Cheltenham Festival 2010 – the build up starts now

OK. Here we go. I’m starting the Cheltenham Festival Preview blog much earlier than the last couple of years, with 195 days to go until the roar goes up on 16 March 2010. So more time to provide my views and tips on the zenith of the horse racing and betting year, the 2010 Cheltenham Festival. For the first time this year I’ll be using Twitter to provide even quicker news and updates than usual and keeping this blog for views and tips and live coverage of the Official Cheltenham Festival Preview. If you’re not signed up to Twitter you can still read all my updates on the right hand side of this page. In addition, I’ve also set up a Cheltenham Festival Fan page on Facebook and again you can view the contents on the right. I hope this approach works for you but please let me know by commenting below if it doesn’t.

Last year I beat the mainstream horse racing sites to the finishing line when breaking news on a number of occasions, and hope to do so again. I’ll also be providing exclusive news direct from Cheltenham on activity at the racecourse, going and of course the weather. So follow me @jpfestival.

Another change is that this time around I’m asking you for something. This is a bit salesy so if you want to skip this para I’ll understand. If you find my views helpful, interesting or if I point you in the direction of a winning bet then please support me. This is going to be an exercise in trust (or perhaps I’m just asking you for money). So nearer the big day I’ll be asking you to ‘buy me a pint’ and I’ll let you know how it goes.

So down to the main business. Racing and betting! Other than the odd upbeat bulletin from Paul Nicholls, Champion trainer and Philip Fenton, handler of Dunguib, there has been little National Hunt news over the summer. Although both Alan King’s top hurdler Walkon and Willie Mullins’ exciting potential chaser Fiveforthree have had injury problems. Walkon is out until at least Christmas and unfortunately I have no more details on Fiveforthree.

The ante-post markets have been moribund for some time now with little movement, although support has continued for classy potential top prospect Dunguib for the opening race, the Supreme Novices hurdle. 4/1 in May, he is now as short at 5/2 with Paddy Power. Not at all tempting at the price, but the odds reflect the fact that this one could be a superstar. I was very impressed with his bumper wins last year and he could well turn out to be special.

At the other end of the price scale I’m interested in the 20/1 on Forpadydeplasterer with Stan James and Totesport for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. ‘Forpady’ won the Arkle this year and is a talented horse on the up. He travels well in his races and gives the impression he saves something for himself and certainly has improvement to come. Forpady seemed to be struggling for a trip for most of last season but that was only because he had never been in a race run at Championship pace. He’s one of those horses, like Big Bucks, that rises to the big occasion. He came good in a fast run big field Arkle at Cheltenham Festival 2009, jumping keenly and being in the first three for most of the way. Bravely holding off Kalahari King up the Cheltenham hill he didn’t actually seemed that tired afterwards and returned to a rapturous reception in the winner’s enclosure with ears pricked. Next up was Punchestown where Barker got first run on him and after making a hash of the 2nd last he couldn’t make up the deficit. Normally though he’s an excellent jumper. He’s also in great hands with Tom Cooper (who now has two Festival wins) and Barry Geraghty.

Forpaddydeplasterer stands out at the prices in a race low on obvious contenders and a market that hinges on the favourite Master Minded, who’ll be going for the treble in the race this year. He can be taken on with the year younger and more progressive Irish horse, Forpadydeplasterer. It would be stretching it to say that Master Minded is regressing, but nobody would disagree that MM was less impressive last March than the previous year. Will he maintain that level of form? He looked a very tired horse when nearly beaten at Punchestown in April by Big Zeb. At even money he’s a very poor price. With over 6 months to go we are guessing a bit on Forpady’s target but the Queen Mother would be the logical race and the doubt is made up for by the 20/1. At this stage there are no other negatives.

As with the previous two Festivals I’ll be advising 1 point each way on every selection. So if you’re usual bet is £5 then £5 each way is my suggestion, £10 in total. Whilst there are no guarantees of success I hope to point you in the right direction once again with my selections. In 2008 and 2009, my selection overall returned a profit and the NAPS (best bets) won at 10/1 and 6/1 respectively. So the pressure is on to make it three out of three in 2010. My NAP selection won’t be made until March, but there will be another five or six selections before then.

So good luck and enjoy the run up to this wonderful event – Cheltenham Festival 2010. I’ll post again once there are any major developments or when I have another selection. In the meantime, I’ll be updating @jpfestival with all Cheltenham Festival news. Oh, before I go, a polite request to Betfair to kick off their Cheltenham 2010 forum and to Cheltenham racecourse to update their Festival pages. Come on guys and gals, only 195 days to go!

Recommended bet: 1 point ew Forpadydeplasterer 20/1 – Totesport and Stan James