13:30 – Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle (Grade 1)
This race has been particularly fortuitous for punters, with only two of the last twenty-nine runners not starting in the top five of the betting. With this in mind it is probably best to start with Nichols Canyon. Nichols Canyon was a good flat racer, winning a Class 1 at Ascot. He was switched to hurdling after a year and would have been unbeaten if it wasn’t for unseating at Leopardstown on his penultimate start. Other horses of interest are Parlour Games and Vyta Du Roc. Parlour Games has created a good impression contesting three Class 1 events, winning two, one at Cheltenham; and coming second in the other. He could bring John Ferguson a winner at the festival. At a larger price, Vyta Du Roc has been a revelation over hurdles in England, winning every start bar his last and could bring in some valuable place money.
14:05 – RSA Chase (Grade 1)
The favourite for this race is another Mullins horse, Don Poli. Last years Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hurdle winner has won both of his chase starts this season over in Ireland. His latest win in the Topaz Novices Chase at Leapordstown was won well by 2/3 lengths, after being pushed all the way by Apache Stronghold. He has been favourite for all the races that he has been entered for at Cheltenham, and with connections looking likely to go for this – he has to be the one to beat. The other prominent horse in the market is Kings Palace. He has won all three chase starts this season, two of them being at Cheltenham, albeit in weaker races. Considering a number of horses that had him beat in last years Albert Bartlett when he fell, he is opposable here.
- Don Poli @ 5/2 – Click HERE to bet!
14:40 – Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3)
This race usually goes the way of the bookmakers, with only one winning favourite since the race began in 1997. Moreover, since the favourite won in 2003, there have only been two winners in single figure odds. With this in mind small stakes and each-way betting has to be advised. Glancing at the card there is an intimidating amount of entrants. A good starting point is last year’s county hurdle winner, Lac Fontana. The Nicholls horse was a revelation over two miles last year, winning at Cheltenham three times. This horse is a course regular and with his stamina proven over 2m4f, could be great value at 25/1. Another horse worth mentioning is Volnay De Thaix. The top weight for this contest has shown he is a solid candidate for any big field handicaps and this could be his chance to get his neck in front again.
15:20 – Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
This years Champion Chase is one of the most open it has been in years and the top four in the market all have credible chances, but this could be between the two at the fore of the market. Sprinter Sacre has yet to show he is back to his brilliant best since his absence, being beaten by Dodging Bullets in the Clarence House Chase. This was Sprinter’s first run in over a year and Geraghty didn’t push him too hard, the whip never being drawn, whilst Dodging Bullets was all out. Sire De Grugy did himself justice when running at Chepstow and even though he was conceding at least 20lbs to every horse, he made a mockery of the field. It has to be noted that it was much lower opposition; but still a very promising preparation run. Dodging Bullets has been in great form winning both the Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chase. However, Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre where both absentees from the Tingle Creek and Dodging Bullets had the fitness advantage over Sprinter Sacre in the Clarence House Chase. Of the final horses at the fore of the market, Champagne Fever has an excellent Cheltenham record winning two of three starts at the festival. This season he faded badly in the King George VI, a race which he didn’t stay 3 miles, after running well for a long way. His victory in mid February was pleasing at Gowran Park and could be up there in the finish. In this race it is worth siding with Sprinter Sacre; reports from the Henderson stable have been nothing but positive. He also hasn’t been at positive odds since December 2011 and could potentially be a huge price. For value in the field it could be worth siding with Simply Ned who is looking like a good prospect over fences and recently finished second in his first run at Cheltenham and could represent good place value at 20/1.
16:00 – Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Handicap Class 2)
This race has mostly been won by horses that are prominent in the market, and last years runner up, Any Currency, currently heads the betting. He would be defending his title this year if the wonderful Balthazar King hadn’t got up in the dying strides to beat him; justice can be done this time around. His record at Cheltenham reads 3-4-2-7-4-9-3-2-2-1 and surely can win at ‘the greatest show on turf’. Other horses worthy of note are the Nicholls trained Sire Collonges, whose last 11 chases have all been at Cheltenham and is the horse that knows the course. The final horse worth a mention is E Bolger’s Quantitativeeasing. Bolger has a fine record in cross-country chases in Cheltenham with her form dipping in recent years. There has been some promise for Bolger’s horses when Quantativeeasing finished second at the course in December and could go one better at the festival.
16:40 – Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
A race that is particularly kind to the bookmakers, where horses prevail with double figure odds means they are notoriously hard to pick. However, if it’s done, can bring the biggest win of the festival. With the difficulty of picking a winner, a purely statistical route is probably the best way to go. Of the ten winners of this race, seven had run the bare minimum of three runs over hurdles to qualify and all of the winners had runs from February onwards. Paul Nicholls has a great record from this race with French imports, winning once and placing four times. Considering all of this, All Yours has progressed nicely in his three runs with his latest run producing a second in a Class 1 at Kempton on the 21st February. Another horse to note at a larger price Golden Doyen, which looks to be worth an each way flutter in the race.
17:15 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1)
Another race that has been brilliant for the bookmakers with the last favourite winning in 2005 and only two winners under double figure odds since then. The Irish have a good record in this race, particularly the Mullins stable. Mullins would have completed a hat trick of victories last year if it wasn’t for Silver Concorde outstaying Shaneshill up the final run-in. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he won this race again. However, even though Mullins has littered the field with runners, it may be worth chancing the Henry De Bromhead trained Supasundae. The son of Galileo, has won two from two in bumpers; his latest a Class 1 at Ascot and could produce another winning run here. Another horse worthy of noting is Ghost River, who has won three from four bumpers, the latest being in good style at Kempton.