The Cheltenham Festival kicks off next week and the markets are really beginning to take shape. We’re unlikely to ever see a Festival wherein every favourite obliges due to the unpredictable nature of our sport. With this in mind, Liam Bramall has picked out three horses which are currently favourites that he doesn’t think will win next week with alternative winners in mind.
Tuesday’s opening contest of week the is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the current race favourite is Constitution Hill. Although he has done everything impressively this term he could fall just short. Willie Mullins is likely to run either Sir Gerhard or Dysart Dynamo but not both. Both of these are more likely winners of the race as their form looks stronger and the dominance of Irish-trained horses looks set to continue. You would need a clairvoyant to predict what Willie Mullins is going to do but with the major bookies offering non-runner no bet there is less risk involved. Dysart Dynamo is a keen goer and would struggle to settle over further so this race makes the most sense.
Thursday’s most prestigious race is the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and the market is currently headed by last year’s winner Flooring Porter. Some inconsistent results in graded staying hurdles so far this season have resulted in the defending champion topping the market almost by default. He got a soft lead last year and the other jockeys were guilty of giving him too much rope. It is unlikely that they’ll make the same mistake and there are some interesting contenders this time round. Champ disappointed in the Cleeve Hurdle last time but won the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle before that. He’s a previous festival winner and he will have been campaigned to peak now.
Day four sees the clash between the finest juvenile hurdlers in Britain and Ireland. The Triumph Hurdle is always a highlight of the week and the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban currently heads the market. He was impressive when comfortably beating Fil Dor who had been ante-post favourite for the race for most of the season. I would consider him a worthy favourite had I not seen Pied Piper demolish the field in a trial at Cheltenham. He looked like he’d just joined the race halfway through when sauntering home without leaving second gear.
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