Yesterday was a harder day to find the winners but there were two winners and a place. Unfortunately in the Coral Cup I selected two unplaced finishers but gave mentions to the first, third, fourth and fifth. That’s how it goes!
Dodging Bullets (11/2) won the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Moon Racer (9/1) won the Champion Bumper. In the opening race, the Neptune Hurdle, Parlour Games (6/1) was second.
To today’s action where the Ladbrokes World Hurdle is the feature race. If you thought yesterday was difficult then good luck today!
1:30 JLT Chase
This is only the fifth running of this race since inauguration in 2011. In this race Ireland lead Britain 3-1 and look extremely likely to make it 4-1 with a very strong hand in this race today.
Vautour (9/4) is the class in the race and has only been beaten once. That defeat came in at the hands of Clarcam in a Grade 1 Novices Chase at Leopardstown. Clarcam has form against Un De Sceaux but disappointed in Tuesday’s Arkle, however he is a useful yardstick. He looked slow over some of the fences and made a shuddering error in the back straight, which shouldn’t have cost him. However this is another of Rich Ricci horse, who last year hacked up at the Festival winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle and for me on better ground today is one of the better bets of today.
Apache Stronghold (11/2) is worth an each-way bet. He won the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown reversing form with rival Vasleur Lido and on better ground I think this Noel Meade horse should re-affirm that form. In that Flogas Chase Apache Stronghold settled well towards the rear and made steady progress towards the end to win. Today he may need to sit closer to the pace but he will be there or thereabouts. Two runs ago he ran into the impressive RSA Chase period Don Poli and he was beaten by 3l that day over 3m where he hadn’t much left, back over 2m4f he should be well suited.
The Paul Nicholls pair of Ptit Zig and Irish Saint have chances. The former won the Dipper Chase very nicely but he fell when travelling well last time out at Ascot. Irish Saint did the necessary work to win a weak Pendil Novices Chase at Kempton but he does have form with Thomas Crapper, who has been second in both of the races he has ran at the Festival.
2:05 Pertemps Final
This 3m Handicap Hurdle with 24 runners looks a tricky affair to decipher, quite similar to the Coral Cup yesterday.
There are three horses that in particularly standout for me and would be worth each-way bets.
Tony Martin’s Edeymi looks well handicapped and ran on well to finish fourth behind eventual winner Dawalan and mare Run Ructions Run was in third. All three have potential but aren’t part of my three selections.
Regal Encore (10/1) was third in the 2013 Champion Bumper behind Briar Hill. This seven-year-old started off well in his career but hadn’t replicated that form last season. He seems fairly well handicapped for this and AP McCoy will be looking to notch his first winner aboard this Anthony Honeyball trained horse. His win last time out in a Pertemps Qualifier was nicely done, nothing special, but puts him in with a chance. In that race at Exeter he beat four of these including my next pick.
Big Easy (11/1) was fourth in that Pertemps Qualifier that Regal Encore won but the step back up to 3m should suit this Richard Johnson eight-year-old. He is a serial second, as he was in a Handicap Hurdle here in November, where he was beaten by a good horse who was back fresh, but since that race three runs ago he has gone up 10lb, which is my only slight concern. A big positive is his course for. In his last three runs at Cheltenham he is 1-2-2, which makes him appealed. Plus he was also second in the Fixed Brush at Haydock, which tends to be a good trial where three of the last six winners have finished in the top five.
The third pick is the bigger priced Katkeau (28/1) who is another in this race with form at Cheltenham. He beat Big Easy in November in a Handicap Hurdle where he was sat quietly in mid-division and travelled beautifully. When asked for a challenge by Tom Scudamore he found it readily and came three lengths clear of Big Easy. Young Conor O’Farrell is onboard today and if the same tactics are employed he will be in with a shout. He was fifth in the Fixed Brush (as mentioned above a good trial) but that came quickly after his Cheltenham success.
Other mentions have to go to Bygones Sovereign, who won with an enterprising front-running ride at Newbury before doing it again at Haydock. Hopefully the jockeys don’t allow him an easy lead.
2:40 Ryanair Chase
One of the patterns for this race is that 16 out of 20 winners and runners-up have won at the track previously. If you take that into consideration it would rule out some of the leading fancies and better horses.
Balder Succes (8/1) looks the pick with solid form over this trip and he should enjoy the better spring ground. Since this race became a Grade 1 five of the six winners had already won a Grade 1 race and that’s what this Alan King gelding won the Ascot Chase beating Ma Filleule. That tends to be a good trial for this and it looks to have the strongest form going into this. In recent times he has been second to God’s Own, who finished second to Un De Sceaux in the Arkle on Tuesday, so that form should stand him in good stead.
No Irish trained horse has won this in 28 attempts so it is interesting that Ted Walsh has supplemented Foxrock for this. He was second to Carlingford Lough in the Irish Hennessy where he impressed quite a few. The only concern here is if he has the speed to deal with the sharpness of Cheltenham and could get outpaced. Don Cossack is owned by, the sponsor’s boss (Ryanair) in, Michael O’Leary. He is the best horse in the race on form and should be suited by the trip. He beat Boston Bob two starts ago quite comprehensively and is definitely a danger.
