JCB Triumph Hurdle
There can be no question that this is a different race now than before the introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in 2005 so it is a case of concentrating on the stronger patterns since that handicap’s inception. Since the Fred Winter became part of the Festival, eight of the ten Triumph winners could be found in the first four in the betting but only Detroit City has justified favouritism in the last 13 years. That is a stat that Peace And Co backers will be hoping he can overcome and it looks like the next three positions in the market will be filled by Hargam, Beltor and Petite Parisienne. The last-named pair won the two best guides and the Robert Stephens-trained Beltor will be attempting to become sixth winner in the last 16 runnings of the Adonis to double up here and Willie Mullins’ Petite Parisienne, who beat Kalkir, will be bidding to give the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown a fourth successive Triumph Hurdle success. Following 12 barren years, the Irish are now chasing a hat-trick following the successes of Our Conor and Tiger Roll. Five of the last six Irish-trained winners ran in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. Three of the first five in the betting down to the unbeaten-in-five Top Notch are trained by Nicky Henderson gunning for his sixth win in the race.
As for Hargam, he is the highest rated contender from the Flat who have a good record but not quite as good a record as the highest rated hurdler as three of the last eight winners were BHA top rated and that distinction falls to Peace And Co and not by a small margin either as he is officially 8lb clear of his rivals. However, that is cut to 6lb if we include Petite Parisienne’s 7lbs fillies’ allowance. On the subject of fillies, they won three times between 1993-2000 and Unaccompanied was second for them four years ago. Only the 67-Flat rated Spectroscope has won for horses rated lower than 80 on the Flat in Britain or Ireland since 1996. Beltor was rated 76 when we last saw him on the level.
Peace And Co won the Finesse Hurdle but that should have been a far better guide than his been the case as only one of its last 18 winners to run has been up to the task. That Finesse winner to also win the Triumph was the Alan King-trained Katchit and he also won that race on three other occasions who went on to place in the Triumph so his runner-up, Karezak, has place claims. That’s a very solid win and place record for King who also runs the Sandown winner Pain Au Chocolat and winners at the Esher track won four Triumphs in 11 years up to and including Detroit City. A Newbury victory has been more significant of late with three winners since 2006 breaking their duck over hurdles at the Berkshire course since 2006. Winners of Newbury juvenile hurdles in season’s race are Old Guard and Top Notch.
Not all winners have run on the Flat but if you fancy an ex-Flat horse, then make sure it has the right stamina credentials. Prior to Our Conor’s demolition job two years ago, the previous 14 winners that had raced on the Flat had all run over at least 1m4f which Beltor did not. He might be more of an Aintree type and the forecast rain might also not be in his favour. horses as young as four have to stay extra well to win the Triumph given their relative immaturity and it is no coincidence that stock bred by the Aga Khan usually stay very well which is why his breeding operation has a good record in both juvenile hurdles at the Festival. In the last seven runnings of the Triumph, his dams have been responsible for two winners and two thirds and he has Karezak and Hargam representing him this time.
Being the top-rated Flat horse for a stable that has won five Triumphs, is an Aga Khan bred and will start in the first four of the betting, perhaps HARGAM will be the horse to give AP McCoy his final Cheltenham Festival winner? Having twice run well at Cheltenham is also another positive his supporters can take heart from. PETITE PARISIENNE is also strong on trends having won the best recent trial, representing a stable that won this race with a horse who also passed the past first in that same trial in Scolardy, being in the first four in the betting and having a 7lb fillies’ allowance like three winners since 1993 from not many fancied fillies to run. Alan King’s record means should respect both Karezak and Pain Au Chocolat but I have to take Peace And Co on given the poor recent record of favourites and the Finesse Hurdle’s winner’s record. His stable mate, TOP NOTCH, just keeps on winning and has Newbury winning form like recent winners and he is also a serious contender to give Nicky Henderson a sixth win.
Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle
The winning formula has been quite simple lately in that first or second-season hurdlers rated in the 130s have won ten of the last 11 runnings. Qualifiers this year are Lucky Bridle, Aso, Wicklow Brave, Baltimore Rock (didn’t get in last year even with a penalty for winning the Imperial Cup the previous weekend), Max Dynamite, Princely Conn, Waxie’s Dargle, Quick Jack, Ebony Express (whose penalty for the winning the Imperial Cup get him in the race and three horses have completed the double since 1985), Dormello Mo, Minella Present, Sort It Out and Forced Family Fun or, to put it another way, exactly the bottom half of the weights. The top 13 in the weights are therefore up against it. Not only were the first seven horses home last season first or second-season hurdlers, but nine of the last 11 winners were aged five or six, and one of those two winners aged older was officially a novice. Take particular note of five-year-olds who supplied the 1-2 last season thus extending their record to nine wins in the last 16 years from approximately 20% representation. Five-year-olds rated in the 130s are Aso, Max Dynamite, Dormello Mo and Forced Family Fun. Five-year-olds rated higher than ideal are last year’s Fred Winter winner and third Hawk High and Orgilo Bay, Willie Mullins’ Sempre Medici and Analifet, Jessica Harrington’s Modem (second in the Boylesports Hurdle which has been the best guide with five of the last seven Irish-trained winners running there and the trainer has won the race before who ran in that 2m handicap at Leopardstown), the Betfair Hurdle winner Violet Dancer plus Ballyglasheen and Commissioned.
The Irish have a phenomenal recent recored winning six of the last eight renewals. Not l;ast year but they still fared very well collectively though by supplying four of the next five horses past the post which followed them providing three of the first four home in 2012 and 2013. No surprise then they have attacked this race with a vengeance this year with as many as 12 runners. Rich Coast is rated higher than ideal but this looks to have been the plan for the last 159 days since he last ran for Noel Meade. Princely Conn will be McCoy’s last ride in the race and is trained by Thomas Mullins and the pair plus the owner, J P McManus, combined to win this race with Alderwood. Quick Jack and The Game Changer are two more big players. Quick Jack represents Tony Martin who won this race with Ted Veale and should also have won it with Psycho and he bolted up in the Galway Hurdle before finishing third in the Cesarewitch. The Game Changer has been well punted in the last two weeks for Gordon Elliott having switched yards from the retired Charlie Swan.
After writing in a Trends Summary that we should “Respect Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins” for another race a couple of years back, I received a little ribbing from one reader replying with something along the lines of “no shit Sherlock.” With 75 Cheltenham Festival winners before the start of Day 3 and 17 Trainers’ Championships between them, yes, I can kind of see his point. However, for the County Hurdle we should definitely respect Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins! Nicholls is chasing a fifth win in this race with Dormello Mo whereas Mullins saddles five in search of his third win (and had the second and fourth last year and second the year before) of which the novices Max Dynamite and Sempre Medici have most scope for improvement both in the Ricci silks.
I have time for Modem, Rich Coast and Sempre Medici of those in the top half of the handicap but as all but one of the last 11 winners was rated in the 130s and was a first or second season hurdler then the shortlist must comprise horses from the bottom half and all 13 fit into category. Given the record of Paul Nicholls and five-year-olds then DORMELLO MO has to be at or close to the top of a trend based shortlist and so does MAX DYNAMITE for the same reasons. Five winners of the Imperial Cup have finished in the first tow here since 1985 so EBONY EXPRESS is respected as is PRINCELY CONN for the same owner/trainer/jockey who won with Alderwood and QUICK JACK who has been primed by Tony Martin to give his yard a second win in three years.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Now in its eleventh running and negative trends are thin on the ground. All ten winners had run at least three times over hurdles which is against the long-time ante-post favourite Black Hercules as well as his stable mate, Avant Tout, and Out Sam who impressed at the Hennessy Meeting for Nicky Henderson before making harder work of it giving weight away at Ascot.
The Hyde, Bristol and Classic Novice Hurdles, all Grade 2 events run at Cheltenham at the November, December and late-January Meetings respectively, have featured seven of the ten Albert Bartlett winners between them so previous Cheltenham experience has been a notable factor so far. That said, the Irish look stronger than usual this season and they rarely travel over for novice hurdles before the Festival. The horse with the best Cheltenham profile is Blaklion who was second in the Hyde to the Neptune second, Parlour Games, before winning the Bristol. It was a weak renewal ‘Bristol’ this year but Blaklion won it well and the winner’s record here is 3141P2F. Given that most Weatherbys Champion Bumper contenders go on to be stayers, it does surprise me a little that last season’s premier NH Flat Race has not been a factor so far. The best placed finisher representing the race this year is Black Hercules (4th) who had Value At Risk back in midfield. Value At Risk has since moved to Dan Skelton and won impressively at Newbury before finishing second in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle but that form hasn’t been working out that great. Three winners of that trial have won the AB on the last eight years and he was only half a length behind Ordo Ab Chao.
