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Cheltenham Festival: Day Three

Altior proved his class in the Champion Chase and despite looking in trouble for a fair way he managed to win quite comfortably with Min in second.

But it was Gordon Elliott’s day as he saddled three winners with Samcro confirming he is the rising superstar in the novice ranks then Tiger Roll won the Cross Country in conditions that were thought to be against him and to top it all Veneer Of Charm at 33/1 won the Fred Winter to complete the treble for the trainer.

Presenting Percy bolted up in the RSA and big things could come for him down the line after that success given the way he jumped and travelled while Willie Mullins enjoyed the Champion Bumper with the 1-2-3.

For the yesterday’s blog, there were plenty of near misses with four seconds and a third plus the obvious winner in Samcro at 8/11.

13:30 – JLT Novices’ Chase

I’m with Terrefort here for Nicky Henderson after he made is 2-2 in Britain when getting the better of Cyrname in a fairly good renewal of the Scilly Isles at Sandown.

The ground will suit as he holds form on it from his French days and the form from his Scilly Isles win has been franked with Cyrname since winning the Grade 2 Pendil Novices Chase while the third that day No Comment ran well for a long way in the National Hunt Cup on the opening day of the Festival on what was just his second start over fences.

The grey looks ready-made for this test and is likely to be ridden prominently by Daryl Jacob and with his solid jumping plus the determination he showed at Sandown means he could take some passing up the Cheltenham hill.

Invitation Only represents Willie Mullins who has won the three last runnings of the race, so many will be leaping to that trend.

He was third in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown, which was won by Monalee, who was second in the RSA yesterday. He could prove more effective over this furlong shorter trip and he has done well since falling on chase debut.

Gordon Elliott’s only runner in the race is Shattered Love who receives the mares’ allowance and is 4-5 over fences. She beat the males over 3m last time in a Grade 1 Novice Chase and if finding this trip to her liking, she could be the one from an each-way perspective to have on side.

Benatar is on an upward curve over fences and made it 3-3 when beating Finian’s Oscar at Ascot in December. The latter has since had a wind operation and wears first-time cheekpieces but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that form confirmed in this given Benatar could have a bit more to come.

Terrefort – 4/1

14:10 – Pertemps Final

This is another of those tricky puzzles to solve given some of these will have done the bare minimum to qualify in an effort to protect their handicap marks.

Louis’ Vac Pouch looked to take a step forward when stepping up to this trip at Aintree last time but then handicapper didn’t miss him by putting him up 12lb for that success while the Philip Hobbs yard has been a bit quiet of late.

Second, that day was Forza Milan and he could run a big race for Jonjo O’Neill given he followed that effort up with a second at Newbury to The Organist, who was fifth in yesterday’s Coral Cup.

The six-year-old wears the first-time tongue-tie too and shouldn’t have too many issues with the trip. He’s won at Chepstow, so there shouldn’t be too many worries about the track and he’s one that could keep improving further.

Who Dares Wins was third in last year’s Coral Cup and went from strength to strength on the flat. He’s 3lb higher here and he did make a nice reappearance over hurdles at Kempton but the trip remains the question mark.

One that could be of interest is Sort It Out who was given a quiet ride at Punchestown in a qualifier last time. He dead-heated for third with Delta Work and that effort came on the back of four disappointing chase efforts.

Edward Harty’s charge has been put up 6lb for that and was doing his best work late, so with this the race in mind, he could have been laid out nicely for this race.

Delta Work is one of Gordon Elliott’s charges in this contest and he has form in a few Graded races in Ireland. He wasn’t beaten by far at Leopardstown last month by the very well treated Total Recall but five-year-olds don’t have the best of records in this race yet I still think he could hit the frame.

Philip Hobbs also has Wait For Me who will be having his fourth run at the Festival. Those form figures here in March read 349 but that ninth only saw him beaten by 4-and-a-half lengths in last year’s County Hurdle.

He tends to give his running but this trip could stretch his stamina plus he’d probably want it to dry out a bit more.

Sykes won back in November but has been edged up 16lb since for a couple of good runs, including one herein December that saw him narrowly beaten at a big price.

The well-handicapped Black Ivory at Warwick beat this nine-year-old last time and he has the required stamina for this sort of test. The ground shouldn’t be an issue and off 142 needs a career best but with solid form, he could be one to find a place.

Sort It Out – 8/1
Sykes – 28/1

14:50 – Ryanair Chase

It’ll be hard to look past last year’s winner Un De Sceaux on the back of his two runs this season when easily justifying his odds-on prices.

