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Narrow the Field: The Lucky 15 that returns £2,924 on Cheltenham’s four Championship races

If you don't have a dream - how you going to make a dream come true?

by Sean Goff | March 5, 2015

The greatest show on earth is just over the horizon. Is Faugheen all that? Will Sprinter Sacre bounce back to his best? Is the World Hurdle just a race for failed chasers and can Silviniaco Conti finally get up Cleeve Hill in front?

Cheltenham NRNB 1430

We’ll all be a lot wiser – and hopefully richer – in a week’s time but for now our Venn Diagrams try to put a shape on the four Championship races over the four days.

Inside the sweet spot is all good – outside is mostly good but just needs to get it together. We’re thinking David Walliams as a reference point.

TUESDAY: THE CHAMPION HURDLE 

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Oi Oi. The feature race on day one is the Champion Hurdle and with Ruby Walsh still having to choose between Faugheen and Hurricane Fly – in public at least – he might want to have a look at our graphic.

It all looks so predicable until you spot England’s great hope and second favourite The New One outside the sweet spot as he’s yet to win a Grade One race over two miles.

His supporters will argue that a Kanye West-style interruption at the third hurdle last year cost him the race as he powered up Cleeve Hill to snatch third behind Jezki and My Tent or Yours.

But is the 2015 Champion Hurdle the place to get that elusive first Grade One win over 2m?

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Ante-post fav and last year’s Neptune winner Faugheen remains unbeaten over hurdles and has looked imperious all winter. But only one winner since 1993 (Rock on Ruby, 2012) has won a Champion Hurdle without a run in the same calendar year. He’s priced on potential.

Reigning champ Jezki looks to become the 15th dual winner of the race and Jessica Harrington’s reigning champ is definitely better when the Factor 15 is out.

But he’s been put in his place three times this season already by the 11-year-old warrior of warriors Hurricane Fly and only two horses have won aged 10+ in the race’s history.

Will Ruby pick the right one? Will you?

Selection: Faugheen @ 5/4

WEDNESDAY: THE CHAMPION CHASE

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A good race for the more fancied runners with only one of the last 33 winners starting at bigger than 11/1.

It’s a battle of the sick beds according to the sweet spot with the last two champions taking pride of place.

The debate surrounding Sprinter Sacre’s well-being should get settled for good after the race and no media-friendly updates from Seven Barrows will disguise what we see with our own eyes. It’s up to you whether you’re a layer or a player at 5/2.

Last year’s winner Sire De Grugy bounced back to form at Chepstow but 11 of the last 12 defending champions have been turned over in the speedsters’ contest.

Champagne on ice?

With 10 of the last 14 Champion Chase winners running in – but not necessarily winning – the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Dodging Bullets can’t be discounted and he out-punched Sprinter Sacre at Ascot last month.

Mr Mole took advantage of Sire De Grugy’s fall at Newbury while Balder Succes has navigated the Cheltenham fences (three falls) about as well as Madonna did the stage at the Brit awards.

Special Tiara ended a losing run longer than Aston Villa’s when winning at Kempton in December and was sixth here last year while the re-routed and two-time course winner Champagne Fever pitches up here after a tilt at the Gold Cup failed to materialise.

Selection: Dodging Bullets @ 11/2

THURSDAY: THE WORLD HURDLE

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Cheltenham-2015-World-Hurdle-&-runners

The 3m contest has been turned on its head with the defection of the first three home last year so the stage is set for a new champion.

Only six horses have won this in the past 11 seasons and Whisper offers a bit of value and comes here relatively below the radar.

A short-head winner from Get Me Out of Here in the Coral Cup he stepped up on that to land the Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree – despite getting more worked up than UKIP in the parade ring.

Jungle drums

Since Zarkandar’s 2011 Triumph Hurdle win he seems to keep finding one too good and stablemate Saphir Du Rheu (Sam Twiston-Davies rides) diverts here on the back of an aborted chasing career and chinned veteran Reve De Sivola in the Group 2 Cleeve Hurdle in January.

The Irish haven’t a great record in this race and there was only a length between Irish challengers Lieutenant Colonel and Jetson at Christmas. The latter’s Punchestown Grade One win last year confirming his liking for the better spring ground.

But the jungle drums for former Champion Hurdler and multiple Cheltenham winner Rock on Ruby have been getting louder and he has a similar profile to 2013 winner Solwhit.

Selection: Whisper @ 10/1

FRIDAY: CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP 

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The Blue Riband. Will Friday the 13th be unlucky for Silviniaco Conti again?

Last year’s contest raised more questions than it answered. Just who was the guy on the grassy-knoll that caused former champ Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti to swerve across the track and let three outsiders Lord Windermere, On His Own and The Giant Bolster to fill the first three places.

Conti returns again still looking for his first win in the Gold Cup at his third attempt and first win on the course in four efforts.

Flat-track bully?

A Flat-track bully or can the cheek-pieces and treatment for ulcers finally get him to the top of Cleeve Hill without the aid of an oxygen mask?

Unsurprisingly, previous winners Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth nail the sweet spot having won over the Gold Cup’s uncompromising 3m 2f trip but both have been deserted in the ante-post market at 10/1 and 14/1 respectively.

The sexy, new, brigade is headed by Hennessy winner Many Clouds and Thyestes victor Djakadam. Both are improving while the Irish challenge is given more depth by Lexus Chase and Irish Hennessy winners Road to Riches and Carlingford Lough.

Course specialist Holywell has won at the last two Festivals and even though he’s been deserted by AP McCoy – he’s holding his own in the market at 8/1 second favourite.

Those with long memories will remember his demolition of a Grade One field at Aintree last year over 3m 1f. And he wasn’t stopping.

Selection: Holywell @ 8/1

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