By James Lonsdale
What a race to start the 2013 festival, several highly progressive novices aiming to cement their place at the head of the market for the 2014 Champion Hurdle.
With the news this morning that Melodic Rendezvous has scooped badly and will miss the race, it leaves just 12 runners and with two of those hopelessly out of their depth it’s a 10 runner field.
Betfair Hurdle winner My Tent or Yours is many peoples idea of a banker, and having backed Cotton Mill for the County seeing Nicky Henderson’s 6 year old bolt up would not be the worst thing. However it is the other JP McManus runner that I will be backing to get the festival off to a flyer.
Jessica Harrington’s 5 year old has done nothing but improve this season, his victory over Waaheb in the Champions Novice at Leopardstown over Christmas was thoroughly impressive, and Harrington had always planned that the horse would not run until the Festival.
My Tent or Yours quite rightly heads the market, however I am not totally convinced about the form of the Betfair Hurdle. The race was run at a terribly slow pace on bottomless ground; Cotton Mill was making his seasonal reappearance in second and many of the fancied runners never got into the race.
The manor of the victory was facile, but that race was My Tent or Yours cup final. All season the plan had been that race. I suspect AP McCoy, Henderson and JP McManus were surprised by the manor of victory, and going to the Festival seems more of an after-thought than a well laid-out plane. Another area of concern for My Tent or Yours is that all his wins have come on flat tracks. This is not to say he won’t handle the Cheltenham hill but given his flat bred pedigree it is a huge concern.
Champagne Fever was a strong fancy of mine for the Albert Bartlett but it seems connections have frustratingly decided on the Supreme. Ruby Walsh will take the ride, but for me the horse will be out done for speed, the horse looks a stayer with huge potential and I could not be backing the horse in the Supreme.
Un Atout could be anything and the horse has done nothing wrong, but beating Rory O’Moore and Fickle Fortune in small runner fields at Naas and Navan is not form to make me want to be a supporter at 7/1.
Dodging Bullets has the beating of River Maigue on November form and could play a key hand in proceedings, two course wins and a third in the Christmas Hurdle give Paul Nicholls horse a tremendous e/w shot.
I will be backing Jezki e/w with William hill who are offering ¼ the odds 5 places on the race. With it technically being a 10 runner field, I will also be having small e/w bets on Dodging Bullets and 2011 Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian who made a pleasing comeback at Doncaster.
It is nine years since a favourite last won a Supreme and that was the superb Brave Inca, with this and the reasons above in mind I am on Jezki to get myself and the Irish off to a flyer.