 2 - 14:10
Looking at the RSA, I was tempted by an each-way bet on Black Corton after seeing his recent win at Ascot, but odds of 7/1 are just a little short. The value is still available on my idea of the nailed on winner, Presenting Percy. You may even get 3/1 about about this fella closer to race time. He would be close to odds-on if fellow Irish raider Monalee wasn't in the field. This is considered a match in some quarters, and perhaps that does a disservice to the British horses, but I would be very surprised if the winner didn't come from those two. I've sided with Presenting Percy because he has considerable course form having won the Pertemps here last March. That was a good Pertemps Final and Pat Kelly's charges bounded up the Cheltenham hill looking like a horse that could win a Gold Cup. The ground should be similar, but he's performed on heavy too, so even if it's a deluge, he's get through it. Monalee is no slouch and won a good Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown last time out, and was second behind Penhill in the Albert Bartlett last season. It will be a good battle, but I think Presenting Percy will outstay his rival up the hill.
*An accumulator on these five selection currently pays at approximately 33/1