Cheltenham Festival – Day Three


13:30 – JLT Novices Chase

Day 3 starts with a bang in the form of the JLT. Previous results would suggest there are a few pivotal boxes that need ticking to cut the proverbial mustard: Grade 1 novice chase form, graded hurdle form and the ubiquitous course form.

Surprisingly neither of the top 2 in the market tick all of these. Bristol De Mai has never been to Cheltenham, which has to be a question mark over any horse, even though he has been shocking impressive all season. Outlander is also without course form after a disappointing show at the festival last year in the Neptune.

After months of musical chairs and “Will he? Won’t he?”, it looks as though Black Hercules is set to line up in this and he is a more than interesting type. Despite his last time out fall he is actually an extremely sound jumper and has the engine to go further than the 2m3f+ required. That may be a key component with Bristol De Mai likely to make all and set a strong pace from the off. Another whom’s target has been clouded in mystique is the highly rated Garde La Victorie. This guy had the favourite beat by some 7L over 1m7f at the beginning of the season. Should he come here Mr Hobbs must be confident he will stay the extra and that makes him an intriguing proposition.

I’m afraid we can’t have L’ami Serge, he is clearly a gifted horse but his performance last time out and diversion to this race has to be of major concern. You’d be surprised if As de Mee can get any closer to Bristol De Mai after being beaten 6L last time at Sandown and beyond that it really is tough to highlight a horse at a price that stands a good chance.

It’s been a very tough decision but we are willing to take a chance that Bristol De Mai will take to the course and back him at a very reasonable price.

Selection: Bristol De Mai 5/1 @ William Hill

14:10 – Pertemps Final

On a day where we will all be celebrating everything that is good about being Irish, picking the winner of the Pertemps will certainly require some of that famous Irish luck.

To qualify for this race, horses much have run in any of the previous 8 qualifiers sponsored by Pertemps earlier in the year with six taking place in England, one in Ireland and one in France.

Traditionally it’s proved to be a race which favourite backers have enjoyed about as much as the dreaded trip to the mother-in-laws (only one favourite has been successful in the last 10 renewals).

The race this year looks set to be dominated by the most iconic Irish owner in the sport, Mr JP McManus with the likes of Cup Final, Leave At Dawn and If In Doubt. This three mile handicap hurdle requires a huge amount of luck in running, along with a horse that has the so called ‘never say die attitude’. A horse that certainly has that in abundance who also arrives on the back of a victory in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Wincanton is, If in Doubt. This is a horse that will certainly relish the drying ground and who has held some serious company in the past. He will be sure to give punters huge value for their money.

Another horse that seems to be hot among our inferior tipsters is Missed Approach. A very lightly raced sort that has had a glittering career to date, albeit mainly on soft ground. He was successful in one of the stronger qualifiers and much like Freddy Adu back in the day, the potential this horse possesses is very much unknown and he is one that will certainly have to be watched closely. That being said, the lack of race experience and tactical nouse in a huge field such as this, added together with the drying ground is enough to steer the TNS boys away.

One with a sniff at a cheeky price is Kilfinichen Bay for Charlie Longsdon. He has enjoyed a wonderful season with only one blemish on his record last time out. A horse that loves fast ground and looks to be well handicapped we expect him to run a big race.

10 pints of Guinness down and the TNS boys will certainly be thinking ‘If In Doubt’ just stick a ton on it.

Selection – If In Doubt 11/1 @ Sky Bet

E/w – Kilfinichen Bay @ 40/1 @ Sky Bet

14:50 – Ryanair Chase

“There would be a proverbial cash machine if Vautour was to run in this race but it appears they want to go for gold”. These were our original thoughts when writing this on Sunday and we spat our black coffees and Weetabix out when we saw Ricci drop the bomb on the Morning Line. So form an orderly queue at those cash machines and fill your boots.  Road To Riches is next in the betting and the owner has been quoted as saying, if it is good ground he will go for gold. Valseur Lido who we also believe would be better suited to the Gold Cup than the Ryanair, may still end up lining up there if Road To Riches lines up. That is a relationship that works vice versa as well and is certainly worth noting. We would be very surprised if they both line up but even if they did they would be playing second fiddle to ultra impressive Vautour.

Al Ferof can be found near the head of the market, but he is surely an 11 year old with all his best days behind him.  Vibrato Valtat could prove to be interesting bringing two mile chase form to this race. The confirmed running of Vautour has created a real e/w shape to this race.

There is one lurking that really stands out for Talking Neigh Sense and that’s Village Vic. He has been a revelation chasing this season and we would be in no way surprised to see him at least hit the frame. He loves Cheltenham and at 33/1, we’d love to see him staying on best up the hill.

Selection: Vautour aka “The Cash Machine” 10/11 @ Paddy Power

Ew: Village Vic 33/1 @ Paddy Power

15:30 – World Hurdle

Much like the Neptune, this market is dominated by an English trained hotpot. About half an hour after Yanworth did his thing at Prestbury Park the last time, Thistlecrack (6/5) did his and similarly dismantled the field in the Cleeve Hurdle. Thistlecrack settles, and he travels, throughout the season he has taken care of some smart types including Reve de Sivola, Whisper, Saphir du Rheu (10/1) and most importantly, last year’s winner Cole Harden.

