Cheltenham Festival 2018 | My Five Best Bets

Racing journalist James Stevens (JamesStevens180) gives us his five strongest fancies for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, let the action commence!


1) Samcro (Ballymore Hurdle) & Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle) double

My NAP of the meeting would have to be Samcro (8/13) in the Ballymore on Wednesday. I am most definitely on the Samcro bandwagon, in fact I may even be driving it! Gordon Elliott’s novice has been nothing short of sensational this season, winning a competitive Grade One almost effortlessly last time out. He seems to just have so much natural talent, can jump so slickly, and seems to have a very high cruising speed. He could be a very special horse, but he needs to produce his best at Cheltenham.

Buveur D’Air (4/7) is another I think will please the punters for Nicky Henderson in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle. Since winning this prize a year ago, he has been classy and nothing has come close to stopping him. A reproduction of his previous wins would make him very hard to beat here. The double pays around 6/4.


2) Seddon – Champion Bumper

I really liked Hollowgraphic for the Bumper and I was totally gutted when it was pulled out last week especially as I was told by Willie Mullins he was ‘very smart’.

It looks open this year, and I think Tom George’s Seddon is a huge price for Wednesday’s finale. He’s only won a weak race up at Musselburgh, and faces a big step up in class but he did it really well that day and looks a smart horse in the making. I think at 33/1 he could be a dark horse to at least make the places, connections think he is great.


3) Nube Negra – Fred Winter

Dan Skelton isn’t a man to give too much away, but he really likes Nube Negra for this valuable Fred Winter handicap. The four-year-old has won two from three this season, seeing off good opposition in effortless style and the only time he was beaten was by leading juvenile Apple’s Shakira.

Connections have opted not to try and take her on again, and they have been allocated a very nice mark of 135 for this race which I feel puts this horse in with a leading chance. He should act on the conditions, enjoy the fast run race and could prove a very exciting young horse for the Warwickshire trainer.


4) Any Second Now – Close Brother’s Novice Handicap Chase

A very intriguing runner from Ireland is Any Second Now for Ted Walsh, who will wear the famous green and gold hoops of JP McManus. He has certainly been tested in some good races this season finishing second to RSA favourite Monalee, JLT favourite Invitation Only and hot Arkle favourite Footpad.

He was last seen finishing third once again to the latter, but this is a big step down in grade and off a mark of 145 he is very well treated. The ground should be spot on for him, and he looks to be a key player in a good renewal of the Day 1 finale.


5) Wonderful Charm – Foxhunters

I really fancied Wonderful Charm to win the Foxhunters last season, but he was nailed on the line by stablemate Pacha Du Polder under a terrific ride from Byrony Frost. Paul Nicholls’ ten-year-old has had an excellent preparation for this race, and connections are quietly confident he can go one better this season.

He won stylishly on his return to prime him for this race, and providing rain doesn’t hit Cheltenham too hard he will be suited by the conditions. He looks to have a leading chance in this contest, which has been his target for the season.


James Stevens’ Cheltenham Five

Samcro (Ballymore Hurdle) & Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle) double – 6/4

Seddon (Champion Bumper) – 33/1

Nube Negra (Fred Winter) – 8/1

Any Second Now (Close Brothers Handicap) – 7/1

Wonderful Charm (Foxhunters) – 5/1