Cheltenham Lucky 15: Ruby’s County Hurdle claims heads wager

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With all 27 races priced up by Ladbrokes ahead of next month’s Cheltenham Festival, now seems a cracking time to go big-game hunting for four fantastically-priced winners to fill a Lucky 15.

You won’t get better odds anywhere about the first three picks at present. With value like this, who needs luck?

Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle – Arbre De Vie @ 16/1 (top price)

Top jockey Ruby Walsh has won this race more times than any other rider, with his four victories coming over the past 11 Festivals, the last being Final Approach in 2011.

He’s due another triumph, as four years is the longest Walsh has gone without taking this since booting home Paul Nicholls’ Sporazene in 2004.

The 35-year-old’s County Hurdle winners all carried between 10-10 and 11-00 to victory, and with Willie Mullins’ in-form five-year-old Arbre De Vie currently pitched at the bottom of that range, he looks the likely mount.

Gold Cup – Djakadam @ 12/1 (top price)

Friday’s main event isn’t exactly shaping up to be a classic; well-backed 3/1 favourite Silviniaco Conti has been round Cheltenham three times, including in this race last year, without tasting victory.

With that in mind, getting behind Willie Mullins’ improving, impressive recent Thyestes Chase winner (off top weight) makes plenty of sense considering the Cotswolds expert trained the Gold Cup runner-up at each of the past two Festivals.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Fletchers Flyer @ 20/1 (top price)

A wide open renewal sees Mullins’ Black Hercules at the head of the betting at 6/1, but the crack County Carlow handler hasn’t managed to win this event during its 10-year history, despite sending out plenty of hopefuls.

At this price a chance is taken on Harry Fry’s Fletchers Flyer, who has won three of his six races under rules and got to within at least one-and-a-quarter lengths of the victor in the other three, including last time out at Haydock in February when giving 3lb to the rest of the seven-runner field.

Champion Bumper – Vigil @ 10/1

The Bumper picture is still somewhat obscured by the fact that Mullins trains four of the first nine in the betting, including 8/1 co-favourites Bordini and Au Quart De Tour.

Wylie family pair Shaneshill and Black Hercules were prominent ante-post pokes prior to last year’s renewal, and went off at 7/2 favourite and 13/2 respectively, before being turned over by Dermot Weld’s 16/1 creeper Silver Concorde.

Weld’s perceived first string Vigil split the Mullins fancies in the betting that day at 5/1, before finishing four-and-a-quarter lengths behind his stablemate in a respectable fifth place.

Vigil looks set to go again after beating Mullins’ Bellshill over Xmas, in only his fourth race. The six-year-old seems certain to go well.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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