Lucky 15 Tips – Big-Priced Fancies for Graded Races

The entrants tackle one of Cheltenham’s fearsome fences in the 2019 Gold Cup.

2021 Cheltenham Festival Lucky 15 Tips

Having already tackled the handicaps, Daniel Overall is back with a look at the Graded races at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. Avoinging the odds-on shots, he’s looking for some decent value in some big races.

A Plus Tard (6/1 Gold Cup, Friday March, 19)

While Al Boum Photo is the one to beat, there comes a time where every king must relinquish his crown and this may well be it. The reigning champion has already defeated many of those who will line up in this years renewal, but that is not the case with A Plus Tard who remains thoroughly unexposed over staying trips.

Yet he certainly did not look short of stamina when rattling home to win the Savills Chase over the festive period, which bodes well for his chances of thriving in the Gold Cup. Given that display, it is impressive that managed to do so well over shorter. In fact, he was the last horse to defeat the Champion Chase favourite, Chacun Pour Soi; we have seen horses with top-class form over shorter thrive once stepped up to the Gold Cup trip, Sizing John being a recent example.

With light campaigns being all the rage in terms of preparing for the Cheltenham showpiece, it is a positive that he’s only raced twice this season while has been intentionally freshened up with this race in mind. Everything looks set for a big run.

Bob and Co (5/1 Hunters Chase, Friday, March 19)

Enigmatic but talented, Bob and Co was bought to win the top Hunter Chases and following wind surgery, now might be the time that he delivers on the big stage. He swerved Cheltenham last year but Nicholls now seemingly thinks he’s ready for the test on Cheltenham Gold Cup day, perhaps owing to the wind operation and for having another year to mature and acclimatise in Britain.

You can make a case for his emphatic defeat of The Worlds End and Wishing and Hoping is the best Hunter Chase form on offer this season while he would be amongst, if not the highest rated runner in the field.

And while David Maxwell has improved significantly as a jockey, it is a huge plus for Bob and Co’s chances that professionals will be riding in this race instead of the amateurs. Bob and Co is not an easy ride and the one race he didn’t win in Britain was due to Maxwell pulling up due to getting cramps in his legs as a result of his mount pulling too hard. Sean Bowen, who rode him last time out, looks set to maintain the partnership.

There were signs at Haydock that he was maturing; he showed his new found tactical versatility by not front running and while his jumping wasn’t foot perfect, Haydock is a fairly stiff test of jumping and he never looked like falling.

Billaway is a relatively short priced favourite but it was the same case last year when he was thoroughly put in his place by It Came To Pass, while the reigning champion has to bounce back from a very poor run just three weeks ago, although he’s sure to improve for better ground.

Paul Nicholls is the joint-leading trainer in this race and he looks to have an excellent chance of enhancing is already impressive record.

Bob Olinger (5/2 Ballymore Novice Hurdle, Wednesday, March 17)

“Bon Olinger is a God-given certainty”; not my words, but the words of Jamie Codd on a recent Cheltenham preview which saw 7/2 swiftly cut to 5/2.

And while I wouldn’t be as bold as the Coddfather, he certainly holds a favourites chance in my mind.

His sole defeat to date came at the hands of the Champion Bumper winner, Ferny Hollow over the minimum trip. That rival has plenty of pace and if he hadn’t suffered an injury, he may well have been Willie’s main hope in the Supreme.

It was not surprising to see Bob Olinger get back to winning ways immediately after that run before taking the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas in fine style. While his three runs this term have all come on heavy ground, good ground shouldn’t pose an issue, with Henry De Bromhead noting that “he’s a good-moving horse and I think he’d handle better ground”.

This race looks set to be an exciting clash between the three that dominate the market. Of Bob’s rivals, Bravemansgame looks a top-class prospect but Paul Nicholls has yet to win the Ballymore while Challow winners are 0/17 in the Ballymore, although six of the last nine have placed; Denman finished second when attempting to do the double and a similar fate may await Bravemansgame. Gaillard Du Mesnil represents Willie Mullins, the winning most trainer of this race but to my mind he beat a group of stayers for speed at the Dublin Racing Festival and the Ballymore will be a different test entirely.

All in all, Bob Olinger has star potential while he also has a very good profile for this race; six-year-olds have won nine of the last ten renewals while horses that won an Irish point-to-point, a bumper and a Grade 1 novice hurdle have a phenomenal record in the Ballymore.

Stattler (5/1, Albert Bartlett, Hurdle, Friday, March 19

This year’s crop of staying novice hurdles don’t appear to be a great bunch and I doubt that we’ll be revelling in the standout form of this race as we have done with last years renewal.

With that in mind, I think Stattler still a solid proposition at 5/1.

A bumper winner last term despite being described as a “big staying type for the future”. He ran creditably on his debut over hurdles behind two hardy, experienced types before beating a dark horse for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, Glens of Antrim, on his next run in the manner of a horse that would appreciate stepping up in trip.

He duly did at the Dublin Racing Festival, contesting the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy over 2m6f, where his stablemate Gaillard Du Mesnil ran out a good winner, with Stattler finishing third having forced a strong pace throughout. Many took Fakiera out of that race as the one to follow with a view to the Albert Bartlett but I question whether he has the tactical pace to be competitive at Cheltenham; while dour, experienced stayers have done well in the Albert Bartlett, recent renewals have gone to relatively lightly raced types so perhaps we’re seeing a shift in what is required.

This race had eluded Willie Mullins for a long time but the tide has changed in recent years. He has won two of the last four renewals while a further two have placed in that timeframe. It would be surprising if Stattler was far away given that this looks a weak renewal.