THE ROAD TO CHELTENHAM - FIRST TAKE

First of all I understand that ante post betting isn't everyone's cup of tea. Many things can go wrong with a horse before Cheltenham but touch wood I can pinpoint a few in this fortnightly article from now until the four day showcase in March. Despite the obvious current risks some time after Christmas some Bookmakers will offer Non-Runner No Bet for Cheltenham.

Although there are pitfalls I like ante post betting purely because I like to beat not just the bookmaker but also the price. Over the last couple of seasons I've managed to have great success, more noticeably backing Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper at 33/1.

So without further ado the first of my fortnightly look at all things ante post for Cheltenham I pinpoint a couple that look great current value and I hope to see claim success in March. So let's see how many we get come The Festival.

Stayers Hurdle

Paisley Park 7/1 - Bet 365 (At time of writing - via oddschecker)

Yes, this may seem a pretty boring and obvious selection to pick a favourite for a Cheltenham race come March however one bad run doesn't make a bad horse. 

It's been well documented that Paisley Park after the race came out with heart irregularity problems. Horses like Sprinter Sacre and Denman have had heart problems and have gone on to win big races after having said issues. Now I'm not comparing Paisley Park to those two fine horses however only 6% of horses who have these symptoms see them re-occur. The positive is that Paisley Park is likely to come back in fine health.

As for the race itself last season the run Paisely Park produced almost looked too bad to be true and it turns out it did. As for the winner Lisnagar Oscar you couldn't of backed that horse based on what it produced this past season gone by. I'd be amazed if Lisnagar Oscar wins the renewal or even finishes in the places this time round. On paper it was a poor Stayers Hurdle with lots of the runners, especially the more fancied entrants, on the day pulled up or finished out the back; Apples Jade, Penhill and City Island all ran really poorly

If Paisley Park makes his comeback this month and shows the Paisley Park of old that price of 7/1 will be non-existant. To me his current price seems very very generous for a horse who's been so dominant in the past. If you look at his form he's won on all ranges of ground so whatever the ground comes up at Cheltenham I wouldn't be too worried or concerned. He's also likely to line up in the Cheltenham Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham Trial Week which should also give us a good indication of how well the horse and its rivals are performing.

As for the contenders this season. If you look at the market Benie Des Dieux is the current 2nd Fav and there is no guarantee she would run in The Stayers (Potential talk of her heading for the new Mares Chase that's been added to the festival calendar) Thyme Hill ran with credit in the Albert Bartlett but I'm not sure this is the route connections want to take.

Lots of those that are priced up in The Stayers Hurdle currently are unlikely to go The Stayers route. The positive with Paisley Park is that we're certain where he's going to be aimed at and this will almost certainly be the target. As a horse who goes well round Cheltenham, is versatile ground wise and as long as he has a good preparation during the season he will remain a worthy favourite. Come the day he is highly unlikely to be even half the price he currently is. 

If you wanted to look for an outside alternative for the race, who I think is a massive price, is a former champion of the Stayers Hurdle. The big worry however is that the Thistlecrack comes with plenty of "ifs" in terms of his current health, his age and his seasonal target. He made a foray into the world of chasing with mixed success but raced only once last term when just a length behind Paisley Park at Newbury. The veteran owes nothing to connections and has been a great servant to his yard. If the team want one last hurrah I expect them to continue with a season over hurdles. It's a case of taking him race by race and handling him with kid gloves but at 50/1 he's certainly worth noting and if you have a bit of change spare may be worth a small ante post, each way punt in a hope he lines up. Stayers Hurdle: PAISLEY PARK (7/1) THISTLECRACK (50/1)

Make sure you check back in two weeks time with some more ante post punts. written by Luke Tucker