1:40 – Amateur Riders’ Novices Chase
Back in Focus (10/3) will be hoping to keep favourite backers happy at Cheltenham for a second day when he heads the field for the Amateur Riders’ Novices Chase, his recent performances have seen him win on his last three outings over in Ireland, justifying favouritism on all three occasions and beating race rival Tofino Bay in the process by a very large margin. He has definitely got the ability to give Willie Mullins another winner at this year’s festival based on those performances, but it looks set to be a much more difficult proposition. Buddy Bolero (9/2) is one such competitor that will be hoping to have a say in the result, he comes into this race off the back of victories at Leicester, Exeter and Folkestone and seems more than capable of coping with the difficult ground based on successful outings over both Soft and Hard ground.
Highland Lodge (22/1) has put in a couple of strong performances on Heavy ground which based on today’s events could stand him in good stead, especially on the back of a 22 length Class 2 success here back in December, however, the field was only 5 strong on that day and with a much larger number of runners it could prove slightly too difficult for him, especially if the course dries out partially which would probably be enough to write off his chances. Our Island (50/1) has looked out of sorts recently, but is one that handles the Soft ground pretty well, but he hasn’t managed to make an impact at this course on both of his previous two appearances.
Rival D’Estruval (6/1) makes his first appearance at the course, but also has solid claims based on convincing victories at both Kelso and Carlisle recently. Whilst despite his loss to Back in Focus in December, Tofino Bay (10/1) has put in a couple of solid performances in Ireland this year which show off his chances of claiming the spoils.
Selection – Buddy Bolero (WIN) has more than shown that he can win races recently, and could do so again at the big stage for David Pipe here, but Irish trained Tofino Bay (EACH WAY) looks like a potentially strong challenger for the spoils and could get the better of Back In Focus on more suitable ground to get Ladies’ Day up and running with a bang.
2:05 – Neptune Novices Hurdle
Pont Alexandre (6/4) is a well worthy favourite for the second race of the day, and should Willie Mullins not land the spoils with Back in Focus in the opener then there’s probably not going to be a more perfect opportunity for him to get Ladies’ Day up and running. Three wins outside of the UK in the past 12 months have come in convincing fashion, finishing way ahead of Sizing Gold last time out, and it is hard not to see him being successful once more considering he has shown his ability on all manner of ground across Europe and looks to be streets ahead of the field. Rule The World (7/1) has decent place claims on the back of 3 wins from 4 starts over jumps, two have which have come on heavy ground which could bode him well for this outing.
Selection – Only two selected here so it should be pretty much straightforward, Pont Alexandre (WIN) and Rule The World (EACH WAY)
2:40 – Grade 1 Novices Chase
Boston Bob (4/1) is another worthy favourite at the Festival as he bids to set up a potential early treble for Willie Mullins should all three favourites oblige. He is 2 from 2 in Chases and has managed to do just about enough on his last two outings in order to claim the spoils. If it is to be a close fought affair, then no doubt Unioniste (4/1) is going to be the one to provide that competition based on his form of 4 Chase wins from 5, and an 11 length victory in Class 1 company here in December. Lord Windermere (11/1) was bettered by Boston Bob on his last outing, but he can survive well enough to give himself a should on ground which is similar to that on offer here. Terminal (25/1) has ran big races recently, beating strong looking competitors, including Tofino Bay, last month at Navan on Heavy ground, and success in the UK hasn’t just been limited to Heavy ground, with a couple of wins on good ground to boot. Lyreen Legend (11/1) is the last one worthy of a mention, but despite showing a fondness to heavier ground, it has been difficult to find winning ways on this side of the Irish sea, especially in chasers, and so any punts made should be done with caution.
Selection – Boston Bob (WIN) is well rated for this one by Timeform, and is probably worth the punt for the win based on the drama of his recent finishes alone, and although there are a few strong competitors at the front of the market, Terminal (EACH WAY) is definitely not one to ignore on the back of two decent recent successes over in Ireland.
3:20 – Queen Mother Champion Chase
Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty will be looking to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase for a second successive year when hot favourite Sprinter Sacre (2/7) takes to the field in what looks to be a two horse race alongside Irish trained Sizing Europe. It is a change from last year when the usual jockey and trainer pairing claimed the spoils on 4/1 shot Finian’s Rainbow for Henderson’s first Champion Chase success in 20 years, the reigning champion has instead been entered into the Ryanair Chase on the Thursday.
2/7 shot Sprinter Sacre remains unbeaten in Chase’s in the UK, adding a 14 length victory at this course in January to his growing list of accomplishments, two of those he beat on that day are entered here, Somersby and Sanctuaire, and any belief that it might have been a bad day for either of his two opponents is probably clutching at straws seeing as he was also able to better Sanctuaire by the best part of 20 lengths at Sandown back in December. As a result of those convincing margins, you won’t be seeing less than 25/1 for either of those two to somehow overturn that deficit here. Wishful Thinking is a slightly shorter price than those, despite being bettered by Sanctuaire twice since last year’s Festival,whilst Mail De Bievre hasn’t won since April 2010, when he was a 7/10 favourite over in France, and recently finishing 5th of 8, and the best part of 25 lengths behind Siliniaco Conti over similar conditions back at Newbury last month.
