13:30 Cheltenham - Turners Novice Chase
The Turners Novice Chase is the opener on Stayers’ Hurdle Day and prize will be heading over the Irish Sea as all four runners are over from the emerald isle. The race revolves around two in particular, both winners at last year's festival, Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs.
The market could go either way between the two my personal preference is for Galopin Des Champs, a horse I hold in high regard. A progressive type over hurdles but has now been excelling since his attention has been turned to the larger obstacles. Having gone 2/2 over fences in the Ladbroke last month he looked primed to come to Cheltenham and beat all comers. The main danger being Bob Olinger, who is also 2/2 over fences with successes at Gowran and Punchestown and having not done anything wrong in those races this is sure to be a classic if they both perform on the day.
written by Michael Taylor
14:20 Cheltenham - Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
Gordon Elliott has landed this contest three times in the last four seasons, mob handed this time around with six runners, the Cullentra House handler appears hell-bent on improving upon that record and his horses are surely the most sensible starting point. Sire Du Berlais won both the 2019 and 2020 renewals and though he appears to have something of a stiff task off top-weight, it is worth remembering that he has defied eleven stone twelve before. Capable outside of handicap company and a fine second in last season's Stayers Hurdle, there is every chance he will simply prove too good for this field and a terrific amount of respect must be afforded.
Dallas Des Pictons has something of a reputation though he went agonisingly close to winning the Martin Pipe here a couple of seasons ago. Fourth in the same race last season, there is every chance he simply comes alive at this time of year and he was a major eye catcher, despite appearing well beaten at Leopardstown last time. Seven pounds claimer Harry Swann will likely attempt to smuggle his partner into the race from a less than advantageous position but he ought to have a decent pace to aim at and he is taken to run into a place at rewarding odds.
Dunboyne has mistakes in him although one would have to suggest he rather has his share of bad luck having been badly hampered twice lately when apparently still going well. Still quite lightly raced for a seven year old, his chance probably hinges on Jack Kennedy plotting the safest course around though his mark looks fair and a big run looks certain if he avoids bother.
Ballyandy may have taken advantage of the conditions when finally bouncing back to form at Fakenham a couple of starts back, quite a few appeared happy to dismiss that as something of a flash in the pan though he dispelled that theory when following up at Chepstow, doing so in fairly emphatic fashion. Still well treated if judged on his best, his age of eleven is off-putting but he could prove dangerous if the rain arrives.
If The Cap Fits has completely lost his form and is hard to trust though he is a former Grade 1 winner. Despite the negatives around his recent form, his mark has plummeted and he did run on quite strongly last time at Sandown after becoming outpaced at a critical stage. Winter Fog was backed off the boards on his first start for Emmet Mullins and ran a fine race despite finishing a fairly well beaten second. Market strength again, would enhance confidence though respect must be respected regardless, given further improvement looks almost certain. The Jam Man and Alaphilippe are selected others with claims but it is hard to get away from Sire Du Berlais and he is taken to make a slice of his own history by landing this for the third time.
written by Chris Connolly
14:50 Cheltenham - Ryanair Chase
It’s hard to look past Allaho here as he bids for a repeat victory in this race. He was a runaway winner twelve months ago and Honeysuckle confirmed the good form of the stable when landing the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday. He’s six pounds clear on ratings and there should be more improvement to come from him. There was much debate as to whether Conflated came here or went for the Gold Cup. Michael O’Leary was obviously keen to win the race he sponsors and even though he was a good winner at the Dublin racing festival, from Minella Indo, I think he’ll struggle to beat Allaho on all known form.
Melon pulled up in this last year but has been runner-up four times at the festival and could sneak into the places. Dan Skelton has freshened up Shane Blue with this race in mind for some time and is another worth considering for a place.
written by Peter Keogh
15:30 Cheltenham - Stayers Hurdle
It may seem a tad harsh considering we’ve got three former race winners in the lineup but it’s perhaps not the best renewals in the sense that you can easily pick holes in the form of all ten entrants.
Last years winner Flooring Porter was woeful on his first two starts this term when pulling up and falling on his first two starts but went much better when runner up behind Klassical Dream last time out. The winner was given a ridiculous head start that day and despite that Gavin Cromwell’s seven year old was only a couple of lengths behind. I expect that form to be reversed this time around.
