Friday 5 May 2023

Cheltenham Race Night: 5th May 2023 - Premier Just Magic on Closing Night

Sneaked in among the top-class international Flat racing this weekend is Cheltenham’s final fixture of the season; Race Night featuring hunter chase racing.

This is Cheltenham’s only evening fixture of the year. Seven races are planned, giving the amateur riders and trainers a chance to compete at jump racing’s most famous venue.

After this, our blog will back for the Showcase Meeting scheduled for October 27th and 28th. For now, we have information on all seven races this Friday night at Prestbury Park, beginning with the extended two-miler.

4.50 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – FIER JAGUEN

Our opening selection may go off favourite, but it’s easy for us to see why. Bradley Gibbs’ eight-year-old was in a similar position at Aintree in April in the Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase too, though he couldn’t win that time.

Going back over more traditional fences now, he can get back to winning ways after looking very smart in his point-to-point wins.

Caryto Des Brosses is next on our list. He went to Newbury for a similar sort of race to this one in March but wasn’t seen to best effect. If showing his true colours this time however, he has a fair chance at a nice price.

5.25 (Point-to-Point Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – ALL IS TRUE

Gina Andrews will be a popular jockey here and she gets the ride on All Is True. The six-year-old has won his last three point-to-point races and is truly on a roll.

He was an easy winner by a big margin in a Garthorpe point-to-point back in March and it could be that he is just about the best of the bunch here in what is a competitive, well-matched field.

Lift Me Up knows how to win in PTP’s too and was under rules at Newbury so is feared most, along with Camdonian and Theshoddytradesman.

6.00 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – TRIO FOR RIO

11-year-old Marcle Ridge has a fantastic profile for point races and also won this very race in 2019. Another big race is surely on the cards for Lucy Smith’s runner, but it’s another former winner we’re backing to do the job.

Trio For Rio took this race down in 2021 and 2021, so he could be a very well named victor if scoring again. His recent runs in PTP races suggest he remains capable and he is a strong shout to land the hat-trick.

6.35 (Mixed Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – PREMIER MAGIC

The feature race of the evening is run over the Gold Cup course across 3 miles, 2½ furlongs of the New Course. In it, we reckon likely strong favourite Premier Magic will not let backers down.

Premier Magic actually won here at the Cheltenham Festival back in March and if he’s in even similar form to that he cannot be opposed here.

Back then, he was handed cheekpieces to wear for the first time but we’re sure they’ll have the same effect now and his opposition is naturally much weaker.

There are a number of contenders in behind who are looking for a scalp. Rebel Dawn Rising looked booked for a comfortable win last time out at Fakenham before unseating. With no such mistakes made this time, he could have a big shout for a place.

Another to note is Dandy Man. Though he pulled up during the Cheltenham Festival, he did take this race twelve months ago and so clearly this is all to his liking. Encounter A Giant is one more who could add some spice to the contest.

7.10 (Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HIGHWAY JEWEL

Bradley Gibbs could well be set for a pretty successful night at Cheltenham on Friday. One more of his who looks set to go very well is his nine-year-old Highway Jewel.

Highway Jewel has been running very well indeed in his point-to-point races, in fact he took his last race by some 20 lengths. He also boasts winning Cheltenham form and has very little against him in this race so is the clear pick for us.

Solid behind him is the mount of Darren Andrews, Singapore Saga. Sent off an 11/10 shot up against Shantou Flyer in April at Exeter, he couldn’t manage better than second there but if Highway Jewel is not at the same level, he has a very live chance. For info; Shantou Flyer runs later on the card.

One who won very easily in a Hunters’ Chase at Stratford when last seen is Sine Nomine, meaning Fiona Needham’s runner cannot be discounted either by any means.

7.45 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – LAW OF GOLD

It’s great to see Step Back in this race, the 2018 bet365 Gold Cup winner who was last seen running in the Foxhunters’ at Aintree during the Grand National Festival. Before that, he was second in a Hunters’ Chase at Carlisle and remains of interest.

We could be in a good position to get a strong favourite beaten here. The horse in question is the aforementioned Shantou Flyer who won that Exeter race by 18 lengths and was a good third in the Hunters’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Arguably better is Law Of Gold. Though we haven’t seen him under rules for a good while, he won a point-to-point race in February and retains his form, form that would see him outdo Shantou Flyer. He was beaten in a close finish in this race last year and looks in good shape to go one better this time.

