Antepost betting – some love it, some hate it. I love it, especially when it comes to Cheltenham.

I’ve gone into the last three Festivals armed with double-figure portfolios, laid out and colour-coded on a Google Spreadsheet – and without sounding too smug, I’ve enjoyed plenty of success with them too.

This year is no different. In fact, this is probably my biggest one yet.

Below are four horses, all at odds of 10/1 or greater at time of writing, that I have backed for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.

 

Ferny Hollow – Arkle (10/1)

Willie Mullins has an unbelievable crop of novice chasers to go to war with this season – and you could argue that none are more exciting than Ferny Hollow, currently a 10/1 shot for the Arkle.

Ferny Hollow looked like being Willie’s Supreme horse last season after beating Bob Olinger – who of course went on to win the Ballymore at the Festival with supreme ease – by a length on his hurdling debut at Gowran Park in November last year, but he unfortunately suffered a setback not long after and was ruled out for the season. He’s back now, and reportedly in rude health, which is great to hear.

The 2020 Champion Bumper winner (beating Appreciate It, the mere 22L winner of the Supreme back in March) clearly possesses immense talent, and on the basis of his 15L point-to-point win in February 2019 he should take to fences just fine.

I think 10/1 will instantly become more like 8/1 if/when it’s confirmed he’ll be going over the bigger obstacles – and likely 5/1 or shorter if he goes and wins on chase debut.

If you look at the current betting for the Arkle, you’ve got Appreciate It (may go for the Marsh if Mullins sends Ferny for the Arkle), Quilixios (staying over hurdles), Bob Olinger (most likely Marsh-bound), Monmiral (staying over hurdles), My Drogo (most likely Marsh-bound too), Dusart (staying over hurdles) and then Aspire Tower (in my opinion, not good enough), James Du Berlais (another Mullins horse likely to go over further) and Red Rookie (whose form is way off Graded level).

Anything can happen in the world of antepost betting, as we well know, but in my view there’s every chance we could see Ferny Hollow lining up as a strong favourite for the Arkle in just under five months time.

 

Stattler – National Hunt Chase (14/1)

Stattler to win the National Hunt Chase was actually the very first bet I put on for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, right after his staying-on fourth in the Albert Bartlett back in March – and I was even more convinced after he put up a similar effort in the three-mile novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

He’s a big, strong stayer who looks made for chasing, and he’s not a quick horse by any stretch of the imagination – so I think when Willie Mullins sits down to sort out his novice chasers, he will recognise that Stattler is unlikely to be winning a Brown Advisory (former RSA) over the likes of stablemate Galopin Des Champs, the current 6/1 favourite for that race at Betfred, but also feel like he has enough class and staying potential to win a National Hunt Chase.

Also, I believe it’s significant that he is owned by Ronnie Bartlett, who has won the race twice in the last four years with Rathvinden, also trained by Willie Mullins, in 2018, and this year with Galvin.

The National Hunt Chase is usually a tough race to call on the day, let alone five months in advance, but with Stattler you’ve got a horse that looks likely to target it and has placed in two G1s. I think 14/1 is a great price.

 

Gypsy Island – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (20/1)

If – and it’s a big if – Gypsy Island can stay fit, I think she’s a massive price at 20/1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Peter Fahey’s mare was seriously impressive in a handful of bumpers back in 2019, and since then has always featured prominently in the betting for this race. Unfortunately, injury problems kept her off the track for 736 days and in turn many fingers have been burned from backing her at the Festival for the last couple of years.

However, she made her return to the racecourse earlier this year and so far we’ve not heard anything to suggest there are any more complications, so fingers crossed all is well with her.

At first, I was disappointed with her comeback run in a maiden hurdle at Tipperary back in May. She went off 1/5f, which probably influenced my thinking, and was made to work for the win by what looked at the time a pretty mediocre mare from the Henry De Bromhead yard.

But that mare, Annie G, went on to win her next race by a whopping 23L, a Listed contest by 8L, and last time out was 4th, albeit beaten by over eight lengths, in a Grade 3.

So that form is suddenly looking a lot better, especially as they had the rest of the field some way behind. In fact, when you consider the lay-off of just over two years, plus the injuries, that is starting to look like rather good form.

As I said in the first paragraph, fitness is the key with her. She’s still a novice and has only lost once in her career so far – to none other than Arkle and Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On, back in November 2018.

If she stays fit and she’s retained all or most of her ability, she surely has a brilliant chance of making up for lost time come March.

 

Ginto – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (40/1)

I think Gordon Elliott’s Ginto is a bit of a forgotten horse going into the new season.

There was a lot of hype surrounding him after he was bought at the sales by powerful owners Noel & Valerie Moran for a whopping €470,000, but that all seemed to disappear the minute he lost his very first race – a bumper over two miles at Fairyhouse at the start of the year.

An overreaction, in my opinion, given it was not only his first run under rules but over an inadequate trip and against a promising horse of Willie Mullins’. He followed that second up with a win by eight lengths a month later at Navan, again in a bumper over 2m.

He showed his staying qualities that day, staying on strongly in desperate ground. Everything about that performance screamed ‘future staying chaser’, which he was absolutely bought to be. In fact, Elliott has already singled him out in his stable tour with At The Races ahead of the new season, calling him a “big, staying horse for winter ground.”

Elliott also said he plans to “start him off” over two-and-a-half miles this season, which leads me to believe that will become three miles sooner rather than later.

It’s a speculative pick, as they all are at this stage of the season, but 40/1 seems big for such an expensive purchase who is so highly-regarded at home.

 

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