My most memorable punting success was on Boxing Day a number of years ago. I was round at my Uncle’s house watching the racing from Sandown, and Kicking King was the fourth horse on my 50p Yankee. He won the King George VI Chase by a neck to click my accumulator. It was the first accumulator I’d ever had up and I was running around the house shouting. I couldn’t believe it. I think the bet returned close to £1,000 and I was absolutely buzzing. I was working for my Dad back then and had got two weeks off for Christmas and New Year so the winnings came in handy!
I’ve got a fancy in each one of the Championship races at the Cheltenham Festival in an attempt to click another tasty prize.
Champion Hurdle: Faugheen 11/10
I’m going to get some amount of stick if Faugheen doesn’t win this race! Critics will say that he hasn’t beaten anything, but you can’t only beat what’s put in front of you, and the way he’s done it has been incredible to watch. I’m 100 per cent in the Faugheen camp.
Jezki is a former winner and he powers up the hill so he’ll be there in the mix, but Hurricane Fly going into the race as Willie Mullins’ second string shows you how strong Faugheen is. The Fly has won 22 Grade One races – two Champion Hurdles – and he’s going in as second string?! It’s ridiculous. I’d love to have a sit down honest conversation with Ruby Walsh and ask him how hard that decision to pick Faugheen must have been. You don’t turn down a horse like Hurricane Fly lightly.
That just shows that Faugheen must be something seriously special.
Champion Chase: Sprinter Sacre 5/2
I’d really like to see Sprinter Sacre win. As a racing fan I want to see him come back and win a Championship race like Hurricane Fly did in the Champion Hurdle two years ago. But are we going to see the same Sprinter Sacre we all loved a few years ago when he won by 19 lengths? That’s the question. Everyone has this expectation, because two years ago he couldn’t be touched. Nothing could get near him. The issue is whether he can overcome his injuries and reproduce that level of form on Wednesday. We’ll soon find out, but I really hope he can.
World Hurdle: Cole Harden 20/1
Against the odds I’m a big fan of Cole Harden at a decent each-way price. This fella had a wind operation after his last run and apparently he’s working well at home. One of the key things at Cheltenham is staying up the hill. I didn’t realise until I went to the course last year just how steep that hill is. I went down to the two furlong pole and looked up it, and it is a serious course to tackle. Cole Harden stayed on powerfully up the hill when third to Rock On Ruby at the course on New Year’s Day and he showed he can handle that test at a decent price.
Gold Cup: Silviniaco Conti 10/3
I cannot get over how well Silviniaco Conti won at Kempton on Boxing Day. He was spectacular winning the King George VI, although the concern is that Kempton is considerably flatter than Cheltenham. Noel Fehily led from the front on that occasion and he was almost faultless when it came to the jumps, so no-one could get near him. If he reproduces that he’ll take all the beating.
Keep your eyes peeled on the Paddy Power Blog for more exclusive columns from Charlie Austin over the next few days.
- Charlie Austin Exclusive: I can only imagine how it would feel to score for England
- Charlie Austin Exclusive: Nothing will get near Faugheen at the Cheltenham Festival
- Ruby Walsh: Faugheen still has a lot of progress in him and I want him to show that in the Champion Hurdle
- Course For Concern? The Paddy Power Blog can exclusively reveal how important previous course form is around Cheltenham