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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Ante-post Lucky 15 covering all four Cheltenham Festival Championship races

Could this dark horse e/w Lucky 15 reward punters with a big payout?

Brian Healy takes a look at the ante-post market for the four Championship races at the Cheltenham Festival and puts together a big-priced each-way Lucky 15 covering four potential dark horses.

Despite the new 2018/19 Jumps season only being in its’ infancy, for many punters thoughts are already turning towards March and the Cheltenham Festival where four top class days’ horse racing action will go to post.

Of course, between now and March there is plenty to look forward to in terms of classy racing action and many Cheltenham Festival hopefuls will be putting their credentials on the line. The four Championship races in particular already have a relatively stable feel to them with the four defending champions that are Buveur D’air, Altior, Penhill and Native River all likely to try to defend their respective crowns all being well through the season.

Despite the presence of that big-name quartet, there could be some real ante-post value to be had in the four Championship races, and Brian Healy has picked out a big-priced each-way quartet that could well have the respective favourites in a sweat come March.

2019 CHAMPION HURDLE - Summerville Boy (e/w)

SUMMERVILLE BOY (14/1, Paddy Power) produced one of the performances of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival when overcoming plenty of adversity to snatch an unlikely win out of the jaws of defeat to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and with that race often a useful barometer towards future Champion Hurdles, Tom George’s charge could be a dark horse for the 2019 renewal.

The Sandmason gelding had had only four runs prior to his Cheltenham Festival heroics, but one of those outings came in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle where he had Kalashnikov behind, and he broke the heart of the same rival again at Cheltenham.

Travelling well into the race at Cheltenham, he stumbled on landing after jumping the second last, losing his position and conceding several lengths; but he battled back tenaciously and upsides again jumping the last he again landed awkardly and his chance appeared to have gone as Kalashnikov and Mengli Khan bounded clear.

Not to be denied however, Noel Fehily galvanised his mount who responded gamely to get up near the line and thwart Amy Murphy’s charge who had managed to master Gigginstown’s Mengli Khan and looked set to collect.

His jumping will probably need to improve in the white-hot cauldron of a Champion Hurdle, but he has followed a path that saw both Jezki and Buveur D’air tread, each having contested the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle - and lost - enroute to Champion Hurdle victory.

With a victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle under his belt, he could be set to make a real impact this term in the two mile division, and with more improvement to come this term he could give the principals something to think about.

2019 CHAMPION CHASE - Great Field (e/w)

Altior will surely be all the rage again to land a second consecutive Champion Chase crown; while Willie Mullins will be hoping Footpad can follow a well-worn Arkle/Champion Chase path - one which Altior himself has trod - by stepping up on his Arkle success and emerge as a threat to Nicky Henderson’s imperious chaser.

With Douvan now out of the Champion Chase picture for another season, it may well be Footpad who emerges as Mullins’ big hope; but the Closutton handler is also responsible for the hugely talented but fragile GREAT FIELD (25/1, Paddy Power), and the Great Pretender gelding has to be respected if he makes it to the Festival intact.

Owned by the legendary JP McManus, Great Field has tasted the Cheltenham Festival once previously; but that run ended in ignominy when he was pulled up in the Fred Winter Hurdle. But, having been switched to chasing he has proven himself a high-class performer in his four starts over the larger obstacles.

Those wins haven’t been plain sailing given his breakneck style of racing, and while he had dominated from the front despite often treating his fences with disdain reminiscent of another of Mullins’ stars in Un De Sceaux, he has surely given regular partner Jody McGarvey some scares in the saddle. 

He managed to beat Ordinary World and Ball D’Arc to win the Grade One Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown back in April 2017 despite hitting a few on the way round and racing for the last part of the race with a slipped saddle; but having suffered a setback he wasn’t seen out again for much of the next season until returning at Navan where he saw off Doctor Phoenix to lift the Grade Two Webster Cup.

He won far more easily than the official winning margin might otherwise suggest, idling briefly in front but he rarely came off the bridle to administer the win. While those Graded wins arguably were against relatively weak opposition for the respective grades, he could do no more than deliver two convincing wins and it remains to be seen just how good he could be.

