CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – DAY 2 (WEDNESDAY)

13.30 Cheltenham Statisticians would point out fancied horses tend to dominate this as 27 of the last 30 winners have come from those within the 1st 6 in the betting. Another interesting stat would be the record of the Irish, who have taken 7 of the last 13 renewals, Mullins being responsible for 3 of the last 10 winners. Yorkhill would be high on any stats list and his form makes him even more interesting, unbeaten in his five and an easy winner of the Tolworth he was thought of as quick enough for the Supreme. Impressive in a big field event over 2m4f at Punchestown he really is difficult to oppose and his effortless demolition of the re-opposing O O Seven hinted that this trip would be more to his liking. If there were a concern for the Mullins challenger it would be the ground as he hasn’t encountered genuinely good ground before, his pedigree does strongly suggest he will act on it but that question mark needs answering and he must prove his effectiveness on the course. Yanworth was high class in bumpers and his 4th here last season promised he would make it over obstacles. Impressive in all of his victories to date he moved right to the head of this market after hammering a good bunch here last month. Allan King and Barry Geraghty have raved about him ever since and though he must prove he can fight, no horse as of yet has got him off the steel and he is almost impossible to oppose as such. A Toi Phil was visually impressive the last day and stablemate Bello Conti is worthy of a mention though anything other than a victory for one of the two market leaders would be a considerable upset. Yanworth (WIN)

14:10 Cheltenham The talking horse in the second contest of the day is the JP McManus owned More Of That. The former World Hurdle winner loves it around Cheltenham with four wins from four starts. A victory over yesterdays Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power in the aforementioned World Hurdle is by far the best form on offer in this field and More Of That deserves its place as favourite. With all that in mind I can’t see past the Jonjo O’Neill entry especially considering course form counts for a lot here in Gloucestershire. Of its rivals No More Heroes undoubtedly poses the biggest threat. Two Grade 1 wins shows its ability and hailing from the Gigginstown plethora of talent it has to be respected. The horse is clearly talented but seems to have had a tough campaign as opposed to the favourite and may be looking likely to play second string. Another horse worth noting is Vyta Du Roc who’s tasted success here before and could fill up the top three places. More Of That (WIN)

14:50 Cheltenham The first big handicap of the day sees 26 runners set to line up in this hurdles contest. With so many runners in the race I’m plumping for two runners and both hail from the same yard. The first is five year old Politilogue who put in a decent effort when winning at Exeter last time out. It’s lightly raced and although doesn’t have proven form has a tonne of scope for improvement. Nicholls knows what it takes to win a race of this nature and this looks like one of the likelier chances the yard has to scoop a prize. Nicholls other runner Baoulet Delaroque is also five years old and has racked up an impressive hat-trick of consecutive victories. A win over the useful Value At Risk last time out reads well and despite a decent hike in the weights has the scope and ability to go close once again. Qewy is a runner that was campaigned at the highest level last year and a return to hurdling is bound to be an advantage. The John Ferguson runner has a chance and may surprise a few at a big price. Another threat posed to my selections looks to be the ultra consistent Rock The Kasbah, a horse who has clear talent and should be one of the main protagonists but unfortunately I fear the handicapper has now scuppered its chances with such a hike in weight. Politilogue (E/W) Baoulet Delaroque (E/W)

15:30 Cheltenham Plenty of questions will be answered in this but one would have to consider this to be one of the most intriguing Queen Mothers for many a year. The brilliant, at times breath-taking Un De Sceaux will go off odds-on and deserves to having looked pretty unbeatable barring accidents so far over fences. An emphatic Arkle winner he gave former winner of this Sire De Grugy a good old fashioned towelling at Ascot and a repeat of that would probably be enough whatever any of the rest produce. Like former winner Moscow Flyer however he has the habit of clouting a few of his fences and he paid the price for that when falling at Leopardstown two starts back. The formbook screams very loudly that he will make all and that is exactly what I suspect he will do, though for interests sakes we shall look elsewhere for a place. Sprinter Sacre might not be the horse of old but he is the only serious challenger to the jolly on what is already known, collateral form gives him little hope however and so despite the fairy-tale element he is probably not worth touching given his relatively short price. Special Tiara could be the one to upset the favourites rhythm up front as he too likes to lead, a grand tough sort he was unlucky when just losing out to Sire De Grugy earlier in the season but again, the formbook says no. Another no on the book would be last seasons winner of this, Dodging Bullets who has a mountain to climb if reading into comeback effort at Newbury. Paul Nicholls has been adamant that he will be much better today and interestingly he hasn’t the greatest record when returning from a lay off anyway. A reproduction of last seasons winning effort would unlikely be enough to take this but given the fact he is usually held up and that the pace in this will almost certainly be strong, he is handed a most tentative and speculative vote to chase home the favourite and bag us some unlikely place money. Dodging Bullets (E/W)