If you ignore runs in point-to-points, we had the unusual scenario last season of the 1-2-3-4 all stepping up to three miles for the first time. Up until events of 12 months ago, a run under Rules over 3m had been part of 20 of the 27 win-and-place horses’ profiles so this result came from out of the blue. Experience counts which is no better illustrated by the fact that although this is a race restricted to novices, four of the ten winners were second-season hurdlers. Seven winners had won a pattern race which is a positive for Black Hercules (won a Grade 3 at Cork over 3m on heavy ground), Blaklion (won the Persian War and Bristol), Caracci Apache (got up late to beat Blaklion in the River Don for Henderson who had a 1-2 in this race four years ago), Definitely Red (narrowly beat Fletchers Flyer to win the Prestige), Martello Tower (outstayed Outlander to win a Grade 3 at Limerick) and No More Heroes (beat the Supreme runner-up Shaneshill in a Grade 2 that was a Grade 1 until this season). Gigginstown House Stud specialise in strong, powerful future staying chasers in the making so the Albert Bartlett should be right up their street and Very Wood gave them a second winner in six years following the success of Weapon’s Amnesty in 2009. No More Heroes is their big hope this time even though Measureofmydreams and Milsean also take their chance for Willie Mullins and that is the order they finished when they met last month.. Martello Tower then finished second in the same Grade 2 at Leopardstown dropping back to 2m4f as one winner and two seconds of the Albert Bartlett contested. Willie Mullins has five runners headed by Black Hercules and has fired 13 bullets including two short-priced favourites but he is still awaiting his first Albert Bartlett winner.
No More Heroes
NO MORE HEROES could be the class of this race having beaten the Supreme runner-up Shaneshill in a high quality Grade 2 before Christmas and give Gigginstown their third winner of this prize. He also contested the same race as the same owner’s Weapon’s Amnesty before he won this race at Leopardstown where he was unplaced but scope dirty. BLAKLION is the Cheltenham horse of the race having won and finished second in two of the best home trials and Sam Twiston-Davies now takes over from Ryan Hatch who wouldn’t be able to utilise his claim so he should be 5lb better off and that can be enough to turn around Doncaster form with Caracci Apache. Sticking with pattern race winners and MARTELLO TOWER is just the tough type this race demands. He stays 3m as we saw when he beat the smart Outlander but the positions were reversed over a shorter trip next time in a race that has been the best Irish guide. Back to 3m, he can give a very good account of himself. THOMAS BROWN has Cheltenham winning form this season albeit not in a pattern race but he did well to win on New Year’s Day on bad ground under a penalty and shapes as if 3m will bring out further improvement. Black Hercules looks like he will appreciate the rain that is forecast but less than three runs over hurdles is not ideal in a race where experience has been important. Lack of pattern race winning form and just two runs over hurdles also means Value At Risk is not a trends horse.
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
Let’s kick off with the negative trends first as they chop the 18 runners down by a good old chunk.
As there has been no winner aged older than ten since 1969 I can’t see On His Own going one place better than last year in a better renewal under Patrick Mullins at the age of 11. The French-trained but British-owned River Choice is out of his depth and is a year older at 12. I can’t say I am bonkers about ten-year-olds either given that in the 15 runnings since Cool Dawn became the last winner aged in double digits, all 65 horses aged 10+ have been beaten which included 14 horses sent off at 10/1 or lower and four outright favourites. That is not a statistic you want to hear if you fancy Bobs Worth, The Giant Bolster or the Willie Mullins-trained Boston Bob. That said, Mullins has twice saddled a ten-year-old to be second amongst his four Gold Cup runner-ups so I wouldn’t rule him out of hitting the frame trying this trip for the first time in his career and he always shaped like a stayer. A second negative for On His Own and The Giant Bolster is that only one placed horse from the previous year has won since 1983 and that was an all-time great in Kauto Star.