If he can stay sound this campaign there there’s every chance he could prove a genuine Champion Chase contender this term.

2019 STAYERS’ HURDLE - Call Me Lord (e/w)

Faugheen and Penhill could dominate a strong Willie Mullins-led challenge for the Stayers’ Hurdle, but Nicky Henderson could end a long wait for another winner in this contest with CALL ME LORD (20/1, Paddy Power).

Henderson’s last win in this contest came back in 2000 when Bacchanal landed the spoils, and his Slickly gelding could prove an ideal type for this race.

Twice a winner in France prior to joining forces with the Seven Barrows maestro, he showed some solid form last term, scoring on his hurdles debut at Sandown and then doubling his win tally for Henderson back at the Esher track having been beaten at Huntingdon inbetween those successes.

Third to Elgin in the Kingwell Hurdle, he got to within one length of Mr Antolini back at Sandown in the Imperial Cup under a huge weight, eventually succumbing by only a neck; he got back on teh winning trail though returned again to the Esher track in April to run out an easy winner from Lil Rockerfeller to win the 2m 5f Grade Two Select Hurdle.

That rival had finished runner-up in the 2017 Stayers’ Hurdle, but he was largely disappointing last term following his win the Coral Hurdle over L’Ami Serge who later went on to win a Grade One at Aintree.

The Henderson runner overcame a horrific blunder at the final hurdle in that last Sandown success, but despite the error he still had plenty in hand and he gave the impression that there was plenty more still to come. 

A further step up in trip this term could be on the agenda for the Slickly gelding, and he may well develop into a high-class staying hurdler who could thrive over an even longer trip. 

2019 GOLD CUP - Bellshill (e/w)

2018 winner Native River and runner-up Might Bite are set to renew rivalry this term, but the Gold Cup waters could be muddied by the emergence of RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy and a potentially resurgent Sizing John who could recapture the sort of sparkle that saw him win the 2017 renewal if a wind operation has a positive effect.

But for all his dominance down through the years at the Festival, Willie Mullins has yet to have a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner with Djakadam being his best in recent years; but that one could pass the torch onto a new pretender for the crown in BELLSHILL (20/1, Paddy Power) who can emerge as a Gold Cup dark horse this term.

The King’s Theatre gelding has proven himself a high-class chaser, winning his first two starts over the larger obstacles and bouncing back from a lacklustre run at Leopardstown behind Disko to finish a solid third behind Might Bite in the 2017 RSA Chase.

Mullins’ star was two for three last term, scoring on his return in the Bobbyjo Chase prior to getting back on the scoresheet when beating stablemate Djakadam and recent Champion Chase winner Road To Respect to win the Punchestown Gold Cup. He had looked set to win the Irish Grand National inbetween those successes, tiring late in the bottomless ground and crossing the line in fourth place. 

Deemed to have caused interference however, he was demoted a further place and the record books will show he finished fifth; but to win a Grade One on the back of an attritional run just three weeks earlier was a very smart effort, and there could be even more to come from him this term.

Road To Respect, whom he beat at Punchestown had previously finished twelve lengths’ fourth to Native River at Cheltenham, and that line of form suggests that the Mullins runner could prove a real force this term in the staying chase division given that he remains open to further improvement over fences after just seven starts.

As with all ante-post betting, especially when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, ultimate race-targets can change and with plenty of racing to be done prior to the Festival there is always the chance of injury or setbacks which can alter the ante-post make-up of the Championship races. But if all four manage to remain sound until March and pitch up in the predicted four Championship races then punters should get a run for their money from this quartet of classy horses!


Champion Hurdle - SUMMERVILLE BOY (14/1, Paddy Power)

Champion Chase - GREAT FIELD (25/1, Paddy Power)

Stayers' Hurdle - CALL ME LORD (20/1, Paddy Power)

Gold Cup - BELLSHILL (20/1, Paddy Power)

Looking for more festival bets? See our 2019 Cheltenham tips for all the best early value options. 

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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Ante-post Lucky 15 covering all four Cheltenham Festival Championship races

Brian Healy takes a look at the ante-post market for the four Championship races at the Cheltenham Festival and puts together a big-priced each-way Lucky 15 covering four potential dark horses.

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