8.17 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – MAGIC SAINT

In this last race at Cheltenham Racecourse until the end of October, Magic Saint is taken to get the better of a potential battle between some well-known horses such as him, Not That Fuisse and Paloma Blue.

Paul Nicholls’ Magic Saint wasn’t too hot at Aintree but he looked excellent beforehand at Wincanton. The Aintree form doesn’t worry us at all and he looks best placed to win this.

Thursday 20 April 2023

April Meeting Day Two: Thursday 20th April 2023 - Lavelle the Voice of Calm on Day Two

Day two of the April Meeting offers punters the last chance to see the professionals at Cheltenham before we break for the season.

After racing is over, the Cheltenham April Sale takes place. A select group of placed and winning point-to-pointers and National Hunt form horses go on offer in the Tattersalls sale ring.

Before that though there is a fine card to watch which include some Challenger Series finals, a Grade 2, a Listed event and a Premier Handicap. We have a tip for all seven races.

1.30 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – WELL VICKY

This 2m4½f race is the final of the NAF Challenger Series. There are plenty in with chances in this 18-runner contest, but the one that caught our eye most is Alastair Ralph’s Well Vicky.

Before finishing fourth to Dollar Bae last time, who also made our shortlist for this race, Well Vicky had won three in a row and was improving sharply.

She was favourite for that race on merit and there’s nothing to suggest her improvement has suddenly stopped. In fact, we reckon it was only the soft ground that beat her and she can get back to winning ways here.

Sashenka and Grivetana are also worth considering.

2.05 (Mares’ Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Final – Grade 2) – VOICE OF CALM

Though this is for novice mares, as a limited handicap at Grade 2 level it is very competitive.

Despite this, we got it down to La Renommee, La Domaniale and Voice Of Calm who we think are the three to concentrate on, especially the latter.

Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old is just too good a price to ignore. She ran well enough on her chase debut last autumn before hating heavy ground at Bangor, though it should be noted that she was put straight into Listed company there.

She improved when third in a handicap at Taunton before winning ever so easily at Leicester last time and it seems there is a good bit more to come from her.

2.40 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – LUTINEBELLA

Outside of the Cheltenham Festival, though surely success there will come in time, Fergal O’Brien tends to do very well at this course.

His Lutinebella won in an absolute hack canter last time and looks capable of getting to and beyond the required level to win this race. Paddy Brennan takes the ride as usual.

Challengers are numerous, including Queens Rock, Zestful, Ahorsewithnoname and Ilovethenightlife.

3.15 (Challenger Series Mares’ Chase Final Handicap Chase – Class 2) – CREDO

This mares’ chase is a bit of a stamina test, being run over nearly three and three-quarter miles around the New Course.

That said, the ground is quick this week and it’ll suit those with a bit of pace between fences which is where Credo may just get the race won for trainer Anthony Honeyball.

The eight-year-old has been the model of consistency this season. Since going chasing in November, her form figures read 21221 and, most importantly, on two of her last three runs she showed very different talents, both of which she’ll need here.

At Hereford in December, she plugged on and kept going on soft ground over this trip. It showed she has the stamina and she is more experienced now. Last time out at Warwick she was faced with quick ground which she skipped over beautifully to win very easily. She can put it all together here.

It’s competitive in behind. Gazette Bourgeoise is a live danger, while there is plenty to like about Rose Of Arcadia, My Silver Lining, Good Luck Charm and Lady Kk.

3.50 (Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – OBSESSEDWITHYOU  

This race is a Premier Handicap, akin to the Grade 3 handicaps we were used to seeing so it’s a good race.

Any juvenile race is hard to judge. None of the runners are experienced, while they are also improving at different rates. It makes sense though that almost all horses in this field will have been trained to peak today in order to win at this level.

With that, we can see the level they each reached at the same stage of their hurdling careers, their respective second runs being the ones to concentrate on, before adjusting that for weight as this is a handicap.

That being done, Jamie Snowden’s Obsessedwithyou looks good value. Based on what she achieved after two runs and having improved nicely since, she seems well handicapped to go well at a nice price ahead of Pink Fire Lilly, Arclight and Komedy Kicks.

4.25 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – FORTUNES MELODY

Over the two-mile trip on this sort of ground, proven speed really should come to the fore.

