Cheltenham Ante-Post Bankers: Should You Back Them?
March 12, 2019
With racing finally back up and running in the UK after an equine flu outbreak and spring now in the air, we can start to look forward to the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Many firms are already non-runner no-bet for at least the Championship races at the big meeting, which means you can place your ante-post bet knowing that if your selection doesn’t run in that race, you’ll get your money back.
The ante-post markets have been on the go for some time, but its just about now, that we can really see them taking shape with many having what the punters believe are clear favourites.
It doesn’t always turn out that way at the Festival though, which is why we’re talking you through some of the ‘biggest bankers’ as things stand.
Buveur D’Air – Champion Hurdle @ 7/4 with Sport Nation
Nobody has landed a hat-trick of Champion Hurdle victories since the great Istabraq, but that is the challenge that awaits Buveur D’Air this month. A horse who coincidentally carries the same green and gold silks of JP McManus.
He faces strong competition from the mares in Apple’s Jade and Laurina, who will have a weight allowance in their favour, but even that might not be enough. I’m yet to see anything quicken up in the same style as Buveur D’Air and considering he’s been here twice and bought the t-shirt both times, he looks like a good bet at the prices.
On official ratings, he is significantly superior to the rest of the field and it might just prove to be that way in a few weeks’ time.
Verdict: A good bet.
Altior – Champion Chase @ 4/9 with Betfair
Altior has quite simply got everybody running scared of him in the two-mile division this season, meaning this is his to lose. A win over Un De Sceaux at Sandown, on conditions he didn’t like, has proved his credentials this campaign, and he hasn’t stopped winning since.
He’s quickly become a superstar of the sport and is arguably the best National Hunt horse in training.
Min will pose a threat if he does turn up, but he had a great chance as they jumped the last together in 2018, yet Altior still powered away up the Cheltenham hill. It appears only Altior can stop himself from winning, but at the prices, it’s hard to say he’s a brilliant bet.
Verdict: No bet. Sit and watch a master at work.
Paisley Park – Stayers Hurdle @ 9/4 with Ladbrokes
You can have no mark against Paisley Park this season. He’s won pretty much everything that this division has to offer in the UK, and nobody can be better than him with the form book in mind.
His four wins so far this campaign have included a Grade 3 at Haydock, the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and then the Cleeve at Cheltenham. The way he quickened up to basically put the race to bed at Cheltenham last time means he’s a deserving favourite and a big player.
Of course, there are dangers, particularly from Ireland, in the likes of Penhill, Samcro, Supasundae and Faugheen, but you can have marks against all four of those.
I prefer to go off what I have seen so far this season, and that leads me to Paisley Park.
Verdict: Worth backing, a solid candidate in this division.
Sir Erec – Triumph Hurdle @ 6/4 with Boyle Sports
Two of the last three Triumph Hurdle winners have been owned by JP McManus and he can add to his ever-growing Cheltenham collection with another Triumph winner in the shape of Sir Erec.
Trained by Joseph O’Brien, who also had a part to play with 2016 Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov, Sir Erec is certainly in the right hands to win a race like this. He’s proved he’s got the class out on the racecourse as well, with his latest outing being a breath-taking six-length victory at Leopardstown.
As a former flat horse at Ballydoyle, where he finished 3rd behind Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot, the only question was to whether he could jump. He’s showed he can certainly do that, so matched with his ability, Sir Erec is my banker of the meeting.
Verdict: A banker with value. He could prove to be the best bet of Cheltenham 2019.
Presenting Percy – Gold Cup @ 11/4 with Betfred
Presenting Percy has been aimed at this since winning the RSA Chase last season, but he could be found wanting. I thought his seasonal debut was only workmanlike and didn’t really do enough for me to be back him at his current price. Native River has run right up to form all season with strong efforts in the Betfair Chase and the King George Chase at Kempton and I’d say he was better value, if you do want to back a favourite.
He would prefer softer ground though, which has led me to have a thing for Thistlecrack. Smashing into a few fences at Haydock in November seems to have sharpened him up jumping wise and I thought he wasn’t far from his best last time in the King George. If he can show some similar improvement again, then he should be an each-way player at least, especially with three wins from five visits to Cheltenham.
Verdict: The favourites look too short, so back Thistlecrack at a nice each-way price.
Find all your Cheltenham Festival betting odds here
As a qualified sports journalist, Luke has worked with nationally-recognised outlets covering events from the World Cup to the Grand National. Luke is one of the few men who has to admit that their father was the better footballer, but at least he can take comfort from the fact he got to see his Dad score at Wembley. When Luke isn’t talking football, you’ll normally find him following his other passion, horse racing and has his own horses in training with Paul Nicholls and Mark Johnston.