Cheltenham 2014 – Million Pound Punt …. Crystal Ball Anyone ????

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Now I’m no fortune teller, in fact the only thing I can tell you about fortunes is that currently I haven’t got one. The thing is, this year more than any before when it comes to dipping my toe in to the Cheltenham Ante Post markets from an early stage to put together the latest version of the million pound punt, it would appear the pre-requisite is a large shiny spherical object that allows you to mystically see in to the future and an equally large pair a boy danglers made of iron alloy, because without either of these you can guarantee that  the direction you’re pissing is most definitely in to the proverbial wind.

I reckon all punters at some time have to be a little fearless if they want to land a decent punt, therefore  balls of steel  I can sometimes do, but I haven’t ever been in possession of Gypsy Rose’s crystal version. For this reason only, my quest to get the 2014 Cheltenham Million Pound Punt up and running has somewhat stumbled to failure before it’s even started. Now there may be one or two of the million Pound Punt disciples from last year that will be over the moon to hear that news, after all from the five original selections, a narrow second place was as good as it got, one of them didn’t even make it to the festival and the other three might have finished their respective races by the time we arrive back at Prestbury Park next week !!!

I’m not saying I’ve not got any fancy selections, far from it, however last year I managed to get all my picks on one slip nice and early and continually backed them all in multiple bets until the seven figure return was guaranteed (or not as the case eventually was !!), this year, the horses I’ve backed have gradually appeared over a few months and by the time each has elevated itself to Million Pound Punt status, the odds on the ones that have already been selected have massively diminished. So, at the moment, in the midst of a punting quandary…does the Million Pound Punt change its name by statistical deed poll and become the Twenty Thousand Pound Punt ??? … or do I draw some more battle lines and come up with some new lively selections that will without doubt net me (and of course you … my disciples !!!) a seven figure payout ???

The answer …. Ah, f*ck It ….. I’m a pretty generous kind of person (mainly to the bookies !) … Let’s do both !!!!

Due to time, I’m not going to go into too much detail about each individual horse I’ve picked, however today I’ll give you the good things I’ve already backed – most at pretty fancy prices, but unfortunately not all in the same bet – these will give you a guaranteed return of at least four figures for just one pound if they all win (and f*ck all if they all lose…remember, the value of your return can go down as well as up should any of my selections decide it doesn’t want to be a racehorse !) Then tomorrow is the big one, proper balls of steel time, no crystal ball required for these bad boys (there might be a girl in there actually…I better check)…I’ll come up with five selections of undoubted equine quality that will make us all filthy rich with bookies money (*disclaimer – I do suffer from moments of dilusion). The ones that appear today WOULD have been the Million Pound Punt selections had I been in possession of the said crystal ball, if I’d realised the qualities of these great animals at the same time, and if I’d known which races they were definitely going to run in at an early stage then we’d have been sitting pretty, but the old punting brain just couldn’t work it all out quick enough, but that’s life and I’m still sitting pretty on some decent horses at cracking prices as you’ll see. So it’s eyes down for a full house for the slightly less than a Million Pound Punt.

My Tent of Yours

Familiar to Million Pound Punt disciples from last year, many would have thought that my ‘unhealthy’ obsession with the Mighty Tent would have diminished after last years disappointment when he was the first selection and came within half a length of getting us off to a flyer in the very first race. It was not to be and unfortunately rather set the tone for the rest of the week. Every time I watch the race again – and I am very sad because I do watch re-runs of horse races….just in case the result is different – I am certain the Mighty Tent is going to win coming over the last flight, it’s not even in doubt, however the eventual winner, Champagne Fever, wearing the ‘girly’ Pink silks of his money bags owner Rich Ricci, received a masterful front running ride from Ruby Walsh to deny my selection and thus prevent us from getting off to a flyer. Far from being put off, and willing to argue the merits of what is undoubtedly my favorite racehorse due to the fact that I’m not sure he’s actually got all his marbles – I like horses that are slightly mad – I began to wade in with my punting boots on, shortly after last years race for the Mighty Tent to win this years Champion Hurdle. My first bet was at the end of March when I backed him at 10/1, and between then and November I’d been scooping up all prices down to 7/1 to ensure I’d got a decent lump on him. I’m currently sitting pretty in terms of the prices I’d backed him at however I was close to chucking myself head first off the nearest high rise block of flats earlier this week when it was announced that the poor animal had a puncture wound in one of his feet (should I say hooves or are they technically feet…whatever, he had a hole somewhere at the bottom of his leg !) and there were rumours abound that he may not line up next week – F*CK OFF, I’m not having it, Not my beloved Mighty Tent who I have dreamt about, Who I have proper horsey love for, The one animal (not including my dog, Monty) who I’d do anything for … ok, it’s getting scary now … let’s just say, I like him, quite a lot, but the thought of him not running in the Champion Hurdle was something I couldn’t begin to contemplate. However, it looks like everything is now rosy in the My Tent or Yours garden as subsequent reports are that he’s looking good and showing no ill effects from the little injury scare. These kids eh, they do put us through hell !!!!!