With that, Harry Fry’s Fortunes Melody looks excellent value to turn over the likely short-priced favourite Pink Legend who represents Venetia Williams.

Another thing to note is that, while we’re backing a mare who hasn’t won in six chase wins, she has a record over fences this season of 1353224 and never seems far away. She is almost guaranteed to run her race and we know she likes these conditions which isn’t the case for all the mares in the field.

The aforementioned Pink Legend is the main danger, ahead of Royale Margaux.

5.00 (Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – MARY

As the last race is so wide open, we can afford to take a small punt rather than have a very firm opinion. That punt is on Mary.

Ian Williams trains the four-year-old filly who is by Yeats and her handy weight advantage is what we’re trying to take advantage of here.

She was runner-up on her debut, putting in a performance that would see her be competitive here so considering the level of improvement she surely has in here on race two, her chance is obvious.

This is competitive though, with any amount of others holding chances including El Elefante, Dontyawantme and Bobbi’s Beauty in the finale.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

April Meeting Day One: Wednesday 19th April 2023 - Williams Runner a Real Gem in Silver Trophy

The glitz, glamour and excitement of the Cheltenham Festival may be a thing of the past, but we are back at Prestbury Park this week for the two-day April Meeting.

We begin with a seven-race card, one which kicks off with a fine Grade 2 event over fences.

1.30 (Silver Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 2) – GEMIRANDE

The opening race is the extended two-and-a-half-mile Silver Trophy, a limited handicap chase at Grade 2 level.

The likely favourite is Dan Skelton’s Heltenham who really is improving. He has won three races very well since Christmas and while he’s gone up 25lbs in that time, it seems he still has more to offer.

We couldn’t put you off backing him, but at slightly better odds there is a lot to like about Venetia Williams’ Gemirande and he gets the nod from us.

Never out of the first two in five runs this season, this gelding is just seven and he too has more room for improvement. After finishing second in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury last month he’s gone up another 3lbs in the weights, but he can cope with that and always give his running.

2.05 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – MASTER CHEWY

There will be plenty of attention going the way of Nicky Henderson’s Bold Endeavour and the Oliver Greenall/Josh Guerriero runner Homme Public as they have nice profiles and are bigger prices.

The solid one for us however is Master Chewy. His performance when 8th in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle here at the festival was more than respectable. It will, if nothing else, have got him to absolute peak fitness and he is very likely to appreciate the quicker ground offered this week.

2.40 (Handicap Chase – Class 3) – CHECKITOUT

Staged over three and half miles, this handicap chase really will take some getting even if the ground is dry enough.

The New Course is more about stamina than speed as we know, and here the field is tasked with taking on no fewer than 24 fences.

The one we think can cope best with it all is Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Checkitout, ridden of course by Sam Twiston-Davies.

While many horses are trained to peak in the DRF, the Cheltenham Festival or Aintree, some don’t quite make it but do peak later and he could well be one. He looks ready to win now and is the call ahead of Wake Up Early, Tip Top Cat and Max Dynamo

3.15 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – RED DIRT ROAD

Much of the attention, and the money, will go the way of The Carpenter in this race and we can see why. As a runner trained by red-hot Nicky Henderson who has won his last two races, he seems a very solid selection.

A six-year-old with arguably better form, who has run only three times over hurdles, the last 40 days ago and who has no doubt improved plenty in the interim is Jonjo O’Neill’s Red Dirt Road.

His latest win was very easy indeed and this race is a natural step for him. Theatre Man looks solid for those entering the Placepot, while Chasing Fire can recover and regain the thread if putting it all together so rates as a fine contender too.

3.50 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – PERCUSSION

We’re on what is essentially the Gold Cup course here as these chasers go over 3 miles, 2½ furlongs.  Twelve of them take on 22 fences, with stamina and just a little speed being important.

The one for money is Captain Cattistock. The ten-year-old remains in fine form, he likes the New Course and he is trained by Fergal O’Brien who as regular readers know does very well here at all meetings away from the festival.

A better price, and with a better chance for our money, is Laura Morgan’s Percussion. This one is an eight-year-old who has better days ahead of him.

Despite this, his level of form (at the weights) is about the best on offer for us. What is even more noteworthy is that his best performance all round was his third to Ashtown Lad in the Becher Chase in December, so now that he has to use that stamina again, we can see him reach a new career high.

