CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – DAY 3 (THURSDAY)

13:30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices Chase

With early favourite Willoughby Court unable to take his place it makes sense to look in the first instance at Willie Mullins’ runners considering he has trained the winner for the last three years. Invitation Only looks likely to line up in this race and has twice won over todays’ trip since tackling fences. A solid third last time out, just a length behind the winner over a furlong further than he encounters here, should put him spot on for a big run here.

Terrefort beat subsequent winner Cyrname in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novice Chase last time out, taking his record to two from two since moving to Nicky Henderson, with both victories coming over two and a half miles. An exciting prospect for the future but also in with a decent chance of getting involved here, won’t be far away with a similar run to last time out.

Finian’s Oscar won his first two over fences but has subsequently been a bit disappointing. Switching back to fences, having had a wind op, and with first time cheekpieces applied he arrives on something of a retrieval mission but would need to bounce right back to form to get involved here.

Shattered Love hasn’t been seen since December 2017 but turned the tables on stablemate Jury Duty with victory in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase and has now won four from five over fences, is proven over the trip and has won on all ground ranging from good to heavy so shouldn’t be underestimated.

Modus is unbeaten in three over fences, all over today’s trip, in ground ranging from good to soft. As with Testify above, he has only won in small fields over fences yet does have some form at Cheltenham having won a bumper earlier in his career before finishing second to Moon Racer in the Champion Bumper in 2015.

Terrefort (WIN) – NAP

14:10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Final

Glenloe has placed in all three runs this season, including when third in the qualifier at Leopardstown, a race which has proved a good stepping stone for this race. He has only won one in eight but that came in testing conditions over twenty-three furlongs so he would have to be considered in with a chance, although his price doesn’t look overly enticing given the competitive nature of the race.

Jonjo O’Neill has trained four winners of this race and relies on Forza Milan who has finished a close up second on two attempts over three miles this season. He couldn’t quite get to The Organist last time out and was almost three lengths behind Loius Vac Pouch on penultimate run but comes in to the race fresh and has won in testing conditions so looks capable of another solid effort.  

Louis Vac Pouch won a qualifying race to get to this point, which is a pretty big negative looking at the previous race stats, however he has been very consistent in 2017 winning four from six and stayed on strongly to win well in soft ground on first attempt over three miles last time out. He hasn’t been seen since which suggests he’s been saved for this race and for once I am happy to go against the stats and take a punt on the Philip Hobbs trained six year old.

Louis Vac Pouch (WIN)

14:50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase

Un De Sceaux is a multiple Cheltenham Festival winner having won this race last year and won the Arkle in 2015, with only the mighty Sprinter Sacre standing in his way of winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2016. He is the class horse in the race and with main challengers Waiting Patiently and Top Notch ruled out last week Un De Sceaux should be more than capable of another festival victory here.

Cue Card has been an absolute superstar of a racehorse and even though he is now twelve years old he showed he could still cut it at the top level when chasing home Waiting Patiently in the Betfair Ascot Chase last time out, with Frodon fifteen lengths behind. A previous festival winner with an excellent record over the trip he could make the running and ensure this is a solid test for some.

Frodon was no match for the afore-mentioned Waiting Patiently and Cue Card last time out but is unbeaten in two over course and distance and for that reason is very much respected here, while Cloudy Dream has never finished outside the first two in eleven runs over fences and is versatile regarding both ground and distance so is another with solid place possibilities.

Un De Sceaux (WIN)

15:30 Cheltenham – Stayers Hurdle

Sam Spinner arrives here at the top of his game and was an impressive winner of the Long Walk last time, on that form he hold the re-opposing L’Ami Serge and the recent rain is a major positive. From the yard of Jedd O’ Keefe he would be a fairy-tale winner of this and on the basis of his overall form he probably ought to go off favourite, all things considered he looks the most likely to run his race though whether that will be good enough is open to debate. Yanworth is likely the class horse of the race having already proven himself at the highest level over timber, connections decision to revert to hurdles after an indifferent time of things over fences is interesting but you couldn’t call it an ideal preparation. The New One is as game as any and is a grand servant to both the game and his connections, he could go well at a decent price but everything about his form tells you he is a Grade 2 horse. Supasundae won the Irish Champion, defeating Faugheen in the process. Quite what that form adds up to is debatable as the ‘machine’ looked a shadow of his former self on Tuesday and this is a stiff test of his stamina, he does need respecting though I feel his price is too short. Unowhatimeanharry, Penhill and Bacardys are others with chances but the vote is handed to L’Ami Serge whom often fails to go through with a winning challenge, yet often manages to place.

L’Ami Serge (E/W)

L’Ami Serge claims success.


16:10 Cheltenham – Brown Advisory Chase

Trainer Nicky Richards may not be the most infamous trainer in the national hunt world but he’s had some big wins in his long standing career and he may have another good chance with outsider Guitar Pete. The eight year old seems to have been around much longer than his years suggests and with a fantastic record that has seen him finish in the top three in four of his six races here in Gloucestershire his 20/1 price tag seems mightily generous.

An Irish raider worth noting is also a fellow course winner and Tully East also has a fantastic record here at Cheltenham.

Both aforementioned runners should be able to handle softer going and both look to have lively outside chances.

Of the rest the lightly raced King’s Socks and Movewiththetimes both deserve to be near the forefront of the betting and some shrewd punters feel the King’s Socks has been laid out for this race all year long.

A very tough race to call with over twenty horses set to line up but I’m hoping we’ve got two horses worth backing who are more than capable of grabbing place money.

Guitar Pete (E/W)

Tully Easy (E/W)

16:50 Cheltenham – Trull House Novices Hurdle

Willie Mullins has saddled the two previous winners of this contest and Laurina looks likely to make it a hat-trick for the Irish maestro, extremely impressive when blitzing her rivals in a Fairyhouse Grade 3 last time there appears nothing to worry about here other than the obstacles. Maria’s Benefit is on a roll and would be dangerous if allowed an easy lead, she did seem to have a harder race than was needed last time however and the form has hardly looked bombproof. Countister is hard to weigh up and she looked in trouble before being left in front at the last when winning at Sandown the last day, she ought to handle the conditions and could fill a place but for win purposes she looks vulnerable. Cap Soleil has some fairly decent form and is a classy type, she looks another possible place player but the vote simply has to be handed to Laurina despite the odds.

Laurina (WIN)

17:30 Cheltenham – Kim Muir Handicap Chase

Mall Dini has yet to score over fences though he did win the Pertemps in 2016 and his never nearer fifth in this last term was a good effort, from a yard already successful here this week he looks to be a big player today and the blinkers may work the oracle. Pendra often goes best when fresh so his absence is of no real concern, agonisingly nailed up the hill in this last season it is easy to make a case for him today off the same mark. Squouteur has the look of a horse who has been lined up for this ever since unseating here twelve months ago, a never nearer yet eye catching fifth in the Irish Paddy Power proved he is on a good enough mark and he is taken to atone this time around. Final Nudge would appreciate any further rain and he has caught the eye a couple of times already this term, likely to have this run to suite he too looks a player. Braqueur D’Or finished fourth in the Ladbrokes Trophy and was solid enough last time, his chance is respected though the same could be said of many in what is a brutal looking heat.

Squouteur (WIN)

Pendra (E/W)