Cheltenham International Meeting Fixtures
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Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Chase Tips
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Tips
It’s always helpful to review the stats and facts of the previous renewal of a big race to try and aid our betting for this year’s race. Niceonefrankie won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Chase last year at a whopping 16/1 with Barrakilla in second at 9/2 and Edgardo Sol in third at 14/1. There were 13 runners with handicap marks from 149 through to a bottom rated 130. Interestingly, last year’s top three were scattered across the handicap off marks of 142, 135 and 149 in finishing order. The highest and second lowest rated finished only half a length apart with the winner coming right in the middle. This pattern was repeated in 2013 as well.
The top three last season had either one or two seasonal runs before they contested the Cheltenham International Gold Cup with the top two having only ran once. This was similar in 2013 with the second and third running once and twice respectively, although the winner had run four times previously. The ground conditions over the past three years have varied from heavy to good.
The Cheltenham International betting looks very fair at the moment with Annacotty, Buywise and Irish Cavalier battling it out for favouritism. It’s hard to make a judgement at this early stage before the weights are revealed, but the Cheltenham tip at this stage has to be Irish Cavalier. 12/1 is currently being offered at Betfred and given he could be better treated at the weights in this over the Paddy Power Gold Cup, he must be the likeliest horse to go off favourite at this stage.
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There are four graded races across the two day Cheltenham International meeting as well as a host of other trials containing important clues for the 2015/6 national hunt season. These include:
- The Ryman Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Grade 2)
- The December Steeple Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3)
- The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (Handicap) (Grade 3)
- The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race (Grade 2)
- The StanJames.com International Hurdle (Grade 2)
Of the trials, the most important one could be the JCB Triumph Hurdle Juvenile Hurdle on the Saturday which could feature the Cheltenham 2016 Triumph Hurdle winner. Last year’s winner, Hargam, went on to finish third in the Triumph behind Peace and Co and Top Notch. Past winners include Ballyglasheen, Far West and Sam Winner.
|Horses||Best Odds||Best Bookmaker||Horses||Best Odds||Best Bookmaker|
|Irish Cavalier||12/1||La Vaticane||16/1|
Alan King’s son of Beneficial was extremely game in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, putting in an excellent round of jumping and staying on incredibly gamely to win by half a length. He won that off 147 and it’ll be incredibly interesting to see how the handicapper reacts to that performance given the three closest to him were rated 154, 159 and 153. There had been tremors of support for him before the big race suggesting connections felt he was well treated at the weights and they were duly rewarded. He’s perhaps the default favourite for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup given his victory and bookmakers are divided in their opinions, currently pricing him between 8/1 and 12/1. A rise in the handicap will make life much tougher, but he’s only a lightly raced 7 year old and there could be even more progression to come if he comes out of the race fit and well.
Evan William’s lightly-raced eight year-old has really developed as a chaser over the past year and a half. Long ago were the days he was competing off 102 at Taunton in heavy ground. He was very well backed for a grade three chase at the Cheltenham festival in March, eventually finishing fourth of the twenty-three strong field – well-backed at 3/1. That probably took a bit out of him and he couldn’t get any closer than fifth subsequently at Aintree in April. He put in a good display of jumping when given an easy time of things on his return in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month. Held up towards the rear, he kept on at the end but never really threatened the front two who were comfortably clear.
He stepped up on that in excellent fashion finishing second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, half a length behind Annacotty. He was arguably unlucky that day in typical Buywise fashion, having put in a couple of sketchy jumps at fence 7 and 11 before staying on very strongly having been short of room. He looks to have a big race in him but the handicapper will react to that performance with another rise in the weights and people will rightly ask whether that will just be enough to thwart him again.
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Rebecca Curtis’ Irish Cavalier looks a really exciting chasing prospect this year having shown a huge amount of improvement over the past year. He won a listed chase at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year and looked to be going really well before falling at Aintree before he was asked for his effort. He sought redemption in Ireland but struggled in the grade one novice chase at Punchestown, albeit still beating the wildly disappointing Don Poli. It may be the case that three miles just stretches him too far but he showed tremendous character to finish second just three days later to Willie Mullins’ Blood Cotil. He confirmed all was well on his seasonal reappearance at Newton Abbot when Paul Townend gave him a really gentle ride and that ironed out a few mistakes. The form of Irish Cavalier’s return was boosted when Paul Nicholls’ exciting novice chaser Art Mauresque subsequently obliged in a Cheltenham novice chase by an impressive 8-lengths.
