Cheltenham Festival News: Pendleton Gets Green Light and Festival Going Now Soft

Cheltenham Festival News: Pendleton Gets Green Light and Festival Going Now Soft

The 2016 Cheltenham Festival, which starts with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race at 1.30pm on the 15th March is less than a week away. Now is the time to get your ante post bets on if you haven’t already, start studying the form, comparing the odds and checking out the various offers the best racing betting sites are offering up. It’s also time to keep abreast of the latest Cheltenham news and that’s exactly what we’ve got here, with information on the key announcements, withdrawals and Festival gossip.

One Cheltenham topic which really divides the experts and racing fans generally is Victoria Pendleton’s involvement in the 2016 Festival. The former Olympic cycling hero and double gold medal winner has now been confirmed for the Foxhunters Chase on the final day of the Festival. She will ride Pacha Du Polder after guiding the nine year old to a win at Wincanton last week.

Pacha Du Polder is rated a viable 16/1 shot by most bookies, including Bet365, but as short as 12/1 with Coral, with the favourite currently On The Fringe at 11/4 with Paddy Power. Pacha Du Polder is the eighth favourite and that may be as much about the horse, a steady and reliable performer, as it is a reflection of Pendleton’s talent.

The issue really has been a hot topic but we think that anything that brings new fans to the sport and wider media coverage can only be a good thing. Pendleton was described as “an accident waiting to happen” by former (seven time) champion jumps jockey John Francome but Pendleton knows the risks and is more than happy to take them and that’s fine by us. Moreover, if the Stewart Family and Paul Nicholls are happy for her to take the ride we can only assume they feel the horse is not at any real risk and so we wish her well.

Pendleton has only been riding for little more than a year but we shouldn’t underestimate her tenacity, desire, ability to take on board coaching and most of all the amount of work she has put into this.

Moving on to more general Festival matters and the big news today is that the official course going has been changed to soft following heavy rain on Tuesday night going into Wednesday. The course received some 24mm of rain and that news will bring joy to a lot of connections whose horses prefer a bit more stickiness.

Some of you may be surprised to learn you can bet on the going – you can bet on just about anything these days and certainly most things Cheltenham-related. As such it is worth noting that despite the current going being soft, bookies are expecting it to be good to soft come the opening day. That outcome is priced at odds of just 2/5, whilst soft is further out at 5/1 with 888sport and in fact good is ranked more likely at 4/1.

For those of you predicting rain, heavy is out at a massive 50/1 whilst good to firm is even longer at 66/1. If you’re surprised to hear of this market, you’ll be less surprised to learn that these odds very accurately reflect the current weather forecast for the Cheltenham area. There are some light showers forecast for Wednesday but very little rain following that, whilst a decent wind will further help the course firm up. Forecasts beyond four days are far from reliable though, so this could well be a market worth tracking, especially if you’re an amateur – or indeed professional – meteorologist!

Moving from the weather to one of the big Festival favourites, and it looks like Min may have some serious competition in the aforementioned Festival curtain raiser, the Supreme Novices’. Yorkhill has received plenty of backing and is now in to 5/1 with Ladbrokes, though still behind Min (2/1 Bet365) and Altior (9/2), though both the first and second favourites have drifted.

The move in the odds is down to speculation that Ruby Walsh may opt for Yorkhill. The Irish supremo has ridden both Min and Yorkhill in all their races this campaign and was generally assumed to be in line to ride Min. The Willie Mullins-trained pair have both worked very well according to Mullins’ assistant David Casey and Yorkhill could yet go for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle instead. Yorkhill is as short as 4/1 with many bookies though and is reportedly in super form and could offer some real value if Walsh decides he is the better option. Watch this space!

In another of the many massive Cheltenham showdowns, trainer Mouse Morris has stated how keen he is to take on World Hurdle favourite Thistlecrack. Morris, who trains Alpha Des Obeaux, feels his six year old can reverse a defeat at Aintree last season. Thistlecrack is many pundits’ NAP of the Festival – at odds of 6/5 with Paddy Power – whilst Alpha Des Obeaux is out at 13/2 with Sky Bet. Annie Power is actually second favourite at 4s with a range of firms but it now seems she will run in the Champion Hurdle instead.

The Irish trainer argues that his French contender, who has only failed to place once in nine runs (when falling), is actually a lot closer to the favourite than many think. His reasoning is that on the one occasion Alpha Des Obeaux did fall, he had the beating of Thistlecrack until clipping the final obstacle in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle back in April. Morris acknowledges the higher rating of the favourite but has been impressed by the build-up of his own horse and we’re inclined to agree. Write Alpha Des Obeaux off at your peril.