So, the basis for backing My Tent or Yours, apart from blind faith, is that despite several astute judges commenting that he didn’t get up the hill at Cheltenham and got beat because he bottled it in the fight to the line, I saw it differently. He got beat by a superior ride by Ruby Walsh, on a pretty decent animal in Champagne Fever, who nicked a few lengths early on and dictated the race from start to finish, coupled with the fact that, due to the earlier point I mentioned, he’s not quite got all his horsey marbles in his horsey head, also he’d never raced on a track like Cheltenham before. This year, he’s a stronger, more grown up horse, granted he’s still not quite got the full ticket up top, but I think he settles a little better in his races…only a little, but when he won at Kempton on Boxing Day he showed proper fight in the finish and if you look at the race again (I’ve told you, watching re-runs of horse races is fun !) the last 20 or so metres are what you need to concentrate on. He starts to lengthen and pull away again just at the line, which in my mind bodes well for Cheltenham. Add in the fact that he has now had a run at Cheltenham, a decent run too in finishing second, he only got beaten by half a length, not 20 lengths, so he obviously doesn’t mind the course that much and finally the ground. The ground should play right in to his hands, for a horse with so much natural speed, he doesn’t want to be running in a bog, and it sure won’t be that next Tuesday – Good to Soft at worse….Perfect !!!

So there we go, my very first bet for Cheltenham 2014 was My Tent or Yours at prices between 10/1 & 7/1…..He’s currently available in plenty of places at around 9/2.

Champagne Fever

So why would I want to back the horse that lowered the colours of the Mighty Tent at last years festival ? For that exact reason, he beat the greatest horse in the world !!!!

That’s not strictly the only reason, but to keep it brief…Champagne Fever loves Cheltenham, Champagne Fever is trained by a master, Champagne Fever is ridden by a genius…one slight problem though, will Champagne Fever jump a fence at Cheltenham ?

To explain it for the non-horsey readers, Two years ago, he won the Champion Bumper – the flat race at the festival in case you didn’t know – last year as you’ll know he won the Supreme Novice Hurdle, which is over the smaller obstacles, this year he’s going for the Arkle, which is over the big jumps. The concern though is that shortly after Christmas he made a right old hash of a jump in a race over in Ireland, granted it is about the only time he’s made any major mistake in his jumping, but if he does that at Cheltenham then he’ll be arse over tit on the Prestbury Park turf.  He’s not been seen in a race since, despite having several entries, but without doubt his trainer Willie Mullins knows the time of day, he’s no fool and I’m led to believe that Ruby Walsh is as confident as he’s ever been that  he’s on the winner of the Arkle. One other key thing is that to win the Arkle you need to have been a top notch hurdler, not a nearly but not quite hurdler, but right up there with the big boys. For this fact, I make the race between Champagne Fever and Rock on Ruby. I like Rock on Ruby as he’s also got cracking form around Cheltenham, in fact on paper, probably better than Champagne Fever however he’s  9 years old and horses of that age don’t win this race. In my eyes, Champagne Fever is open to so much improvement being just a 7 year old, if he keeps his jumping together, he’ll win …. I think !

So, my second bet on Cheltenham 2014 was on Champagne Fever at 6/1 …. He’s currently around 3/1.

