Cheltenham Festival Day 2

Day one didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, Vibrato Valtat was cruising in behind Un De Sceaux but found nothing after turning for home. What was even worse for me in that race was seeing God’s Own win the ‘without Un De Sceaux’ bet, I’ve followed that horse all season and it’s failed miserably, comes to The Festival as a 33/1 rag and finishes 2nd in an Arkle. I was pleased to see Faugheen prove his doubters wrong and get a winning bet on the board. That was somewhat ruined 40 minutes later when Annie Power fell at the last with the race at her mercy. It was a losing day, but I set out to find five winners this week and now I ‘only’ need to find four of them.

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”13:30 – The Neptune Novices’ Hurdle” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

NICHOLS CANYON won the Deloitte Novice Hurdle last month. That race is the best trial for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, however they’re stepping him up in trip to run in this. That’s partly due to Ruby Walsh wanting a decent ride and partly due to the belief that he’ll stay a lot further than two miles. Being an ex-flat horse, who has run in an Ascot Gold Cup, I have no doubt that he’ll stay this two and a half miles.

Of his rivals in this I have a lot question marks. Windsor Park struggles with his hurdles and I don’t think he sees out his race particularly well. In the Deloitte he finished past tired horses to grab second, but was always held by Nichols Canyon. I have no reason to believe that the form will be reversed.

Parlour Games is another ex-flat horse, in his two wins this season he’s run in races at a crawl and then quickened with his flat bred turn of foot. He beat a stayer in Blaklion and I don’t think that level of form is good enough to win this. The same can be said of Vyta Du Roc who was sandwiched between Parlour Games and Blaklion last time out.

Outlander is the biggest threat to the selection, he was very impressive when winning last time out in a race which Windsor Park finished fourth. All of his form is on testing ground, which is a slight worry when compared to Nichols Canyon, who should have no issues with the quicker conditions. However if Outlander does come with the increased pace, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve on what he’s shown so far and go close. Saying all of that though, I still have him behind Nichols Canyon on what I’ve seen so far.

Nothing else in the race stands out to me as having enough form in the book or potential improvement to trouble the four mentioned above. Obviously they go into the race with a chance, but they’re not priced big enough to carry my money. I’m happy to back Nichols Canyon at anything over 4.00 (3/1) as he has the best form in the book and should handle the conditions.

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Back Nichols Canyon at 5.00 – Bet365[/symple_box]
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[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”14:05 – The RSA Chase” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

The RSA Chase is a very odd race, it’s not really a race which pans out well for ‘flashy’ horses. It’s a race which very much suits the grinding stayer types, for that reason I have to put a line through Kings Palace. The Pipe/Scudamore horse had it very much his own way last season when being allowed to make all in his races. He then came to The Festival where he didn’t get it all his own way, he was headed, weakened and then eventually fell in The AlbertĀ Bartlett.This season has followed the same pattern, he’s been allowed to make all in small field races which hasn’t put nay pressure on his temperament or jumping. In what I feel is the toughest race of the week for horses I just couldn’t back him.

Willie Mullins is on record as saying Don Poli is a very lazy horse, but despite that everybody agrees he has a touch of class. He will be a leading contender in next years Gold Cup, but I think that this race may come a little to soon for him in his chasing career. This will be his third start over fences and I would have like to of seen him have a run in 2015 just to sharpen him up. On the plus side his win the the Martin Pipe at The Festival last year was exceptional, so I have no questions about him handling the occasion of his ability. At the prices, I have an each-way selection to go against him.

SOUTHFIELD THEATRE is my selection here, he really impressed me when going down by a nostril in the Pertemps Final last year, to the classy and well handicapped Fingal Bay. That form was also boosted by having the subsequent Grand National winner Pineau De Re a neck back in third. To my eye he’s a real grinder and will stay longer than the mother in law. I can see him staying on strongly up the hill and at least grabbing some place money.

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Back Southfield Theatre Each-Way at 8.00 – Bet Victor[/symple_box]

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”15:20 – The Champion Chase” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

Special Tiara will make sure that this is a proper test of accurate jumping at high speed when he attempts to make all from the front. That may inconvenience Champagne Fever who is a horse that I adore, but his preparation this season has been awful. He started off with the aim of winning the Gold Cup, then struggled to stay/go with Silvinaco Conti at Kempton. They decide that the Ryanair was then the target, he fell behind Don Cossack, so he’s now running back over two miles today. He loves the track, he’ll love the ground, however I’ve got a feeling that he won’t be good enough if the two big guns fire. He won’t be able to dictate this race from the front and I see that causing him an issue.

Dodging Bullets isn’t a horse for me, he’d prefer some cut in the ground and right-handed track. I think that SPRINTER SACRE will reverse the Ascot form. The former champion has had his health problems and only returned to the track in January. For 80% of The Clarence House Chase he looked the winner, before tiring on the run in. After a long lay-off and with Barry Geraghty not asking the question there’s a lot of scope for improvement. It was reported that he bled after the race, but for me that’s not something I’m concerned about. Dozens of horses have small bleeds after races each week and they still win races. We won’t see this horse at his best again, but if he can run to within 10lbs of it he will win this race.

Sire De Grugy won the race last year and has also had his injury problems since. His first race back was awful, he jumped poorly and eventually unseated Jamie Moore. He then ran at Chepstow last month and credit has to be given to the trainer for seeing that he needed a run to put him right. If Sprinter Sacre doesn’t run to a mark in the mid 170s then you’d have to expect Sire De Grugy to pick up the pieces.

At the odds of 4.50, Sprinter Sacre has to be backed. I would happily back him at 3.25 for this, he does have questions to answer, but if he’d answered them he’d be a 1.33 shot.

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Back Sprinter Sacre at 4.50 – Betfair Sportsbook[/symple_box]

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”17:15 – The Champion Bumper” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

I’ve been waiting years for Gigginstown to send a horse to this race and now they’ve sent two. I’m not going to let them go unbacked.

GENERAL PRINCIPLE went straight onto my short list for this race when he won at Punchestown by twenty-two lengths last month. STONE HARD is their other runner and he is unbeaten in three starts, winning by fourteen lengths last tie out.

This is a race, where you can’t really get much on form lines and you have to go on stable info and confidence. Rich Ricci thinks a lot of Pylonthepresure, but the fact that Patrick Mullins has chosen to be on Bordini, says to me that he is the stables number one hope.

Moon River is another that the stable and connections seem very confident of, with some saying he’s their best chance of the week. However he hasn’t been seen since winning here back in October, and with the Mullins battalions, this race may not be run to suit.

I’m sticking with my gut, if Gigginstown are sending horses to this race then they have to be backed. I’m splitting my stake 50/50 and taking the both each way. Bet365 are paying four places, but are still top price, whereas some of the other bookies who are top price are only paying three places.

GP

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Back General Principle each-way at 17.0 – Bet365[/symple_box]

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Back Stone Hard each-way at 17.0 – Bet365[/symple_box]
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If each-way lucky 15s are more your thing then Bet365 will pay out at 2580/1 on the 4-fold accumulator part of that bet, and pay the four place each way in The Champion Bumper.

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