Looking ahead to Cheltenham Festival 2010

I write at the start of 2010 and the Cheltenham Festival gets ever closer with only 72 days to go. Happy New Year! What a Festival it is going to be with the highlight being the Gold Cup but also Irish Banker Dunguib and Big Bucks to look forward to.

Is it an exageraion to say that this year’s Gold Cup really could be the race of the century? Racing is all about the competition to finish first past the post and with Kauto Star and Denman currently the best they have ever been, it is going to be some competition. Add in the likelihood it will be Walsh (on Kauto) v McCoy (on Denman) and it just gets better and better. Let’s hope that the BHA make the most of it and gain maximum publicity for our great sport.

Imperial Commander and Karabak were the two JP Festival selection to run over the Christmas holidays. In the King George we witnessed a simply awesome display from Kauto Star who won this top quality race by the length of Cheltenham High Street. Imperial Commander made a bad mistake at the second fence and failed to get into the race so whilst disappointing I am sure we’ll see a better performance at Cheltenham were he has such a great record. I am still hopeful of a place in the Gold Cup, particularly with Cooldine disappointing in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Imperial Commander is now out to a best priced 20/1 with Paddy Power, having been recommended at 12/1. Given the fact we can right off the King George run I think this is great value so jump over to Paddy’s.

I was at Newbury to Karabak finish a great second (3 1/2 lengths) to the monster that is Big Bucks. Given the heavy ground (he will improve for better ground in the World Hurdle) this we a really encouraging performance. Bookmakers agreed and cut his odds with totesport going as low as 13/2. Ladbrokes are a stand out 10/1 and if you’ve not yet backed him I suggest you take this price now as it won’t last for long. As stated in the original analysis this is a great each way bet as the race lacks strength in depth and whilst Big Bucks should win the value is with Karabak. Karabak is a possible for the Cleeve Hurdle where he will get an allowance having not yet won a graded race. Big Bucks is going straight for the World Hurdle so I think Karabak will take in the Cleeve at the Cheltenham Festival Trials meeting on 30 January. If he doesn’t then it will go straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

The Queen Mother selection, Forpadydeplaster was due to run over Christmas in the Dial-A-Bet Chase but unfortunately was cast in his box the night before the race. Tom Cooper is now looking for another race and said, “There’s the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse, a race at Punchestown and we might look at the Victor Chandler in England, although that’s probably unlikely.” Forpady is now a best priced 10/1 with Ladbrokes having been put up in August as the first JP Festival selection at double those odds.

Celestial Halo, the Champion Hurdle selection, is likely to run in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton next month. He is a best priced 10/1 with Paddy Power having been put up at 14/1.

The remaining selection, Benasalem for the RSA Chase, was due to run at Cheltenham yesterday but was withdrawn due to the ground. It would have been really interesting to see how he got on against the current favourite for the RSA Chase, Punchestowns but it’s likely they will meet before the Festival, so we’ll learn more then. There was a good boost for the form of Bensalem when Take The Breeze, his conqueror at Exeter, won at Newbury on the 29 December. Bensalem is now trading at 25/1 with Ladbrokes having been recommended here at 33/1.

There’ll be a few more tips before the roar goes up in March. These will include my banker where I hope to get up a JP Festival hat trick following the wins of Celestial Halo at 10/1 in 2008 and Big Bucks at 6/1 in 2009. So keep coming back and please follow me on Twitter for daily Cheltenham Festival news updates.