What a week for members of VG Tips!
The Cheltenham Festival of 2018 saw me provide them with 10 winners along with 8 profitable each way tips that returned profit via horses that were placed in the frame.
It was a fantastic week of racing and a very profitable 4 days of punting for those subscribed to my VG Tips selection service.
It all began on Tuesday when I picked the first two home, both tipped each way, in the very first race of the meeting. It was Tuesday and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle saw my 10/1 each way tip, SUMMERVILLE BOY, just beat my February 28th ante-post 11/2 each way tip, Kalashnikov.
COO STAR SIVOLA was another ante-post tip sent by me to members on March 9th. Odds of 9/1 were available at that stage. Two days before racing I reaffirmed Coo Star Sivola as a selection when 6/1 was the price on offer.
Here is a sample of what I told members via my lengthy, detailed analysis – something many of them remarked upon in their praise sent to me after the festival.
“Coo Star Sivola won well for us last time out. That was a much easier race than this one is likely to be but what I like about Coo Star Sivola is his experience of racing at Cheltenham. 8 of his 14 outings have been at Prestbury Park. His form figures – over hurdles and latterly over fences read – 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 6, 4 (those were over hurdles) and 3, 2, 4 (over fences). Only the last one came in a race of this Grade (3) but he looks set to race from 7 pounds ahead of the handicapper on Tuesday. Jockey Lizzie Kelly, stepdaughter of the trainer Nick Williams, takes off a further 3 pounds in the saddle and gets on well with the gelding.”
I confess to having particularly enjoyed watching Lizzie win on Coo Star Sivola and to see her sheer joy at riding a winner at the festival. She rides well, speaks well and talks plenty of common sense as to what is right and wrong about racing in the UK today.
The next winner on day one was the most predictable of the hat trick on Tuesday. BUVEUR D’AIR was available at 8/15 a week before racing and 4/7 a couple of days before the Champion Hurdle took place at Prestbury Park. Melon gave Buveur D’Air a run for his money but the Nicky Henderson trained champion pulled out more to win by a neck. He’ll likely be back to try and win the race for a third consecutive year in 2019, but I fancy he’ll face stiffer opposition next year.
Barney Dwan returned each way placed money for members when fourth in the last race of the day on Tuesday. A 9/1 ante-post tip, he came past the post at SP odds of 15/2.
3 winners and 2 each way placed punts going into day 2 of the festival was a very good position in which to be. As I tell members every year before the Cheltenham Festival begins, if you come out of the four days with 5 winners and some each way placed profit, you can pat yourself on the back and consider yourself to have had a good festival.
Wednesday began with SAMCRO defying the doubters and winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in fine style.
I was never one of those who suggested Samcro was not good enough to land such a race. Some said he would be defeated first time out at Cheltenham and that Samcro hadn’t beaten much in the past. Having watched Samcro win previously, I was in no doubt that he’d win this race and made him my ante-post NAP on February 28th when priced at Evens. Black Op was my definitive each way tip the night before racing at odds of 10/1.
For the second day running, I picked the first two home in the first race of the day. A win-win situation for members of VG Tips.
That is because I have always tried to cater for a variety of punters who join VG Tips. Those who only like to bet to win, regardless of how short the price may be. And those who, like me, have eyes peeled for a big price about a horse that could win, but which is highly likely to be placed in the frame and return profit via an each way bet.
One of my favourite shorter price winners came in the second race on Tuesday, the RSA Chase. Early in February knowledgeable Irish punters were backing PRESENTING PERCY to win at Cheltenham and backing him as though defeat was out of the question. Presenting Percy underwent what some called an “unconventional” preparation for the meeting. Patrick Kelly, a man who trains only a few horses at his Galway stables, had no such concerns. He knew what he was doing.
Here is what I wrote for members two days prior to racing:- “Presenting Percy has been in my notebook for some time and I know the Irish punters have been backing him for this race, non stop, for many weeks. He has the best time figure by a staying novice chaser thanks to his win at Fairyhouse in December. There was no shame in losing by only a length last month to Grade 1 winner Our Duke. Presenting Percy likes plenty of cut underfoot. He has won four times when racing on ground officially classed as heavy. By the time they race on Wednesday, it may have dried out a little and be classed as soft, heavy in places. But Presenting Percy will be fine with that.”
26 went to post for the ever competitive Coral Cup when luck in running comes into the equation. And how unlucky were we? My 14/1 each way tip, Topofthegame, was beaten by just a neck. The Paul Nicholls trained selection lost the lead in the final 100 yards of the race. My secondary each way tip was Barra at odds of 33/1. I was very impressed by the improvement shown by Barra which finished third at half that price, a length and a quarter behind my runner up. I will be writing another post about the horses that raced at Cheltenham which go into my notebook for the future. Barra is one of those.
