After a thrilling first day of the Cheltenham Festival where new champions were crowned it is a return to one of the greats of Cleeve Hill on Wednesday when Altior goes in search of another Champion Chase crown. We’ve previewed that race elsewhere but there is another decent undercard headed by the stampede that is the Coral Cup. We’ll take on the remainder of the card here.
1.30 Cheltenham: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
The Ballymore has traditionally been a race where it has paid to follow the market. That said, it was a pretty poor first day at this year’s Festival for favourites with just 1 winner (in fact, the only one to make the frame). That said, the chances of the market leaders do look very solid.
Champ, for the Henderson/Geraghty combo, is 4 from 4 over hurdles this season including the Challow Hurdle at Newbury last time out. He also won the Ladbroke at the same track on soft ground and that was his most impressive bit of form, on today’s likely ground.
Battleoverdoyen is 2 from 2 over hurdles and won a Grade 1 novice hurdle last time out with Sam’s Profile, one of today’s rivals, just over 2 lengths back in 2nd. At 3 times the price, the runner up should be a whole lot closer today especially with the stiffer track and softer ground in his favour. He won a maiden hurdle over 2 miles, was just outstayed next time over 3 miles and then put in a great performance behind Battleoverdoyen last time out.
He’s the one most likely to be suited by the test of stamina and he represents good value in the market without the potential superstar Champ.
Back Sam’s Profile (e/w) in the ‘without Champ’ market for a 1/10 stake at 8.50 BetVictor (⅕ odds 1-3)
2.10 Cheltenham: RSA Novices’ Chase
It’s difficult to split the front 3 in this and many of the longer priced horses look closely matched. This is a no bet race for us with Topofthegame seeming the most likely winner.
2.50 Cheltenham: Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
A maximum field of 26 for the ultra competitive Coral Cup and it really is a case of the lucky pin here. I cannot be having Uradel at odds of 5/1 and would rather take a couple at bigger each way odds.
The first selection is last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Farclas. The first big tick in the box is course form, he’s 1 from 1 here and that was at the Festival. He’s also stepped up in trip which has been the route for a few other recent winners and this stiffer test looks to be in his favour. He will appreciate the soft ground, conditions he hasn’t had so far in a disappointing campaign and finally, he could prove to be well handicapped now he’s stepped outside of graded company. As well as a Triumph win, he also has a 2nd to his name behind the newly crowned Champion Hurdler Espoir D’Allen. He should be held up and there’s not many better than Davy Russell to plot a route around this big field. A massive run is on the cards.
I’m throwing a 2nd dart at this race in the shape of Tully East. He’s another that has been lightly raced, hasn’t shown his best form and is now stepped back up in trip. He won the last time he raced at the Festival, over fences in 2017 and has some other good solid course form. There’s not many with better big field form either and this one has all the hallmarks of a horse that has been laid out for this. Soft ground is another big plus and I fully expect him to hit the frame.
Back Farclas (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 Coral (⅕ odds 1-7)
Back Tully East (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 Paddy Power (⅕ odds 1-7)
4.10 Cheltenham: Cross Country Chase
The Cross Country Chase is always an interesting race and you need a horse that’s well suited to the very different challenge this presents. Last season’s winner and subsequent Grand National winner heads the market and he comes here with solid claims of following up.
It might sound obvious but I cannot get away from Auvergnat. He’s been 4th in the last 2 runnings of this but there’s plenty of reasons to suggest he’ll improve on that this year. He’s now a 9 year old and that experience will stand him in good stead here. He comes here after winning the 27 runner Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and has Donal McInerney on board. A winner of 6 of his 20 chases, McInerney is unbeaten on him in completed chases, winning 4 and falling in the other. He’s twice beaten Josies Orders in the last 12 months and with the ground in his favour, he’s certain to make the frame if he stays on his feet.
Back Auvergnat (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 9.00 Bet365 (¼ odds 1-3)
Back Auvergnat (e/w) in the ‘without Tiger Roll’ market for a 1/10 stake at 5.50 BetVictor (⅕ odds 1-3)
4.50 Cheltenham: Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
A typically open renewal and it’s a race that’s seen many big priced winners and ones that have come here off the back of a defeat. That said, big yards have landed this with Elliott having winners at 33/1 and 25/1, Nicholls at 25/1 and 13/2, and Henderson at 40/1.
Therefore, I’m taking 3 at big prices, 2 of which come from powerful yards. Fanfan Du Seuil won a hurdle in France before falling on his UK debut. He then won well at Exeter when running very green before fading close home here in the Triumph Hurdle trial last time out. Softer ground will suit today and he should go well.
Torpillo is the top weight and represents the Twiston Davies yard. He holds a great chance on the form of his 3 wins on very soft ground. Last time, he was beaten and ran poorly in the Victor Ludorum but made a pretty bad blunder and I’m therefore prepared to forgive that run. The stiff track and soft ground will suit and he’s a big price to get back on track here.
Praeceps is our 3rd bets in this from the Alan King stable. He won well at Market Rasen before running really well last time out when 3rd in the Adonis on the flat track at Kempton, getting outpaced at a crucial stage. This track will suit and he should run a big race at a very generous price.
PLACED – Back Fanfan Du Seuil (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 17.00 Bet365 (¼ odds 1-5)
Back Torpillo (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 23.00 William Hill (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back it here:
Back Praeceps (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 29.00 Skybet (⅕ odds 1-5)
5.30 Cheltenham: Champion Bumper
The closing race of Day 2 in the Bumper and this looks a weak renewal. The Irish have a good record in this and I’m counting on them to add to their impressive record. Quite often, it pays dividends to steer away from the market leaders and I’m following that approach this year.
From the Joseph O’Brien yard, I like their 2nd string Sempo. He’s only just in the first half dozen in the market but is the 2nd highest rated horse in the field. He was noted as keeping on well in his first 2 runs but never really threatened on either occasion but is best judged on his win last time out at Thurles when winning without ever put under any pressure, scooting clear by 15 lengths in a 16 runner race. It’s hard to know what he beat but visually, that was as good a performance as we’ve seen. At double figures with the smallest field in memory, he looks a cracking each way bet.
Back Sempo (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 13.00 BetVictor (⅕ odds 1-4)