Mornings are getting colder, the better jumps horses are back in training, and the speculation over Cheltenham targets has already begun. So in my view, it’s time to dive headlong into the murky but alluring waters of the SkyBet Cheltenham Festival Specials. Can we dredge up anything worthwhile, or even a price worth taking? Let’s find out:
Willie Mullins to train the winner of the Mares Hurdle & Mares Novice Hurdle 100/30 (was 5/1)
100/30 for one trainer to win two races in March? It seems crazy on the face of it. But actually, it isn’t: you don’t have to wade through the millions of options Mullins has in his armoury, you just have to hope that his chosen ones don’t fall at the final fence. And even when he doesn’t have an obvious superstar, somehow he still always wins these mares races. It still makes enough sense to have a proper think about it.
Laurina to win any Novice Chase 9/2
So, in summary: we don’t yet know if she can jump a fence, we don’t actually know if she’s any good in open company, Willie Mullins hates racing his mares against the boys over fences, and it looks like a strong year for novice chasing. Other than that, she’s a cracking 9/2 shot.
Glynn to place in any race 5/1
My first reaction to this was to google ‘Glynn’, which informed me that Glynn is a small village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Once I’d googled ‘Glynn horse’, I found out that Glynn won his only point in tidy fashion before fetching £85k at Goffs Aintree sale in April. So for this price to exist, somebody out there has been told they’ve bought the next Arkle.
The Greater Good to finish in the first 3 of any race 5/1
My favourite part of this price is “the first 3” wording, which immediately makes this wager even worse value than it already looks, which is very bad value indeed. This price seems to have been asked for by Mr Barber, his owner. I think the greater good here would be to keep your money in your pocket.
Wild Max to place in any race 5/1
This horse appears to be German. What in the name of sauerkraut is this all about then? Clearly I’ve missed a big-money purchase somewhere along the line.
Klassical Dream to win any race & Tiger Roll to win the Cross Country 10/1
Klassical Dream may very well win the Champion Hurdle; but surely Tiger Roll isn’t going to do it again, is he? Or is he, as a last hurrah to his adoring public? Maybe he is, in which case this is a financially stupid bet at such short odds, but an emotionally brilliant one. Just imagine having a 10/1 bet rolling onto Tiger Roll! But if you are tempted, the outright double pays more than 11/1, so you’d be losing a point by taking this “special”, because if Klassical Dream doesn’t run in the Champion Hurdle then he’s not worth a bet anyway.
Pentland Hills & Getaway Trump both to place in the top 3 in any race 12/1
I have neither the time nor the inclination to figure out whether this is value or not. They could both be anything and turn up anywhere or nowhere come March.
Paisley Park and Emitom both to place in 2020 Stayers Hurdle 16/1
On the face of it, this is a mental bet: you have to pick two of the top three in the same race…but if you come at it from a purely mathematical point of view, it’s not all that bad…NO. Stop it. This is a mental bet.
Aramon to win the County Hurdle 20/1
Are Sky taking the piss here? And if you’ve put this bet on, should you have the mental capacity to be allowed to handle your own money? IT IS A COMPETITIVE HANDICAP RUN IN MARCH WHICH IS PLOTTED TO DEATH AND YOU ARE GIVING ME 20/1?!
Carefully Selected to win the National Hunt Chase 20/1
Again, this isn’t a “Cheltenham Special”, Sky, it’s just a really bad price on an unpredictable race that’s happening in 7 months.
Malone Road, Andy Dufrense & Envoi Allen all to place in any race 20/1
Let’s play Bumper horse bingo! They’re all good horses, but a treble on them?! Come on, you’re better than that. And bumper horses have a pretty dreadful record at the following year’s festival anyway.
Chacun Pour Soi, Laurina, Klassical Dream & Honeysuckle all to place any race 22/1
A four-timer in September? A FOUR-TIMER IN SEPTEMBER?! Put the booze down.
Champ and Laurina both to win any race 25/1
Who priced this up – the Laurina fan club? I’d rather burn my money…at least it would warm me up and get me loads of hits on the social medias.
South Seas to win the County Hurdle 25/1
Last seen finishing 19th out of 19 in a Doncaster handicap. This makes backing Aramon at 20/1 look like a sound investment. And that’s saying something.
Dolphin Square to win the Fox Hunters Chase 33/1
Why would you name a horse after a block of flats most famous for allegedly hosting a paedophile ring? Are you drawing awareness to it? Or are you just weird? Either way, I can’t cheer on a horse called Dolphin Square, so I’m out.
Klassical Dream & Envoi Allen both to win any race 33/1
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, we have something more intriguing: a double of two festival winners can never be dismissed out of hand. It’s of particular interest because as the Bumper winner, Envoi Allen could (if fit, obviously) end up in any of the three novice hurdle races in March at this stage. But I wouldn’t fancy a Bumper winner, with stamina galore, in a Supreme, so there are only two real targets…and an ante-post bet on the Albert Bartlett is a very bad idea. A direct double on the Champion Hurdle and Neptune/Ballymore/whatever is far more appealing, and far more financially rewarding too at almost 50/1.
Chacun Pour Soi & Reserve Tank both to win any race 40/1
The former can only have one target, and while he could be a beast, it’s a division potentially stacked with talent next year; the latter looks top drawer for the JLT or RSA, so the ‘any race’ angle adds an interest. But with only two possible targets, putting two doubles on at massively higher odds is more attractive than this, surely?
Envoi Allen and Chacun Pour Soi both to win any race 45/1
Definitely of interest given how good the latter is, but dismissed for the same reasoning as the Klassical Dream double.