4.25 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – BROADWAY BOY

What we like to see at this late stage of the season is a horse getting faster/betting right now. It’s not the case at the highest level, but in a race such as this it remains possible and it happens to be the case with Broadway Boy.

This is another runner for the Twiston-Davies team who may just have a very good day. Their Broadway Boy has been busy enough this season, running six times, but it must be pointed out that those half-dozen runs are all he’s had in his whole career and he is only five years old.

No doubt then there is a lot more to come from him, he won his second race three weeks ago and he has all the attributes needed to do well here.

Santos Blue is on a four-timer for the Skeltons and On The Blind Side can’t be discounted having suddenly rediscovered his form for a stable in very fine form (Nicky Henderson).

5.00 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – BY YOUR SIDE

The final race on the card is one for conditional jockeys and amateur riders only. Claiming 5lbs in the race is Ben Bromley who has ridden a winner and two seconds in his last three starts and Gordon Elliott has called on him to ride By Your Side.

Only a four-year-old, By Your Side is coming along nicely albeit at a lower level than many in the stable, in fact he comes to Cheltenham on the back of a maiden hurdle win against 22 rivals at Naas is March.

He looks fair value in the circumstances, with both Mayhem Mya and Ballygeary not far behind in the reckoning.

Friday 17 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival Day Four: Friday 17th March 2023 - It’s a Bravemansgame Taking on Gold Cup Favourite

Just like that, it’s nearly over for another year. This is Gold Cup Day however, the most important of the entire jumps season.

The £600,000 feature race is due off at 3.30 but there are two more Grade 1’s to take care of before that, beginning with the Triumph Hurdle.

1.30 (Triumph Hurdle – Grade 1) – LOSSIEMOUTH 

Three of the four best-fancied horses in this race are fillies and their weight allowances could be crucial. It probably doesn’t matter a whole lot to the trainer, singular, as Willie Mullins trains all four of these leading juveniles!

Zenta is the outsider of the quarter and rightly so based on what we know, while Gala Marceau was at her best to beat Lossiemouth last time but that was somewhat of a surprise.

At the weights, Bloody Destiny put in a performance stronger than that one and very easily back in January so is second choice, but the aforementioned filly Lossiemouth was so impressive as far back as December and should be a much better horse now. She gets the vote to regain the winning thread.

2.10 (County Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – PEMBROKE 

Hunters Yarn (Willie Mullins) has been steadily backed to challenge Filey Bay (Emmet Mullins) for favouritism, but we rather like the look of Dan Skelton’s Pembroke.

The Skelton team know exactly how to win such races as the County Hurdle and their representative is a major improver over this sort of trip.

3.30 (Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grade 1) – BRAVEMANSGAME

Another cracker of a Cheltenham Gold Cup is upon us. Minella Indo is back for another crack, while Stattler, Conflated and Sounds Russian may be popular with some each-way backers.

Better off on our books are Ahoy Senor and Noble Yeats, first and third in the Cotswold Chase here on Trials Day. It’s unsure how much more there is to come from the pair but that is solid form.

Galopin Des Champ is the short(ish) priced favourite and has been since winning at Fairyhouse last April. Since then, he’s added two more easy wins and he would be easily unbeaten in chases but for an unlucky fall when well clear at the festival last year.

He is a brilliant chaser, there’s no doubt about that, but this is also the best company he’s ever found himself in and there isn’t much value in backing him.

A good form line is November’s Betfair Chase in which Protektorat was excellent. He beat A Plus Tard there, last year’s impressive Gold Cup winner, and both are in this line up.

A Plus Tard has been freshened up and should be better now, but winning back-to-back Gold Cups is notoriously difficult.

Protektorat was behind Ahoy Senor and Noble Yeats in the Cotswold but he is far better than that and was perhaps not 100% tuned up that day. He was also third in the Gold Cup last year and would have been much closer but for a final fence blunder.

Among the main candidates, that leaves us with Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame and he is the one we think has the most quality.

Even as a novice hurdler, his trainer told us that he was very much the real deal and this from a man who trained Kauto Star and Denman.

As a chaser he has some very reliable and classy form to advertise his claims. On his third start as a novice, he was seven lengths and around 10lbs better than Ahoy Senor.

