Betting Tips and Previews: Cheltenham Festival

Al Boum Photo Aims To Emulate Arkle And Best Mate In Audacious Gold Cup Hat Trick Bid



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Here we go again. It is like 2004 all over again with that exciting anticipation that awaited Best Mate’s hat trick attempt.

Al Boum Photo trained by Willie Mullins will endeavour to join the immortals Best Mate and Arkle to become a Cheltenham Gold Cup legend by winning three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups.

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It will be an extraordinary feat if he were to do so and based on what we know and have seen this season, it is all systems go. The preparation has been identical to the last two attempts and if anything, he may even have improved. Tramore racecourse in Ireland must surely introduce a race in his name at some point, even if Al Boum fails to land the hat-trick, such has been the in-transit connection with this Gold Cup winning hero.

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So can he do it? We think emphatically yes and he is our selection for this year’s sadly behind closed doors renewal of The Wellchild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

However, it wont be that easy as Champ, A Plus Tard, Frodon and previous winner Native River all offer various guises of possibly being the party poopers.

This is set to be an epic, historical and above all fascinating renewal of the greatest steeple chase in the world.

Let’s check out the runners and riders..

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THE MARKET LEADERS

AL BOUM PHOTO

In many ways he is the forgotten hero.

And it is easy to see why. In 2019 Al Boum Photo trained by Willie Mullins turns up to a mid-distance Grade 3 chase at Tramore and wins comfortably. Next stop, the small matter of the most prestigious steeple chase in the world: The Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He wins that fairly comfortably. Of course, this is all put down to the brilliance of Willie Mullins rather than the horse and how effective he is in preparing horses for the big races. However, the next season in 2020, the horse carries out exactly the same success again which then beggars an important question.

How was Best Mate 8/11 to win his third Gold Cup in 2004 and yet one can still grab 5/2 (bet365 Best Odds Guaranteed, NRNB) for Al Boum Photo to achieve the same feat? It’s possibly down to the fact that Al Boum Photo doesn’t turn up to the big Grade 1’s like The Irish Gold Cup, The Savills Chase or The King George.

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Mullins has followed this strict preparation carefully and it seems to have paid dividends. The horse has simply slipped through the radar and quietly become one of the greatest Gold Cup horses of all time and now on the threshold of immortality.

Let us not forget that this is not by any means the first time that Gold Cups are won this way. Best Mate would take in just the one Newbury run before showtime and Native River’s similar prep in 2018 was a huge success after his weary long season before. Lightly racing these horses seems to be the way to go for getting the best out of a Gold Cup run.

So it is Al Boum Photo we are firmly behind to win a third Gold Cup. The price of 5/2 is great value and should be taken now as I anticipate a huge gamble on the day: he could well be backed down into odds on, such is the tide of emotion when it comes to these rare and fantastic moments in jump racing. It is just heart-breaking that a crowd will not be there to cheer him home.

CHAMP

Those like myself who had their hands on a Minello Indo betting slip in last year’s RSA Chase would have been reeling in horror to see Champ, superbly ridden by the now retired Barry Geraghty, absolutely steaming up the Cheltenham Hill like a high speed GWR train bolting through Ladbroke Grove enroute to the West Country.

Where on earth did he come from? Sipping plastic pints in The Guinness Village thought some, much like his stable predecessor Might Bite when he strayed almost comically up the hill in the 2017 renewal.

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The Nicky Henderson trained Champ has a legion of fans and its easy to see why. He has character. Plenty of it. Whether it be hairy jumps or delivering thrilling late finishes, this JP McManus owned horse, named after Tony McCoy, has gripped the public’s imagination since that memorable RSA victory, although more importantly Champ now finds himself in a realistic position to win a Gold Cup.

He has had just one run this season, an oddly inappropriate distance more suited to a Champion Chase prep run. However, his brave second to Sceau Royal in that Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury over 2 miles and a furlong may be just the away day Champ needed.

The travelling speed he demonstrated in that race will be invaluable for the Gold Cup and of course we know he stays up the hill. He just does it in his time.

5/1 (bet365, NRNB Best Odds Guaranteed, Betfred NRNB).

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A PLUS TARD

This Henry De Bromhead trained 7-year-old found himself nibbled quite seriously in the betting markets after his crucial Savills Chase win last time out over the Christmas break. This was significant as it quelled any fears that the horse cannot stay 3 miles plus.

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I think we will also see a much better horse than the one that finished a length or so behind Min in last year’s Ryanair Chase. However, pricewise I think the money has been done and he does not represent great each way value at 6/1 best with bet365 (Best Odds Guaranteed & NRNB) and William Hill.

THE BIG VALUE EACH WAY OPTIONS

SANTINI

Punters are probably running out of patience with this Henderson stayer and subsequently opting for his stable mate Champ who I think is a much more viable betting option. Santini has been out of sorts this season although 14/1 (Paddy Power, William Hill, Betfair) seems to be fairly good value for a horse who was runner up last year. But it is a risky punt for sure.

MINELLA INDO

Henry De Bromhead’s unlucky RSA runner up from last season has not run to expectations this season and despite the 14/1 on offer (William Hill) there is much better value to be had elsewhere. Nevertheless, this horse is classy and we should see a different and improved performer on the day.

FRODON

And here is where the each way value really lies. This servant of Paul Nicholls and best buddy of regular partner Bryony Frost will of course be a popular winner with many up and down the country and might have seemed a novelty ante post punt at the start of the season.

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However, he has been nothing but sensational this season, starting with an arguably career best at HQ with a gutsy course and distance handicap win and then following up with that win in The King George.

Yes, he did have things all his way and a lot of high-profile entries did not really turn up that day, but nothing should be taken away from that triumph.

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Frost is reported to be well up for this ride and the determination of this partnership could be crucial in getting this former Ryanair Chase winner up the hill and trainer Paul Nicholls knows a thing or four about winning the Gold Cup after all.

A fantastic each way proposition at 12/1 (bet365, Best Odds Guaranteed & NRNB).

NATIVE RIVER

The 2018 Gold Cup winner is again another serious contender and is the most experienced veteran of this race in the field with two places and a win to his name.

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Will always gallop and jump enthusiastically and showed he had lost nothing with a brilliant performance in the re-scheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown where he ran a decent field, including the likes of Betfair Chase three times winner Bristol De Mai and Santini, utterly ragged.

Will need plenty of cut in the ground and might not get things his own way with Frodon and Vinndication all bidding to make the running.

However, 16/1 is a cracking each way opportunity with William Hill (full ante post rules apply).

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VERDICT

Another strong field assembled for this blue riband of steeple chasing.

I recommend a three-fold bet for this fascinating clash. Thump the trust fund on Al Boum Photo to win (5/2 bet365) and some each way pennies on Frodon and Native River: barring an uncharacteristic fall, these two will always give a betting slip a great run for the money.

And of course, in the case of Al Boum Photo, there is nothing worse than being at the party and feeling like you have not been invited. Get on him and be part of the history.

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MORE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL!

Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (5pm 11th March 2021) and are subject to change.

Matt is Howtobet4free's resident Horse Racing expert, writer, tipster and a huge Cheltenham Festival fan. He occasionally dabbles in Golf, Football and anything else you can gamble on!

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