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Homeracing

Mullins It Over: Candice Hare's Day 1 Cheltenham Picks

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TwinSpires Staff

March 14th, 2016

by CANDICE HARE

As always, the first day of the Cheltenham Festival begins with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, during which the roar from the crowd annually makes for one of the greatest spectacles in racing, and we'll be following along trying to win $20 each day to turn our wagers into 20X TSC Elite points!

This year’s Supreme is headed by long-time favorite Min. Willie Mullins has trained the past three winners of this race and Min—who has won both of his races this season by a combined 23 ½ lengths—looks to make it four for the veteran conditioner. Min has taken the same path to the Supreme as stablemates Vautour and Douvan, both of whom went on to win this event. A case can be made for Altior -- who won the Novices’ Hurdle ran locally in November, but this looks a trappy race and not one which appeals from a betting perspective.

Should Min get Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci on the board to start the day, they will immediately be looking for a double as last year’s Supreme winner Douvan headlines the Arkle. Douvan hasn’t put a hoof wrong since transitioning to fences this season and the best of the rest may in fact be Sizing John, whom he has crushed on four separate occasions. This looks the good thing of the entire Cheltenham meeting and the price will reflect that.

One of the more competitive races is the third of the day is the Ultima Handicap Chase, which is contested over 25 furlongs. An interesting prospect is Southfield Theatre, who has been running against much tougher this season and after being outclassed on both occasions finds himself on a generous mark in this handicap. His record at Cheltenham is outstanding (6: 1-2-1-2) and he will appreciate the drying ground. A performance anywhere near what he produced in the RSA should see him square in the mix late.

Annie Power, whose fall at the final obstacle in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle provided for the most shocking moment of the meeting, returns to Cheltenham seeking redemption. This time, however, she will face the boys in the Champion Hurdle. Over a shorter trip than her best and taking her tendency to overrace into account, however, she appears vulnerable. Seemingly forgotten has been The New One. The now eight-year-old is a five time winner at Cheltenham and his only loss this season came at the hands of the well regarded Faugheen, who misses this race due to injury. Expect this remarkably consistent gelding to be the one to take advantage should Annie Power tire late.

The Mares’ Hurdle follows and Annie Power running elsewhere unfortunately does not make this any more wide open on the win front, as Vroum Vroum Mag looks far and away the class of the field. Another of the Mullins/Ricci hot favorites, Vroum Vroum Mag has not lost since March 2014 and her past three runs have seen her improve into the dominant athlete of this group. The intrigue instead lies in who will finish behind her, for which The Govaness appeals getting back to her preferred ground after being unlucky on that front all season. She is not the most fluent jumper, but her two-for-five record at Cheltenham boosts her place claims. At what will likely be a massive price, Stephanie Frances could make the frame back over hurdles and against the mares. She won her only run at Cheltenham and is another who should appreciate the drying conditions.

Measureofmydreams appeals most in the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase. The typically consistent son of Shantou is two-from-two chasing. He has only ran once at Cheltenham, but that was as a 100-1 chance in last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in which he was horribly outclassed and yet he still made it around the course and outran his odds. Measureofmydreams’ win over Noble Endeavor last time out was very good and yet he is likely to go off the bigger price of the two. Look for him to be the value play of the day.

The final race of the card is the Novices’ Handicap Chase to be run over 20 furlongs. Bouvreuil looks the bet stepping up in trip after being horribly outpaced last time out in the Lightning Novices’ Chase over 16.5 furlongs. He raced against much tougher competition all season -- possibly to preserve his handicap mark -- so a bit of class relief here should be welcomed. This race has been stated his long-term goal and it is easy to see why, as he appears to be perfectly suited in this spot.

Recommended Wagers (cash for $20 on TwinSpires.com & get 20x points on all your Cheltenham wagers!):

Race 3: Southfield Theatre win/place

Race 4: The New One win

Race 5: exacta Vroum Vroum Mag / The Govaness, Stephanie Frances

Race 6: Measureofmydreams win

Race 7: Bouvreuil win

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