14:30 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
The first handicap on day two of the festival is the customary “cavalry charge” known as The Coral Cup. A mammoth 26 horses are set to go to post and looking for a horse to finish in the money (especially with plenty of bookmakers offering 6 or 7 places) at a big price looks the best plan of attack.
Of course you have a few near the head of the market at single figure odds and it’s fair to say both Grand Roi and Craigneiche deserve their spots as favourites but with so many in the field you have to look elsewhere.
If you caught PicksfromthePaddock.co.uk’s Cheltenham Festival Preview show on Sunday you’ll have heard I pinpointed Blue Sari as a 33/1 shot worth backing in this race. I doubt I have much of an influence but to see the horse now a best price of 12/1 is somewhat of a shock. The former Champion Bumper second clearly acts around Cheltenham and despite not going on and progressing as a hurdler he can be forgiven as he was thrown in at the deep end and even contested a Grade 1 in Ireland. He returns to a venue he’s done well at before, represents a top yard and at the age of six it’d be foolish to write him off. Not the most obvious selection I’ll admit but definitely worth a punt for each way punters.
Elsewhere I’m going to throw four further names at you that I expect to outrun their odds.
Former course victors Birchdale, Botox Has and Thomas Darby all come here on the back of muddling form but have produced the goods when racing at this infamous Gloucestershire course. I expect them to produce solid performances once again and I couldn’t put anybody off backing either.
Also, although the eight year old hasn’t won over hurdles since November 2017, Janika was described at the start of this season as one of the best in training at Nicky Henderson’s yard. Now obviously you have to take such praise with a pinch of salt however despite his lacklustre performance most recently I feel a race like this may have been the plan all along. He has a lot of question marks over his head but there’s a niggling feeling he might spring a surprise. Back him with plenty of caution but to me he’s worth a small bet.
BLUE SARI (E/W)
written by Rory Paddock