During one of the many Cheltenham preview nights Paul Nicholls had admitted to have a couple of quid on his own runner Wonderful Charm who has had a wind operation. The Champion Trainer said he looked better and had schooled well in the build-up. If he can find his form of 2013 then he could be a danger at a big price.
Johns Spirit and Hidden Cyclone require mentions with the former having solid Cheltenham form.
3:20 World Hurdle
Un Temps Pour Tout (11/1 each-way) was an expensive import from France who is yet to show his potential but the David Pipe team are sweet on his chances. He remains unexposed from his four runs in Britain and Ireland. When he ran here in the Cleeve Hurdle in January he was third behind Saphir Du Rheu and Reve De Sivola. That race is a solid trial for this and considering Un Temps Pour Tout hadn’t ran since May he should be fitter and stronger for this. I believe he is highly likely to reverse that form as he is a smart hurdler.
Question marks remain over whether or not Zarkander will stay this 3m trip. Despite his fourth in last year’s World Hurdle and second in the Long Walk Hurdle this is likely to be ran at a stronger pace. However he does tend to run his best races on the New Course at Cheltenham where this is ran.
Saphir Du Rheu has come back hurdling after a failed attempt over fences. He won the Cleeve Hurdle and trainer Paul Nicholls remarked: “I can get him better than that.” So fully expect him to be fully primed. Reve De Sivola seems overpriced as you don’t win three consecutive Long Walk Hurdles without quality. His price seems a little offensive however there is an argument that he struggles at Cheltenham; he was on my shortlist and is definitely on to consider.
The Irish’s best hope is Lieutenant Colonel who comes here after beating a number of these in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. On that form he has a chance but would need to find a slight improvement.
4:00 Stable Plate
Another 24-runner Handicap race but this time over fences. Many have chances so I’ll hopefully point the best value out to you.
I’ve been really keen on the Evan Williams Buywise (10/1 each-way) and I hope they have found the right race for him in this. He is a progressive horse and does his work really well. He was fifth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup here in November and won the Silver Trophy Chase here in April. This eight-year-old has solid Cheltenham form and should relish the quicker ground but rain before the race wouldn’t put me off as he has form on heavy ground in his early career. His jumping does need to improve and he possibly will need to be up with the pace but for me is the one.
Rawnaq (28/1) looks a worth each-way bet. Its fair to say he has had a mixed career so far with a bit of everything on his route here. He was a third in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham back in November 2013 where he was prominent throughout and could make his lead two from home as he was boxed out by Dell Arca and Flaxen Flare. Since going chasing he has looked better. The good ground should suit this eight-year-old and last time out he was the winning outsider in a four-runner Grade 2 at Navan against the somewhat over-hyped Gilgamboa. In that he asserted himself in the home straight to win by one-and-three-quarter lengths.
Burn And Turn (20/1) each-way looks a fairly good bet. This mare has ran into some good horses in the likes of Don Cossack, Sizing Europe and Road To Riches. She won at Limerick two starts ago before being well beaten by Don Cossack. The good ground is a major positive and seems off a fair mark.
Monetaire looks likely to be a strong favourite for David Pipe who has a good record in this race however I’m yet to be convinced. Filbert has a small shout at a big-price while the Henderson pair of Hunt Ball and Rajdhani Express both have good Festival records but look too handicapped for this.
4:40 Kim Muir Hanidcap Chase
This is the final race on St Patricks Day at the Festival and it is for amateur riders.
Jamie Codd had a winner on the opening day with Cause Of Causes in the four-miler but has work to do on The Package as he runs best when fresh and hasn’t looked his best this season.
Two each-way selections here for me.
Clondaw Knight (20/1) looks a big price after his last two performances where he won at Wetherby by 14l over 3m1f while he was second to an improving Carole’s Destrier last time out at Ascot. Don’t worry about the weight being carried as the last six winners have all carried 11st 6lb+.
Bless The Wings (25/1) will have Nina Carberry on-board and see was mightily unlucky in the Cross Country yesterday on Quantitativeeasing who was carried through the rails by Toutancarmont when travelling really well. This race could offer her compensation today. Trainer Gordon Elliot has trained the second and third in this race in the last two years; Nina Carberry rode both. The form in the book isn’t great but in his last attempt over 3m he won and I fully believe he will be there or thereabouts at the business end of the race as this pair know how to get a horse at least placed in this race.
Vintage Star could run a big race on this better ground for Sue Smith even though his last two attempts around Cheltenham of PU and F would put you off. Not fully understanding of why people are backing Tap Night as I can’t have him at all while there are stamina worries with the top two in the market, Champagne James and Gold Street. The former of that pair is the most interesting as he is unexposed and stepping up from 2m4f for the first time in his career so he could be anything in honesty but he does have solid form in the book.