Longshot Ted: Looking ahead to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

Fakir D'oudairies was a smart novice chaser last season.
Fakir D'oudairies was a smart novice chaser last season.

With the Jumps season proper now upon us, Ed Quigley takes a long range look at the months ahead, with big-priced selections for the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle...

With the winter edging ever closer, that means National Hunt trainers start plotting routes to big targets, and I start seeking out the ante-post wagers. The Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on November 28 is always a favourite of mine. Copperhead (10/1), I have flagged for a while now that he is an ideal candidate for the race, but as a previous Grade 1 winner, his stablemate SLATE HOUSE looks overpriced at 33/1. He was last seen disappointing in the RSA Chase, but that came at the end of a hard season when the stable were under a bit of a cloud. The benefit of that performance is that his mark has eased to 152, and so he makes plenty of appeal from a handicap perspective. He shapes as though he wants a trip, enjoys soft ground, and tends to show good early season form, so he looks to be ticking a lot of right boxes this race. Colin Tizzard has said he will go for a prep run at Wetherby this weekend and then onto Newbury where I expect his stable to have a major say in the outcome of that famous old handicap.

I've been perusing the Cheltenham Festival markets for a while, and the latest horse to go into my portfolio is FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES, who I think has the propensity to develop into a serious Ryanair Chase contender this term. He was last seen finishing runner-up to Put The Kettle On in this year's Arkle, in which he ran all the way to the line after looking a little outpaced. A winner of the Drinmore last year, I think a step back up in distance will suit this lightly raced five-year-old, and trainer, Joseph O'Brien appears to be leaning that way, mentioning in a recent stable update that 'intermediate trips will suit' and I can see him flourishing this season. Cheltenham is a course that he enjoys, and 25/1 makes plenty of appeal.

I enjoy trying to find a left-of-field selection, and the Stayers' Hurdle picture looks a fairly wide-open one in which there are some interesting types at decent prices. Having already flagged up Thyme Hill at 20/1 for this I will be hoping for a bold show from him at Wetherby this weekend against Lisnagar Oscar. McFabulous looks a smashing prospect and the likes of Sire Du Berlais and Fury Road could easily make the step up, but at 66/1, the Olly Murphy trained THOMAS DARBY looks worth a flutter. Things didn't work out over fences, but he appeared to relish the return to hurdles and the step up in trip to an extended 2m3f, when defying top weight and a mark of 151 to land a Ascot handicap back in January. It was deep ground that day and he powered clear in the closing stages. Fontwell's tight track didn't suit when last seen, but I would love to see him have a crack at 3m, and his handler seems keen by suggesting 'we will see if he is a Stayers' Hurdle horse.' Ascot in mid-November looks a natural starting point before a crack at something like the Long Walk Hurdle. He is unexposed and could be a bit of a joker in the pack.

Selections

Ladbrokes Trophy, Newbury, Saturday 28th November - Slate House, 1pt win, 33/1 (generally)

Ryanair Chase, Cheltenham Festival, Thursday 18th March 2021 - Fakir D'oudairies, 1pt win, 25/1 (generally)

Stayers' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Thursday 18th March 2021 - Thomas Darby, 1pt win, 66/1 (Bet365)

Ladbrokes Trophy
Slate House silk

Slate House

Ryanair Chase
Fakir D'oudairies silk

Fakir D'oudairies

Stayers' Hurdle
Thomas Darby silk

Thomas Darby

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