Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2018 Day Two: Henderson To Score In Champion Chase Thriller

The festival steps up a gear on day two with a mouth-watering clash between Altior, Douvan and Min on the cards in the feature Queen Mother Champion Chase at 3.30 and there is great value to be had elsewhere on the card.

Huge handicaps the Coral Cup and the Fred Winter are on the card and we have nicely priced selections in both.  Here’s hoping for a profitable day at Prestbury Park!

1.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle) – NEXT DESTINATION

Samcro has been called a potential superstar and I won’t disagree with the sentiment.  He’s unbeaten his whole career so far and took his Grade One in style last time at Leopardstown.  That was over two miles though so I prefer to compare his second ever over hurdles run with the second run of Next Destination.

Both faced similar conditions over 2m4f and in my opinion Willie Mullins’ horse was more impressive, so up to 2m4f here I’d go for the value with the second favourite.

2.10 (RSA Novices’ Chase) – ELEGANT ESCAPE

More experienced over fences than some major rivals here despite being only a six-year-old, Elegant Escape won easily over this trip on heavy ground at Exeter last time and won’t shirk the challenge.  Monalee can improve into a place now up in trip while the tough Black Corton is sure to go well also.

2.50 (Coral Cup) – LE BREUIL

There’s always a chance of something going wrong in such big fields and these races have the look of a ‘stick a pin in’ type of contest, but we’ll fly in with a punt on Le Breuil of Ben Pauling’s.  95 days off the track is ideal for a horse who should have plenty in the tank and will handle the conditions.

William Henry and Burbank both hold good place chances and are sure to go well, however at prices like 14 and 16/1 overnight our improving six-year-old looks the one to be on and could take the money.

3.30 (Queen Mother Champion Chase) – ALTIOR

Unless there is a slight surprise regarding the returning Douvan, surely Altior at odds-against is one of the bets of the festival?  Having won last year’s Arkle easily, he is now 12 from 12 since going over jumps and is a bona fide superstar.

Douvan was sent off at 2/9 for this last year but including that race he’s been beaten twice now and has a long absence to overcome.  Stablemate Min would surely have a better chance of pressing the jolly but Ruby Walsh has plumped for the eight-year-old Douvan which doesn’t really scream of Min improving again from his win at Leopardstown  and he therefore shouldn’t be good enough to catch Nicky Henderson’s star.

4.10 (Glenfarclas Chase) – THE LAST SAMURI

Kim Bailey’s 10yo looks the perfect type for this cross-country test and is taken to score ahead of likely favourite Cause Of Causes.  The latter won this last year and in fact has won at three festivals in a row, a true crowd favourite, but it just may be that The Last Samuri proves to be a battle-hardened warrior in time having shown up well against the likes of Blaklion and Definitly Red in recent times.

4.50 (Fred Winter) – ACT OF VALOUR

Brian Ellison’s contender The King Of May has a lot to offer here at a pretty big price and cannot be underestimated having run extremely well on his stable debut in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle (Listed) but the improvement could come from Paul Nicholls’ ACT OF VALOUR and it’s him we’ll be backing.

An impressive win at Newcastle on hurdling debut has since been followed up by a second in the same race as the King Of May was third in and if that form holds up the way it’s expected to then he can score here at reasonable odds under Adrian Heskin.

5.30 (Weatherbys Champion Bumper) – CAREFULLY SELECTED

As always there’s a strong Irish challenge here and with that in mind we cannot disregard Joseph O’Brien’s Rhinestone who would look to hold every chance of getting at least some place money while Gordon Elliott’s Felix Desjy will also be popular in the ring.

Willie Mullins though is the king and he comes into this race with three proper chances in the shape of Blackbow, Tornado Flyer and our selection who I think achieved more on his bumper debut that the other contenders and so with natural improvement could have the beating of them here at a big price.

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