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2017 Cheltenham Festival favourites - The market leaders you need to avoid

Nico de Boinville and Altior.

Our expert looks at the favourites that punters should avoid at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

I am the first to admit that I run the risk of looking ridiculously foolish with an article like this, but hopefully I can justify each selection with some little piece of logic - watch these all bolt in!!

ALTIOR - Arkle Chase - 1/4 - Sky Bet

Bear with me. I appreciate that is is bordering on sacrilegious to dare smear the name of the British wonder horse, but I am merely pointing out the fact that there are far better bets available in the Arkle Chase than lumping onto any novice chaser at odds of 1/4. The timing of the race (second of the whole meeting) means that if you were to steam in here and put your entire budget on in the hopes of a small return, your festival punting could be well and truly over before it starts. A more sensible approach is to look for a big priced horse in the each way markets at this stage - the likelihood is that this field will cut up into around six or seven runners, so the gains to be had by going each way now may well be bagging an extra place on the day. The likes or Ordinary World (trained by Henry de Bromhead) provide a proper alternative, an excellent jumper who is on target for the race, and is currently available at 40/1. In effect, that is 10/1 on finishing in the first three in what may well prove to be a five horse race!

AIRLIE BEACH - Mares Novice Hurdle - 11/4 - Sky Bet

Personally this one is a bit of a sickener for me. I was all set to have this mare as one of the bankers of the meeting, then broke the news that Willie Mullins plans to run Let’s Dance against her in this race. That can be interpreted in two ways - Bacardys is the Neptune horse, so maybe Mullins simply doesn’t want to take on him with Let’s Dance, but the alternative reading is that Mullins may not be entirely happy with Airlie Beach and feels he needs backup in the race. It is definitely out of character for Mullins to run two horses with such similar chances in the betting against each other (normally there is a hotpot with a double figure backup), and it makes me uneasy about the prospects of hammering into Airlie Beach on the day. It may well be a race to leave alone at this stage.

NEON WOLF - Neptune Novice Hurdle - 5/2 - Sky Bet

I cannont understand this horse's price, given the quality of opposition he is likely to face. Yes he looked massively impressive in Haydock, but he didn’t beat much, and this will be unlike anything he has ever faced in terms of opposition. Bacardys (Willie Mullins’ Deloitte winner) has been the subject of some bullish reports in recent times, and the step up in trip will be massively in his favour. My own selection for the race is the Alan King-trained Messire Des Obeaux, who although beaten last time, will definitely come on for that run and has form with Ballyandy (very impressive Betfair Hurdle winner) from earlier in the season. I think King has taken  a slightly different approach this season, giving some horses a little mid-season break, and the likes of him and Yanworth will definitely improve for recent prep runs. Throw in Finian’s Oscar and you have a race where the betting could easily be 5/1 the field.

CANTLOW - Cross Country Chase - 9/4 - Betfair

Cantlow has been all the rage for this race since stablemate Josies Orders was ruled out, but I simply cannot justify backing him at current odds. He has been a tricky customer in the past, but seems revitalised now, although he was comprehensively beaten by Urgent de Gregaine over the course in January. He was giving plenty of weight away that day, but I would be reluctant to automatically assume that he will reverse form, as the French horse won very easily that day, and to my eye delayed his challenge until the last possible moment, minimising the winning distance. Cantlow may well face the biggest threat from his own stablemate in Auvergnant, a progressive young horse in this sphere, who knuckled down well to win at Punchestown recently having unseated in that same Cheltenham race when travelling well. Another from that race who might well have a say is Usuel Smurfer, who might improve for better ground. This race is more competitive than first appears, and I think Cantlow has plenty on his plate.

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2017 Cheltenham Festival favourites - The market leaders you need to avoid

Our expert looks at the favourites that punters should avoid at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

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