One of the most impressive winners at the festival had to be ALTIOR. Odds of 11/10 were available the night before the Queen Mother Champion Chase. That price, and the Evens available at the off, were value. Jockey Nico de Boinville said he thought he was in trouble all the way around. And yet, like a light switch being flicked on, Altior suddenly sprang to life late on and saw off all challengers, winning by 7 lengths. Altior could well be back to defend his crown in 2019.
3 winners from 4 selections on day 2 and a 14/1 each way tip beaten a neck. VG Tips members went into day three with six winners.
I warned members that day 3, Thursday, might be trickier. That the bookies were due a day of revenge against the punters who exacted such pain on them during the first two days of the meeting. I was wrong. The bookies day actually arrived on Friday. Thursday actually saw VG Tips members savour three more winners.
My first selection on Thursday was in the second race of the day, a Grade 3 handicap hurdle. DELTA WORK was available at 10/1 when I made the Gordon Elliott trained gelding an each way tip for members. This turned out to be one of several winners during the week for Elliott and owner Michael O’Leary. For all we’d lost a race by a neck the day before, we won this race by the margin of a nose. I thought we’d lost based on the evidence of the photo finish. But we won once again. Just.
Tipped up at odds of 14/1, PENHILL was my biggest priced winner of the week.
He won the Stayers’ Hurdle at SP odds of 12/1. As evidenced below, VG Tips member Thomas enjoyed a nice return at the track.
Some tipsters expressed concern that Penhill had not raced for 323 days. But, as I told members via my detailed analysis, Penhill had won after absences of 210 and 179 days in the past. Nonetheless, Willie Mullins training the gelding to win after such a lengthy absence was widely considered to be the training achievement of the 2018 festival.
My second each way selection at odds of 40/1, Colin’s Sister, also justified my confidence, running on to take fourth place and ensuring some decent placed profit in the same race. Colin’s Sister remains where he has been for a while. In my notebook.
I was shouting the word LAURINA at members months ago. Ever since the mare won a race at Fairyhouse by 11 lengths at the end of January. She was my NAP to members on February 9th when one bookie had her available at 2/1 and others had her priced at Evens.
Come the day, she won Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by a whopping 18 lengths. It was a stroll in the park for the Willie Mullins hotpot and, as a punter, you knew you’d won a very long way from home. Mullins can now take 11 months to decide which higher profile race she wins at the festival in 2019. As long as she doesn’t suffer injury in the meantime, Laurina is sure to go on to better things.
So three days of the Cheltenham Festival down and 9 winners in the book. Frankly, I could have taken Friday off and been very happy with the returns.
The big race on Friday was the Cheltenham Gold Cup and here is what I wrote to members on February 28th, sixteen days before the race and before the UK weather took a turn for the worse.
“MIGHT BITE remains the market leader for the big one, the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the meeting, March 16th. At 4/1 currently, he’s a good price with Paddy Power and Betfair (Non Runner No Bet). I’m taking that price. I hope the going is not heavy on the day, in which case others in this race will prefer the going. But that’s a chance I am prepared to take, for all this is shaping up to be an open Gold Cup that could be won by something at a big price.
“The field will shrink notably from the 27 currently entered. 13 went to post last year and the third place finisher 12 months ago is being well backed for this year. That is the horse I successfully tipped to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 2016, NATIVE RIVER. I would not put anyone off taking the current price about Native River, each way (NRNB). I would be surprised if he isn’t in the first three again this year and, at 6/1 currently, looks a safe each way bet.”
Come the day before the race I also suggested an each way bet on Road to Respect at odds of 14/1. On ground that was less than ideal for him, Road to Respect raced well to finish fourth and return each way placed money via the bookies that were returning such bets about the first four. Road to Respect will be winning races again before long.
Earlier on Friday those who took my advice to back Spiritofthegames, each way at odds of 20/1, got some placed returns when he finished fifth in the County Handicap Hurdle. A few bookies were paying out on the first 5 or 6, the best offer of which was Bet 365 returning on the first 5 at a quarter of the odds
In total, across the four days of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, I offered members of VG Tips selections in 19 races. We had 10 winners, 9 each way placed profitable punts and one more that simply returned the stake money.
SUMMERVILLE BOY 10/1 (tipped March 10)
COO STAR SIVOLA 9/1 (ante post) and at 6/1 three days before the race
BUVEUR D’AIR 8/15 (ante-post) and at 4/7 three days before racing
SAMCRO 4/5 (ante-post) and at 8/1 two days before racing
PRESENTING PERCY 5/2
ALTIOR 11/10 the night before racing
DELTA WORK 10/1
LAURINA 2/1 (ante-post) and 4/6 the day before racing
NATIVE RIVER 6/1 (ante-post, each way Feb 28th)
KALASHNIKOV 11/2 (ante-post)
BARNEY DWAN 9/1 (ante-post) and 8/1 three days before racing
BLACK OP 10/1 the night before racing
SANTINI 5/1 (stake returned)
COLIN’S SISTER 40/1
ROAD TO RESPECT 14/1