The Middlesbrough vs Preston game delivered for cards as the visitors left the Riverside with all three points but the game at Pride Park saw just two Stoke players carded.
At Cheltenham, it was much better news with four winners and two placed horses across the day. City Island got use off to a cracker at 9/1 and was followed by Topofthegame at 4/1. Brio Conti placed in the Coral Cup and Fanfan Du Seuil placed in the Fred Winter while there were wins for stars Altior, 18 in a row, and Tiger Roll, consecutive Cross Country wins.
I’m not a fan of the Europa League for punting while I haven’t had enough chance to study the darts in depth, despite attending tonight in Nottingham.
Here are my quick picks for Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Festival Day 3
13:30 JLT Novices’ Chase
It’s hard to look past 2017 Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil (3/1) for this following his win at Sandown last time in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase when getting the better of Lostintranslation. That reversed form from when they clashed here in January and Philip Hobbs’ runner looks to set to confirm that form and notch his third win over fences. His win in December saw him beat Topofthegame and we saw him win the RSA Chase yesterday to boost that form.
14:10 Pertemps Final
Good luck! It’s not a race where I fancy too much with Sire Du Berlais given a quiet time of things at Leopardstown but doing enough good late work to make sure he got into this race. He was placed in the Martin Pipe last year and remains unexposed at this trip. The seven-year-old does take plenty out of the market with his price, so I’m happy to try and find something elsewhere.
First Assignment (12/1) seems to relish the Cheltenham test and is 2-2 at the course. He won a Listed Handicap Hurdle over C&D by nine-lengths when beating Boyhood in November and Ian Williams charge can show his love for Prestbury Park once more. His two runs since have been solid enough considering one of them saw him finish third behind Stayers Hurdle favourite Paisley Park and Shades Of Midnight, who has won twice since. The six-year-old has a nice profile and runs his race, so I don’t mind his price.
Samburu Shujaa has won twice at Chepstow and could be the improving type, Abolitionist carries bottom weight and won his last hurdles start by ten lengths but is unlikely to be given a hard race with the Grand National his main aim (if getting in). At a bigger price is Flemcara (20/1) who won nicely at Exeter last time and hasn’t been over punished with a 4lb rise. I was expected a bigger rise considering how well he looked to have won, so going up to 137 is manageable and this could prove to a very good day for Emma Lavelle.
14:50 Ryanair Chase
A tough race to call with Willie Mullins pair Footpad and Un De Sceaux both respected, while Road To Respect sidestepped a run in the Gold Cup to be here, but I’m with Monalee (9/2).
Henry de Bromhead’s charge won the Red Mills at Gowran Park last month very nicely and jumped beautifully, which will stand him in good stead here. Last year in the RSA, he just bumped into the smart Presenting Percy, who is fancied for the Gold Cup, while stayer Elegant Escape was in third to make that renewal look quite strong. With there plenty of early pace then his stamina could kick into play in the closing stages, so that should set him up nicely in the finish.
There was a word at work for The Storyteller, who I backed at 33/1, however I’m not convinced by his jumping holding up but he did won a Grade 1 at Punchestown in April albeit a race where Monalee fell and drama at the last took Finian’s Oscar and Al Boum Photo out of the equation.
15:30 Stayers Hurdle
It would be some training performance to bring Faugheen back to the boil, while Supasundae is a perennial bridesmaid in this sort of race.
Paisley Park (15/8) is unbeaten this season and has been very impressive in pulling apart some good fields, so it’s very difficult to look past him despite him shortening following the defection of last year’s winner Penhill due to injury. Emma Lavelle has got this son of Oscar primed nicely throughout the season, so if she can once more then she’ll scoop her biggest win in the training ranks.
West Approach (33/1) is a big price and one worth taking considering he’s chased Paisley Park home in the last two races. Colin Tizzard’s charge is a half-brother to Thistlecrack and does stay quite well. The question mark is if he can jump smoothly enough to stay in contention, however, he’s a gutsy individual, so at his price is worth a bit of change. Stablemate Kilbricken Storm reverts back to hurdles and after winning the Albert Bartlett last year, can’t be dismissed easily.
16:10 Stable Plate
Another wide open contest that sees Siruh Du Lac going for the four-timer after getting the better of Janika here last time out.
Two against the field in a wide-open contest would be Eamon An Cnoic (12/1) and Doitforthevillage (20/1).
The former has run in some good handicaps and did well here in November. He has wind surgery prior to his last run and looked a different animal over 2m at Chepstow, so if taking the longer trip back in his stride then he should run well for a yard that have a good record in this race.
Doitforthevillage generally runs his heart out and more often than not, it’s not good enough. He’s one that finds the frame more than the win but he did record victory in December by seven lengths but has had excuses in recent runs. A mark of 140 isn’t beyond him considering some performances around this sort of mark. If his jumping holds up, I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t in the places.
16:50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
I probably won’t be having a bet in this race and considering the vibe around Epatante then I’m surprised she’s not shorter. Sinoria seems to be progressing nicely for Henry de Bromhead but if I do have a bet it would be a few quid each-way on Elusive Belle (14/1). She bolted up by 19 lengths on her first start for Nicky Henderson but failed to justify short odds at Sandown last time. However, that Sandown race wasn’t a quickly run affair, so that didn’t aid her cause, so with a stronger gallop expected, plus the hood on for the first-time, then we could see her in a much better light and regaining the winning thread.
17:30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Hopefully this race goes more smoothly than the Amateur Riders race did on the opening day, which led to a few jockeys earning suspensions. Jamie Codd won on the first day on-board Le Breuil and he’s the winning-most jockey in this race, so Measureofmydreams is of appeal straight away. He returned to the track after a long absence in February when second, on his first start for Gordon Elliott, suggesting he still had ability. However, the bounce factor is the worry here, so I’m going elsewhere.
Two at prices that could run well are Touch Kick (16/1) and Perfect Candidate (33/1).
The latter knows the course like the back of his hand and when we last saw the 12-year-old he was third behind Beware The Bear, who won the Ultima on Tuesday. Fergal O’Brien has freshened his runner up and his mark of 140 is the lowest he’s raced off since January 2016 – when he won over C&D off 134. He’s won a couple of times over the New Course here at Cheltenham, so off a falling mark could outrun his odds.
Touch Kick stepped up to 2m7f at Taunton last month and shaded a race against Diplomate Sivola. It was his first time over a trip that far and took him a gutsy effort to rally and claim top prize. Cut in the ground will help his chance, so further rain wouldn’t be an issue and if he continues to mature then he could thrive over this sort of trip.
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