We’ve reached the third day already of what has been a wonderful Cheltenham Festival yet again.
Previous festival winners Faugheen, Frodon, Paisley Park, Duc De Genievres and more go for glory once again and it seems some still have the skills required to get the job done for us.
1.30 (Marsh Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – FAUGHEEN
There’s no doubt that Itchy Feet has been ever so impressive this season in his two chases, particularly last time out in the Scilly Isles Novices’ but in such a race they can all but reach their peak leaving not as much improvement to come as many expect.
It’s unusual to see a 12-year-old former Champion Hurdle winner in this race, but in the shape of the unique Faugheen we may just have a very special and distinctive winner.
Willie Mullins ever-popular dual Cheltenham Festival scorer has been in great order since belatedly being switched to fences and his form really does stand up.
He’s beaten Samcro easily this season, who could then have beaten Arkle second Fakir D’oudairies but for a fall when giving away weight, before warming up nicely with a win over Easy Game last time and so today could once again be his day.
2.10 (Pertemps Network Final – Grade 3) – KILBRICKEN STORM
Although beaten by Welsh Saint and Skandiburg this season, the former Albert Bartlett winner was unsuited by the track against the first name and has a more than handy 8lb pull against the latter with his form stacking up very well.
He loves it here, can still improve if anything with only fourteen runs under his belt and is a fine price to give punters a huge run for their money.
The aforementioned Welsh Saint and Skandiburg can each make their presence felt, while the overpriced Royal Thief of Henry De Bromhead’s yard is capable of running into a place as well.
2.50 (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) – FRODON
In a race described by those who know as one of the best ever at the Cheltenham Festival, Frodon got the better of Aso last year having been headed and many think this race is tougher twelve months on.
In truth, it isn’t necessarily so and given that Frodon’s standout career performance, other than winning this last season, was when he took a handicap chase on heavy ground around here two years ago and so he may well even appreciate these conditions more.
Along with that is the fact that, after a slower than ideal start, he has improved in lumps from Haydock to Kempton (won the Silviniaco Conti Chase) and he is expected to do so again, giving him a huge chance of defeating hotpot A Plus Tard.
Last year’s runaway novice handicap chase winner at the festival managed his biggest feat when well treated at the weights, with his performances since suggesting he’d be better on a quicker track and/or over a shorter trip. Riders Onthe Storm is not discounted while Min is not getting any younger.
3.30 (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – PAISLEY PARK
Given that Summerville Boy, who we rate very close to Rendlesham winner Emitom but who is proven here at Cheltenham, won’t be a big enough price at 1/5 odds to recommend each-way, the boring but solid selection is last year’s hero Paisley Park.
Unbeaten now in seven starts, he was more workmanlike than impressive in the Cleeve Hurdle last time but took care of Summerville Boy easily enough without ever looking like he was at his best, so should Emma Lavelle have added a bit of polish to him it seems more than likely he will become the latest dual winner of this grand contest.
4.10 (Stable Plate Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – SIMPLY THE BETTS
When assessing such competitive handicaps it’s always great when an outsider comes to the fore who may have a little in hand on the handicapper, but in this case so many horses seem to be weighted to cross the line virtually together that that hasn’t really been the case.
The strong favourite though, Simply The Betts, is rock solid with his recent form working out incredibly well.
His third win from four chase starts, the one narrow defeat being on a track that didn’t suit, was in a strong novices’ handicap chase in which he beat Tuesday’s Listed novice handicap chase winner Imperial Aura while the third horse that day was beaten easily and has also come out since and won.
All being well Harry Whittingdon’s horse should hold all the aces here, the likes of Deyrann De Carjac and Spiritofthegames perhaps fighting for place money.
4.50 (Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – MINELLA MELODY
While runner-up Colreevy may do better in these conditions, the same can be said for her Fairyhouse conqueror Minella Melody and so with only a 1lb pull from the last time they met she’s unlikely to pass the classy mare who is now three from three over hurdles.
With that being the best form on offer Henry De Bromhead’s runner seems like a solid choice and is a confident bet, with Willie Mullins’ surprise 66/1 runner-up in last year’s event Concertista maybe being the one to attempt to get involved with them at the business end.
5.30 (Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase) – PLAN OF ATTACK
Not the most valuable race of course, but a cracking way to finish the day as a full field of 24 runners and their amateur jockeys go hell for leather over three miles and two furlongs in a handicap scenario.
All of that makes this race sound on the impossible side of difficult from a handicapping point of view, however in that man Henry De Bromhead’s Plan Of Attack there looks to be one horse who will appreciate these conditions and is improving more than the others.
He can supplement his wins at Wexford and Aintree by landing the finale, with Kilfilum Cross entering calculations too.