Cheltenham may still be five months away but as the season beginnings to take off, the National Hunt festival starts to become more of an issue in racing.

Ante-post betting is a risky game, not least because it takes very little to finish a horse’s season, but I picked out a few value bets for next March’s extravaganza.

YANWORTH, Arkle Trophy 20/1

The Norse Dancer’s chase debut was as smooth as it should be against a good but much inferior opponent, Sternrubin. He gave plenty over the first few but warmed to his task nicely. Beginners Chases in Britain are not as competitive as in Ireland and can sometimes be farcical so while his debut win may not show an obvious candidacy for the Arkle, the fact that he can jump – particularly at a stronger pace – adds to the already proven ability. Yanworth is an ante-post favourite for the RSA Chase and he could also run in the JLT Chase but his best form has come over two miles and I see him as a lazy horse, not a slow one. The odds for the Arkle are greater than the other races but there is nothing to suggest that he won’t run here and certainly nothing to suggest he isn’t good enough to win it.
RATHVINDEN, National Hunt Chase 20/1

It’s been a long road back from injury for Rathvinden but the patience shown by connections is paying off. He has won four chases this summer, most recently destroying the opposition in a Grade 3 at Tipperary. He’s been running over two and a half miles, but his pedigree is full of stamina and this four-mile trip should play to his strengths. He’s a very good horse who I see holding his own in Grade 1 Novice chases based on his recent performances. The Heron Island gelding was only five lengths behind the brilliant Faugheen in the 2014 Neptune Novices Hurdle and that day he was ahead of the likes of Cole Harden, Shanahan’s Turn and Lieutenant Colonel.
DOUVAN, Champion Chase 100/30

I wouldn’t normally dream of tipping a 100/30 shot for a race that won’t take place for five months but this is a very generous price for the best horse in training. I don’t know why Altior is much shorter in the betting, considering he came out of novice company twice last season and didn’t run to a rating of which Douvan had when winning on the bridle with eight lengths back to subsequent Gold Cup winner, Sizing John. Douvan got injured in the Champion Chase and didn’t run anywhere near his best as a consequence but his injury was a stress fracture of the Ileum and the prognosis to such an ailment is very positive. Bone heals, and I see no reason why he should not return to his best. 100/30 is too big a price and I’m sure it will only shrink as the season progresses.

DEATH DUTY, JLT Chase 12/1

I never thought that this horse was an attractional three miler and his best form last season showed him to have a bit of class. He was legless when crashing out at the last in the Albert Bartlett and that further encouraged my belief that he wants a good two and a half miles. In his two chase wins so far, he showed that he is a sound jumper and he has a good turn of foot also – recording a strong finishing time at Navan last season. Davy Russell was vocal of the same belief last season and now that he is the horse’s rider, that may further lean connections to this contest where 12/1, even now, seems generous.

 Article by Mark Keating