16:10 Cheltenham A race that the snobs of the racing fraternity turn their nose up and sneer at but the Cross Country chase holds and deserves its rightful place at the festival. After two consecutive victories here Josie’s Orders is a worthy favourite but that was in handicaps against some of these rivals. Although I feel the horse is bound to go close it’s course and distance winning record is likely to come to an end now they race off level weights. Any Currency is an ultra consistent runner for local trainer Martin Keighley, a horse I personally love and this is a race it probably deserves to win. The years are catching up to it now but it may be worth punting for a place. Balthazar King was previously voted PicksfromthePaddock.co.uk’s National Hunt Horse Of The Year and rightly so. A second in the Grand National, a win in France and a win in this race shows the horse has class. Obviously the worry about the horses fitness has to be taken into consideration but if the horse was only 80% of its best it’ll have more than enough to win this on its long awaited return. Any Currency (E/W) Balthazar King (E/W if 9/2+)

16:50 Cheltenham The final handicap of the day is the Fred Winter and this years renewal looks as vastly open as ever. Diego Du Charmil is the market principle but I just couldn’t side with a horse who’s yet to get its head in front in all three of its previous starts. Ardamir hails from Alan Kings stable and although it’s inconsistent at times on its day it looks a good horse and may grab some place money however that level of uncertainty doesn’t make it the best betting prospect. As with the earlier handicap of the day I’m opting for two, the first of which is bottom weight Our Thomas, this nicely bread runner comes from the same team that scooped this race back in 2014 with Hawk High and although it’ll undoubtedly need to improve on its previous form still showed ability in all four of its previous starts. A low weight is bound to help and Our Thomas could go close. My second selection comes from a very successful stable but one that seems to struggle with Cheltenham winners. I’m hoping John Ferguson can turn that previous bad luck around as he sends Jaleo to contest this. Two wins and a third reads like decent form and form that has been franked subsequently, it’s not much to go off but it may be enough to take a hand in the penultimate contest on Wednesday. Our Thomas (E/W) Jaleo (E/W)

17:30 Cheltenham Another race where the stats point very strongly in the direction of Willie Mullins and another race where Mullins has multiple entrants. Instead of breaking down all of his challengers its safer to say that Avenir D’une Vie, Bacardys, Battleford, Castello Sforza, Turcagua, Very Much So and Augusta Kate are all likely winners and all of them have chances. We wont be going the Mullins route for the plain and simple reason that he has won this with all manner of types, both long and short in the betting but all of his could be backed and that we most certainly respect the lot. The Brits rather upset the Irish in this last season and another Brit in Ballyandy is likely to be disputing favouritism in this after a string of excellent performances in this sphere. The concern for him here is that he seems to love cut and for that reason we will take him on, he also has to turn the tables on Coeur Blimey but the weights give him every chance of that and he is a most likable type. Coeur Blimey only hinted at minor promise when second on debut at Uttoxeter, he was quietly backed when beating Ballyandy at Ascot though and there appeared to be no fluke about that victory. Lucy Gardener wont be able to claim the 4lbs she claimed on that occasion but he is entitled to improve and when you consider he is more than double the price of that re-opposing challenger he is handed the vote to run into some place money for his small yard. New To This Town looks to have bundles of scope and is easily the most interesting of the non Mullins Irish challenge, he very nearly earned the vote and is massively respected along with High Bridge and Compadre. Coeur Blimey (E/W)

Chris Roke – Vyta Du Roc (E/W if 9/2+) 14:10

Darren Goodbody – More Of That (WIN) 14:10

Dean Kilbryde – More Of That (WIN) 14:10

Graeme Lafferty – No More Heroes (WIN) 14:10

Karl Hedley – Rock The Kasbah (E/W) 14:50

Matt Kirby – First Figaro (E/W) 17:30

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