We could see an old favourite confirm a new lease of life in the Stayers’ Hurdle at 3.30 as the Cheltenham Festival 2018 passes its half-way mark. Here’s what we think can do the business on day three:
1.30 (JLT Novices’ Chase) – TERREFORT
Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old is 2 from 2 since joining the stable from France including having won a Grade 1 race last time out at Sandown and for me he brings both the best form and the most potential into the race. Soft going is fine as is the trip and he appears to be a very strong candidate.
Benatar of Gary Moore’s would be a confident second choice had he been doing his winning on softer going but that’s not to say he won’t handle it, while likely favourite Invitation Only looks certain to be on the premises as well under the genial Ruby Walsh.
2.10 (Pertemps Final) – LOUIS’ VAC POUCH
A hellishly competitive race as always and one in which luck will surely play a key part. Phillip Hobbs’ Louis’ Vac Pouch however starred at Aintree in the November meeting and has been kept off the track since. He handled the soft ground no problem that day over this trip and despite Cheltenham being a very different challenge to Liverpool, he is taken to score.
Messrs Glenloe, Sort It Out and Forza Milan who was beaten into second by the selection at Aintree all hold chances at varying prices but with any luck will all be fighting only for place money come 2.15.
2.50 (Ryanair Chase) – BALKO DES FLOS
Un De Sceaux is the likely short priced favourite here but does all his best work at two miles usually. He did win this race last year but on ratings it wasn’t his best performance and was achieved on good ground, a far cry from what he’ll race on here.
Old favourite Cue Card is more solid in these conditions and if he can repeat what he did at Ascot last time the old-timer can outwit the jolly, however on the numbers I’d say Balko Des Flos put in the same sort of performance at Leopardstown last time over three miles and so given that it was his best ever run and that at seven he has more improvement in him, he seems a fair pick at a good price.
3.30 (Stayers’ Hurdle) – YANWORTH
Sam Spinner comes into this as favourite and it’s easy to see why. A Grade 3 handicap hurdle win at Haydock was followed up with a win in the Long Walk Hurdle over Christmas at Ascot and that form entitles him to come into this with a huge chance, but ultimately he’s not the one for me.
Previously a top class two-mile hurdler, Yanworth was sent chasing this season and managed to win the Grade 2 Dipper around here but has been aimed at this race ever since then and frankly is the best horse in this race all things considered. The fact that Yanworth is still only 8 means there could be more to come and I think that improvement will be unlocked over this trip.
4.10 (Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate) – LAST GOODBYE
His 2m5f win in a very tough handicap chase on soft ground at Leopardstown entitles our horse to come into this with a major opportunity and in a race where plenty hold chances, we’ll go with the rock solid form of the County Wexford-trained horse.
Six-year-old King’s Socks can still improve enough to take a hand in the finish here while Movewiththetimes will be popular on course for the combo of JP McManus, Paul Nicholls and Barry Gerraghty.
4.50 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) – LAURINA
There may yet be some value in backing Maria’s Benefit who is on a 6-timer but to win she’ll have to hope for a mistake from the likely favourite Laurina. Willie Mullins’ mare did the job really well on heavy ground at Fairyhouse last time on only her second hurdle start and will have been trained for this specifically.
Ratings suggest this is a two-horse race and while things are never quite that simple at the festival it would seem as though something totally unexpected will have to come from the clouds to sneak past the market leaders.
5.30 (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup) – MISSED APPROACH
The debate rages on over whether or not horses are at an advantage having recently received wind operations, but there’s no doubt it has helped some of them and in the case of Missed Approach he’s a horse I’d have wanted to have backed anyway so the surgery me be a bonus.
Warren Greatrex is confident of a big run from his eight-year-old who may be troubled most by Nicky Henderson’s challenger Sugar Baron who’s been runner-up in two decent races this season.