Red Sherlock

Another horse I have a little bit of an unhealthy liking for, not quite on the scale of the My Tent or Yours obsession but none the less he’s a proper race horse that does everything right in my eyes. From a punting point of view he’s made me a few quid this year, he run at Cheltenham twice, and won twice and carried my cash both times. What do I like about him ???? Hard as nails, a proper battler and he does it the hard way by racing right up with the pace and he’ll stay all day. I don’t think I’ve seen many horses as game as him on a race course and for that reason alone he’s good enough for me to invest in. If I’d have known which Novice race he was heading for at the festival then I’d have backed him last year at really fancy prices, as it is I’m still sitting pretty as I had a small investment on him at 17.5/1 on Betfair for the Neptune Novice Hurdle in January before he won at Cheltenham and luckily that’s where he’s heading. He’s up against a reasonable (that could be a bit of an understatement) Willie Mullins novice in the form of Faugheen, and in my book it’s a match between the two horses but what I will say is Red Sherlock has been to Cheltenham, done the business and got the f*cking t-shirt. Enough said …. Believe me, Sherlock won’t let you down my dear Watson !

Backed in January at just over 17/1, Red Sherlock is around the 9/2 mark to win the Neptune Novices Hurdle

 

Benefficient

Benefficient, or Benny for short due to the fact I keep on spelling his name wrong, is a classic case of a hot and cold horse. Generally, he’s either great, or he’s shit, there’s rarely anything in between however I have a feeling he’s about to change that and embark of a run of greatness. That makes it sound like he’s not done anything too impressive so far, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Benny won at the festival last year as a shock 20/1 winner of the Jewson, and like the previously mentioned Red Sherlock, he did it the hard way. He led most of the way, got challenged and headed but fought back and stayed on better than anything else to win going away….another hard as nails battler…I like hard as nails battlers !

Performances like that stick long in my mind, I didn’t back him last year, of course I didn’t back him last year because he won a race, I didn’t like backing winners last year !!!! To confirm the horse well being, he turned up at Leopardstown just after Christmas and gave a tonking (is that a real word ?) to a decent enough field over a shorter than ideal distance……all seemed good in the Benny Camp !!!!

For punting purposes, I wasn’t sure what to do as there was a chance Benny could end up in the Champion Chase, which over 2 miles is not the right trip for him, he needs the 2m 5f of the Ryanair Chase to show his staying quality and thankfully that looks like the race he’ll end up in. I took a bit of a gamble in late January when I decided to invest, that he would go for the Ryanair, but it was a toss up between not backing him and missing the price, or taking the plunge and hopefully getting some value….I think I’ve pulled off the latter. Backed at just over 8/1 and then also again at 7’s when he was put up by one or two ‘shrewdies’ as a likely winner of the race his price is a whole lot shorter now. His trainer is no mug, he’s no stranger  to a laying a dark horse out to win a handicap and having a few quid /euros on at the same time, however next week I reckon that Grade 1 Festival glory awaits for Benny !

So I’m on Benefficient at around 8/1 & 7/1 ….. he’s currently trading at 4/1 in most places.

Kings Palace

 

If one horse has impressed me more than any other this season, then it’s this one…Kings Palace. In some ways I could say exactly the same about him as I have about Red Sherlock, after all they are both trained by the same man, David Pipe, and have both won twice at Cheltenham this season. However, there is something about this horse that screams out one word …. Class !

I’m not sure what has caused the transformation from decent animal before he first appeared at Cheltenham in October, into uber-impressive performer in both his runs there pre Christmas last year, but whatever it is I’d say to Mr Pipe, keep on doing it. I’m putting it down to three things, firstly he seems to love Cheltenham, he just flies off round there, he’s fast and fluent over his hurdles and nothing has got close to him. Secondly, the penny has dropped. In that I mean that I think he’s realised he’s good at what he does…sounds a bit daft I know, but I honestly think that he’s got that “f*ck you, I’m better than you” attitude and has become a horse who wants to win, and win well. Finally, his dad has a lot to do with it. You think I’ve gone barmy, but I loved his sire, Kings Theatre as a racehorse, he raced on the flat and essentially was a horse with staying quality, and without boring everyone to death about breeding and pedigree, his dad (sire !) was Sadler’s Wells and one of the first things I look at when perusing a racecard is look at the breeding to see if the horse is any relation to Sadler’s Wells. Plenty are, but around Cheltenham you’ll find that this breeding line is relevant as they invariably have staying qualities needed to get up the hill to the winning line. If, sorry when, I own a racehorse, it will be related, somewhere down the line, to Sadler’s Wells. Ok, l think I’ve sent you to sleep with lessons in breeding, but my case for Kings Palace is a strong one.  I think, as with his stable mate Red Sherlock, there is an Irish challenger from the Willie Mullins stable to overcome, in the form of last years Champion Bumper winner (that bloody flat race again !) Briar Hill. Again, on paper I it looks like a match between the two and having backed Kings Palace for the Albert Bartlett in December before he won his second race at Cheltenham at 12’s then I’m pretty happy with my current position. This might be the kiss of death, and I apologies to any connections of the horse now if I put the mockers on it, however I make Kings Palace my best bet of the meeting, I just wish I’d got more on at 12’s !

