It pays to focus near the top of the market for this race with all bar two of the winners since the year 2000 being at single figure odds with the exceptions of Cole Harden in 2015 and the much missed Nichols Canyon in 2017. The last time a horse aged in double figures won this contest was back in 1986 which doesn’t bode well for Unowhatimeanharry and The New One fans, but the latter is unexposed at this trip so you never know!
Sam Spinner has leapt onto the scene in emphatic style this season with a clear cut win at Haydock in November before winning the Long Walk in pretty taking fashion. He is absolutely relentless from the front, he jumps he gallops and there will be no hiding place in this contest with him there. I do have a couple of reservations though and they would be that I would question the form of his Long Walk win as he beat The World’s End who didn’t like the ground, a regressing Unowhatimeanharry and L’Ami Serge who we know isn’t the most genuine of horses when it comes to going past the leader. He’s also never been to the festival before which could pose a problem if the atmosphere gets to him and he does too much in front. Genuine spring ground would be an unknown for him but I wouldn’t be too worried about that and given how unexposed he is at the trip he’s bound to go well. It would be a great story for Jedd O’Keeffe and Joe Colliver who gets on really well with him and the argument could be made that if he was trained by a Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls he’d be clear favourite.
I’ve been keen on Supasundae for this race for quite some time and I’m not about to change my mind now especially after his Irish Champion Hurdle win. He’s had two goes at 3 miles and has come second on both attempts with the first being to the reopposing Yanworth at Aintree last April but I do think that the form will be reversed which I’ll go into shortly. Supasundae’s second go at 3 miles was when out battled by Apple’s Jade but there is no disgrace losing to that superstar who would likely take all the beating in this race if she were to line up. In the Hatton’s Grace Supasundae really looked like he was ready for the step up in trip and winning the Irish Champion Hurdle last time just showed his class. He seems like a different horse this season and Jessica Harrington seems to think so too, he’s ran well at 3 festivals including winning the Coral Cup last year and in a race that should be run to suit I think he’s the one to be on given that he still seems to be improving.
I’m not sure it would be of great surprise to many people if Yanworth was to win this based on the fact he returns to hurdles and he has already beaten the favourite over the trip. The move back to the smaller obstacles is a good move by Alan King as he just didn’t look to take to fences well enough to be competitive at the highest level. However I’m not convinced he’s the most genuine horse when it comes to going past rivals and he doesn’t seem to do a tap when he gets in front which could be a problem up against the game sorts of Sam Spinner and Supasundae. His form this year I don’t feel is anything out of the ordinary or better than those surrounding him in the market and there is enough there at the prices for me to leave him alone.
Last seasons Albert Bartlett winner Penhill hasn’t been seen since his defeat to Champagne Classic in a Grade 1 at Punchestown back in April but is due to make his long awaited reappearance at the scene of his last victory. That win over Monalee is a good piece of form and he travelled so well into that race which he’ll likely do again here given the anticipated strong pace. He looks a pretty good each way bet at 10/1 and I don’t doubt Willie Mullins will have him cherry ripe for this, if he can win it on his first start for 11 months then fair play.
Bacardys didn’t look a natural over fences and that’s being very kind so this return to hurdles is very much the right move from Mullins. He was third in the Champion Bumper behind Ballyandy in 2016 before starting second favourite for the Neptune last year but had no chance after being hampered, his beating of Finian’s Oscar at Punchestown wouldn’t give him loads to find here but I think he has more than enough on his plate.
I don’t think I need to say too much about L’Ami Serge, if you want a bit of excitement by seeing your punt jump the second last still on the bridle and cruise up looking all over the winner to then not go past the leader, then he’s the one for you. But I can’t trust him and even though this looks his trip I won’t be backing him despite him being very likely to get a place, he’s around 11/4 on the Betfair Exchange in the place only market which may not be a bad way to go.
Unowhatimeanharry sadly looks to be going the wrong way now and think he’ll find these younger horses too good, whilst The New One should put up a bold bid stepped up to this trip for the first time but I fear it’s too little too late and will also come up short against the younger brigade. La Bague Au Roi‘s record speak for itself with 10-13 wins to runs next to her name but I would have a concern about her efforts in the really high level races where she hasn’t quite produced the goods. Wholestone is a horse I like who has a real love for Cheltenham (never been out of the places at Prestbury Park with 4 wins from 7 runs) and the better the ground the better he’ll be, I do wonder who’ll be riding him though with Daryl Jacob likely to be on L’Ami Serge and Sam Twiston-Davies on The New One, at the prices he could be a nice each way play. The World’s End is another who should improve for a sounder surface but he hasn’t showed enough for me this year to be carrying any of my money.
I’m in the Supasundae camp for this one, I think he’s improved again and can give another festival winner to the Harrington and Power combo. I expect Sam Spinner to put up a good fight with L’Ami Serge, Wholestone and Penhill cruising up on the bridle but how much they find off it will decide where they finish. Yanworth will probably go well but Supasundae can get the better of him.