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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Five horses to back in NRNB markets

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

After SkyBet announced they had gone Non-Runner No Bet on all of the races at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, we highlight five horses who would be perfect to back using this ante-post insurance policy.

On New Years Eve, SkyBet became the first bookmaker to go Non-Runner No Bet on all of the races at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. If you’re not familiar with NRNB, then here’s a quick explanation. NRNB provides ante-post punters with a safety net. If you bet on a horse in a NRNB market and the horse fails to line up in the race, then your full stake will be returned to you in cash.

Here are five bets which make the most of SkyBet’s NRNB policy and could leave punters jumping for joy when the Cheltenham Festival rolls around in March.

Gordon Elliott was delighted when Battleoverdoyen extended his unbeaten career record in the Lawlor’s Of Naas this weekend. Jack Kennedy’s mount was pitched in with some decent novices in that two-and-a-half-mile Grade One, but carried himself like the classiest horse throughout the race and survived a small error at the last to secure a maiden Grade One success.

Following that victory, it was no surprise to see the Gigginstown flag-bearer leap to the head of the betting for both the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett. Yet, despite winning well over a further trip, I feel dropping back to two miles may be the way to go with this imposing youngster and he looks quick enough to give any of the current Supreme crop a real run for their money.

Apple’s Jade has, undoubtedly, been the star of the season so far. Gordon Elliott’s mare was imperious in claiming a historic hat-trick of Hatton’s Grace crowns and barely came out of second gear when winning the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle for the second successive year. 

The Mares’ Hurdle remains her most likely objective, with the Stayers’ Hurdle a back-up plan. However, it would be remise of Elliott and Gigginstown not to take the Champion Hurdle into serious consideration.

It’s obvious how much connections would love to win that race, their desire was the only thing stopping Samcro from attacking fences during this season. Elliott has already confirmed that Apple’s Jade will drop back to two miles for the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival and, with Buveur D’Air proving himself to be vulnerable over Christmas, Apple’s Jade would be a hot contender should she line up in Tuesday’s championship race.

Politologue (right) beating current Ryanair favourite Min (left) at Aintree.

Ruth Jefferson announced this week that Waiting Patiently would be dropping back in trip to target the Ryanair at Cheltenham and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul Nicholls follow suit. Politologue acquitted himself well enough on his first start over three miles in the King George, but Sam Twiston-Davies mount didn’t see out the trip all that well, making a crack at the Gold Cup seem the wrong way to go.

Politologue doesn’t have the best record at Cheltenham, having finished fourth on his two most recent outings in the JLT and the Champion Chase last year. Yet, there’s no doubting how much Nicholls’ charge has progressed over the past 12 months – having won two prestigious prizes over two-and-a-half-miles – and he would be more than capable of winning what looks like being a fairly open Ryanair.

Sue Smith’s hurdler lit up Prestbury Park on New Years Day with a superb victory in the Relkeel Hurdle. Danny Cook’s mount jumped beautifully around Cheltenham, taking command of the race approaching the final fence 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.

Of course, there is the chance that 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. Yet, this year’s Stayers’ is looking as open as ever before and a repeat of his Relkeel performance could see Midnight Shadow go very, very close.

Like the Stayers’ and, indeed, all three of the novice contest, picking a winner of the Albert Bartlett is a real puzzle for ante-post punters. Taking a chance on a runner who hasn’t appeared yet could be the way to go and Willie Mullins’ Blackbow fits the profile perfectly.

A hardy, consistent performer during his bumper season, finishing fifth here at Cheltenham and second in the equivalent at Punchestown. Mullins has been waiting for the ground to soften to get his exciting novice out on the track and, when he does appear, I expect he will run his way right into Albert Bartlett contention.

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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Five horses to back in NRNB markets

After SkyBet announced they had gone Non-Runner No Bet on all of the races at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, we highlight five horses who would be perfect to back using this ante-post insurance policy.

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