Shrewd handler Colin Tizzard has a gleam in his eye talking about this animal and quotes of 12/1 for the 2017 Gold Cup show why. He is likely going to be very hard to beat and will be a banker for many. Alpha Des Obeaux (6/1) has apparently been working very well at home and he’ll have to have been to touch the jolly. After an interrupted season it would be remiss to exclude the chances of Cole Harden (4/1 without the fav) who will likely get his preferred better ground, Whisper (8/1 without the fav) ditto, who will appreciate the return to a sounder surface. Aux Ptit Soins (16/1) gave some TNS members a great day last year but has had a rotten preparation, interrupted by niggly injuries and with that in mind, looks out his depth here.

At the start of the season, the staying division needed a star. They’ve likely got one here and it’s over to Thistlecrack now to deliver on that undoubted promise.

Selection – Thistlecrack 5/4 @ Sky Bet

16:10 – Brown Advisory Plate

In this, we have a race that has produced as many as 14 winners at prices of 20/1 and above. Trainers with good records in this race include Nicky Henderson, the lovely Venetia Williams and Mr David Pipe, and this their horses are always worth another look. The Plate is also another one of those races in which French bred horses have enjoyed plenty of success.

Champagne West is a horse that has a pretty good track record here at Prestbury Park but he saddles top weight with a rating of 157 and that’s enough to put us off. Balleycasey is one who could be interesting if back to his best as he’s now off his lowest chasing mark yet, however he hasn’t shown these signs in his last two outings for the Mullins representatives.  A horse that has had a lot of coverage on the preview circuits is John’s Spirit. He was the favourite when sifting through the 57 runners and is another back to an attractive mark. Again though he hasn’t been putting in the performances that fill you with confidence of late.

Now then, although 10 of the last 11 winning horses were rated 140 or less we think we have found a hidden gravy granule. Fingal Bay has solid form to go off and is also off the same lowest mark of 141 as last time he ran. The Philip Hobbs runner has good form over this trip; beating Simonsig, finishing runner up to Dynaste and runner up to Smad Place. His course form is even more impressive with 2 1sts and 1 2nd (to Dynaste). Currently priced 16/1, we’ll back it each way along with The Saint James at 20s.

Selection – Fingal Bay 11/1 @ Paddy Power

16:50 – Mares Novice Hurdle

The race that every man and his dog has been screaming out for, a 2m1f mares novice hurdle. I jest, I jest, it might not be a race that will light the fire in punters stomachs but it can only add something more to what is already the greatest sporting week of the year.

In what many see as a weak division already the options of two mares hurdles rather than one has led to some interesting entries between the two. One man that won’t tire of seeing those pink colours heading the market in yet another race is Mr Rich Ricci (yes that name again). He sends another hot favourite to this race in the form of Limini. This horse has been the subject of much debate on the preview circuit after the owner himself claimed that this was his best chance of a winner at the festival. Is this maybe clever tactics to relieve the pressure from some other big fancies or does he really like this one, that is the question?!

It’s not only Mr Ricci that’s talked this horse up but pretty much everyone associated. Mr Danny Mullins claimed if he could ride one horse this festival it would be this mare, big words indeed. It seems as though this has really buoyed the market and she is now as short as 4/5 in places. With never having raced the undulations of Cheltenham and only having two runs over hurdles so far I find it very hard to call her a banker and would for those reasons we are keen to look elsewhere for a bit of value for our Sterling.

There’s no doubt that what she has done has been impressive, even if she struggles to jump a hurdle. There is one mare that really stands out for us here and has done very little wrong, Brian Ellison’s Smart Talk. She has proven she acts on any going and we are more than happy to ignore her step up to 2m5f. LTO she had the 140 rated Lily Waugh 5L behind whilst giving her 5lbs…that is some effort. For those reasons we will be backing her and think she is an e/w bet to nothing. If you are really keen on Limini maybe have a play on Smart Talk in the betting w/o the favourite market?!

Selection: Smart Talk e/w 7/1 @ Paddy Power 

17:30 – Kim Muir

The last race on day three sees the amateurs commence battle for the second time this week. At the end of a gruelling day with copious amounts of “Irish Water” in the system, there will be sure to be a number of questionable bets being placed, and I’m sure there will be a number of these within TNS.

The Kim Muir requires a horse that is guaranteed to stay the trip. This years line up sees a number of the old guard reopposing to do battle once more.

In a race where the jockey bookings are crucial, as expected the leading jockeys are on the heads of the market in Cause Of Causes and Doctor Harper. There are however question marks over both and at the current prices we will look elsewhere.

There is a horse that the TNS boys are keen on from a yard that we’ve followed very closely this year. Ben Pauling has put his proverbial hat on the line with this horse. He has been in splendid form this year and he is almost sure to stay the distance. He also has one of the best amateur jockeys in the business on board which is another major positive.

A race that a few of us most certainly won’t remember, we hope that Silvergrove leaves a lasting memory on our bank balances going in to a memorable final day.

Selection – Silvergrove 16/1 @ Paddy Power