Master Debonair was an impressive winner of a Supreme Trial at Ascot last month.
In this week's column, Ed Quigley is back with three more ante-post tips for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, including a 14/1 fancy in the curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle...
With eight weeks to go until the Festival, some of the ante-post markets are starting to (belatedly take shape) and despite myself appearing to be in the minority, I still think there is plenty of value to be had attacking ante-post markets.
In the opener on March 10, I still think MASTER DEBONAIR is overpriced at 14/1. With the emergence of stable companion and Tolworth winner Fiddlerontheroof, Master Debonair seems to have been a tad forgotten. Admittedly he doesn't have Grade 1-winning form to his name, but this rapidly improving sort won in commanding style at Ascot on his penultimate start, and then on his latest foray into battle he swatted away some very smart types to land the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle with consummate ease at the same venue. His jumping is getting slicker race by race, and officially rated 151, he is right in the mix with the best novices we have seen this season. The market appears to believe that if Fiddlerontheroof goes the Supreme route then Robbie Power will ride him, but I am not totally convinced. When interviewed, Power said bullishly 'this horse breaks the hearts of others on Soft ground' and Joe Tizzard stated 'If we have a Supreme horse in the yard, then it is Master Debonair'. I think the market has it wrong.
The Mares' Hurdle has a rather uncertain look to it with plenty of the ante-post protagonists looking either doubtful runners or at present having confirmed targets elsewhere. Epatante is Champion Hurdle bound, and crucially Honeysuckle could be too depending on how she gets on at Leopardstown. Laurina would be an unlikely runner, and Dan Skelton has said that they could wait for Aintree this year with Roksana. Apple's Jade will have multiple Festival entries and has a question mark about her delivering her best performance at Prestbury Park, Stormy Ireland has come up short at top level, which leaves Benie Des Dieux - who will try and win this despite having not had a run since last May. DAME DE COMPAGNIE is a progressive mare who has two course and distance wins to her name, is versatile in regards to ground and doesn't appear to have any obvious route to go down other than the Mares' race. I think this race will cut up significantly and she rates as good value.
For one at a huge price, the Jamie Snowden-trained KILTEALY BRIGGS ticks the box. The Lambourn handler is enjoying his best season to date and the Albert Bartlett looks the logical race for his improving six-year-old. A winner of two of his four starts over hurdles, this out and out galloper is insulted by his price, and if conditions came up soft at the Festival he would be a lively contender. He finished third at the track in a Grade 2 in December over three miles, and would have been closer if not for a momentum-halter two flights from home. The form of that race doesn't look too shabby, with Mossy Fen, who was one place behind him, coming out and landing a Grade 2 at Warwick subsequently. He appears to have stamina in abundance and could easily outrun these odds when the tapes go up.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 10th March 2020 - Master Debonair 1pt win at 14/1 (generally)
Mares' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 10th March 2020 - Dame De Compagnie 1pt win at 16/1 (generally)
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 13th March 2020 - Kiltealy Briggs 1pt win - 66/1 (generally)
Rapidly-improving type, who's impressed when winning at Ascot the last twice. He's one of the best novices we've seen so far this season, and the market seems to have underestimated his abilities compared with his more-fancied stablemate Fiddlerontheroof.
With several of the market protagonists likely to head elsewhere, it could be worth siding with this progressive mare, who has twice won over the course and distance at Cheltenham. This seems her most likely port of call, and she offers plenty of value at a double-figure price.
Represents a handler who is enjoying a fine season, and has shown plenty so far, winning two of his four starts. The form of his effort to finish third in a Grade 2 event at Doncaster in December is working out well, and his price looks far too big, particularly if conditions come up soft.