If Djakadam can win at the age of six, he will be just the second horse of that age to do since 1963. That winner was Long Run who was also French bred but he had won a King George and had lots of chasing experience whereas this is Dkajadam’s sixth chase start. Bobs Worth won off just five chase starts but he had also won at the two previous Festivals.
In fact, On His Own and The Giant Bolster both have a third negative trend to defy as the last 15 winners had all won a Grade 1 race at some point during their career. Others yet to achieve this feat are Many Clouds, Djakadam, Sam Winner, Smad Place, Home Farm, Houblon Des Obeaux and River Choice. Of those, the four first-named horses are second-season chasers which is an angle I like having won 12 of the last 23 runnings from around 20% representation. Other second-season chasers are Holywell and Road To Riches. Carlingford Lough and Sam Winner were novices last season but are in fact third-season chasers. Many Clouds won the Hennessy and six of the 33 winners of that handicap to run in the Gold Cup have won. The more rain the better for his chance but the lack of a Grade 1 win does gnaw away at me and we have to go back to 2000 to find the last Cotswold Chase representative to win the Gold Cup.
Just two of the last 16 winners had failed to win earlier in this season which is against the 2013 winner Bobs Worth who was last of eight in the Lexus, Boston Bob (unless you include his Punchestown Festival win back in early May which is officially this season as crazy as it sounds), the Hennessy runner-up Houblon Des Obeaux who would want a downpour and doesn’t gave a good course record, last year’s Lord Windermere, though he also failed to win during last season before he claimed the biggest jumps prize of all, On His Own (if he wins he will be the Gold Cup trends buster of all time!), The Giant Bolster and the RSA and Cotswold Chase runner-up, Smad Place, who has never won at Cheltenham but placed at the last three Festivals.
Only two of the last 14 winners were rated 166+ so the horses who qualify on this count are Silviniaco Conti (174), Road To Riches (167), Bobs Worth (166), Carlingford Lough (166), Coneygree (166) and Don Cossack (166) but he is a highly likely non runner. Coneygree is attempting to become the first novice to win since Captain Christy since 1974 but, of the 20 novices to run in the Gold Cup since, only Dorans Pride has placed.
Silviniaco Conti will be bidding to emulate Cool Ground and The Fellow who won 12 months after finishing fourth and the big stat in his favour is that nine of the last 15 winners contested the King George. In fact he is bidding to become the sixth winner of the King George to follow up in the Gold Cup in the same season in just the last 12 years and the twelfth in history. Half of Paul Nicholls’ 36 Gold Cup runners have finished in the first four, which is some record from so many horses to represent him. Silviniaco Conti’s critics will argue he was ridden to beat a load of non-stayers at Kempton, and I cannot argue with that, and he his better on flat courses, which I also cannot argue with, but he is an improved horse this season for cheekpieces, ulcer treatment and in general terms given the new gallop at Ditcheat has worked wonders this season and he has 7lb to play with on official figures from the second top-rated which is the Lexus winner, Road To Riches. Five of the last nine winners contested the Lexus where he beat Sam Winner and had another five of today’s rivals behind. Like 9 of the last 13 winners, the King George and Lexus winners have not run since Christmas and neither have Sam Winner or Bobs Worth.
Road To Riches
Being a second-season chaser rated 166+ who ran in (and won) the Grade 1 Lexus, ROAD TO RICHES has plenty going for him and rates the best of the Irish challenge with Djakadam being only a six-year-old and a non Grade 1 winner and Lord Windermere not having won this season and this is a better Gold Cup than the renewal he won last year. Road To Riches has the right kind of profile but wouldn’t want the forecast rain to be too heavy. Given the record of the King George winner and Paul Nicholls’ Gold Cup record and comfortably being the best horse on official ratings, SILVINIACO CONTI also has to make the short list. Some punters won’t like the fact he has tried and failed twice before but The Fellow was beaten three times in the race before he won and two fourth-placed finishers since 1992 have gone three places better. HOLYWELL isn’t rated 166+ (just 3lb shy) but he is a second-season chaser who is 2-2 at the Festival and trained by a Gold Cup winning trainer so he has found his way into the short list as has CARLINGFORD LOUGH. He is not a second-season chaser but he was a novice last year and he is a Grade 1 winner who contested the Lexus and has the requisite rating.
