DAY two provided winners at 9-4 and evens as well as a place for 17-2 and 15-2 eachway picks.
On to Thursday and here's the rundown of my selections
JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30)
Deeper ground the better for ex-French recruit Terrefort whose form ties in with the very smart Pendil Chase winner Cyrname. Nicky Henderson’s gelding jumped like a buck on his stable debut at Huntingdon, strolling home against inferior company.
JP McManus’s Modus has translated his smart hurdles form to the bigger obstacles and has form at the track, including a fine sixth behind Supasundae in last year’s Coral Cup under top weight.
Invitation Only has been well talked up by Willie Mullins which is a tip in itself and the Irish form looks very solid. Shattered Love, a winner of four of her five starts, is not to be underestimated receiving her mares’ allowance.
Benetar is closely matched with Finian’s Oscar on their Ascot running but the latter has had a wind op since flopping in the Cleeve Hurdle.
- (4-1, Betbright)
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10)
Louis’ Vac Pouch lowered the colours of Forza Milan and Beer Goggles at Aintree in November and has been off the track for 124 days.
Forza Milan has been rested since being run down close home by The Organist at Newbury and Jonjo O’Neill has been at pains to protect his handicap mark.
Thomas Campbell is a dual course winner and will welcome his return to handicap company after chancing his arm in Graded company.
Delta Work (who has smart novice form tied in with Samcro), Glenloe, Sort it Out and Fabulous Saga also deserve a mention. With five places on offer there are plenty of each-way options, with Forza Milan and Delta Work carrying my cash.
- FORZA MILAN e/w
- (11-1, Betbright)
Ryanair Chase (2.50)
Un De Sceaux is three from four at Cheltenham in top company, his only defeat coming at the hands of Sprinter Sacre. He should follow up last year’s success.
Cue Card looks the most likely e/w alternative and what a credit he has been to the Tizzard family since landing the Bumper back in 2010.
- UN DE SCEAUX
- (20-21, Betbright)
Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30)
Robbie Power has been shouting from the rooftops about the prospects of Supasundae but very testing ground is a concern. Nonetheless, last year’s Coral Cup winner has been in terrific form this winter.
Underfoot conditions won’t trouble either venerable Unowhatimeanharry or six-year-old sensation Sam Spinner.
Unowhatimeanharry was turned over at odds-on in this event last year and good ground probably caught him out that day as he tends to grind down the opposition.
The McManus-owned gelding couldn’t live with Sam Spinner at Ascot in December but arrives here a fresh animal after a period of relaxation at the owner’s Martinstown Stud. That preparation has worked wonders for several of JP’s Cheltenham festival runners in the past and he’s my e/w back-up (some firms offering four places).
McManus’s first string in the betting is Yanworth and he reverts to hurdles after failing to set the heather alight over fences.
Lil Rockerfeller, second last year at huge odds, requires better ground and I much prefer the prospects of course specialist Wholestone.
- SUPASUNDAE e/w
- (6-1, Betbright)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (4.10)
Last year’s Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase winner Tully East is 6lb higher this time round but is near the top of my shortlist.
Movewiththetimes has contested only one handicap, finishing a close second in the 2017 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. His three respectable runs this season, all at Cheltenham, have come in small-field novice chases and he might be a horse that prefers the hurly-burly.
Gordon Elliott’s The Storyteller is interesting now handicapping.
- MOVEWITHTHETIMES e/w
- (8-1, Betbright)
Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (4.50)
Willie Mullins’s Laurina is trading a prohibitive odds but it’s difficult to see her being turned over.
- (4-7, Betbright)
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Pendra hasn’t been seen since being narrowly denied by rallying Domesday Book in this amateur riders’ event 12 months ago. He can race off the same mark and is another McManus handicapper to have been lined up for the festival. Derek O’Connor is a good booking.
Missed Approach has had a wind op since finishing runner-up in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh and would be a serious bet if able to reproduce his excellent second to Tiger Roll in the National Hunt Chase here 12 months ago.
Mall Dini, fifth last year, warmed up with a respectable fifth to Invitation Only at Punchestown in January and sports blinkers for the first time.
Band Of Blood has taken a hike in the ratings but handled the mud with aplomb when beating Harry Topper by 15 lengths at Exeter last month.
Aubusson is now well below his old rating over hurdles and could prove troublesome at a nice price.
- PENDRA e/w
- (12-1, Betbright)