The Racing Post's Robbie Wilders shares three additional wagers for the final three races on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Marie’s Rock @ 11/4
Jazzy Matty @ 16/1
Punta Del Este @ 14/1
The Mares’ Hurdle (4.10) is one of the races of the week at the Festival and the presence of Honeysuckle and Epatante, two nine-year-olds whose powers are on the wane and who will take up plenty of room in the market, opens this up for a bet on one of the improvers.
The stage is set for a career-best effort from Brandy Love after a decent comeback at Punchestown recently on a right-handed track she doesn’t agree with, but there is a ground concern attached to her name and the clear form pick is MARIE'S ROCK.
My selection was weak in the betting on her return in the Relkeel over course and distance in January but produced a scintillating effort against the boys under a Grade 1 winner’s penalty, motoring through the soft ground with a pair of subsequent Grade 2 scorers in behind.
That suggested last season’s Mares’ Hurdle winner has improved again and, given the perceived likelihood she would also prosper over three miles, there is good reason to back her to get the job done on this ground in a vintage running. Expect her to hit the line hard.
Three of the past four Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50) winners tackled the four-year-old novice hurdle at Naas in February en route to the festival and, with five of the six who contested that lining up at Cheltenham this season, that appeals as a key formline.
Four of that group of five are Flat-bred and, with the ground on the slower side at the meeting, I can’t resist the temptation to back JAZZY MATTY given his proper National Hunt soft-ground pedigree as a half-brother to Cross Country Chase favourite Delta Work and recent EBF Final second Inneston.
Jazzy Matty was sent off the 3/1 joint-favourite at Naas that day and led them along at a steady pace. He was undoubtedly unsuited by a sprint in the home straight on the yielding surface and faded into fourth.
The good news for Jazzy Matty’s connections is he encounters testing terrain this time, will be granted a stronger pace on a stiffer track and reopposes with the first three home at Naas on better terms.
It is also a boost that Gordon Elliott, who has landed three of the past 10 runnings, has enlisted the services of top 3lb claimer Michael O’Sullivan to ride Jazzy Matty.
If the first-time cheekpieces work the oracle he can hit the frame at a nice price with bet365 paying six places for each-way bets.
The other I’ll side with each-way is PUNTA DEL ESTE, Dan and Harry Skelton’s sole representative on the opening day of the meeting.
Punta Del Este threw in a couple of dodgy leaps early doors on his first start for these connections in the Victor Ludorum at Haydock in February, but his jumping warmed up throughout the race and he gave the impression he would improve a bundle for the run when third to the smart Bo Zenith on conditions that were probably quicker than ideal.
A heavy-ground winner in France, this lightly raced handicap debutant looks a smart recruit and is worth monitoring closely.