Dan Overall: Four best bets for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival
Recently crowned Racing TV Tipstar champion Dan Overall turns his attentions to the 2022 Cheltenham Festival this week, and he has picked out his best four bets for the entire week here...
Ultima Handicap Chase - Tuesday 15th March
Fantastikas 11/1 Each Way
I’ve had FANTASTIKAS in mind for this race since his very creditable third in the Dipper; I hold a very strong view of that race and Fantastikas did superbly to go with L’Homme Presse over an inadequate trip, something few have managed to do. I expect that Dipper form to work out well, as you will see with another one of my selections.
That run in the Dipper backed up a respectable effort behind Threeunderthrufive in a Grade 2 having previously bolted up on his chase debut off a mark of 128, with the runner up franking that form.
His recent Lingfield victory was far more comfortable than the winning margin and it confirmed that his future certainly lies over staying trips.
His mark of 144 is certainly workable, and as a progressive novice that races prominently, he has a very likeable profile for this race. Fantastikas was the first horse Nigel Twiston-Davies mentioned when asked “what’s your likeliest Cheltenham winner?” at the handicap weights reveal, and he certainly knows what is required to win a big Cheltenham handicap.
He was also mentioned in my weekly “eyecatchers” column, so I am remaining steadfast in my initial view.
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Brown Advisory Novices' Chase - Wednesday
L’Homme Presse 4/1
With Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger set to clash in the Turners, it seems a wise move to send L’Homme Presse here instead where the opposition isn’t as daunting.
Four-from-four over fences, L'HOMME PRESSE has risen remarkably through the ranks having started the season from a mark of 128. Connections must’ve thought they had a good one on their hands, as they sacrificed his lowly mark of 136 when he was subject to a big gamble in a Graduation Chase at Ascot, which he duly bolted up in.
I’ve taken a strong view of the Dipper, which he won impressively while his decimation of a decent field in the Scilly Isles was another step forward, with Pic D’Orhy, beaten twenty-seven lengths at Sandown, boosting the form when winning the Pendil on his next start.
While all of his starts have come over an intermediate trip, he’s been finishing his races strongly and I think his finishing effort might overcome Bravemansgame when push comes to shove. While I fully respect Paul Nicholls' impressive novice, I don’t think he finds an awful lot under pressure and it might be the case that flatter tracks are more suitable to his style of running.
Plate Handicap Chase - Thursday
Fusil Raffles 14/1 E/W
Before I discuss the selection, a note on tactics for this race: in the past 10 renewals, eight winners were ridden prominently or made all. Only Empire of Dirt (second in an Irish Gold Cup in the following season) and Ballynagour (placed in two Aintree Bowl’s and the Champion Chase at Punchestown in thee of his next four starts) were ridden patiently; that would be a concern for the favourite, Celebre D’Allen, as being ridden positively is a huge advantage in this race and only the extremely well handicapped have managed to defy this.
FUSIL RAFFLES, on the other hand, tends to be handy in his races and his form at Cheltenham is rock-solid. He won a novice chase on the old course in October 2020, while his record on the new course reads: 124; that second came in last season’s Turners Novices’ Chase while his fourth came in the Racing Post Gold Cup from a mark of 152. He would’ve finished closer that day had he not made a bad mistake down the back, and it’s a testament to his ability that he was only beaten four lengths in the end.
He fortuitously won the Charlie Hall earlier in the season but he seems far more effective over an intermediate trip, as his last run demonstrated, and he’s down to a career low mark of 149.
Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer in this race and while he hasn’t had a winner since 2006, he’s been selective with his runners in recent years. Still, Top Notch finished second last year with CarIBbean Boy in seventh, while Janika also finished second in 2019; ironically, all three also carry the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
This looks a pretty sub-par renewal of this race on paper, and while I do have a lot of respect for The Glancing Queen, the 14/1 about Fusil Raffles just seems too big.
Fusil Raffles (EW)
Triumph Hurdle - Friday
In the same article that I mentioned Fantasikas as a potential Ultima contender, I highlighted VAUBAN as one to follow in the juvenile division. I do hope a few of you heeded my note about backing him for the Triumph at 25/1!
The form of the Spring Juvenile is strong and while the slowly run race did play to Vauban’s strengths, there is still plenty of improvement to come from him, with all of the post-race discussion from connections focusing on how much more is left in the tank as opposed to what he just achieved. The bullish talk from the Mullins camp has continued, and it seems as though they would be surprised if he were to be beaten here. My only concern would be if this race developed into a real test of stamina on soft ground, but the forecast suggests that we will be on a quicker surface by Friday.
The main danger could be Il Etait Temps, who made the best debut of any juvenile this season when third at the Dublin Racing Festival on his first start for Willie Mullins. Very novicey in the early stages, he powered home from off the pace and he was the only one to get involved having been ridden patiently. The way he hit the line suggests that there is plenty of improvement to come, and I would recommend a saver on him.