Sizing Europe (6/1) seems to be the only likely contender to the favourite as he bids to reclaim the title he won back in 2011. Although 11 years old now he has still been pretty dominant with Andrey Lynch on board, the Irish born jockey has navigated him to wide margin victories at Punchestown and Clonmel in Grade 2 company, either side of a 2 length victory in a 5 runner field at Leopardstown back in December, on all three of those occasions he was a long odds on shot however, and it will be interesting to see if he can overturn another favourite, like he did with Master Minded in 2011, and become just the third horse to regain the Champion Chase title after losing it, especially as one of those two occurrences is held by Moscow Flyer who was ridden on both occasions back in 2003 and 2005 by Sprinter Sacre’s jockey Barry Geraghty.
Selection – It looks set to be a two horse race all the way here, and rather than taking the 2/7 on Sprinter Sacre it might be more worthwhile to go for Sizing Europe (WITHOUT SPRINTER SACRE) at Evens.
4:00 – Coral Cup
Get the pins out and start poking at the paper, because there’s a whole host of these that can win this one, even through my own way of thinning out the field I have only managed to shorten the field down to 9 potential winners here, Pendera (8/1) handles the soft ground well, but has shown vulnerability on heavier going, Abbey Lane (10/1) probably prefers in firmer still, Fiveforthree (14/1) has exceptionally strong claims if the ground is more suited to his damper preferences on the track, whilst Meister Eckhart (16/1) may not be potentally as strong as the other three, but he has shown that he can handle most grounds pretty comfortably and could capitalise should one or two of the others find the ground a bit too testing for them. Then from the outsiders, Sadler’s Risk (25/1), Any Given Day (33/1) and Crack Away Jack (33/1) have all shown decent claims, but their prices are probably justified by their claims coming on much less tougher ground than this, whilst Black Thunder (28/1) has got tons of ability but has been very much hit and miss, with a final potential nod given to Rattan (33/1) who is more than capable of producing a storming performance, but that ability seems to have been lost somewhere down the line and only a spark of inspiration would get him showing the potential he has to really throw down the gauntlet here.
Selection – Fiveforthree (WIN) is taken to find the ground more suited to his taste than the two mentioned before him, at a decent enough price as well, whilst Black Thunder (EACH WAY) has definitely got the ability in him to launch a strong claim, but it really depends on how bothered he can be to put in the effort, I’m sure that if this race was run 28 times he would win more than once and so he makes appeal at a decent price
4:40 – Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
22 runners take to the field for the penultimate race of Ladies’ Day, and there are once again a fair few in with contention. Megalypos (10/1) looks set to provide another well fancied input for the Henderson yard, however recent form hasn’t been too convincing, with a 3rd at Chepstow in January following a fourth in a field from 8 at Auteuil in September last year. He has shown his best form on firmer ground and could struggle to mount a challenge here. Ruacana (20/1) has to fancy his chances of bettering most of the field again like he has done on his last 3 outings. Despite only finishing third at Leopardstown last month he was able to better both Blood Cotil and Megalypos, and his two rides prior to that also saw him get the better of Caid Du Berlais, Zamdy Man and Totalize, when winning on both occasions. This field of 24 is a lot more than the John Ferguson horse would be used to, but he cannot be ingored. Whilst despite that loss, Caid Du Berlais (25/1) has been consistent enough at grabbing placings and could be fancied to do the same again here.
Selection – There’s a whole host of them that could reach the line first, but given the credentialls of Nicky Henderson as a trainer it is hard to oppose Megalypos (WIN). Ruacana (EACH WAY) would be an ideal contender for an outsider claiming victory, given that he has picked off 5 of this field already this year, and he should be at least good enough to break into the places.
5:15 – Weatherby’s Champion Bumper
These large runner fields really start to sap the energy out of you after hours of trawling through facts and figures, who will win? Vieux Lion Rouge (25/1) and why? because he has previously won on both heavy and soft ground, claimed the spoils over this distance and also twice done it by a margin of over 10 lengths. I would go deep into my usual long winded drivel as to who could have a big race, how they have fared in the past etc, etc…. but nobody really reads that do they? I’m taking this lightly for one simple reason…
Selection – The Liquidator (EACH WAY) there’s not going to be a big spiel as to why this horse is going to win, he has bettered a few rivals recently, won on his last outing when seen at Exeter last month, and is trained by a decent enough trainer in David Pipe, but to put it simply, I am plumping for this horse purely because over the past couple of weeks Harry J and his little Allstars have infected my brain with their catchy little tune. I haven’t heard it anywhere which has given me reason to make it stick so for me it’s an omen, and tying that in with a not too shabby past is enough to convince me here!