Day one at Prestbury Park was a cracker as expected, and although there is the spectre of Storm Gareth lurking on the horizon, as long as the card gets the go-ahead we should see another seven belters with plenty of great value horses looking extremely backable on Queen Mother Champion Chase day.
Superstar Altior returns to defend his crown at 3.30 while stable companion Santini looks to prove he’s the real at Grade 1 level in the RSA Chase at 2.10, but we start with the competitive Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle where there could be a big priced winner to get us going on day two of the 2019 Festival.
1.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – BREWIN’UPASTORM
Olly Murphy had a great start to the festival with a second and third at big prices in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but he may go one better with his cracking value runner Brewin’upastorm in race one.
Richard Johnson takes the ride as he did when the horse should have won the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ on Trials Day here and he may well get the better of City Island, Challow Hurdle winner Champ and Battleoverdoyen.
2.10 (RSA Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – SANTINI
Don’t get us wrong here, there would be precisely zero surprise should Delta Work win this but all good things have to come to an end so his perfect record over fences could be about to be stopped on the biggest stage of all.
Step forward Nicky Henderson, whose Santini was masterful on his chase debut at Grade 2 level at Newbury back in December before finding Kempton a little too sharp when a staying on third that day.
He can show his true potential now and if running the sort of race we expect him to, he should be too good for the aforementioned Gordon Elliott runner as well as Paul Nicholls’ Topofthegame.
2.50 (Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – HIGHEST SUN
There are plenty in with chances as always in the Coral Cup, but the one who may have been a little underestimated here is Colin Tizzard and Tom O’Brien’s Highest Sun after his cushy Chepstow win last time on the track.
He was fourth to Al Dancer round this course over the winter and looks set to appreciate the step up in trip here to 2m5f, as such he should improve and may have enough to beat the likes of Ballyandy and old favourite Lil Rockerfeller who looks a huge price.
3.30 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1) – SCEAU ROYAL (each-way)
The racing world is all pretty much agreed that Altior should win this, probably at a canter too, so the race is on for second place in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and therefore the hunt for each-way value begins.
Old rival Min looks well set to give another good account of himself of course, but in Sceau Royal of Alan King’s we have a horse set to give a career best and that may be good enough to land us some money in the feature race.
At around the 16/1 mark and having shown a liking for this ground as well as for Cheltenham, you can get on him each way, for a place, or without the favourite at nice odds with Daryl Jacob expecting a nice ride up top.
4.10 (Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – Class 2) – ULTRAGOLD (each-way)
The recommendation is Ultragold each-way as, while it’s possible that good old Tiger Roll is still a step ahead of these rivals, it is not 100% guaranteed and so at a general 12/1 Ultragold represents value as the one horse who loves the Grand National fences at Aintree and could show a big liking for the cross country course.
At those odds, even a second or third place finish would bring a nice profit but Colin Tizzard’s horse is also the one who looks to have the best credentials to step up if Tiger Roll is not on his game and so he rates a fair bet to small stakes. Auvergnat is the other one to note on the card.
4.50 (Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – FANFAN DU SEUIL
Hugely undervalued going into this race, Tom George’s runner is the one who on balance looks to be improving the most between his runs so with that in mind, a new career best here may well be enough to edge him ahead of the likes of Fine Brunello and Band Of Outlaws for the Joseph O’Brien yard.
Fanfan was a good second round here back in December and will have come on a ton since back then, the added bonus of that strong form being that he achieved his second place in the Triumph Hurdle Trial on ground not really suitable, so now that the rain has arrived we should see an even better display under jockey Paddy Brennan.
5.30 (Champion Bumper – Grade 1) – BLUE SARI
Despite not having a lot of form to go on, which is of course often the case in this race, it seems some have close form ties while others on the book are round about them making it generally a close call between many of the older horses but with an allowance to take off, four-year-old Blue Sari seems well placed to challenge.
The level of form he reached when cantering home at Gowran Park in January already gives him a good shout here, so the 8lb pull and the fact he has already shown a liking for very soft ground all goes very much in his favour.
Given that this is the “lucky last”, he carries the JP McManus colours and is trained by Willie Mullins, we can probably expect a betting deluge on this horse but he should reward backers at the main expense perhaps of the overpriced Ask For Glory from the Paul Nicholls yard.