This season he began in imperious fashion when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before producing a demolition job in the King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He is ready to put in the performance of his life so far in this, that from a horse who on current ability already has a big shout. Harry Cobden rides.

4.10 (Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 2) – FAMOUS CLERMONT

This is a difficult race for many punters as the form lines are not as solid, or even known, as many others during the festival. In fact, as it comes after the Gold Cup, it’s the signal for many people to leave or to hit the bar.

Not that many people like to even see big-time trainers even involved in this race, we do have a mix of names involved.

Our big three are Billaway, last year’s winner trained by master Willie Mullins, Famous Clermont trained by Chris Barber in Dorset, and Ireland’s Vaucelet trained by David Christie.

Chris Barber’s grandfather in fact trained four winners of this race when it was known as the Foxhunter. He has got his Famous Clermont to the point that he is the leading point-to-point horse in the country and he is good value to hold off the Irish challenge.

4.50 (Mares’ Chase – Grade 2) – ALLEGORIE DE VASSY 

The Mares’ Chase is a somewhat controversial race, only on the schedule since 2021 and won both times by Willie Mullins.

Three of the big four in this are quite close on recent form. Magic Daze (Henry De Bromhead), Impervious (Colm Murphy) and Jeremys Flame (Gavin Cromwell) will all have their supporters, with Impervious the best of that small bunch according the odds.

In fact, Impervious could challenge Willie Mullins’ Allegorie De Vassy for favouritism which we think is a tad strange.

At the weights, Allegorie De Vassy has already put in a performance to match or better what the others have achieved, though she did it on only her second chase start and very easily indeed.

There is a ton of improvement still to come from her, of that there is no doubt, and it’s a slight surprise to use to see that she’s not odds-on for this race, especially given who the trainer is. Paul Townend rides.

5.30 (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – IROKO

With a few non-runners announced there are 21 due to line up for finale, a chance for the conditions jockeys to shine in the Martin Pipe.

An extended 2½ miles is the trip with a perfect profile for the race according to most results since the race began in 2009, Iroko is fancied score.

Representing owner JP McManus, trainers Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero and rider Caoilin Quinn, Iroko is an improving type who may get the better of Haxo and Irish Hill.

That’s all for another Festival folks! We’ll be back for the April Meeting in five weeks’ time.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival Day Three: Thursday 16th March 2023 - Head Home by the Lee

Day three brings us seven more races, three Grade 1’s, £1.3 million in prize money and two major feature events.

As well the championship race, the Stayers’ Hurdle, we see the Ryanair Chase which has produced some fantastic horses and brilliant finishes in the recent past.

We begin right at the top level with the Grade One Turner Novices’.

1.30 (Turners Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – APPRECIATE IT

The money has all been for Mighty Potter in this event ante-post and he opened up at even-money and 11/10 after the final declarations.

He’s three out of three over fences and he hasn’t put a foot wrong. Two of those wins were in Grade 1 company and the style of them suggested that he is out of the top draw.

The sort of numbers he’s produced however don’t make him unbeatable on paper, and a much better value alternative is 2021’s hugely impressive Supreme Novices’ winner Appreciate It.

Since belatedly going chasing this season he too has been excellent to watch. Two wins set him up for the Irish Arkle for which he went off the 11/8 favourite ahead of Tuesday’s Arkle winner El Fabiolo. Though beaten there, he was far from disgraced and it seems he wants this 2½-mile trip now.

Stage Star, Balco Coastal and Banbridge are all very good young chasers too and can also make their mark.

2.10 (Pertemps Network Final – Premier Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – THANKSFORTHEHELP

Nicky Henderson can probably finish his festival a happy man after Constitution Hill’s Champion Hurdle demolition, but he does have another winning chance in the Pertemps Final with Walking On Air.

This 24-runner, three-mile handicap hurdle is frightfully competitive but Walking On Air could be nicely treated at the weights and that’s going to be the crucial factor.

The other big improver who is nicely handicapped is Thanksforthehelp and ultimately, he gets our vote.

David Pipe has won this race a couple of times before so knows what is required, as does the owner JP McManus. His form is solid, he won so easily last time, he stays and he handles the ground.

2.50 (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) – SHISHKIN

Hopefully Nicky Henderson hasn’t quite gone home at this point, as he needs to saddle up another superstar in the shape of Shishkin.

