PREVIEW: Cheltenham Festival Day Three

13:30 – JLT Novices Chase (Grade 1)

Since this race is only in its fifth season there aren’t many markers or statistics to go off. The two main ones that have surfaced is that the Irish are starting to build a good record and a victory at Cheltenham this season is beneficial. It is difficult to get away from the front two in market for this race. Last year’s Supreme Novices winner, Vautour is probably a worthy favourite and has only been beaten once chasing at Leapordstown. The other horse at the top of the market is Ptit Zig, who is making a far better chaser than he ever did over hurdles. He would have been unbeaten over fences if it wasn’t for falling at Ascot last time out against more established chasers. Falling the run before Cheltenham is far from ideal but he appeared to come away unscathed and didn’t have a hard race that day. He has already won at Cheltenham this season and this could be win for the Nicholls camp. At larger prices it could be worth backing God’s Own if he doesn’t go for the Arkle Chase or Splash Of Ginge if he does.

Best Bets:
14:05 – Pertemps Network Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle)

This is another festival handicap that favours the bookmakers and after the day they had on Tuesday, they probably need all the help they can get. With the exception of last year, when the brilliant Fingal Bay romped home, the winner usually finishes with double figure odds. Amazingly none of the British top stables have much joy in this race, Nicholls has finished second five times and Henderson has only three runners finish in the top ten. A good starting point is the Cesarewitch Handicap winner Big Easy. From the same stable as last year’s winner, the Hobbs team can notch up another winner in this race. He is a horse that loves Cheltenham, only finishing outside the top three once in five runs. He has some very solid form this year and his below par run last time out should be viewed as a preparation run. Another horse worth chancing is last year’s Grand National winner Pineau De Re. His form this year has been poor and obviously something has been amiss. However, looking at the context of his lifetime form he appears to be a spring horse and is a guaranteed stayer. Finally it is worth mentioning Henryville. Even though he is top weight, he has been running incredibly consistently throughout his career. He has only finished outside the top three in five of his seventeen races and at 33/1, great place money is on offer.

Best Bets:
14:40 – Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)

The two that head the market, Don Cossack and Balder Succes, have been running creditably this year and their form warrants favourtism. However, this said, neither of them have completed a round of jumping at Cheltenham. Don Cossack has only run here once at last year’s festival and fell. Although, his trainer Gordon Elliot did say that his horse was still very immature this time last year and could learn from his experience. The more alarming Cheltenham form is for Balder Succes, whose three runs here have all resulted in non-completions. If these two’s jumping let them down it could leave the race open for Ma Filleule, who receives 7lbs from here male counterparts. She ran very well in the Ascot Chase, won by Balder Succes, staying on strongly at the end. She has considerable better form at Cheltenham then those ahead of her in the market, and probably deserves to win at the festival. If the connections of Champagne Fever decide to contest this race instead of the Champion Chase then he could represent small each-way value at 8/1 with his fantastic Cheltenham record.

Best Bet:
15:20 – Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1)

With last year’s winner, More Of That, being ruled out of the festival, the race has become a lot more open. The Nicholls trained pair Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar top the betting. Saphir Du Rheu is the horse sporting the same colours of the four time World Hurdle winner Big Bucks. He had a successful return to hurdling at Cheltenham after two non-completions and a second chasing. This horse is proven over course and distance and could carry the famous colours across the line again. The other Nicholls trained horse Zarkandar is an ever present at the festival and always gives his running for the money. However, he hasn’t got his head in front in nearly two years in England and could be headed again. Of the progressive novices in the field, Whisper stands out. Even though his only run this year was a defeat chasing in a Class 4 at Exeter, this progressive hurdler could come back with a bang at the festival.

Best Bets:
16:00 – Browne Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3)

This is a race that surprisingly the English have a great record, with the only one Irish winner since its inauguration in 1951. However, it is also a minefield for punters with double figure odds dominating the winners enclosure and two 50/1+ winners since 2008. With this in mind, English longshots could be the way to go. The trainers that have done particularly well in recent years being; Venetia Williams, David Pipe and Nicky Henderson. A mention needs to go to the Henderson veteran Hunt Ball, who was a fantastic horse until he was shipped off to America where he seemingly lost his way. Since that he has come back across the pond and is finding something close to his old form. His fantastic record at Cheltenham reads 4-1-PU-3-4-3-4-2 and with the hope that the bookmakers may pay five places could be a great each-way bet. The stand out horse in the race Buywise, was tipped for the Coral Cup yesterday and with connections and bookmakers thinking he has a better chance here, this rejuvenated horse looks too good to pass over.

Best Bets:
16:40 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

The final race of the penultimate day of the Cheltenham festival is always a tricky one, with little trends to go off. With this in mind it could be worth chancing an unexposed younger horse rather than an experienced handicapper. An exciting youngster from the Tom George yard is The Ould Lad. This horse had multiple entries at the festival this is the race connections have decided to run in. He has had some fantastic runs this year with one significantly at Cheltenham. The only blip on his record was last time at Leicester at a lower level. He didn’t justify his 11/8 favourtism for that race and consequently it has pushed his odds out and has a much better chance than his price of 16/1 suggests. Furthermore, Tom George has come out and said it was a trainer error in running him that day but he was glad he did it to ‘blow away the cobwebs’. One experienced handicap chaser that is worth following is The Package. This horse was tipped earlier in the week but connections have chosen this race over the Festival Handicap and is definitely worth punting at 16/1.

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