There was only a head between them in the Paddy Power Gold Cup (Art Mauresque receiving 9lb) and Rebecca Curtis’ star grey did well to finish fifth having been up with the pace all the way. He just got tired in the final furlong and a half but considering he was third highest in the weights, that wasn’t a bad effort at all. It’s unlikely the handicapper will be too hard on him for that performance and he could be better treated in the Caspian Gold Cup. Some bookmakers have installed him as their favourite in the race with prices ranging from 8/1 to 12/1 – 10/1 the average on offer.
Paul Nicholls’ unexposed 5yo made rapid progress throughout his first season chasing, notching up an impressive three wins from five runs. He made a fine return to action at Newton Abbot (behind Irish Cavalier) before really impressing at Cheltenham where he clearly showed a liking for the track, jumping well whilst handling the uphill finish. He was raised 3lbs for that effort which saw him race off 147 in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and he put in a fine effort for an unexposed chaser finishing just behind Irish Cavalier. He was receiving a bit of weight from the horses in front of him but it was a very good effort all the same. It’s likely the handicapper will raise him following that effort which might make life a little tougher in this.
Phillip Hobbs’ Champagne West hasn’t been seen since the end of January this year when falling in a grade one at Sandown. He had been a rapidly improving horse prior to that fall having won 5 of his 10 starts including a second behind the very good Ptit Zig. It’ll be interesting to see what mark the handicapper allots him given he was rated 152 before the break. It’s always hard to gauge these types of horses coming back from a long break, but it’ll take some performance to return off a similar mark in an extremely competitive handicap. Should he be fit, ready and able to continue his steep improvement from the 2014/5 season, there could be a lot more to come this season.
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Jonjo O’Neil’s star chaser was rather tame in this year’s Cheltenham Paddy Power Gold Cup having finished ninth, 27 lengths from the winner. He was 1lb higher than in the 2014 renewal but that doesn’t account for the disappointing display and connections will be at the drawing board again. He’s not looked the same so far this season having been pulled up on his seasonal return and the handicapper must surely show leniency in dropping him in the ratings following a less than impressive campaign to date. He can’t be ruled out given the class he has shown in his career, but the flame doesn’t look as strong this season.
Paul Nicholls’ chaser has been in rude health this season so far. He won the Old Roan chase at Aintree off a mark of 155 before putting in an excellent run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, finishing third of the twenty strong field off 159. Those two runs are likely to have taken a bit out of him but he looks a real progressive, strong type and he brings in some very strong form into the race. The handicapper may raise him again for that performance but he looks on a steep upward curve and has to be a very serious contender.
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Willie Mullins’ mare has had a varied career to date having raced predominately in France. She made a seasonal return in November, finishing a rather disappointing third of six, going off the 8/11 favourite. However, that race was over hurdles and was clearly a prep run for the bigger season ahead and given she confirmed her fitness and wellbeing, perhaps not too much should be read into that performance. She’s a really classy mare and given she’s contested some very good races, there could be more to come this season off a mark of around 150. It is slightly concerning that she couldn’t win a listed chase at Carlisle so she has questions to answer with the Caspian Gold Cup a much tougher assessment.
The Albert Bartlett Novice’s Hurdle is a grade two trial for its superior counterpart at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Last year’s renewal was rather disappointing with only Blaklion making it to the showpiece on day three of the festival with rivals rated 121, 135, 83, 138 and 132.
It has been won by some useful horses in the past including King’s Palace and Coneygree. Market leaders do particularly well in this race with the last six winners priced at: 9/4, 10/11, 11/10, 2/1, 3/1 and 4/5. The last three winners of the race have all been relatively unexposed having raced less than seven times each. All three also won on their previous outing demonstrating recent form is essential in this long distance hurdle race.
The International Hurdle always ranks as a small clue to the Champion Hurdle in March with the last two renewals won by The New One. Past winners also include Zarkandar, Grandouet and Menorah – all horses to subsequently challenge in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle. Again, market leaders do particularly well in this race with the previous five winners having won at prohibitive odds of: 4/7, 2/5, 6/5, 5/2 and 7/4.
Recent winning form is important again in this Cheltenham trial with the last three winners having won on their previous start. Given its early date in the racing calendar, it is perhaps no surprise to read that the winner has only raced a maximum of two times in the previous three years.
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