While he had his wobbles towards the end of his two-mile chasing career, he was an awesome Arkle and Clarence House winner but he found a new lease of life over a longer trip last time.

Inexplicably sent off second-favourite for the 2m5f Ascot Chase, he scored by 16 lengths and just looked better and better the further he went. He drops back to 2m4f here, but around this track that should suit him well.

Blue Lord is a solid second choice in this race and is the main danger, while Janidil, Envoi Allen and Hitman have their work cut out.

3.30 (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – HOME BY THE LEE

The 2019 winner (and three-time Cleeve Hurdle winner) Paisley Park is still competing in Grade 1’s aged 11, while the 2021 and 2022 winner Flooring Porter is also once again in the line-up.

Klassical Dream has also been around the block a bit without seeing out a three-mile trip like this one to his best level.

All in all, it seems that the stayers’ crown will go to someone new this year. The recent form of Teahupoo has been excellent and he will on many punters’ lips, while Blazing Khal could even go off favourite.

The one we like best however is Home By The Lee. Joseph O’Brien’s runner won a Grade 2 in November, then stepped up again on that to win the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

He is now a confirmed stayer, loves the ground, is improving, has the class and for good measure had Flooring Porter well in behind at Leopardstown.

4.10 (Plate Handicap Chase – Class a) – WAR LORD

Another hugely difficult handicap race is upon us here for punters. 24 runners line up for the late, a two-and-a-half-mile race which usually favours those having run in certain similar handicaps in recent weeks.

Il Ridoto and Fugitif are two horses to have run in just the right race, finishing 1-2 in the premier handicap chase over this course and distance Trials Day.

They should both make their presence felt, as will So Scottish if the betting is anything to go by, but great value is last year’s Arkle Trophy fourth War Lord and he looks well handicapped.

He reached a mark of 149 after finishing behind Edwardstone twelve months ago, and while it’s taken a while to get him back to his best, he’s just about there now and he gets in here off only 144.

4.50 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – LUCCIA

Otherwise known as the Dawn Run, this 2m1f race has been on the schedule since just 2016 and was won for the first five years by Willie Mullins.

In behind the favourite, opinions are bound to differ on at least ten mares in this field and the battle for places therefore could be a keen one.

Up at the top of the betting market however is Nicky Henderson’s Luccia and she really does deserve that position on what she’s achieved so far.

She was two from two in bumpers including winning at Listed level last March, while she has now also won both of her hurdle races, again the latest at Listed level. She was impressive at Exeter and should handle this ground OK.

5.30 (Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Class 2) – ROYAL THIEF

We finish the day with the Kim Muir, a chance for the amateur jockeys to take centre stage.

In amateur races we often rely more on the jockey than we often would. Their ability range is greater than with the pros, which is partly why Mr Incredible (Patrick Mullins) and Dunboyne (Jamie Codd) will be fancied.

Royal Thief however looks very smart in the context of this race and could send supporters home happy.

Cheltenham Festival Day Two: Wednesday 15th March 2023 - Edwardstone to be Crown Champion Chaser

Day one was magic as always, now we have another million pounds on offer as we watch the second and final day of action on the Old Course.

The two-mile Champion Chase is the feature race worth £400,000, ably backed up by three more Grade 1 events including our opener, the Ballymore.

1.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – HERMES ALLEN

We go over what might prove to be a fairly gruelling 2-mile, 5-furlong trip on soft ground for the race known to many as the Baring Bingham.

Willie Mullins has his usual strong hand here with, in reverse order of our preference, Ho My Lord, Champ Kiely, likely favourite Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior all engaged.

American Mike and Good Land shouldn’t trouble our selection, which is Hermes Allen for the Paul Nicholls yard.

On a four-timer now, the French-bred six-year-old gelding has been imperious over hurdles so far. A 27-length win at a canter on good ground was followed by a nine-length success in a Grade 2 here, again on top of the ground.

What was even more impressive however is the fact that he again cantered, unchallenged, to victory last time out on soft ground in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle and it seems he is destined for the very top.

2.10 (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – THYME HILL

At £181,000 this is the second most valuable race on the day behind the feature event. The reason for that is that, as a three-mile race over fences, this contest features horses likely to go and challenge one day for the Gold Cup, perhaps even next season.

