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Matt Chapman smashes up Cheltenham Festival ante-post markets with picks for Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup

, Matt Chapman smashes up Cheltenham Festival ante-post markets with picks for Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup

SAINT ROI and Santini. There you go.

That’s the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup sorted out for you. I’m a giver!

Chappers is back with another column that packs a punch

Small fields are often the bane of jumps racing, and that’s certainly the case today with a total of eight equine beasts due to tackle the two feature races at Haydock and Ascot.

That’s not to say both the Betfair Chase and Coral Hurdle don’t have their fascinations as they do, but for punters a handful of runners is a similar turn on to getting the council tax bill through the post.

So with that in mind I decided we’d smash up the ante-post markets at Cheltenham and go in hard for the two major events at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Let’s start with the Unibet Champion Hurdle, and I’m happy to support Saint Roi each way even though he carries the colours of JP McManus, currently on top of defending champion and leading hope Epatante.

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I have no doubt that Saint Roi is a massively talented horse, and with only seven runs Under Rules he’s got loads of improvement to come.

Trained by Willie Mullins, Saint Roi is a French import who was turned over at 1-3 on his Irish debut, but he then hacked up at Tramore and went to Cheltenham and took the County Hurdle with a sparkling turn of pace in the closing stages.

, Matt Chapman smashes up Cheltenham Festival ante-post markets with picks for Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup

Saint Roi was a taking winner at the Festival last season

The son of Coastal Path came back in 2020 with a success in a Grade 3 at Tipperary, and was then turned over in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle.

Saint Roi was desperately unlucky in that event, and was clearly the best horse on the day despite the defeat by Abacadabras.

That race may well have made a man of the horse, and I think he’s a cracking punt at 8-1.

The Magners Gold Cup promises to be a cracker, and the one I want to be with is Santini. That surprises me a little, as I wasn’t a huge fan of the horse for much of last season.

However, that all changed in the 2020 Gold Cup, when Santini rattled home powerfully but too little too late to catch Al Boum Photo.

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Prior to that effort, Santini’s jumping had been subject of scrutiny, but in the main event I thought he did well and it was more lack of pace in the feature chase that cost him in the closing stages as his stamina kicked in. 

On that basis, I’m happy to give Santini another go and think he’ll be hard to beat for Nicky Henderson and the excellent Nico de Boinville.

Odds of 7-1 are attractive eachway.  Back to today’s action, and the Gold Cup third Lostintranslation takes on the 2019 King George hero Clan des Obeaux in a clash to savour for the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The smash up is live on the main ITV network, and making up the numbers in a five-runner field is also Bristol de Mai, who has been top notch for Nigel Twiston-Davies over the years and absolutely loves Haydock.

That said, he’s got his work cut out to hold Lostintranslation, who is the defending champion and goes well fresh for Colin Tizzard and Robbie Power.

The eight-year-old is also having his second outing after a wind operation.  Just three line up for the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, and with Goshen out the way it’s hard to see it having any bearing on the Champion Hurdle unless Laurina bounces back to her best.

That’s a big if, as she was absolutely terrible last season for Willie Mullins. She is with Paul Nicholls now, and gets one more chance from me as she could easily dictate here and make all.

The fact is she is rated the same as Call me Lord and 3lb better than Indefatigable yet she gets nearly a stone from the Nicky Henderson runner and 4lb from the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle heroine.

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Fingers crossed she is back to her best.

Finally, a quick mention for the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase, even though only four runners are set to go to post.

The gelding many will be cheering on in Imperial Aura, who is developing well for the now excellent and inform combination of Kim Bailey and David Bass.

, Matt Chapman smashes up Cheltenham Festival ante-post markets with picks for Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup

Imperial Aura looks destined for bigger and better things

Old boy Bailey has been around the block and got the t-shirt, but he remains with his finger right on the modern day button and is one of the best characters in the sport, while Bass is a deep and meaningful individual with many thoughts on life and the world.

Imperial Aura was awesome in a handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and came back with success at Carlisle earlier this month.

He’s a fast-improver.  Small fields but big hopes. That’s National Hunt racing for you.


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