It’s Queen Mother Champion Chase day at Cheltenham, and we have a great value pick in the big race.
1.20 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – BRAVEMANSGAME
We kick off day two with this 2m5f novice event, one in which we have another strangely small field of seven. That affects our odds of course, but we may just have found a betting gem here.
There’s little we don’t like about Bravemansgame. His form is excellent and the conditions won’t be a problem, so the basics are in the bag.
More pertinently though; trainer Paul Nicholls is top-class and he has always said this horse is potentially brilliant. Furthermore, he has spoken about how he is no longer interested in sending horses to the Festival just to challenge, that they should only go there with a big chance and that he’s more than happy to wait for Aintree.
This one coming in with a major shout then is a big hint, and we reckon he’s the best of this bunch. The likes of Gaillard Du Mesnil and likely favourite Bob Olinger are no slouches either and will provide stiff competition, but Bravemansgame is a future chasing star and can take this race under Harry Cobden who is in good form.
1.55 (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – MONKFISH
Monkfish, representing the all-powerful Willie Mullins yard, has been backed by many for next year’s Gold Cup before he even takes part in this particular three-mile chase and you can honestly see why.
He has been brilliant in his short chasing career thus far, and while his price is very prohibitive you’d have to be scratching around for reasons why he shouldn’t be a short-priced favourite, and he is one.
On the balance of things, it’s hard to see him being beaten but at 10/1+ in this sort of race Sporting John is too big a price against him and so should also be carefully considered.
Philip Hobbs’ horse has only had two starts over fences and is bound to improve plenty, while he was detached at one stage after a slow start last time and still came away to win nicely. Eklat De Rire and The Big Breakaway make up our shortlist.
2.30 (Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – SHANG TANG
We’re hoping for a big result in the Coral Cup, our horse Shang Tang being offered out at some outrageous prices overnight.
Emma Lavelle’s runner improved nicely to win a small race last time out at Fakenham, a success that has to be significantly upgraded.
The handicapper has taken it literally, giving him a mark of 135, but having raced wide, never been extended and winning it comfortably Shang Tang was much, much better than the bare result suggests.
Furthermore, the third-placed horse (beaten 14½ lengths) has since come out and won by a good margin to frank the form brilliantly.
Koshari and Dysart Diamond have plenty of good form and can both run well, while Grand Roi is attracting most of the money.
3.05 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1) – NUBE NEGRA
You go against a Willie Mullins hotpot at your peril. They can make you look silly. However, you have to stand by your own reading of the game and we get no pats on the back for tipping up a winning odds-on shot!
With all of that in mind, we’re really looking forward to seeing Nube Negra in this championship race and he is vastly overpriced to win it.
Having progressed nicely in his four novice chase races, he went into December’s Desert Orchid Chase a 20/1 shot up against Altior and even considering Nicky Henderson’s horse was a few pounds below his best, he impressed greatly in landing that race.
He’s been off the track since then, but with nothing more than natural improvement he can put himself right up to the sort of level required to win this race and is a around an 8/1 shot at the time of writing.
Chacun Pour Soi has been excellent so far, but he’s not miles ahead of these unless he improves again, which is possible, and is just too short a price.
First Flow is another overpriced runner who can step up for Kim Bailey, while last year’s winner Politologue is admirable but faces a much stiffer test twelve months on.
3.40 (Cross Country Chase – Class 2) – EASYSLAND
While still at short odds, Easysland is not as restrictive a price for this race as he might be based on two factors; Tiger Roll is in the field and will still garner support, and he was beaten around the Cross Country Course over the winter when favourite to win.
The truth however is though that on the numbers, the French raider ran to about the same level this season as he did last in that November event, and last year he peaked to monster this race and could well do so again.
Tiger Roll and Some Neck are fancied for places if both are well, while Le Breuil can challenge also.
4.15 (Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – ZANZA
We have a full field and a competitive race for the Grand Annual, one that could go the way of Zanza. In a good race at Cheltenham back in December, Zanza was crawling all over Ibleo and Sky Pirate before falling three from home, and both of those horses reoppose.
Had he won, Zanza would have been much higher in the handicap now and so with the rest having done him good, he is taken to prove how well handicapped he is.
4.50 (Weatherbys Champion Bumper – Grade 1) – KILCRUIT
After Sir Gerhard was moved by Cheveley Park from Gordon Elliott’s yard to Willie Mullins’, the master was left with the top two in the market.
The chances are however that he’ll win this with his original favourite Kilcruit, who looks to be ahead of the others. Three Stripe Life is the one who may challenge the big two.