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The Cheltenham Festival is finally here, and punters up and down the land are desperately seeking out the best value ahead of four days of equine excitement at Prestbury Park.
It all gets underway with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at 13:30 on Tuesday afternoon, when the famous Festival roar will greet the runners and riders as they bid for glory.
There are 28 races across the week, culminating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday afternoon. Ahead of the action, Daily Star Sunday tipster and five-times NAPs table champion Paul Jacobs has given us four lively longshots who could inflict damage on the bookies this week.
READ MORE: Horse racing joy as 66-year-old jockey rides first winner since 1988 in Ireland
Wednesday March 15 – 14:50: Coral Cup
The Coral Cup features the joint biggest field of the week with 24 highly likely to go to post. Most pundits are all over last year’s fourth Camprond but as we saw last year, his chance is wholly weather and ground dependent.
There is little doubt he is well treated on that form and has to be on the shortlist along with Run For Oscar and HMS Seahorse if the rains stay away.
However, I am happy to run the gauntlet on a big priced each-way play SPORTING JOHN and he may finally have his day in the sun at a huge price if turning out following his run in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.
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I was really taken by the way he galloped and jumped with plenty of enthusiasm before racing so keenly put paid to his chance from the third last.
A mark of 151 requires him to bounce back here but I think the fire still burns bright and with ‘non-runner, no bet’ on a race which I think suits him perfectly, the eight-year-old is worth a punt especially if the rains come to fruition.
Wednesday March 15 – 16:50: Johnny Henderson Grand Annual
I love a novice in the Grand Annual and that made me strongly consider Dinoblue and the prolific Final Orders. The well-weighted Rouge Vif runs off 137 and has claims on his old form but wouldn’t want too much rain.
So I have instead plumped for the five-year-old SAINT SEGAL, who is well suited by a fast-run two miles.
He couldn’t quite get to Malystic at Doncaster last time out but the ground was as fast as he likes it that day. His biggest rival could be Elxir De Nutz, who is likely to run here in favour of the Plate if the ground rides testing.
Thursday March 16 – 14.10: Pertemps Final
I am going to take the liberty of having two against the field here starting with outsider COLTOR who had a lovely spin around Musselburgh when second despite the track being way too sharp.
But it was all about the qualification that day for the son of Free Eagle and he is only 4lbs higher here and pertinently comes here a very fresh horse.
In contrast, my other pick has gradually been running his way into form and was hugely impressive last time out when slamming 14 rivals by six and a half lengths and more at Chepstow following a wind op.
Even an 11lbs rise in the weights may not be enough to stop Jonjo O’Neill’s progressive charge THANKSFORTHEHELP.
Friday March 17 – 17.30: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
The weather forecast suggests the ground could be at its slowest come the final day and this last race of the festival could turn into a real war of attrition.
As much as I respect the claims of well-handicapped pair Imagine and Might I, I think COOL SURVIVOR could be the pick of the Gordon Elliott team if he decides to bypass the Albert Bartlett.
He was a real eye-catcher when finishing strongly at Leopardstown over two and three quarter miles recently and the galloping nature of the New Course should prove right up his street.
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- Horse racing
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