By Richard Hoiles
The Cheltenham Festival has finally arrived and it is time for the talking to stop and the action to start.
Of all the discussions I have heard on the many Cheltenham panels the biggest error has been that the ground will ride better than many expect.
Having just squelched round some of the track, and with more rain forecast this is simply not going to be the case.
It will ride deep from the word go and once the early benefits of fresh strips of ground (notably on the inner of the chase course) are eroded it will be a case of finding the ground least trod.
This introduces a far greater random factor than in previous years and for once could cast some doubt as to whether the benefit of previous Festival form may have less of an impact than simply being able to handle conditions.
A few things therefore to consider during the week:
Beware horses that are stepping up in trip for the first time. It is pretty obvious but conditions will clearly place a greater emphasis on stamina not least because in every race they will be running for considerably longer in terms of time than in previous years.Horses exercise at soggy Cheltenham on Monday (PA)
Avoid horses that pull. Any wasted energy is likely to be a much greater negative when it is needed in the closing stages.
Watch where the winners come from. Some jockeys will be out walking the track. Note who picks the best routes and where on the course the winners and placed horses travel in the race.
If it rains during the meeting the rain can permeate where they have raced far more easily so fresh routes may then be favoured.
Be prepared to think more on your feet than cling to preconceived ideas based on criteria which may simply now be of less relevance or just plain wrong.
So who fits the bill for Tuesday?
2.50 Cheltenham: Ramses De Teillee
Demolished a field at Chepstow in very deep ground earlier on in the season and even though he is much higher and this is clearly far more competitive, he made the ground look completely different to every other horse that competed not just in his race but on the entire card.
The stable have had a quiet season but have actually had a winner at nine of last eleven Festivals, a record few yards can match and that includes winning this race three times. The best bet of the day.
4.50 Cheltenham: Jury Duty
Jumps soundly, has previous Festival form in the Pertemps but also proven on deep ground and also has the invaluable assistance of Jamie Codd in this amateur riders contest. This has long been his aim and he should give a good account.
5.30 Cheltenham: Mister Whitaker
This is the one of the trio with ground queries but having unexpectedly sneaked in at the bottom has to be included.
He is very economical over his fences and idled when he hit the front the other day making it potentially hard for the handicapper to assess what he actually has left. Brian Hughes very much suits his run style.
And finally we all get fixated with the Festival whereas in fact the best bets are often buried away elsewhere so however you fare on the opening day keep a couple of quid by for:
5.45 Newcastle: Hediddodinthe
With a name like that part of me hopes he is useless but given the support he received before his past two handicap runs for his previous yard it looks like he at least shows some ability at home.
Iain Jardine is an excellent trainer and with fewer miles than most on the clock it will be interesting to see how he fares on his first start for the new yard.
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