- Epatante - 3/1 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle - Boylesports
- Fusil Raffles - 8/1 Triumph Hurdle - Betfair
- Angels Breath - 10/1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle - Ladbrokes
There's just two weeks to go until the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, and that means last-minute prep races, and trainers rushing to get vital experience into their horses.
This weekend threw up plenty of betting tips for the novice races at Cheltenham and trainer Nicky Henderson had a particularly strong team on show.
Mares' Novices' Betting Takes Shape
Henderson's grip on the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares Novices' Hurdle betting strengthened this weekend with the victories of Lust For Glory and Epatante.
The former won impressively at Newcastle with odds of 1/8, and is as big as 16/1 in the Cheltenham betting with Betfair - though most bookmakers offer odds around 10/1 on the talented mare.
However, it's the JP McManus-owned Epatante that interests me the most. She may not have the form in the book that some of her rivals do, but she couldn't have been more impressive when trouncing the field in a mares novice hurdle on Friday over 2m.
Jockey Barry Geraghty was always confident, and there was never a moment's worry, Geraghty easing her down in the closing stages. It's hard to know the level she is at, but she goes to Cheltenham with a real chance, and that is reflected in her odds of no bigger than 3/1 with Boylesports.
Albert Bartlett Tip Looks Aintree Winner
Dickie Diver was another representative of the Seven Barrows-JP McManus partnership to win on Saturday, landing a Chepstow novices' hurdle by two and a quarter lengths.
He made no mistakes under jockey Aidan Coleman; despite still running green and raw, he showed why connections paid a huge £215,000 for him, and he's now amongst five vying for favouritism in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle betting.
His form had already been franked by Lisnagar Oscar, who beat him a head on his hurdling debut and went on to win the Grade 2 Prestige Novices' Hurdle at Haydock.
That rival is now no bigger than 8/1 (Coral) for the Festival Grade 1, Dickie Diver a top-price of 10/1 Coral, with Commander Of Fleet (8/1 William Hill), Birchdale (10/1 Black Type), and Battleoverdoyen (12/1 William Hill) also in the top five in the betting.
The target for Dickie Diver seems to be the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over 3m, however I feel that race may not suit such a young and inexperienced horse. He's got bundles of talent and he reminds me a bit of this year's RSA Chase favourite Santini, who followed a similar path last year, finishing third in the Albert Bartlett.
Santini went on to win the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree, and I think Dickie Diver could be more suited to that race than anything at the Cheltenham Festival.
Fingers Crossed For Triumph Tip
One of the most impressive performances this weekend was that of the Nicky Henderson-trained juvenile Fusil Raffles, who broke the track record in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.
Jockey Daryl Jacob sat as quiet as a mouse until the second-last flight, at which Fusil Raffles took off and stormed to a nine-length win. His odds were slashed from big double-figure prices to 5/1 second-favourite for the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival - Betfair offering the best odds of 8/1.
But then plans were put on hold when it was revealed the horse sustained a cut during the race. I do hope he manages to take part as I believe he's one of few who could put it up to the current favourite Sir Erec, trained by Joseph O'Brien.
Defeat Adds Value To Angels' Odds
That track record set by Fusil Raffles at Kempton was broken just half an hour later when the Paul Nicholls-trained Southfield Stone stole the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices' Hurdle.
The 8/11 favourite Angels Breath, who also happened to be the Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite before the off, finished second, in what may have looked a disappointing run.
However, it was actually a fair effort for a horse who had only run once on any track before. He was carrying a 5lb penalty for his previous win in the Grade 2 Supreme Trial at Ascot, plus, jockey Harry Cobden gave the winner a superb ride, kicking on the turn for home and stealing lengths that proved crucial to his three-quarter length win.
Angels Breath closed rapidly towards the line, but wasn't ridden aggressively by jockey Nico de Boinville, against the six-year-old winner, who was racing for the fifth time over hurdles.
I'd be fairly confident that if the two were to match up again in the Grade 1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, Angels Breath would come out on top.
As many of these novices do, they need an education and that race will have taught him a lot, so consider the defeat a positive and take the double-figure odds now available with several bookmakers.