Mullins dominates the entries once again, though four of his five have their work cut out to get involved. His Sir Gerhard however, last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner, has a real chance if seeing out the three miles on only his second chase start.

He ranks higher than the short-priced favourite Gerri Colombe on our books, though they all may have their work cut out to get to Thyme Hill.

Philip Hobbs & Johnson White’s runner was the best staying novice hurdler in 2021, a close second in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2022 and last time out won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in an absolute canter.

2.50 (Coral Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – ICARE ALLEN

Though Run For Oscar, Good Risk At All, Camprond and HMS Seahorse have all been well backed it could be a horse at a very big price that goes close for us in the shape of Icare Allen.

Owned by JP McManus, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Mark Walsh, you’d think this horse would have been given more attention in the build-up to the festival but he appears to be going under the radar.

He does step up in trip here but on breeding there’s plenty to like about that move and, if he does indeed stay well, he is certainly handicapped to go very well undeed.

3.30 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1) – EDWARDSTONE

The championship race on day two is the Champion Chase, the season’s two-mile chase feature.

It’s mad to think that twelve months ago Editeur Du Gite went off 17/2 for the Grand Annual and finished fourth, now he comes into this having beaten both Edwardstone and Energumene in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase.

Those two still rate higher in our books and both will be fully tuned up for this, with Edwardstone’s time surely here as last year’s Arkle winner and this season’s impressive Tingle Creek hero looks to confirm his place at the head of the two-mile table for trainer Alan King and jockey Tom Cannon.

Greaneteen and Nube Negra are both very capable on their day, but should not be getting involved at the business end of the race.

4.10 (Cross Country Chase – Class 2) – FRANCO DE PORT

Naturally, the cross-country course here is like no other and so we cannot accurately judge the form of ordinary chase races in order to evaluate this field.

What we do know is they still have to jump, they still have to stay and they still have to handle the ground which is soft.

Galvin has quality and is likely to stay involved for a long way, while his stablemate Delta Work won this last year and is looking to double up.

Franco De Port at 8 can actually still improve, while Snow Leopardess is not getting younger but is a thorough stayer and gets 7lbs from the boys.

All things considered, the 158-rated Franco De Port (Willie Mullins) could be ready now to dethrone Delta Work and is a good price to do so.

4.50 (Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Class 1) – DINOBLUE

The Grand Annual is a very competitive two-mile handicap hurdle, but the stats tell us that it’s generally hard to carry a lot of weight in it and we are on stamina-sapping ground.

So, while Andy Dufresne, Coeur Sublime and Final Orders are all classy and respected, it could be that the improving Dinoblue wins the day.

The six-year-old has his best days ahead and is well handicapped, while we also know he handles this ground which is a crucial factor.

5.30 (Champion Bumper – Grade 1) – WESTERN DIEGO

We finish with a frightfully competitive Champion Bumper in which all horses are improving and it’s up to us to work out at what rate. As well as taking our advice, look out for any serious money coming for runners in the closing race in the lead-up to off time.

After a long process, we whittled this down to three horses outside of the likely favourite A Dream To Share, the trio all trained by Willie Mullins.

It must be pointed out that one of ours, Fact To File, does indeed carry the first choice JP McManus colours rather than the favourite.

He needs to get back on track after being beaten last time, while It’s For Me was very good on debut and is second on the list behind Western Diego. The six-year-old selection is ridden by Rachael Blackmore and is fancied after a very impressive opening win in January.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival Day One: Tuesday 14th March 2023 - No Fighting the Constitution in Champion Hurdle

And, we’re back! The 2023 Cheltenham Festival gets underway on Tuesday and we have strong information for all seven races on the opening-day card, worth a combined total of £1.2 million.

The ground is a little softer than many would like, which punters should keep in mind, though the Old Course does favour speed which is what we’re using on Tuesday.

1.30 (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – FACILE VEGA

We won’t expect anything like last year’s spectacular winner Constitution Hill to show up this time around, but the winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle tends to be a very, very good horse so this gets us as excited as always.

Champagne Fever, Vautour, Douvan, Altior, Klassical Dream, Shishkin and Appreciate It have all won this race in recent years.

Five or six weeks ago, Willie Mullins’ 2022 Champion Bumper winner Facile Vega was a very strong favourite for this race. After failing last time however, lots of people have jumped ship to Barry Connell’s unbeaten Grade 1 winner Marine Nationale.

