Cheltenham Festival 2023 Ante-Post Lucky 15 Selection

James Mackie | @JMackieRacing

Marine Nationale - 4/1 - Supreme Novices' Hurdle

Trainer/owner Barry Connell looks to have a superstar on his hands with Marine Nationale after the gelding landed the first Grade One of his career at Fairyhouse in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

The five year old has been seen four times in his career, making his debut at Punchestown in May this year when winning a 2m bumper in good fashion ahead of Demandrivingdouvan and Halibut who both went on to frank the form.

Given another run in a bumper at Killarney in August he was another nice winner this time by a further 11 lengths and now it was time to go over hurdles.

Given his hurdles debut back at Punchestown he beat a decent field of 12 with ease and was then saved for his run on Sunday at Fairyhouse in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

With four horses swinging the corner for home on the bridle, jumping the last it was Marine Nationale and Irish Point left battling it out and just in front of the posts, the Barry Connell gelding got up to land his first Grade One Success.

The form of that race has worked out well with Champ Kiely, Irish Point and Ashroe Diamond all going on to win or run well in Gradee company.

With all systems go to the Supreme in March and being kept fresh since that win the Royal Bond, at 4/1, with the uncertainty in the horses in the betting market around him, he looks a solid bet to go close.

Tekao - 5/1 - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Our second selection in the Lucky 15 also comes on the Tuesday of the meeting and it sees Tekao for Wille Mullins and owner JP McManus, who looks the one to beat in the current field.

Bought off the flat in France over to Ireland to be a National Hunt horse, he has been seen on three occasions to date and looks to have been set up perfectly for this race.

Given his hurdles debut at Navan in November he finished a good third behind Comfort Zone and Jazzy Matty, making a very pleasing debut with plenty of scope to improve having not settled.

Still not settling fully next time out he still got off the mark at Leopardstown at Christmas beating 18 runners in a maiden hurdle over two miles.

Last seen at the Dublin Racing Festival upped into the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle he ran a cracker to finish third behind stablemates Gala Marceau and Lossiemouth.

What was taking during this performance was the way he settled much better and he only finished 12 1/2 lengths behind the winner giving 7lb away.

Jockey Mark Walsh also seemed to slow the horse down close home to save his mark and having been given 7lb for that performance by the Irish handicapper, he now sees himself off 128 which gets him into the race.

The English handicapper is likely to give him a few more lbs on that but his mark still looks workable and from his form so far he can't be overlooked.

Inthepocket - 14/1 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

The 2023 Grade One Ballymore Novices' Hurdle is set to be an absolute cracker with some very talented horsed potentially going to post but we think we have found the value in the field and that is Inthepocket for Henry De Bromhead.

A three mile PTP winner in November 2021 he was then bought for £290,000 by the master owner JP McManus and given to De Bromhead and he has shown a lot of strong form over hurdles this term.

Making his rules/hurdles debut at Wexford in October he went on to bolt up by six lengths over two miles and was then sent up in trip to 2m4f at Naas in a good Grade Two.

The form of this race has worked out superbly, with Inthepocket making it 2/2 over hurdles and relishing in the step up trip, seeing off Three Card Brag, who has since gone on to win well and heads to the Albert Bartlett and back in third was Absolute Notions also for Gordon Elliott who has since finished a good second to Good Land over 2m6f in the Grade One Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle at the DRF.

Good Land only went on to see off Absolute Notions but 1 1/2 lengths over 2f further at the DRF and is now a 9/2 chance for the Ballymore, Inthepocket saw off Absolute Notions by 4 3/4 lengths and is 14/1 for the Ballymore so the value shows off the back of that form.

Inthepocket was last seen at the DRF back down at two miles when running a stormer to chase home Il Etait Temps in the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle.

If Rachael Blackmore had her time again she might say she could have give the horse a slightly better ride, but the way he stayed after the last to grab second showed he wanted to go back up in trip and holding a lot of strong form, at 14/1 he looks overpriced in the Ballymore market.

Noble Yeats - 15/2 - Gold Cup

The final selection of the Ante-Post Cheltenham Festival 2023 Lucky 15 is Noble Yeats in the Gold Cup with the Emmet Mullins trained gelding looking the value at this stage.

2022 Grand National winner Noble Yeats firmly put himself into the reckoning for the Gold Cup when landing the Grade Two many Clouds Chase at Aintree at the start of December.

A horse with bundles of ability, this season he looks to have been aimed at tougher staying chases in the Grade One category.

At Aintree on his third run this season, having won nicely at Wexford on his second start of the season, he took on the likes of Ahoy Senor, Dashel Drasher and Chantry House and he went on to win extremely easy.

Noble Yeats was 33/1 before the off at Aintree and is now a general 15/2 for the big event off the back of his performance.

The way he showed a rapid turn of pace just before the last and then after it was frightening and to win a Grand National and have that much pace, he looks a very special horse.

Last seen at Cheltenham in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase only a furlong less than the Gold Cup trip, he ran the best trial of the lot in our opinion, showing how good is stamina is to stay on from way back into third.

Although Ahoy Senor and Sounds Russian reversed the form from Aintree, he was giving away more weight that he won't be on the Friday of the festival and going up a further furlong is only going to strengthen his credentials.

If he can be close to the leaders jumping the last his proven stamina will see him get home better than most and at 15/2 he looks to have a big chance, with the cheek-pieces also set to go back on.