THE 2022 Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching and we are starting to get a feel for how the markets for the meeting's top races may shake up.
Some feel like unattractive punting propositions already – anyone want to take on odds-on favourite Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle?
That said, there is plenty of value to be found elsewhere and it's time to start properly filling out those ante-post portfolios.
There will be hits and misses, with key meetings in the run up to the festival and with almost inevitable injuries to contend with.
But all being well, we'll make it to the start of the festival with a few healthy ante-post positions.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL ANTE-POST PORTFOLIO
Queen Mother Champion Chase
Galopin Des Champs
Festival Novices' Chase
1pt treble at combined odds of 9/1 with Betfair
We've all been on the wrong end of ante-post multiples at the festival – one injury can be the death knell of a healthy position.
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That said, I think this treble represents excellent value and includes two of the horses who will be many punters' bankers of the meeting.
Shishkin wiped away any fears about his condition with an imperious display at Kempton over Christmas and he looks the one to beat in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Energumene will have his supporters and this market could get a shake up if the pair meet before the festival in the Clarence House at Ascot later this month.
But I'm firmly of the belief Shishkin is the superior beast and am happy to grab a shades of odds-against now in belief he'll shorten up again between now at March.
Throw him in the mix with Honeysuckle, who to be frank looks on a different planet in two-mile hurdle division.
An eight-length winner of the Hatton's Grace before Christmas, the Irish Champion Hurdle next month will surely be her next engagement.
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Another convincing success there will see her price tumble for Cheltenham – so now is the time to get her in your multiples at around 4/5.
The final leg of this treble is Galopin Des Champs – who was superb on his chasing debut at Leopardstown and assumed favouritism for the Festival Novices' Chase as a result.
It's admittedly a small sample size but he jumped and travelled in the manner of a complete chasing natural to win that beginners' chase by 22 lengths.
This is a race which could cut up at the top as well, with second favourite Bravemansgame not sure to go to Cheltenham in favour of Aintree.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle
5/1 with Paddy Power
The market for the festival's opening race remains volatile, with many of the top contenders set to run at least once more before the meeting.
That said, I can't work out why Constitution Hill (and to a lesser extent Jonbon) is a shorter price than Sir Gerhard and as long as that remains the case I think the latter represents value.
Sir Gerhard already has Grade 1 to his name after winning last season's Champion Bumper and jumped impressively for the most part on his hurdles debut over Christmas.
Constitution Hill meanwhile was cut immediately into second favourite after winning a novice at Sandown – the form of which looks pretty dicey.
I think 5/1 about Si Gerhard is a price your should grab now as that will likely contract if he goes out and wins his second Grade 1 at the Dublin racing festival next month.
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