The best of the UK entrants, according to the bookmakers, looks to be Thyme Hill for the yard of Philip Hobbs. He tends to put in decent performances when it comes to the festival but seems to lack what it takes to get up the hill with his head in front. Although I expect him to go close I imagine he’ll find a couple too good once more.
What a roar it’d be if Paisley Park reclaimed his crown and trainer Emma Lavelle was very bullish when talking to the TV cameras on Tuesday. Although most trainers sing their horses praises she was adamant that he was at his best. Now at the age of ten it’s safe to say he’s on the decline but does he have enough left in the tank to produce one more stella performance? To side with him may be a case of heart ruling the head but if you’re an each way punter I couldn’t think of a better choice.
Never the less, although it may be boring and despite two poor performances this season I’m hoping that Flooring Porter can reproduce last years race success.
written by Rory Paddock
16:10 Cheltenham - Plate Handicap Chase
This looks like a pretty open handicap but the eye is immediately drawn to Celebre D’Allen who’s landed a hat-trick of victories since joining Phillip Hobbs and given how he won at Warwick last month, there should be more to come from him.
The Glancing Queen could provide Alan King with another winner this week having ended a seven-year wait until Edwardstone took the Arkle. The Jermey mare is having her fourth run at the festival and has run with credit on each occasion. She’s taken well to chasing and got dropped a pound for a good run behind L’Homme Presee most recently. She’s a good yardstick and should be in the mix. Gordon Elliott has a strong looking team headed up by Grand Paradis who’ll have the assistance of Davy Russell from the saddle. He’s finished runner-up on his two most recent starts but the form of those runs took a knock earlier in the week.
Donald McCain doesn’t travel down south too often as he normally targets Aintree instead but it’s noteworthy that he’s kept Presentandcounting for this contest. He’s 5-7 over fences and got dropped four pounds for a decent run behind Tea Clipper who finished fourth in the Ultima on Tuesday.
written by Peter Keogh
16:50 Cheltenham - Mares Novices Hurdle
The Ryanair Mares Novices’ Hurdle will also likely head over the Irish Sea with 13 of the 22 runners from Ireland and with the likely first 5 in the market hailing from there.
Dinoblue will likely head the market and she looked to be an exemplary talent on her debut and only start so far at Clonmel in January going off as the Even money favourite and despatched 13 rivals in nothing more than a common canter. She really set pulses racing that day and should do again today. W P Mullins also has a strong hand with Brandy Love and Statuaire amongst others,
Brandy Love no doubt will be much happier going back left-handed today. Statuaire was chucked in against the males last time and will appreciate being back against her own sex.
Mighty Blue was my bet in this race last year and it’s interesting that they have saved her novice status to have a go again this year and is perhaps worth an each-way play.
written by Michael Taylor
17:30 Cheltenham – Kim Muir Handicap Chase
Just like records both trends and statistics are there to be broken and defied but when analysing a race of this nature it’s always worth a quick glance over past victors to see if there’s anything that can help us narrow down the field.
Horses who’s not won this season, horses rated over 137 or more and horses in headgear all have good records in the race and current market leader Frontal Assault ticks all three of the aforementioned criteria. To some it’s perhaps a daft idea siding with the market principle in such a large field but my Great Grandad (a die-hard racing fan and punter) used to profess ‘The bigger the field the bigger the favourite’. Although I wouldn’t live or die by such a phrase I’m hoping it can be applied here. He’s drifted a little in the market and if anyone can get 5/1 or bigger he looks sure to finish in contention especially if bookies are being generous enough to offer six or even seven places.
If you’re looking for horses with festival form then despite never claiming a course victory Janika is the one to side with at a massive price. He’s contested big runner fields here at Prestbury Park twice before and finished second of 22 in the 2019 Brown Advisory and fifth of 26 in last years Coral Cup. He has another big field to contend with which should be to his liking and now sits on a very attractive mark. Young jockey Ben Bromley takes more weight off the horses back and the young rider seems to be some talent with 10 winning rides from 54 starts this season. The nine year old is far from prolific but looking solely at his chase career he’s finished in the top two in 9 of his 15 chase starts which isn’t too shabby. He’ll need luck in running as will any horse in such a large field but he’s far too attractively priced not to have a little nibble at big odds.
Irish raiders School Boy Hours, Mister Fogpatches and Aint That A Shame look likely to go well and the booking of jockey William Biddick is eye catching for Tom George’s Come On Teddy who’s claimed a previous course win and could go well at a price.
written by Rory Paddock