We move into Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday where the feature race and the support card is of the highest quality. The standout race on the day is the Stayers Hurdle with some popular horses returning to attempt to land the big prize.
On the undercard there is a tasty match in the opener while one of the better horses of the season lines up in the Ryanair Chase. They are mixed in with some competitive handicaps as well and we’ve picked out bets in four of the races.
13.30 Cheltenham: Turners Novice Chase
The opening race of Day 3 sees the smallest field I can remember for a race at the Festival with just the 4 runners but despite that, it promises to be one of the races of the whole week. Effectively it’s a straight battle between the superb Bob Olinger & equally brilliant Galopin Des Champs. The former is 6 from 7 in his career with Ferny Hollow the only horse to lower his colours, that record included an impressive victory in last year’s Ballymore too. The latter also won at last year’s Festival in the Martin Pipe Conditional & is so far unbeaten over fences including when landing the big novice chase at the DRF. It’s not a race to bet in but it is still a mouthwatering contest all the same.
14.10 Cheltenham: Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
After a 4 runner opener, it now gets tough with 22 runners going to post for a 3 mile handicap hurdle. This is a race dominated by the Irish who have landed the last 6 runnings of the race & in the last 4 years, they have finished 1-2-4 from 5 runners, 1-2-3 from 8 runners, 1-3-4 from 6 runners & 1-2 from 5 runners. This year they run 10 so it’s probably just a question of figuring which one to side with. Sire Du Berlais is a 2-time winner of this & goes off favourite here off top weight but he’s now a 10 year old & has a 7lb claimer on board. He’s one of 6 for Gordon Elliott but I think he has better chances with others. Winter Fog is the mount of Paul Townend for Emmet Mullins & he was 2nd in the qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas but has it all to do off a revised mark. Sassy Yet Classy won the Punchestown qualifiers & winners of those races have a less than average record in this so despite some excellent runs this term, I’m happy to write off his chances. Tullybeg is one I’ve been interested in for some time & I’ll be disappointed if he goes & wins but he’s been kept off the track for almost 5 months waiting for better ground & yesterday’s rain won’t have helped. I don’t normally like taking more than 2 in a race but here, I cannot find a good reason to leave out any of the ones I’m putting up so it’s 3 selections I’m going with here.
Dunboyne is one of two Elliott runners I’m backing & although he has a tendency to get himself into trouble, he looks too well handicapped to ignore. After a pipe opener at Naas, he ran midfield when not getting a clear run in a good race at Navan before appearing in the qualifier at Leopardstown. He finished 5th that day but had nothing go right after stumbling 2 out & then getting hampered by a loose horse. He was 3 lengths behind Winter Fog that day but is 4lbs better off & with a clear run, would surely have finished much closer. Back at Leopardstown last time out, he was cruising in behind the leaders but a terrible mistake 2 out put paid to his chances. His handicap mark has been somewhat protected & he comes here with an exceptional chance if he gets a clear round on ground he will relish.
The other Elliott horse I cannot ignore is Folcano. He’s another who will love the ground & comes here as a lightly raced 7 year old who has had just 9 starts over hurdles with 3 of those this season. He was 6th behind Sassy Yet Classy in the first of those, the qualifier at Punchestown, but is 10lbs better off with that rival for around 5 lengths. The ground was arguably a bit quick for him too that day. Another decent run followed when 9th at Navan where first time cheekpieces didn’t aid his cause but he was then even better when 4th of 21, less than a length behind the winner, in a race at Navan over two & a half miles. He was collared close to the line by the fast finishers & it looked to me like he’d benefit by stepping back up in trip. The blinkers are retained here & all looks in place for a massive run.
The last one of the 3 is The Jam Man. He relishes big field handicaps as his form this term has proven. 12th on reappearance when looking in need of the run in the November qualifier, he then ran a massive race to finish 4th at Navan in front of both the other selections before then finishing 2nd in a qualifier at Warwick where he had fancied rivals Third Wind, Sire Du Berlais & Alaphilippe all in behind. He was made too much use of last time out under a 7lb claimer where he tried to dominate a 24 runner field but he’ll surely be ridden with more restraint here. Given his attractive mark & the rivals he’s beaten already this season, he must go very close if he runs up to form & at big odds, I’m happy to be on.
Back Dunboyne (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 8.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-8)
Back Folcano (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-8)
Back The Jam Man (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 Skybet BOG (⅕ odds 1-7)
14.50 Cheltenham: Ryanair Chase
Allaho was arguably the most impressive winner at the Festival last year & has done nothing wrong this year either. He really should win this although Conflated, Shan Blue & Janidil are all worthy rivals. With a field of just 8 going to post, there’s not really a play in this so it’s another race I’m happy to sit out on Day 3.
15.30 Cheltenham: Stayers Hurdle
There are 10 runners lining up for the hurdling stayers crown but it’s an incredibly tough puzzle to solve with half of the field currently trading at 6/1 or less. Last year’s winner Flooring Porter is back to regain his crown but this looks a tougher race. He’s a confirmed front runner who absolutely jumped for fun last year but this year hasn’t quite gone to plan as he fell first time up when still on the bridle & then finished behind one of today’s rivals Klassical Dream in the Christmas Hurdle. On that Christmas run, Klassical Dream would be hard to oppose here but blotted his copybook when turned over in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle with the progressive Royal Kahala landing the spoils. In fact, Royal Kahala is another that is well fancied in this race & on strict formlines, she should have the beating of the aforementioned pair but it seems like they are all beating each other & she did disappoint in the Mares Hurdle here 12 months back.
