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Tom Segal, Paul Kealy, Keith Melrose and Graeme Rodway on Cheltenham week

Four of the Racing Post's finest tipping judges share their festival wisdom

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Who are your biggest Cheltenham fancies?

Tom Segal Soaring Glory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Bob Olinger in the Ballymore and A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup would be the ones I'm pinning most hopes on. In the handicaps, I think Zanza has a great chance in the Grand Annual.

Paul Kealy I've backed Shan Blue in the Marsh each-way and still think he has a serious chance of getting everything into trouble with his jumping, while Mister Fisher is still a double-figure price for the Ryanair, which is mad considering the form he showed in the Peterborough and what his victims have done since.

Lieutenant Rocco (near side): Paul Kealy's best bet in the Ultima

Keith Melrose Shan Blue's jumping is an absolute joy and he looks a classic each-way bet against Envoi Allen in the Marsh. You are probably playing for second if the favourite brings his best, but the chances of that have certainly not increased in the last ten days. I've also convinced myself that Rouge Vif is a daft price at 20s for the Queen Mother, at least as an each-way prospect.

Graeme Rodway Honeysuckle looks at the peak of her powers and should be hard to beat in the Champion Hurdle. Goshen is the big danger but he has to give Honeysuckle 7lb. Bravemansgame looks the best prospect Paul Nicholls has had for some time and his sound jumping will stand him in good stead in the Ballymore. Flooring Porter could spring a surprise in the Stayers' Hurdle.


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Which leading contenders are you most keen to take on?

Tom Segal I don't think Appreciate It has separated himself from the pack as much as the market suggests and, despite going for a Gold Cup hat-trick, Al Boum Photo is another who can be taken on. The two Gold Cups he's won haven't been as good as this one and in Champ and A Plus Tard he is taking on improving and faster horses than he has the last twice.

Paul Kealy I've long been against Appreciate It in the Supreme, which is a bit weird considering he has easily the best form so far and the race looks weaker by the day, but if the ground dries out I think he'll be in trouble. I'm obviously hoping Shan Blue does the business against Envoi Allen, but with ten of the last 17 odds-on shots beaten, I'm not sure I'd run scared of any of them.

Appreciate It: easiest favourite to oppose at Cheltenham

Keith Melrose Envoi Allen and Chacun Pour Soi, evidently! As a dodgy favourite on his own terms, I'd nominate Appreciate It. The Supreme is often a race for future stayers, but not often do you have challengers as quick as Soaring Glory and Metier. Paul Townend will have to get it just right on the likely favourite, presuming he goes to the front.

Graeme Rodway Appreciate It is unbeaten over timber but he shapes like a stayer and two miles in the Supreme might prove a bit sharp. Epatante looked on the way down when beaten in the Christmas Hurdle and is vulnerable in her defence of the Champion Hurdle. Paisley Park has been a great servant but he might find one of the younger runners improving past him in the Stayers' Hurdle.

How will you be following the action throughout the week?

Tom Segal At home on the TV, like everyone else I would imagine. Although I don't watch anywhere near as much as people would imagine as I have loads to be getting on with and I can't change the results.

Paul Kealy In the bloody office! Having escaped the office for the track for the last few years, I'll now be one of the few RP staff who has to go into London every day. I'll be there for one live podcast at 9am and another at 6pm – so I can't even sneak a few afternoon drinks in.

Keith Melrose It's going to be a week of two halves for me. I'm used to Cheltenham at home and that will be my Tuesday and Wednesday. After that, I'll be in the office filming some of our Cheltenham Festival shows and celebrating/commiserating with colleagues when the cameras aren't rolling. Paul Kealy says he won't be joining in the socially distanced Guinnesses, but that's the lay of the week.

Graeme Rodway It's going to be a festival like no other but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it just as much, if not more, than ever before. I like to immerse myself in the racing for the whole week and won't let anything get in the way. I'll be studying the form from the moment I wake and there's no better place to do that than at racingpost.com. With an unprecedented number of live TV shows on the website and via Racing Post social media channels, there's no need to leave.

What one bit of festival advice would you give to punters?

Tom Segal Enjoy it and don't take it too seriously. It's supposed to be fun after all.

Paul Kealy Don't be afraid of a drifter. That's advice for anytime really, but there will be some really strong market opinions throughout the week and I wouldn't worry if your way of thinking doesn't chime with others on the day. Shishkin was 2-1 the day before last year's Supreme but went off 6s, while my colleague David Jennings still thanks me for badgering him into pressing up on Aramax for the Boodles when he started to slide on the machine.

Shishkin (right): returned at 6-1 following a big drift ahead of last year's Supreme Novices'

Keith Melrose Do not change your methods too much just because it's Cheltenham. I like to back two or three in a race, especially some of the handicaps, but if you're not used to doing that then it's a bad time to start. There will be ample opportunities to bet without favourites or whatever, so you do not need to turn to forecasts if you are a win or each-way singles punter the rest of the year.

Graeme Rodway Be guided by your instincts. Cheltenham is a one-off in that it is the one meeting where the best meet the best. The majority of the horses are household names to even the casual racing fan and most will know their traits well. Form study is important, but you will know most of these horses inside out so follow your instincts and you probably won't go too far wrong.


If you want more on the 2021 Cheltenham Festival . . .

Thyme Hill to miss Stayers' Hurdle showdown with Paisley Park

Lame Energumene out of big Arkle showdown with Shishkin at Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls: I'm convinced Frodon has a chance in Cheltenham Gold Cup

Top bookmakers reveal their biggest liabilities at the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival 2021: essential information for jump racing's biggest week

Should punters side with the Willie Mullins favourite in the Supreme or not?


Get clued up with the latest Cheltenham Festival tips and odds with our free microsite. The best Cheltenham betting advice and exclusive free betting offers all in one place.


 

Enjoy it and don't take it too seriously. It's supposed to be fun after all
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