Cheltenham Festival Tips: A 20/1 play and a must have banker

Cheltenham Festival Tips: Envoi Allen to remain unbeaten
Cheltenham Festival Tips: Envoi Allen to remain unbeaten

Joe Tuffin is our latest writer to provide his banker, lay, and big-priced fancy for the Cheltenham Festival, which is now less than three weeks away...

Banker

I know, I know, it’s not the most imaginative banker you’re likely to see, but a banker should be viewed as the foundation upon which your multiple-selection bet is built on, and Envoi Allen has become somewhat an RSJ in my Cheltenham ante-post portfolio, supporting all my tickets and adding on that bit of extra value to them all - and he should be doing the same for you too.

We all know about this mercurial talent by now (I should hope) with the already two-time Cheltenham Festival winner still yet to flash past the post with another horse in front of him from his eleven starts under rules, and I see no way that changes in what will be his third visit to Prestbury Park. I’ve tried to get him beat before, but no matter what beast he encounters he swats them to the side with such relative ease that I, along with many other in the racing world, are starting to ponder if the words ‘Envoi Allen’ and ‘beaten’ will ever be muttered in the same breath.

His switch from hurdles to fences has been seamless, and his debut at Down Royal back in October set the tone for his further two starts, with a faultless round of jumping finished off with that ultra powerful engine we’ve become so accustomed to seeing power him to the line. Such is his banker potential for this race, that the two that sit below him in the betting aren’t even going to be lining up with him, with the Willie Mullins pair of Energumene and Monkfish going to the Arkle Novices' Chase and Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase respectively, meaning his closest challenger according to the bookmakers is Shan Blue, currently a double-figure price. Now, Shan Blue has enjoyed a stellar year and looked mightily impressive when winning the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, but beating Envoi Allen would be a bigger achievement than every win he’s ever achieved in his career combined, and the recent loss to Sporting John, who may also line up here, hardly installs confidence that he’s up to the task. Envoi Allen has everything, from the must haves such as course and distance form, down to the objective wow factor, and he must go down as the banker of the meeting.

Marsh Novices' Chase
Envoi Allen silk

Envoi Allen

Fell
Cheltenham Festival Tips

Lay

I’ve been very vocal about Epatante, and have perhaps deserved some of the criticism that has came my way as a result of my opinions towards her Champion Hurdle success, so perhaps it’s not best to put her up as my lay of the Festival but with the Champion Hurdle picture being blown wide open since Honeysuckle’s win at Leopardstown which took her to ten unbeaten, and Goshen’s explosive return to form at Wincanton, she’s the one to side against.

My main gripe with Epatante, for all she is as slick as any horse in training when leaping over hurdles at unbelievable speeds, is that she’s never truly ‘wowed me’, and her win last year’s Champion Hurdle, again impressive as it was, was in a really poor renewal. This has seemed to be forgotten about with all the post race wonder and marvel, but i can’t get away from the fact that it was just so disappointing. Infact, it’s the only Champion Hurdle run this century where only two horses were rated 160+, with the runner up Sharjah on 163 and an ageing Supasundae on a regressive 160 - these ratings would have you closer to the tenth highest rated in the majority of past renewals than the top. Her win on reappearance in the Fighting Fifth was pleasing on the eye but one would hope so when two of the three left in the running after the first flight are rated 15 lb inferior to you, and then she was of course beaten when facing a horse having the season of his life in Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle, with an ‘agitated back’ being the deployed excuse for defeat.

There’s no doubting her class and she’s an excellent horse, but this year she’ll be up against some far superior challengers with the likes of dual Irish Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle, a back-to-his-best Goshen, an ever consistent and Grade 1 winning Abacadabras and her recent conqueror Silver Streak, all of whom - bar the first mentioned who is dual favourite - offering better value and wielding incredibly strong cases in their own right. For that reason it may pay to stay away on the Festival’s first day.

Cheltenham Festival Races

Big-priced fancy

It’s very much a case of different name, but the same outcome for my bet slip when it comes to the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at the Festival (or whenever at Cheltenham for that matter) and with Brown Advisory now taking up sponsorship of the RSA, the big handicap they stuck their name to has fallen to Paddy Power in the form of the Paddy Power Plate, and yet again i think you should be siding with Spiritofthegames.

The Dan Skelton trained nine-year-old is one hell of a frustrating horse to follow and is so often the bridesmaid in the big races, but that blow of constantly hitting the frame is eased somewhat when you keep siding with him at an each-way price. If you were to back him with £1 each-way every time he competed in a chase at Cheltenham - which is on seven occasions - you’d have a profit of £10, which, when you consider he’s never actually won a race, is pretty good going. He’s been unplaced twice, recorded two third place finishes, and three times finished the runner up with a highest rating of 150 (unplaced) and a lowest of 146 (beaten a head) in that time. So many times I’ve thought I’ve picked the winner of a big handicap before one gets their head in front, but he always gives you a brilliant run for your money and I can’t see it being any different this time round.

His current chase mark is 145 - 1 lb lower than for his 40/1 second recorded at Cheltenham - after a disappointing run in the Rowland Meyrick but that leaves him in a brilliant position to finally go one better, and he recorded a very pleasing second over hurdles against some good opposition at Chepstow on February 25th, which should see his hurdle mark of 139 go up a few lbs while his chase mark remains unchanged and it strips him perfectly fit for the Festival. Though the weights are yet to be revealed for the handicaps, you can be sure he will give as good a run as anyone regardless and is certainly worth an each-way play at a big price,

Paddy Power Plate
Spiritofthegames silk

Spiritofthegames (EW)

Cheltenham Festival

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