The first day of the Cheltenham Festival arrives on Tuesday and Racing Post tipster Robbie Wilders provides five bets across the first three races at the showpiece meeting.
Tahmuras @ 11/1
El Fabiolo @ 11/8
Nassalam @ 9/1
Iceo Madrik @ 66/1
Odds correct at time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.
Slow ground on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival has thrown us a curveball and I find myself abandoning my long-term Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30) fancy Marine Nationale, who is Flat-bred and would appreciate a quicker surface.
Short-priced favourite Facile Vega is overrated for my money and, all of a sudden, this looks an open Supreme. I’ll be playing two each-way with bet365 paying four places for each-way bets and TAHMURAS looks a solid option to finish fourth at worst.
The form of Tahmuras’ soft-ground Tolworth victory was done in style at Kelso recently, with the third and fourth pulling well clear in a Grade 2 novice hurdle, and Tahmuras was well on top at the line at Sandown.
Trainer Paul Nicholls is outstanding at bringing horses back from a break and Tahmuras looks a strong stayer at two miles, something which will be vital in the conditions.
At a bigger price I’m also tempted by the claims of INTHEPOCKET, who filled the runner-up position behind Il Etait Temps on a yielding surface at the Dublin Racing Festival last time.
Inthepocket stays further than two miles and his profile suggests soft to heavy ground is important to him, so a reversal at the expense of that more battle-hardened opponent is not ruled out on this stiffer track.
The Arkle (2.10) is a simple race in my eyes. EL FABIOLO is quite simply a better horse than Jonbon, deserves to be clear favourite and should win handsomely unless Dysart Dynamo is given too much room up front, which seems unlikely.
While Jonbon beat El Fabiolo by a neck at Aintree last April in a Grade 1 novice hurdle, El Fabiolo would have won with a better jump at the last and was far less experienced going into that race.
His performance when dismantling a deep field in the Irish Arkle last month served notice that we were dealing with a chasing superstar, an effort in stark contrast to Jonbon’s Warwick prep run in February in which he scrambled home from a handicapper.
El Fabiolo’s Dublin Racing Festival form is head and shoulders above Jonbon’s novice chase efforts.
My selection is also open to the greater improvement over fences after just two starts in that sphere and wins this cosily with a clean enough round.
The runner to make the most each-way appeal with bet365 paying six places in the Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50) is NASSALAM as soft ground is a game-changer for this six-year-old.
Nassalam has form figures of 65210 on good to soft or quicker and 312122121 on soft or heavy.
The third came on his latest outing in a competitive 16-runner handicap chase here over two and a half miles on New Year’s Day, and the form looks good with the fourth, Il Ridoto, easily winning a similar contest on Trials Day at Cheltenham.
Nassalam has never encountered a trip this far before, but staying was his forte over intermediate distances and it was interesting that trainer Gary Moore earmarked him for this rather than the Plate on Thursday so far in advance. A long-term plan might just come to fruition.
At a huge price, punters are advised to also consider ICEO MADRIK each-way on his stable debut for David Pipe.
The trainer combined with owner Caroline Tisdall to capture back-to-back runnings in 2016 and 2017 and Iceo Madrik brings Grade 1-placed chase form to the table from France.
Although Iceo Madrik is only five, he receives 4lb in weight for age, races off a stone lower than his French rating and the ground is coming right for him.
Jack Tudor is also an eye-catching booking for the stable. He is 4-13 and backing his rides for Pipe to £1 stakes would have yielded a level-stakes profit of £8.50.
Odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change at any time.