It's finally here, the Cheltenham Festival and punters will be looking to get off to a barnstormer this afternoon with there being four relatively short price favourites that will no doubt be in thousands of accumulators across the land. However, I've decided to avoid the championship races for my headline pick of day 1 and decided to try snaffle out some of the value in the handicaps.
The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase will bring the curtain down on day one and I'm fancying Mick Channon's MR WHITAKER to land the £39,865 to first prize. This son of Court Cave ran well on Boxing Day when competing in the 32.Red.com Chase at Kempton. He was held up and gave a valiant effort in the finish when trying to run down Hell's Kitchen only to be beaten by just over a length. The next time we saw this six-year-old was on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham at the end of January.
Sent off at 6/1 for the Timeform Novice' Handicap Chase, he produced a fantastic performance leading from pretty much start to finish to come storming up the Cheltenham hill to Theatre Territory by 2 lengths. I was there that day and the ground read as being soft but according to most of the jockeys, it was more soft-to-heavy, boosting Mr Whitaker's form for this afternoon's contest.
He clearly showed plenty of stamina that day and showed many of the traits required to be a winner at the Festival. He has been a popular selection with punters over the last 24 hours having been backed from as big as around 8/1 into a price as short as now 7/1. He faces some stiff competition in the form of Any Second Now and De Plotting Shed but with 6 places on offer from some bookmakers I really do think this is some each way filth that punters should be snaffling up. I'd also advise that Betway are offering a money back offer on this race up to the value of £10.