Paisley Park is now a 10 year old & although winning from an impossible position in the Cleeve Hurdle, this former winner is probably up against it today whilst the favourite Thyme Hill just doesn’t do it for me. He was 2nd in the Long Walk Hurdle behind Champ & has been kept fresh for this. At 7/2 & with the quality of opponent, he’s not a bet I can take. Champ is the final one of the fancied runners & after winning the Long Walk, he was 2nd behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve. Song For Someone is the most likely of the longer priced runners but there really is no definite form angle here so reluctantly, it’s another race I’ll be sitting out.
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16.10 Cheltenham: Plate Handicap Chase
18 runners for the Plate & this looks another really competitive race. The Glancing Queen is currently the 3/1 favourite after finishing 2nd behind yesterday’s winner L’Homme Presse but this is his first time in handicap company & there’s plenty of others that appeal at better odds. Both Imperial Alcazar and Celebre D’Allen have equally pressing claims but again their prices make limited appeal. I like Adrimel if he takes to this bigger field but there are 2 bets I’m taking here.
The first is Grand Paradis, an Irish raider who’s winless in 5 chase starts but seems to be getting better all the time & may just have peaked at the right time. He fell on debut in a beginners chase before being pulled up following a few jumping errors in a Grade 1. With his sights then lowered, he then finished 3-2-2 in a trio of beginners’ chase, the last 2 in defeat to Floueur & Blue Sari. This is his handicap debut but his mark looks fine judged on recent RPRs. His trainer runs 3 & he has an excellent record in the race with all of his runners in the frame in the last 4 years (a win & 2 places); this is the most fancied of his trio & I expect him to come out best here.
At a bigger price, I cannot ignore Stolen Silver from an up & coming yard. He won on season debut in a novice handicap & was then a neck 2nd behind Editeur Du Gite who was 6 lengths 4th in the Grand Annual yesterday off a 13lb higher mark. On the basis our selection is up just 4lbs, you could argue he’s very well handicapped indeed. Into novice company, he was outclassed but still managed 4th behind Arkle winner Edwardstone in the Henry VII over 2 miles. Stepped up in trip last time out, he didn’t jump well & was only 3rd but that’s seen his handicap mark eased back 1lb. With a liking for this track, he should go well in an open race.
Back Grand Paradis (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 9.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)
Back Stolen Silver (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 21.00 Betfair BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)
Back it here:
16.50 Cheltenham: Mares Novice Hurdle
There’s been 6 runnings of the Mares & the Irish have won the lot with Willie Mullins responsible for the first 5 of them. He saddles 7 here & it’s hardly surprising he has the front 2 in the market. Dinoblue is 1 from 1 after scooting up at Clonmel & whilst she could be top class, it’s too early to say & 2/1 is skinny in such a big field. Brandy Love is the second favourite & the mount of Paul Townend but was disappointing last time out when poor jumping & a tendency to hang didn’t help. Grangee would be a big threat if she’s over her fall last time out whilst Love Envoi is unbeaten for Harry Fry & is the best of the Brits.
I’m sticking with Mullins but going with his 4th best according to the market in the shape of Hors Piste. Interestingly, half of the 6 winners of this race are second season hurdles & this one fits that bill, unlike 90% of today’s field. She also brings decent form to the table too & having raced twice in France, she ran well on debut in Ireland when narrowly denied by Where It All Began. She made no mistake in going one better next time out over a shorter trip at Clonmel hacking up by 16 lengths. That may have been a weak race but her jumping was fluent & it was hard not to be impressed by the way she quickened with the minimum of fuss. All her career stakes have been on heavy but I think slightly better ground will eke out some further improvement & she’s absolutely guaranteed to get the trip as she is again stepped back a couple of furlongs. At the price, she’s an excellent each way bet.
Back Hors Piste (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
17.30 Cheltenham: Kim Muir Handicap Chase
The last race of the day is the Kim Muir over the Gold Cup trip for amateur jockeys. I’m not a massive fan of trends but there are some strong ones here that probably shouldn’t be ignored; firstly, focus on 7 or 8 years old that are carrying a decent weight; the last 13 have all carried 11st4lbs or more & 8 of the last 9 fit the age bracket. Schoolboy Hours is the current favourite having won the Paddy Power Chase & with crack jockey Derek O’Connor on board. He should go well as should Frontal Assault if he appreciates the extra distance. I was drawn to Mister Fogpatches but always worry about his jumping so have settled on 2 others to finish the day.
The first of them is handicap debutant Ain’t That A Shame. A lightly raced 8 year old, he’s been over fences just the 3 times & has yet to enter the winner’s enclosure but surely it’s just a matter of time. First time up, he was 3rd behind Stattler who won here on Tuesday & is rated over a stone higher than the selection & then was pitched into even better company but managed to finish 2nd behind Galopin Des Champs. Stepped up to 3 miles last time out, he improved again to go down by just a neck to Champagne Platinum. RPRs suggest he’s been given a good mark & provided this extra distance is within reach, I expect him to run a massive race.
Come On Teddy is the final bet of the day & after a good hurdles career, he’s been similarly lightly raced over fences. He won on debut off this mark in a novice handicap chase before being tried in Graded company where L’Homme Presse was just too good. Up in trip at Newcastle, he got back on track off this mark when 2nd of 4 despite making a couple of bad errors. The jockey booking is eye catching & his form at Cheltenham over hurdles (won a big handicap & then 3rd in last year’s Pertemps) suggest he’s probably the best of the Brits here & I can’t see him finishing out of the frame.
Back Ain’t That A Shame (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 9.00 Betf365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)
Back Come On Teddy (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 Paddy Power BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)