We like that horse too, but there is no reason why Facile Vega shouldn’t get back to form here after only one blip and if he does, he will surely prove that he is comfortably better than this field.

His stablemate from Willie Mullins’ yard Il Etait Temps may be a better option to follow him home, while former Derby favourite High Definition and Paul Nicholls’ Tahmuras have to improve plenty.

2.10 (Arkle Trophy – Grade 1) – JONBON 

There are arguably only four serious contenders for this year’s Arkle which is somewhat disappointing. Three of those are trained by Willie Mullins. Of that group, Saint Roi is likely to be the poor relation leaving us with Jonbon, El Fabiolo and Dysart Dynamo.

El Fabiolo was outstanding in winning the Irish Arkle last time, while we should not rule out Dysart Dynamo who was as impressive as his two big rivals on chase debut and went off the same price as El Fabiolo in that Irish Arkle. The one we like best however is Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon.

He only just got the better of El Fabiolo on his last hurdle start at Aintree last spring, while he had to play second fiddle to Constitution Hill in the Supreme.

He has eased to three facile victories over fences so far and while it’s true he hasn’t been tested to the limit yet, he looks up to the task for jockey Aidan Coleman.

2.50 (Ultima Handicap Chase – Class 1) – MONBEG GENIUS

2022 winner Corach Rambler has only had a couple of runs since his big victory but he’s back here for more.

He is an interesting contender, as are Into Overdrive and The Big Breakaway, but our vote goes to Jonjo O’Neill’s Monbeg Genius who is on a four-timer after three very taking chase wins.

3.30 (Champion Hurdle – Grade 1) – CONSTITUTION HILL

Only seven line up for the Champion Hurdle this year, though it is to be understood to a degree as many are running away from last the sublime Supreme Novices’, Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle winner Constitution Hill.

The seven is very disappointing for each-way backers too, unless you want to take Vauban or I Like To Move It at reduced odds with three places, as Constitution Hill and State Man are very hard to oppose as a pair.

Constitution Hill looks to have all bases covered in truth and it would be a bitter disappointment were he not to win. His price is very restrictive, but he can of course be used in multiples, Placepots and the like.

4.10 (Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – ECHOES IN RAIN

If we’re right about Jonbon and Constitution Hill, then a fair bit of money will be going on Nicky Henderson’s former Champion Hurdler Epatante in this event, or for that matter likely favourite Marie’s Rock.

Both Epatante and Honeysuckle are going backwards, it’s just a sad truth, and they may yet be beaten home by not only Marie’s Rock but also Love Envoi and even the overpriced Echoes In Rain.

Willie Mullins also runs Brandy Love in this race, a shorter price than the selection, though Echoes In Rain is a real long-term improver over hurdles who won ever so easily last time and who will love the conditions.

She was fifth in this race last year behind Marie’s Rock, though more is expected now.

4.50 (Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – BAD

This the race otherwise known as the Fred Winter, a very competitive handicap hurdle for four-year-olds. These juvenile hurdlers are all very inexperienced which presents punters with various challenges, especially this year.

We all know that the Old Course favours speed and this indeed is a two-mile race, however many of these horses will go a lot further in time and so on the forecast soft ground it may be that some amount of stamina is needed to get the job done.

Top owner JP McManus has a strong hand here. His Tekao is being very well backed throughout Monday while Risk Belle provides strong back up. Big money has also come for Byker, while Sir Allen has some strong form to his name in the novice ranks.

The best of the bunch way well prove to be Bad however. Ben Pauling has grabbed this young horse from France where he put in an impressive performance back in November and he now looks very well handicapped.

5.30 (National Hunt Cup – Grade 2) – MAHLER MISSION

Our final race is a 3m6f novices’ chase for amateur jockeys, though nothing in the race’s conditions makes it less
appealing to punters.

All the money in the build-up has been for Willie Mullins’ Gaillard Du Mesnil, though while he should be improving like most novices, there is no real evidence he’s going forward just now and he is a very short price.

Minella Crooner is of some interest, as is Mister Coffey who we tipped when he went close in the Kim Muir last year, though he finishes second an awful lot and again isn’t improving fast enough.

Mahler Mission is the value play. Though he was beaten last time, he is a fast improver overall and will love underfoot conditions too.