It’s that time of the year where there’re not much to write about until the action over the jumps between Christmas and New Year takes centre stage so I thought I’d take the opportunity to look ahead to the Cheltenham Festival and make my selections for my annual “antepost Yankee” as a Christmas present to myself.
Big Bucks and Quevega both look like “banker material” at this stage, proven Festival champions, each having won their respective races for three years running and are the favourites this season to make it four each. Big Bucks of course is unstoppable in Staying Hurdles having won his last 14 starts at Grade One level. Quevega meanwhile looks equally as unbeatable in the David Nicholson’s Mares Hurdle over 2½ miles. The two are therefore form the cornerstone of the Yankee and better still, they are both priced extremely fairly, with Big Bucks 4/7 odds on to win the World Hurdle and Quevega 6/4 to take her race. Whislt both short in real terms, come Festival week, they’ll seem huge!
The trick is now to find two others selections who should be finding the winners enclosure at the Festival, not an easy thing to do but not impossible either. Some obvious candidates would include the likes of last season’s Gold Cup winner, Long Run, or indeed the 2011 Champion Hurdler, Hurricane Fly. Sizing Europe would be the pick of many to repeat his success of last season by winning a second successive Queen Mother Champion Chase. Certainly on his last outing when he won the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown at the beginning of this month, then he looks like he will be the one they all have to beat at Cheltenham.
However, the first of the two elected is the Donald McCain trained Peddlers Cross, who is in his novice chasing season and is the current 4/1 favourite to win the Arkle Trophy Challenge at the Festival.
Peddlers Cross of course finished second behind Hurricane Fly in last season’s Champion Hurdle and is so far unbeaten this season over the bigger obstacles having been out twice in fairly low key races at Bangor on Dee. The very obvious aspect to look at however is that the seven year old has taken to fences extremely well and although he is yet to be tested, he looks every bit a champion chaser in the making.
The other that will make up the Yankee is the David Pipe good thing, Grands Crus, who, like Peddlers Cross, has taken to the bigger obstacles in great style. Second behind Big Bucks in last season’s World Hurdle, Grands Crus has won both of his chasing starts this season including a cosy success last time in the Grade Two GPG Chase at Newbury over three miles a month ago.
As a result of these fine victories he has been installed as the 5/1 antepost favourite for the RSA Chase over 2m5f. This of course is a race designed to produce a future Gold Cup winner like Denman who won the RSA in 2006 a year before winning the Gold Cup a year later. Grands Crus is clearly on a similar route which is why the grey, even at this stage of his career has been made the 16/1 favourite for the 2013 Gold Cup by Boylesports!
The prices quoted are all best prices for the singles, the best prices at one bookmaker to allow for the bet to be placed are at Boylesport where a £5 Yankee (total stake £55) would return £1,150 if they all won based on the following odds.
Big Bucks @ 1/2 – World Hurdle
Quevega @ 5/4 – Mares Hurdle
Peddlers Cross @ 3/1 – Arkle Trophy Chase
Grands Crus @ 5/1 – RSA Chase.