St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase
A 1-2-3 last season for the Irish and it would also have been an Irish 1-2 the previous season but for Oscar Delta’s dramatic exit and it also wasn’t so long ago that they were responsible for nine of the 12 top-four finishers between 2006-2008. Traditionally, the leading Irish trial during the same calendar year is the Raymond Smith Hunters’ Chase, a race run on Irish Hennessy Gold Cup Day at Leopardstown which has highlighted the last three Foxhunters’ winners. On The Fringe (2nd) and Salsify (4th), who was having his seasonal debut represent the race this year. Salsify missed last year’s Foxhunters’ through injury and will become the race’s first three-time winner if successful. Staying in Ireland and the Champion Hunters’ Chase at the previous spring’s Punchestown Festival over 3m1f has featured four of the last eight winners which was won by On The Fringe.
Three of the last five winners contested the long-standing W & S Recycling Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters’ Chase in the early summer better known to many as the horse And Hound Gold Cup. Paint The Clouds beat Shoreacres last summer in that race. Events from 12 months ago of course have to be taken seriously and four of the last 11 winners contested the previous season’s renewal in which Carsonstown Boy (2nd) and On The Fringe (3rd) are leading players again. Backing the youngest of the fancies horses would have found you eight winners since 1992 and this year that would be the eight-year-old Current Event this time who is on a long winning sequence.
What we certainly do not want to be doing is looking at horses aged 11+ as they have won just twice in the last 24 runnings despite being responsible for approximately 50% of the field in that time frame so that counts against Aiteen Thirtythree, Carsonstown Boy, Consigliere, Fort George, Muirhead, Shoreacres, Vital Plot and the former Festival winners Junior and Noble Prince. Just six of the last 29 runnings were won by horses beaten last time out.
Whereas ten of the last 13 winners of the Aintree Fox Hunters’ were ex-handicappers (or better) who had their attentions turned to hunter chasing, 23 of the last 26 winners of Cheltenham Foxhunters’ had the opposite profile having been brought up from a point-to-pointing background from the outset.
No Loose Change
(Paint The Clouds)
Ideally what we want is a horse aged no older than ten who won last time out that was brought up through the pointing ranks. Not many fit the bill and certainly not towards the head of the market. ALSKAMATIC, FOLLOWING DREAMS and NO LOOSE CHANGE fit that profile. Of the leading fancies PAINT THE CLOUDS appeals most being young enough, a last time out winner and an impressive winner of the best British trial, though he didn’t start his career in point-to-points. On The Fringe has failed in this race twice before, Carsonstown Boy has not won for a while and aged 11 and Salsify would be the first ever three-time winner. He didn’t start off in point-points to but Current Event did the youngest of the leading hopes which has been a very good ‘in’ to the race down the years.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
This will be the seventh running of this handicap hurdle restricted to conditional jockeys and the fourth since it was upgraded to a 0-145 handicap so it is clearly still very early days with regards to solid patterns starting to emerge and I will keep it short. It is certainly worth noting that all six winners were novice hurdling the previous season so that has to be any trends-based starting point. The last four winners all arrived here directly off the back of a win.
Also respect Gigginstown. Both Irish-trained successes were achieved when they sent over just one runner and both were trained by Willie Mullins for Gigginstown House Stud. I trumped up Gigginstown ahead of last year’s race as in addition to Sir Des Champs’ victory, their maroon-and-white silks had also been carried into the frame on three additional occasions, most notably when the Gordon Elliott-trained Toner D’Oudairies looked all over the winner in 2012 when he cruised to the front but he was eventually denied by just a neck. I suggest we respect their Roi Des Francs after Don Poli won for them last year having won the same Clonmel Grade 3 novice hurdle. McKinley also represents Mullins and Gigginstown and may have got in nicely here for a Grade 1 novice hurdle this season.
Paul Nicholls won with Salubrious two years ago and supplied last season’s third, fourth and sixth from his only three runners and his top weight Le Mercurey under the highly talented Sean Bowen is his main hope ahead of Pearl Swan. This has not been David Pipe’s race so far which must be a cause of frustration as wanting to win what he calls “Dad’s Race” would have to be close to the top of his hit list at the start of each season. So far he has saddled 15 runners of which three started favourite and another started second-favourite but he has fared no better than third. This year he runs Vieux Lion Rouge in a first-time tongue tie and blinkers having been tailed off as second favourite last year. Balgarry also represent the stable.