Glynn & Chez Hans both to place in any race 55/1
Glynn is as bad a name as it gets for a horse, conjuring up an image of a put-upon but reliable assistant in a boring office job, rather than a wild and exciting stallion. Chez Hans, on the other hand, is an outstanding name for an animal athlete, because it’s clearly short for Chez Super Hans. Peep Show’s Super Hans would not be fretting over the photocopying; Super Hans would be at home, chez Super Hans, if you will, doing exactly what he wants without a care in the world. Now that’s a racehorse I want to bet on.
Malone Road & Envoi Allen both to win any race 66/1
Malone Road looked like a monster last year; Envoi Allen was a warrior. They’re in the same ownership, so if they’re both any good, they could very well be split up. Consider my interest piqued.
Envoi Allen & Samcro both to win any race 75/1
Do you get the feeling that a couple of punters out there really fancy Envoi Allen?
Malone Road, Envoi Allen, Thomas Darby, Delta Work & Commander Of Fleet all to place in any race 80/1
A FIVE-TIMER?! WHO EVEN THINKS THESE THINGS UP? AND WHO THEN THINKS 80/1 IS A GOOD PRICE? When the fun stops, STOP.
Paisley Park, Altior & Defi De Seuil all to win any race 80/1
This fits the golden rule: all three are festival winners, and all three are top-class. But it relies on Altior running in the Champion Chase, having failed to stay in the King George, because he isn’t going to win the Gold Cup. And Defi Du Seuil surely isn’t suited to win any race other than the Ryanair. So why not simply place the treble, which pays 200/1, instead? Because you’re a mug?
Thomas Darby, Emitom, Klassical Dream & Defi Du Seuil all to place any race 80/1
We’ve already talked about four-timers. At the very least have them in a yankee: imagine if two or three of them win…will you be counting your 80/1 bet, or absolutely FUMING that you threw away a massive chunk of cash?
Pentland Hills & Getaway Trump both to win any race 100/1
In the words of ‘Soap’ to ‘Bacon’ in Lock Stock, “it’s 100/1 for a reason”.
Malone Road & Champagne Platinum both to win any race 125/1
He didn’t say “it’s 125/1 for a reason”, but that’s implied.
Paisley Park, Sam Spinner and Emitom all to place in the Stayers Hurdle (3 places) 125/1
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. A TRIFECTA FOR CHELTENHAM IN SEPTEMBER. I HAVE GENUINELY SEEN IT ALL NOW. You’d have more chance of predicting the exact number of grams of coke taken in the Best Mate on Gold Cup day.
Stormy Ireland & Energumene both to win any race 125/1
The latter sounds like an early Pink Floyd experimental album track, and the former is not going to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival. But yeah, top stuff.
Allaho to win the 2020 RSA & 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup 150/1
Now, stay with me here. Interest rates are really low, so you’d have to see this bet as an investment. A high-risk, high-reward investment, sure, but you don’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs right? (Actually that bit doesn’t make sense). Anyway, Allaho looks like a lovely staying chaser in the making, so the RSA really isn’t out of the question, and then RSA have a pretty good record in the Gold Cup, so…
…no you’re right, this is completely insane.
Cheltenham Gold Cup – Altior to finish 1st & Tiger Roll to finish 2nd 250/1
If this actually happens, I won’t need a bet on it to feel like I’ve won the lottery. It would be the single greatest thing to ever happen. Ever. Anywhere.
Longhouse Sale, Envoi Allen, Pentland Hills, Bright Forecast & Paisley Park all to place in any race 250/1
Fair play to whichever trader priced this up. How do you even think they did it? Presumably they picked the number that looks like the biggest possible price that could actually give you a winner. “We can’t put 500/1. That would give the game away. But 250/1…well it might make them think it could happen, right?”
City Island & House Island both to win any race 250/1
I’ve got more chance of winning Love Island.
That Was Fun, But Is There A Bet Here?
Willie Mullins to train the winner of the Mares Hurdle & Mares Novice Hurdle 100/30?
First of all, we have to price up his chances of winning the Mares’ Novice Hurdle, a race in which he is 4/4 so far, and even won with a 50/1 shot this time around. Let’s go Evens to keep things easy. Now, let’s put some proper thought into the more competitive Mares Hurdle, where Benie Des Dieux dominates the market, and rightly so. If she’s fit and she still enjoys the game, she really should win this; but if she doesn’t, Mullins has plenty of other darts to throw at the target. The identifiable threats at this stage are Apple’s Jade – who we all know isn’t at her best in March – and defending champ Roksana, who has a fair chance of following up if Benie doesn’t make it. Other than that, those with proper chances on current evidence are all trained by Mullins too! So 5/1 may have been a half-decent bet, but 100/30 is just too skinny with the season not even up-and-running yet.
Malone Road & Envoi Allen both to win any race 66/1?
Envoi Allen is being priced up throughout at between 6 and 7/1 in the any race market – so Malone Road is rated about a 8/1 or 9/1 shot in any race. Malone Road could of course never be the same horse again after his injury, but go back and watch his bumper win last season, and then tell me you’re not tempted to back him blind. It’s the shared ownership of these two that makes this bet intriguing; either one of the two isn’t as good as we thought, or they’re not going to end up in the same novice hurdle, surely? But they looked like very different horses in their bumper appearances: Malone Road looked rapid and flashy, a Supreme/Ballymore type, whereas Envoi Allen looked solid and stamina-laden, a Ballymore/Albert Bartlett type. Given my basic rule of not backing horses in the potato race ante-post – you’re far better throwing a few darts on the day itself in March, as I’ve found out to my significant cost over the years – a direct double looks a much better value bet.
Malone Road (Supreme) & Envoi Allen (Ballymore) – 0.25 pts win double – 186/1 (various)