With the 2023/24 National Hunt Season slowly but surely getting under way, next month will see the return of my Countdown to Cheltenham series. I can’t believe that we’re onto Series 3 already and I also can’t wait to get stuck into the action.
Once again, I have lined up some fantastic guests to join me across the series, which include the likes of Johnny Dineen, Gavin Lynch, the guys from The Cheltenham Exchange and loads more. The last two series of Countdown to Cheltenham, have seen us all come out of the Cheltenham Festival showing really good profit and I’m feeling confident that the same will happen this year too.
Our best result last year came from my first ante post selection which was the unforgettable Marine Nationale. I put him up at 25/1 last September, long before he went on to win at the Cheltenham Festival at much shorter odds. Other successes included the likes of Impervious who won for us at an ante post price of 16/1, along with many placers.
In my article today, I’m dropping my very first ante post selection for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival. Interestingly, I seem to have a slightly different opinion about his target race, compared to that of most people I’ve spoken to about it. But that means we are getting a very generous price at this early stage and I am more than happy to put him up as my first Cheltenham selection and I hope that I’ve found you another ante post gem right here.
With Cheltenham in mind, I have an offer for you from Coral. If you bet just £5, you’ll get a £20 free bet you could use to jump on my first ante post betting tip of the season.
Gaelic Warrior is a smashing looking horse and a very likeable type. He has had a very good start to his career for Willie Mullins and was purchased from France as a Maiden. This is a rather typical way of buying horses for Willie, he's done this plenty of times before and turned them all into very smart horses, so I’m sure that Gaelic Warrior is going to be no different.
Dam: Game Of Legs
Trainer: Willie Mullins (IRE)
Owner: Mrs S Ricci
Current Cheltenham ante post prices:
5/1 Favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle (3 mile Hurdle) 10/1 Favourite for the Brown Advisory (3 mile Beginners’ Chase)
On his UK debut Gaelic Warrior was sent straight into the Boodles Handicap at Cheltenham. Notably, Willie Mullins mentioned during an interview that he thought Gaelic Warrior was a 140s horse. So inevitably, punters were all over him for the Boodles when he was given an incredibly lenient mark of 129 by the Handicapper.
Tallying what Willie mentioned and the mark he was given, on paper you would have to assume that he was at least a stone better off in the weights, compared to his ability. To cut a long story short, he went off as 13/8 Favourite and was labelled by many punters as the banker of the meeting, despite the fact that had not even run on a British track at that point.
Gaelic Warrior did actually run really well, finishing second by a short head following a real ding-dong battle with Brazil. For some perspective there, not only did Brazil have far more experience that Gaelic Warrior that day, he has since gone on to win again at Galway just recently, which speaks volumes.
Even though the Boodles result was a kick in the teeth for punters, Gaelic Warrior ran a very good race and as far as ability goes, he lost nothing in defeat. Maybe there’s a little bit of karma there. After all, who actually backs a horse they have never laid eyes on...but enough said, it was a very good run and confirmed to us first hand that he is most certainly not lacking in ability.
That run in the Boodles was the only time we saw Gaelic Warrior during the 2021/22 season and he remained a bit of an enigma after that, as we had no clear indication of his progress heading into the following season. All we had seen at this point was that he had a tendency to jump to the right, but showed plenty of class in a very close finish.
At the start of last season he opened up his account over Hurdles at Tramore where he won a Maiden Hurdle by 86 lengths. Although it must be said that he beat nothing of significance on that day, he looked pretty good while doing so. Basically, that race was pretty much a glorified schooling session, where he was never asked any questions, so we were still left wondering about the extent of his ability, with no form to go on.
Next time out, he won in a very similar fashion, just coasting to victory with no competition in sight, but then things changed entirely. His next race was in an impressively deep Leopardstown Handicap, where he ran off top weight and easily fended off a challenge from Nibiru to win by almost 4 lengths. That was his final prep race before his much-anticipated run in the 2m 5f Ballymore Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.
That was his first try at 2m 5f and despite having only race over two miles previously, he still managed two finish just six lengths back from his highly impressive stablemate, Impaire Et Passe. Finally, we had witnessed a clear indication of his ability, but then he went one better and improved significantly again next time, when he went straight up to three miles at the Punchestown Festival.
So, just a month later, not only had he produced yet another career first, it came over an even longer distance and he carried it off like a true pro. He travelled like an absolute dream and looked like he much preferred this longer trip. It's really pretty amazing when you look back to his form in Auteuil to see how far he has come on already. Willie and his team seem to have found the proverbial needle in a haystack with this gelding.
As you all know, Gaelic Warrior has two live entries for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, but which race will he actually run in? Most likely, you are in the Stayers’ Hurdle camp, where his current 5/1 price tag suggests that as his most likely destination. But I’ve looked at this scenario in a completely different way.
For me, a first season Novice Hurdler that takes to the longer trips as well as Gaelic Warrior has, must surely be sent down the Chasing route. He is plenty big and scopey enough to take on fences, so even though he’s priced much shorter for the Stayers’, I feel quite strongly that he will be aimed at the Brown Advisory and we’ll see him out over fences soon.
I haven't really heard a similar opinion to mine at this point, but I am 100% convinced that if you have a horse that’s as classy as him, with that sort of scope, you’ve got to give it a go. I think it would be a huge waste of talent not to at least try fences when you get a novice that stays so well. After all, the Chasing division is much more desirable and prestigious.
The Stayers’ Hurdle is obviously a very good race, but very few six-year-olds are capable of winning it and it’s also the end of the road for a horse who goes there and gets beaten. However, if Gaelic Warrior goes Chasing first, while he's young, at least we will know the extent of his talents. Plus that would still leave the option of going back to Hurdles if it all goes wrong, but I don’t think it will.
On that basis, 10/1 for the Brown Advisory is a really good ante post price for Gaelic Warrior. Willie Mullins already has the likes of Facile Vega and Impaire Et Passe primed to cover the 2m and 2m 4f Hurdle divisions and I’m convinced he will go down the chasing route with Gaelic Warrior.
Just remember, if he goes out and wins a Chase during his Cheltenham prep, that 10/1 price will go through the floor instantly, so I’m getting my money on right now. Frankly, if he sounds even half as exciting to you as a Chasing prospect as he does to me, then I recommend that you do the same.
Cheltenham Festival 2024: The Brown Advisory Stakes – Gaelic Warrior @ 10/1
I hope you have enjoyed today’s article and that you’ll take a few minutes to look through some of the fantastic free bet offers that are available right here at Betting.co.uk.
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