He hasn’t been asked a question in those two races and despite the possible challenge for the lead we know he stays strongly, so, therefore, should see of any of those rivals that want to try and soften him up.

His Cheltenham form reads 1211 with just the great Sprinter Sacre getting the better of him, so they’ll all have to be at the top of their games to beat this top-class type.

Veteran Cue Card won this all the way back in 2013 and he ran with plenty of heart in defeat to the very smart Waiting Patiently in the Ascot Chase last time.

There was nothing lost in defeat but it proved he retained the ability at this top level but at 12 it’ll take something special for him to beat Un De Sceaux given but with there being plenty of potential pace in the race it could suit his hold-up style.

Colin Tizzard’s inmate was going well before falling the Gold Cup last year and it was a case of ‘who knows’. Given that was his second spill in consecutive Gold Cups then this kind of makes sense in terms of a target but I still have question marks over him here at this age.

The each-way thievery could be with Frodon. Despite him beating well beaten by Waiting Patiently and Cue Card at Ascot this six-year-old seems to love it around here where he is a perfect 2-2.

This obviously requires more than the Grade 3 Handicap Chase he won here in January under Bryony Forst but he definitely could have his say on the places with Cloudy Dream who runs to a consistent level and seems versatile regarding the trip.

I have to go with Un De Sceaux here because he’s the standout candidate while I can see Frodon the likely one chasing him home.

Un De Sceaux – 11/10
Frodon w/o the fav – 13/2

15:30 – Stayers Hurdle

This year’s renewal looks a tricky heat to call with last year’s third Unowhatimeanharry given a chance on the best of his form.

Connections will be hoping a return to Cheltenham sees him in a better light than when beaten by 11 lengths in the Long Walk Hurdle last time. However, my bigger concern is how quiet the Harry Fry yard has been in the last few months with most of his winners of late coming on the level, so I’m willing to pass over this ten-year-old.

Sam Spinner will go off favourite unless something drastic happens because the six-year-old has excelled since stepping up to this 3m trip and could have more untapped potential we’re yet to see.

He won the Long Walk Hurdle last time from L’Ami Serge when in full control after being allowed to dictate the fractions from the front. The New One may take him on up front, which may just well give those in behind him a chance but at Ascot, he did show a likeable attitude to stretch on when pressed.

Supasundae has been second on both starts over this trip and he won the Irish Champion Hurdle last time over 2m, so is fully versatile and has the tactical speed necessary.

Yanworth beat the Jessica Harrington charge in the Liverpool Hurdle at Ascot by a length in April and now reverting back to this sphere is a big player on the best of his form. Ratings give him a big chance and he’ll be able to sit in off the pace before making a late dash to take the honours.

I’d rather approach this from the each-way angle and that comes with seven-year-old Wholestone who relishes his visits to Cheltenham boasting excellent figures around here of 1211312.

The Cleeve Hurdle is usually a good indication for this race and he was second in it beaten by three lengths by Agrapart on desperate ground, so with slightly better underfoot conditions here he’s the one I’d take at a price to outrun their odds.

L’Ami Serge runs in the same colours for Isaac Souede and Simon Munir and was behind Sam Spinner last time but he’s not one that gets his head in-front all too often. Two wins from 15 starts but continues to run creditably, so is another for the place angle.

Wholestone e/w – 22/1

16:10 Brown & Merriebelle Stable Plate

King’s Socks has been well touted for this race after his eye-catching return to action at Kempton after an 18-month layoff.

His French form back in 2016 has him going close with Footpad and if able to reproduce runs as close to what that Willie Mullins inmate is capable of, then the mark of 140 could underestimate his potential.

There will be a few bookies with their eyes on the fact David Pipe has won this race three times in the last eight years, so they may take no chances with him.

The Storyteller is a horse I like but I thought he folded tamely during the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase won by Monalee. If Invitation Only wins the JLT then we could see this one shorten on the back of that form line plus there is the Gordon Elliott factor.

Novices’ do have a good record in this race and this seven-year-old still has more to offer over fences and given he’s on a good mark on his handicap debut meaning there will be people happy to back him. He’s capable but I just the odd sketchy jump could knock him off stride and see him vulnerable.

This is generally a race to look at those at bigger prices, so Traffic Fluide, who has been competing at the top table for a while now gets a chance in lesser company.

Eight of his last 11 starts have been in Grade 1’s while the other three have been in Grade 2’s. He ran well at Ascot over 2m4f in the Old Roan at Aintree off a mark of 156. He’s now 11lb lower than that and if still retaining ability could be one that is lurking on a good mark.