Roi Des Francs
Second-season hurdlers who won last time out have a great record so of interest have to be NOBLE ENDEAVOR and FORTHEFUNOFIT who are the only pair that fit both trends. ROI DES FRANCS represents Mullins (won with his only two runners) and Gigginstown (had others run well in addition to owning those two winners) including the same race that Din Poli won last year so he is also hard to kick off any short list as does McKINLEY for the same connections. Given the good record of horses towards the top of the weights in this race and Paul Nicholls’ recent record, LE MERCUREY also has to be considered with my idea of the best conditional jockey around in Sean Bowen in the saddle and being a second-season hurdler.
AP McCoy Grand Annual Challenge Cup
What was formerly the most punter-friendly handicap of the Festival has turned full circle in more recent years. Up until 2006, as many as 28 of the previous 31 winners were despatched at no bigger than 10/1 but it has become a whole different ball game since with six double-figure priced winners, five of which were sent off at 16/1+.
Thirteen of the last 33 runnings have been won by novices and they were well represented last season in their bid to register a fifth win in six years but, the best of them, Ned Buntline, came up just short finishing second with two more novices in Claret Cloak and Next Sensation filling the other place positions. That trio all return again and four of the last eight winners had run in the Grand Annual before. McCoy will ride Ned Buntline this time rather than Eastlake who also ran last year and finished sixth and is likely to be very well backed in the final race he will ever ride in at the Festival which has been named in his honour.
Back to novices and they are represented by Solar Impulse for Paul Nicholls chasing a third win in the race, Chris Pea Green, Grumeti in first-time blinkers for Alan King whose novices have run well in this race more than once including winning it with Oh Crick, Blood Cotil for Willie Mullins, Turn Over Sivola, Bold Henry (pulled up here on Tuesday) and Dresden. The trouble is they are now virtually everyone’s first port of call as well so we now have to look for trends within trends as many more novices take their chance these days (just under one-third of the field have faced the starter in the last two runnings) and this is where official BHA ratings can come in handy as no novice in recent history has won off a handicap mark higher than 140.
Savello was not a novice when he took the honours 12 months ago but he was still relatively lightly raced having his tenth chase start. Given that novices have such a strong Grand Annual record, it should not come as a shock to note that lightly-raced chasers very much hold the call to the extent that 15 of the last 16 winners had contested no more than 12 steeplechases. Prior to Savellos success off a handicap mark of 147 last year, we had to go back 22 years to locate the last winner rated over 145.
With six wins and four seconds in the last 15 runnings, outside of the cross country race the Grand Annual has been the handicap chase at the Festival which the Irish have sussed out how to crack in a big way and they are represented by Turban, Ted Veale (ante-post favourite last year but was redirected to the Arkle instead), Ned Buntline, Blood Cotil and Dick Dundee. J P McManus owns Ned Buntline, Eastlake and Bold Henry and got to within 1¼l of holding aloft the Grand Annual trophy for the third year running last season. He also won in 2005 with Fota Island.
Seven of the last eight British-trained Grand Annual winners (plus the Irish-trained Alderwood in 2013) had won at Cheltenham before. Previous course winners are Eastlake, Ted Veale (two previous County Hurdle winners have gone on to win the Grand Annual), Grumeti, Tanks For That, Bold Henry and Astracad.
It is taking a leap of faith after he was pulled up on Tuesday but BOLD HENRY is course winner, a novice, lightly weighted and owned by J P McManus so he has plenty in his favour from a stats perspective though. DRESDEN might be the pick of the novices having sneaked in with a penalty. Jamie Snowden won the novice handicap chase last season and it is usually the lowly-weighted novices that fare best in this race and he is certainly that. TED VEALE might be best of the Irish. King Pele and Alderwood both won the Grand Annual having won a County Hurdle and Tony Martin tasted success in this race last year with Savello after Ted Veale, who was ante-post favourite 12 months ago, was sent to the Arkle instead. NED BUNTLINE won’t be value that’s for sure being McCoy’s last Festival ride but he has cracking form chance and also appeals on a number of trends being Irish-trained, having run in the race before and owned by J P McManus. Both Irish-trained horses have been longer off than ideal though. Being a novice and Irish-trained, perhaps BLOOD COTIL can end the meeting for Willie Mullins how it started.