The Cheltenham Festival continues on Thursday as the penultimate day of the meeting takes place on Cleeve Hill on a day where the racing could be red hot with some top campaigners and some elite duels taking place across the day.
We move to the new course on Thursday where the Stayers Hurdle is the feature race of the day. For the first time this week the main event is a betting proposition. We have one in that and one on the supporting card.
The Turners has attracted a small field of 9 and it appears to be a straight match between Gordon Elliott’s Mighty Potter and Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It. Having won the Martin Pipe 12 months ago, Banbridge cannot be ruled out either and is worthy of each way consideration but, on a busy day, this is not a race to get involved in.
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Another small field, this time in the Ryanair with just the 9 going to post and Shiskin is the even money favourite. He looks solid enough with Blue Lord, Janidil and Envoi Allen the 3 most likely to challenge. That said, I expect the favourite to prevail and it’s another no bet race for me.
The Stayers Hurdle is the big race of the day and this looks the most open renewal in years. Teahupoo looked to improve for the step up in trip and appears a worthy favourite on the strength of his Galmoy win but this is an altogether different test. Blazing Khal could be the one to beat after landing the Boyne Hurdle off an absence over well over a year but his lack of activity on the track is a slight concern whilst Flooring Porter should again go well after winning the last 2 but he’s not been in the same form this term. Paisley Park would be a popular winner, Home By The Lee has done nothing but improve and Klassical Dream has claims after his 5th last year but might be better suited by a flatter track.
I couldn’t dismiss Sire Du Berlais at a big price but the one I’m going with is a similarly big priced selection in Ashdale Bob. Since finishing 3rd 12 months ago in the Coral Cup, his form has been pretty good although he has failed to get in the winners enclosure. He was 1 length second to Klassical Dream, 3rd behind Home By The Lee in the Lismullen and 2nd behind that same horse in the Christmas Hurdle. He’s a strong stayer, is well suited by Cheltenham, goes best left handed and will love the ground better than most so looks a huge price to make the frame. It would be a fitting result too given his trainer’s recent health issues so I’m hoping the selection can give Jessica Harrington something to smile about.
Back Ashdale Bob (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 26.00 Betfred BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
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The Mares Novice Hurdle is run in memory of young Jack De Bromhead and there would be no more fitting winner than his Dad’s Foxy Girl. The yard also saddle 4 more too and I’m sure Cheltenham would erupt if one of them came home in front. However, I think they may have to settle for minor money, as the front 2 look very solid. Luccia is the favourite for Nicky Henderson after winning 4 from 4 including 2 over hurdles.
However, I cannot get away from the Mullins / Townend horse, Lot Of Joy. She was very good on the flat, finishing 4th in a Premier handicap at Galway and an excellent 3rd in the Irish Cesarewitch. She’s slowly progressing over hurdles, finishing a close 2nd on her first 2 starts over obstacles including when struggling with a longer trip. This step back is sure to suit and the return to this distance helped when getting off the mark last time out at long odds on. The ground has come perfect for her and whilst her hurdle form isn’t the best on offer, she’s definitely on the upgrade and if she can replicate her flat form, I think she’s the one to beat.
Back Lot Of Joy (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 7.00 Coral BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)