The Rest Of The Cheltenham Card – Wednesday


The Gallagher Novices Hurdle aka the Baring Bingham is all about the odds-on Ballyburn and as hard as I have tried, I cannot see any good reason to oppose him despite the silly price. The one blot on his form was a second at Fairyhouse on his hurdling debut but he has made up for any losses that day with easy and impressive successes at Leopardstown in December and February. He would have gone off equally short had he been sent over the two miles of the Supreme on day one but in my view Willie Mullins has made the sensible decision sending him here where he ought to win with ease. I have to add that Mullins having five of the eight runners is laughable as a punter, though anyone looking for a bigger price could do worse than Handstands who arrives unbeaten, and may have more to offer.

Ballyburn 2/5 most bookmakers


Yet another odds-on shot here as El Fabiolo is seen as another Willie Mullins banker, and with a record of six wins from six starts over fences including the Arkle Trophy last season, you can easily see why he heads the market. I was asked to find a jolly to oppose on a podcast earlier in the week and at the current odds I am happy to weigh in with Jonbon (each way) as an alternative – again, if we can find a bookie offering a quarter of the odds then we will get most of our money back even if he places on an each-way bet. There is a school of thought that the favourite could be a far better jumper as he is inclined to clout a fence now and then, and with Edwardstone quite likely to set off and play catch me if you can, his opponents may, just may, draw out some added errors. With a record of seven wins and two seconds from nine starts he is clearly no back number, and if there is a surprise this week, he may be the one to provide it.  

Jonbon each way 5/1 most bookmakers


The Cross Country Chase is the marmite of the entire week, a love it or hate it contest that purists are inclined to shun, but others see as a welcome addition and something a little bit different to savour, myself included. With the exception of French raider Easyland in 2020 this has fallen to the Irish for the last nine years and there is very little reason to expect that to change in 2024. Once again their horses dominate the early betting with Minella Indo at the top of the tree, but for me this seems more likely to fall to one of the Gordon Elliott runners. Jacke Kennedy seems to have chosen the hat-trick seeking Delta Work after the now 11-year-old took this in 2021 and 2022, but I narrowly prefer the chances of the younger Coko Beach. In good form with a third, a second, and two wins since pulling up in last year’s Grand National, he scored by six lengths last time out over the Cross-Country course at Punchestown and may do the same this afternoon.

Coko Beach 100/30 most bookmakers


Next up we have a two mile handicap chase and a race won by some huge priced winners  in recent years with a 28/1 shot last season, and others at odds up to 66/1 – so punters beware! Sadly the statistics don’t tell us very much on this occasion, and the truth of the matter is I do not have a strong opinion here, but Cheltenham is Cheltenham and I have to come up with something!  At 10/1 or thereabouts we could see a big run from Path D’oroux (each way) who represents Gavin Cromwell, a trainer I have a lot of time for, and if the first-time cheekpieces help him to give his all, he might be in the firing line where it matters.

Path D’oroux (each way) 10/1 most bookmakers

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