There have been some hard luck stories at this festival so far for sure and not least for us! The trick is to keep the faith though and day three brings another seven chances to beat the bookmakers with some cracking value bets on offer.
The highlights are the Grade 1 Ryaniar Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle where Frodon and Paisley Park are looking to prove they are genuine top level performers, doing it when it really matters against quality opposition. We start with another top grade race, the JLT Novices’ and a chance for Willie Mullins to hit the board again.
1.30 (JLT Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – REAL STEEL
The key form line here seems to involve the closely matched Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil, while on a similar level given this ground we should not rule out Castafiore either, though they may all have had the edge taken off them slightly which cannot be said of the selection.
Willie Mullins’ Real Steel has essentially cantered to two wins at Fairyhouse and Thurles and while that isn’t the sort of form you’d expect of a leading light in this sort of race, his trainer knows what he’s doing and it’s even possible those performances have been underestimated slightly.
2.10 (Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – WALK TO FREEDOM
Once more there is a very strong form line, this time involving the Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown including the likes of Cuneo and likely favourite for this race Sire Du Berlais who caught the eye that day, but the overpriced one to come out of that race is definitely Jessica Harrington’s Walk To Freedom and he gets the nod.
Having finished second that day he’s been given time to recover and with more expected now he should be handicapped well enough to go one better at a very attractive price. Robbie Power as usual takes the ride.
2.50 (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) – FRODON
Although things rarely work so out so simply in horse racing and especially at a major festival such as this, the course form shown by Frodon and his rare liking for these fences may just edge him ahead of what is a deep and high quality field for this year’s renewal.
Under Bryony Frost the Paul Nicholls-trained grey has won three of his four races this season, only losing out to the very well-handicapped Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup when the ground was too quick for him, and he is expected to put on another jumping master class in this race perhaps proving he is a proper Grade 1 type.
Old Ryanair favourite Un De Sceaux is next on the list though the chances of Monalee and Road To Respect are obvious too in what looks a fabulous race.
3.30 (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – PAISLEY PARK
Supasundae is no mug at this distance and in fact was runner-up in this race a year ago, while the ageing Faugheen still provides a huge threat but while his best would be good enough for sure, he is far from guaranteed to produce that at this stage of his career.
That all perhaps leaves the race at the mercy of Paisley Park, the seven-year-old of Emma Lavelle’s who improved so much from winning a handicap hurdle at Haydock in November, albeit at Grade 3 level, to scoring in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle at this course under a penalty on Trials Day by 12 lengths no less.
Should no problems befall Aidan Coleman’s mount en route to the final couple of flights then he possesses the class and the stamina to see this lot off and score.
4.10 (Stable Plate Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – AZZERTI (each-way)
The key race to note in the lead-up to this contest is the race Kildisart won round this track in January, where Spiritofthegames was third making him a leading player here.
Our selection however, Azzerti, was fairly well fancied on the day too. He was close up with the field when he was hampered and fell, and is one pound better off with Spiritofthegames today.
He’s had an easy spin and a confidence booster in a novice race at Ludlow since then and looks handicapped well enough to make a big impact in the race, very much at a backable each-way price too.
4.50 (National Hunt Breeders Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – EPATANTE
There could be a clash here between two mares with very different profiles; the proven Posh Trish and the one with abundant potential in the form of Epatante.
The former has won four out of 5 over the smaller obstacles and is herself getting better all the time. Two Listed wins at Newbury and Taunton give her just about the best form on offer in the field, but it doesn’t scream world class and she could be vulnerable giving weight to the new girl on the block.
Epatante has won two small races at Kempton and Exeter very easily and as well as having a ton more to give, she hasn’t had her ground yet being a French-bred who excelled in her early Gallic career on very soft going and it seems she will love conditions here.
5.30 (Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase) – ANY SECOND NOW
JP McManus holds a very strong hand in this race with more than just us likely to take No Comment and Any Second Now against the field, the latter in our case preferred to the former given that connections feel he’s just about their number one contender.
Ted Walsh’s charge hasn’t won yet over fences but has some very strong form and is crying out for this sort of test. His jockey Derek O’Connor is definitely among the very best amateur riders too meaning he may even gain a little something from the saddle.