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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips – Five festive eye-catchers to back today

Monalee (right) could be set for a drop in trip at the Cheltenham Festival.

Our expert looks back in the bounty of racing we enjoyed over Christmas and New Year and picks out five eye-catchers for punters to back at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday 13th March.

Racing fans enjoyed a wonderful Festive period of racing this year, with important races taking place across Britain and Ireland during the final weeks of 2018. We did our best to keep an eye on all of the action, as plenty of horses produced eye-catching displays and thrust their names into Cheltenham Festival reckoning.

Here are five horses who made their mark over the Festive period and look worthy of an ante-post wager in their respective Cheltenham Festival markets.


An obvious place to start, but after being so dominant during the first half of the season, seeing a price better than odds-on on APPLE’S JADE winning the Mares’ Hurdle is too good an opportunity to pass up.

Gordon Elliott’s mare looked better than ever when scorching to a third-straight victory in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. The favourite’s task was made much easier at Leopardstown when Faugheen took a terrible tumble at the second-last, but Apple’s Jade was never really looking flustered and cruised to a lengthy victory without coming out of third gear.

Benie Des Dieux had her number last year, but Elliott revealed at the start of the season that Apple’s Jade kept coming into season during the spring and her main rival is yet to appear thus far this season. A test of speed now faces Gordon Elliott’s stable star in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but then it will be all systems go for the Mares’ Hurdle and Apple’s Jade looks a solid leg of any Cheltenham accumulator.

Jack Kennedy riding Apples Jade clear the last to win The Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.



La Bague Au Roi jumped brilliantly and battled bravely to beat Topofthegame – who was very green during the first half of the race – in the Kauto Star at Kempton. Delta Work ground out an expected victory in the Grade One Neville Hotels at Leopardstown and Vinndication extended his unbeaten record over jumps with a composed victory in the Noel Novices’ Chase.

In fact, of the five protagonists at the head of the RSA betting, you could argue that SANTINI was the least impressive over Christmas. Yet, I feel he was the novice to take from the Christmas action and looks a solid bet to score at Cheltenham.

Santini’s performance was reminiscent of the display Native River registered in the King George. Nicky Henderson’s charge was outpaced around the tight, right-handed track at Kempton and made plenty of mistakes before fighting hard to finish third. 

On a testing, galloping, left-handed track like Cheltenham, Santini will come into his own. There’s no denying he has the class and staying power to triumph in the RSA and Henderson will be sure to have his top novice in tip-top shape come the middle week of March.

MONALEE has proven himself to be a top-quality chaser since switching codes at the start of last season and Henry De Bromhead’s charge has secured plenty of good results. The eight-year-old performed well during his trial for the Gold Cup, holding on for second in the Savills Chase behind the imperious Kemboy. Yet, it was a performance that may have finally convinced De Bromhead that three miles isn’t Monalee’s best trip.

The former Albert Bartlett and RSA runner-up is one from seven over three miles during his career. Both of his victories over fences to date have come over two-and-a-half miles, including a superb victory in last year’s Flogas Novices’ Chase, where Noel Fehily’s mount held on at the front to beat a wave a talented opponents.

The Ryanair Chase could be perfect for a hardy, front-running sort like Monalee. With Waiting Patiently, Shattered Love and Politologue likely to enter, alongside Min, Un De Sceaux, Frodon and Balko Des Flos, this year’s fifth Championship race is shaping up to be a hot affair, but count Monalee out at your peril and he currently offers each-way backers plenty of ante-post value.

Midnight Shadow (left) clears the last en-route to winning the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.


MIDNIGHT SHADOW lit up Prestbury Park on New Years Day with a superb victory in the Relkeel Hurdle. Danny Cook’s mount jumped and travelled beautifully around Cheltenham, taking command of the race approaching the final hurdle before streaking clear to beat Wholestone by a comfortable margin. 

Despite that being just his second start over a trip further than two miles, it was a performance that smacked of staying ability and the Stayers’ Hurdle now seems a realistic target. 

There is a chance that Sue Smith might get cold feet and head for the Champion Hurdle, or even keep Midnight Shadow boxed up to prepare for a tilt at the Aintree Hurdle. However, this year’s Stayers’ is looking as open as ever before and a repeat of his Relkeel performance could see Midnight Shadow go very close.


Clan Des Obeaux produced a composed display beyond his years to win the King George and Kemboy ran out a worthy winner of the Savills Chase, thanks mainly to a masterful ride by Danny Mullins. Yet, both seem too speedy for a Gold Cup and may not have the stomach for the attritional war it’s bound to turn out to be.

At this stage of the season, the best value bet in this year’s Gold Cup – for me – has to be ROAD TO RESPECT, who has undoubtedly improved since last year’s fourth and endured some rotten luck over Christmas.

Sean Flanagan bided his time with Road To Respect near the rear and was still travelling nicely approaching the final half-mile. A small stumble entering the turn for home put the JNWine champion off his game for a couple of strides, but it was a sizeable slip coming out of the bend that really put paid to Road To Respect’s chances.

Try as he might, Noel Meade’s chaser couldn’t get back into the race, ploughing on down the home straight to eventually finish third. Yet, considering what he went through and the early pace of the race, that was a miraculous finish and – should we get a bit of decent ground on Gold Cup day – Road To Respect proved he has the heart and quality to win the biggest prize in jumps racing.


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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips – Five festive eye-catchers to back today

Our expert looks back in the bounty of racing we enjoyed over Christmas and New Year and picks out five eye-catchers for punters to back at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday 13th March.

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