I’d take a flyer with Oldgrangewood who was third in that race, a place ahead of Traffic Fluide. That was off this same mark of 147 but that effort came quickly off the back of a race just two-weeks before.

Now he’s had the ideal preparation by winning at Newbury in earlier December, he’s had time to build that confidence by getting his head in front while also having time to rest. Dan Skelton is having a quiet time of things but a few of his runners are going well and this seven-year-old isn’t without a squeak.

Nine of the last ten winners have carried under 11st too, so that could be something to look out for and Guitar Pete fits that mould. He won over course and distance back in December off a 5lb lower mark.

He unseated at Ascot in January when seemingly travelling powerfully, so with no damage done that day, he could still be one on a good mark that has form around here to have on the shortlist.

Oldgrangewood – 22/1
Guitar Pete – 20/1

16:50 – Mares’ Novices Hurdle

This isn’t a race where I’ve got a strong opinion but the market has been strong throughout the weeks in the build-up to this race with Laurina.

We’ve seen Willie Mullins sweep the other Mares’ race in the past with Quevega and he won it again on Tuesday with Benie Des Dieux, so we know he is an excellent trainer of mares.

She’s won both starts in very easy fashion since joining the Closutton handler, including a Grade 3 event last time by 11 lengths. That form was franked with the second, Allextrix, since coming out and winning a handicap.

This five-year-old could cause the bookies more woes after yesterday’s winning favourites, so expect her to go off a short price.

Maria’s Benefit has won her last five starts and added the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle to his resume when making all despite making a couple of jumping errors.

There will be no room for mistakes here and despite her trying to make a bold bid from the front she looks likely to come up short.

Cap Soleil could be one for each-way backers and this fine looking type got back on track at Haydock last time in deep conditions after having her colours lowered at Newbury in December.

Fergal O’Brien will be hoping for a good run, as he does like to have runners, and of course winners, here given it’s one of his local tracks. This sort of test could suit her and in both of her wins over hurdles, she’s shown different sides of her character.

An impressive win on hurdling debut before digging deep and gamely winning at Haydock, so with 14 runners, she would be a shot in the dark by either backing her each-way or without the favourite at around 11/2.

No Bet

17:30 – Kim Muir Challenge Cup

With this being an amateur riders race then it would be for many to look straight for Jamie Codd, who has won this race four times in the last ten years but his mount Squouateur is already at the head of the betting at the time of writing.

This seven-year-old was getting into contention in this last year when unseating the same rider and two of his starts since have been over the inadequate 2m trip, so he hasn’t shown his full hand to the handicapper.

He runs off the same mark of 135 as he did 12-months ago and arrives here after having a wind operation, so looks laid out for this race but the market has already spoken for him.

Missed Approach is another that has had a wind operation since last seen. He’s a thorough stayer after placing in both the Grade 3 Classic at Warwick and Edinburgh National.

The eight-year-old was second in the 4m last year behind Tiger Roll under this pilot, so they have form together and we know he’s a strong stayer. He ticks plenty of boxes.

Sugar Baron has been second twice this season, including when running here in November when beaten by a narrow margin.

He went even closer over 3m5f in the London National and those two runs have shown a very eye-catching finishing effort. He was sixth in this last year but this time around has Katie Walsh on-board, so this son of Presenting looks to have plenty going for him given those runs this season and a top amateur in the saddle.

Braqueur D’Or is a consistent type for connections but the ground could be against this seven-year-old. He’d ideally want it to dry out much more before the race with his best form coming on good ground.

He ran well in the Hennessy when fourth behind the well-handicapped Total Recall and is 2lb lower this time around. In a Grade 2 Novice Chase last time he was one-paced late on before making a mistake at the last. This could suit him off a good mark but the ground may be against him.

One that’ll like the soft ground is Final Nudge. He was third in the Welsh National off 145 and is 2lb lower here after a slightly disappointing run at Sandown last time but he wasn’t beaten all that far despite finishing fifth.

It was below par by his standards with how he found little under pressure, so if the 40-day break has helped freshen him up then he could be one that sticks on gamely to hit the frame.

Pendra was chinned close home in this last year on his return to action. He ran that day off a mark of 145 with Derek O’Connor on-board and it’s exactly the same this time around but connections will be hoping he goes one better.

Given how well he ran last year, you can’t have any concerns about the lay-off and he’ll be primed for it, so cannot be discounted too easily.

Sugar Baron – 12/1
Final Nudge – 16/1


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