Day three of the Festival is Ryanair Chase and Stayers’ Hurdle day, stamina beginning to come to the fore as we move now onto the tougher New Course.
Once more there’ll be some short-priced favourites trained in Ireland, but there are some mightily competitive events on the card too and we have a tip in all seven races.
1.20 (Marsh Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – ENVOI ALLEN
All the talk is about Willie Mullins, but Henry De Bromhead is having a brilliant Cheltenham Festival and it can continue with another Grade 1 win in this 2½-mile event.
His Envoi Allen is unbeaten in eleven career starts, including last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, has been faultless over fences so far and there’s just nothing in his profile to suggest he won’t be at his best in this race. If he is, he wins, with Jack Kennedy this time on board and probably ready to accept the plaudits.
In behind, the standout challenger is Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House whose easy win at Wetherby will have put him spot-on for a crack at the big one, while both Chatham Street Lad and Shan Blue appear to be at a very similar level to this point.
1.55 (Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – IMPERIAL ALCAZAR
This is a fantastic betting race, one in which a full field of 20-odd runners will be charging at their 12 flights of hurdles over a trip of three miles.
There are lots at big prices who are in which chances, but the standout horse is Fergal O’Brien’s Imperial Alcazar after his win in the qualifier at Warwick two months ago.
He was excellent that day under Paddy Brennan and it looks as though an 8lb rise won’t be enough to stop him, third-placed horse Come On Teddy being considered as his main opposition today.
2.30 (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) – IMPERIAL AURA
This is such a tough race to call. On official ratings there is barely anything to choose between them, with Melon, Kalashnikov, likely favourite Allaho, Saint Calvados, Fakir D’oudairies and Mister Fisher being very close by our reckoning.
Last year’s winner Min should go well once again and can challenge at the top of a competitive market, but a small chance can be taken on Imperial Aura for the Kim Bailey yard.
Imperial Aura was a well-backed winner of the Listed handicap chase at last year’s meeting, beating Galvin in the process. He clearly loves it round here, while Galvin has already come out this week and won his own Festival race.
Kim Bailey’s star was brilliant at Ascot over the winter and looks as though he’s joined the top rank now, while he unseated early when an even-money favourite in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase in January.
3.05 (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – PAISLEY PARK
It’s a great shame we won’t see Thyme Hill running in this race as we definitely had him down as the one to be on, though a small injury has put paid to his chances.
2019 champion Paisley Park had two great battles with Thyme Hill this season, and while we feel it may have been time for the younger horse to take over this division, in his absence one of the most loved horses in training can regain his crown.
He was beaten surprisingly by 50/1 shot Lisnagar Oscar last year, but simply put in a poor round and is back to near his best now which should be enough.
Sire Du Berlais loves it here and can make his presence felt, while the one to surprise a few could be Gavin Cromwell’s runner Flooring Porter who is a decent price for a place.
3.40 (Stable Plate Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – MAYPOLE CLASS
We’ve gone tentatively with one of the big outsiders here in the shape of Maypole Class. Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, this seven-year-old improved hugely from his debut race to win at Bangor and then even more impressively at Fakenham.
He did pull up last time out, but was found to be lame afterwards and it seems he is back to full fighting fitness now and may well prove to be well handicapped.
Emmet Mullins’ The Shunter has been a real market mover having won nicely over hurdles recently, while both Sully D’Oc AA and Fils D’oudairies could prove to be overpriced in the market and can make challenges also.
4.15 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – ROYAL KAHALA
Royal Kahala have away weight when beaten two lengths last time out by her rival here, Roseys Hollow, but is now in receipt of 5lbs and should turn that form around.
Her old rival should be there or thereabouts ounce again, although getting closer may well be Willie Mullins’ Hook Up and Henry De Bromhead’s Tellmesomethinggirl.
4.50 (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BOB MAHLER
This should prove to be a proper stayer’s race and with that we’ll need a horse with plenty of guts and plenty of stamina to win it.
While at 3¼ miles this isn’t the longest race of the week, it’ll take some getting around the New Course and there are plenty of horses in the race who could perhaps be aimed at Grand Nationals in the future.
In fact, our horse Bob Mahler got back to something like his better form in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh over four miles and one furlong having pulled up three times in a row.
He’s actually pulled up five times in total, but you can usually sense when this chap is ready to go and he should be spot-on for a tilt at this race and should go off at a nice price.
Philip Hobbs will be full of hope for Deise Aba and he rates a shout for Grand National specialist owner Trevor Hemmings, while Hold The Note and the mare Mount Ida can also make their presence felt.