Backed at 12/1 in December, Kings Palace is currently around a 3/1 shot to win the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle next Friday – which co-incidentally is the day before Kings Palace’s birthday…..I can see him now, hammered in his stable celebrating next weekend !!!!

So these are the five that I’ve already backed and if I’d have got them all at the right time and had them in multiples together I’d be laughing all the way to the Million Pound Punt bank, but unfortunately as I’ve already said, my timing has been less than impeccable and the lack of the Crystal Ball to see into the future means it’s a case of playing them all together at their current odds. So we’ve got 9/2, 3/1, 9/2, 4/1 & 3/1 shots at the prices as I write this, which will give you a 2419/1 accumulator. Nearly 2.5k for a pound…it’s got to be worth it…and if you’ve got  a spare £413.39 sitting around then you could just turn these five into that million pound punt profit !!!

Of course, it isn’t all roses and champagne in the ante post punting garden, I’ve backed some right bags of sh*t too, but luckily not too many. Out of my early fancies for the festival, I think the only major failure has been a horse called African Gold. I had a nice little bet on him at 16/1 to win the RSA Chase and unfortunately his season hasn’t quite gone to plan, in fact he’d be lucky to win a one runner egg and spoon race at the moment as he’s had his injury problems and we’ll not see him again until next season. He’s a lovely horse and as long as he comes back fit and well then I’m not that bothered about lending the bookies a few of my hard earned pounds ! Other not so great bets are At Fishers Cross at 4/1 for the World Hurdle, I think as soon as he’d heard I’d backed him he decided he didn’t want to be a race horse anymore. The poor thing is, by all accounts, held together with Blu tak and Sellotape – not sure that’s a bad thing, they are the standard required items for most of my DIY tasks, although having said that, just like At Fishers Cross this season, most of my DIY masterpieces end up collapsed on the floor after a couple of minutes. He’ll still run in the World Hurlde, but a first place finish is very unlikely !

There is one other ‘dark horse’ I backed earlier in the season that is carrying my 50p. I’d given it up as a lost cause but maybe, just maybe there is still a glimmer of hope. Royal Irish Hussar runs in the Triumph Hurdle next Friday. He won when I was at Market Rasen at the end of September, he jumped like a one legged pig and only just scrambled home however the next time he appeared he destroyed an ok field at Wetherby and then scooted home quite impressively at Cheltenham in November. I thought that was top juvenile hurdling form and invested at 16’s …. He then subsequently got stuffed out of sight at Doncaster in December and I thought the dream was over. It would appear all was not well with him however vibes have been a little better recently and he’s now in to around 14’s in what could be a pretty open race. The ground will suit him so I wouldn’t put anyone off taking a bit of the current price for a sporting bet.

So for part one of the Million Pound Punt, these are the trusty mules that are carrying my cash….not to win a million unfortunately but I’d still end up with a nice healthy profit if My Tent or Yours, Champagne Fever, Red Sherlock, Benefficient & Kings Palace did the business.

I’m afraid you’re going to have to suffer more of my ramblings if you can take it as I’m about to embark on a mammoth studying session for the next 24 hours to try and unearth some value in the big handicaps at the festival which could net that elusive seven figure payout. I’ve already got three in the bag that I’ve already backed, I’ve got at least another couple in mind too so hopefully we’ll be all systems go to the day when those lovely bookies are loading up our wheelbarrow with bundles of the folding stuff !!

Pop back some time tomorrow (Sunday if you’re reading this on Saturday !) and I’ll put up the final selections ….. I’m off to try and find a crystal ball !

Feel free to share the above incoherent rambling with anyone you might think is interested…..you’re of course welcome to share the rollercoaster ride and back any of my selections too, however you have to realsie that I have a day job for a reason and that invariably, the horses I back don’t run very well …. That’s my disclaimer !

Also, follow me on twitter if you really want – @grahameletts  I can guarantee even more useless tweets of complete and utter drivel !!!!

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