With Cheltenham fast approaching, and seemingly more short priced favourites than ever this year, a lot will depend on how these popular selections perform. Therefore, now is a good time to examine the chances that these favourites have, and pick out three that may be worth opposing.
1.20 Wednesday – Ballymore – Gaillard Du Mesnil
Willie Mullins has his best ever hand coming into the Cheltenham festival, with a plethora of horses with rock solid chances at the head of the market for their respective races. Despite this, Gaillard Du Mesnil is one that I would be unsure of justifying favouritism.
He has run three times for Mullins since transferring from France and has been impressive in winning two of those starts, but I believe the form of his last run at Leopardstown flatters him somewhat as the race was run to suit.
He got the ideal run that day, saving ground all the way around the inside before being switched out to go past longtime leader and stablemate Stattler. The ground was much heavier that day than he is likely to get in the Ballymore and he has rivals, such as Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame, that will relish the forecast drying conditions.
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4.50 Wednesday – Champion Bumper – Kilcruit
It’s rare to see a horse win as takingly as Kilcruit did at Leopardstown. But the race was run at an almighty gallop before falling apart, with Willie Mullins’ charge there to pick up the pieces and win comfortably.
His time was not exceptional that day and though he could not have won easier, the Champion Bumper is a different proposition. This is a race in which favourites rarely dominate, with only two winning in the last ten renewals.
There are a number of unknown quantities in this field, and this is a contest in which bigger priced runners often take a large step forward and cause an upset. Of the last ten runnings, there have been six double figure priced winners and one may be lurking here to upset Mullins’ hot favourite.
3.40 Friday – Foxhunters – Billaway
Billaway was a beaten favourite in last year’s Foxhunter’s and could fall victim to the same fate again this time around. Turned over in a shock result by 66/1 shot It Came To Pass a year ago, Billaway has been impressive in winning twice so far this season but again may be caught out by drying conditions.
Last year’s winner has disappointed since but seems a real spring horse and will likely get his ground again this year. On the two occasions the rivals have clashed with ‘Good’ in the going description, It Came To Pass has come out on top.
The Foxhunters also looks a more competitive renewal than last year with Paul Nicholl’s Bob and Co representing a real danger.