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Not the ideal Day 2 of Cheltenham. First was money refunded as he was run off the track after the first hurdle. The Skelton horse was placed, the rest were duds.
Cheltenham 1:10 – Morning Soldier 20/1 (0.5pt Ew Paddy)
There will be a good few novices coming out of this race as the level of bumper runs look more than decent. Kim Bailey is still in great form so his recent Cheltenham bumper winner, The Kemble Brewery will be well-fancied to run a big race as many good horses have won that race in the past. Tellherthename made a very nice hurdles debut at Ascot when just touched off by a well-fancied Nicky Henderson horse, which sets a good benchmark for this race, recording an RPR of 123 so it'll need a decent horse to win this race. I've latched onto the Irish raider from the Thomas Mullins stable, Morning Soldier.
This is Morning Soldier's second season as a hurdler as he was campaigned as a juvenile last season so he has plenty of experience and his form looks decent. His form has been very in and out so he's hardly one to be confident on, but if you read through his better pieces of form like the 2nd at Navan which has been a great supplier of the winner of the juvenile handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, he has a great chance of winning this race. He was behind Sir Allen, ahead of Byker and Jazzy Matty and the two latter horses were 2nd and 1st in the Boodles (previously known as the Fred Winter) Grade 3.
If you watch his most recent run at Naas in a 12k Novice race he was hardly asked for maximum effort, with it clearly looking like a prep run. He was held up from off the pace, and travelled nicely into contention, the jockey was motionless when those ahead of him were kicking for home, almost as if they were really not bothered about that race. He was then many lengths behind but then stayed on strongly again to finish 4.5L behind the winner. That run was only 7 days ago, so would have been a perfect fitness run for today's race at Cheltenham.
Cheltenham 1:45 – Wonderwall 8/1 (0.5pt ew bet365 3pl)
You're going to need a bit of faith backing Wonderwall with me, as even though he has bags of ability he seems a bit tender and has been wrapped up in cotton wool over the years, but if he's fit and ready to go then he is more than capable of winning a race of this nature.
He was a smart novice hurdler a couple of years ago and has a good CV with plenty of above-average horses in behind or just finished slightly ahead of him and he is a very interesting horse in this lineup. He has shown his capabilities in every sphere of racing. He was a very good bumper horse, finishing 3rd in a Listed race behind Knappers Hill and was 7th in the 2021 Champion Bumper. He then transitioned to hurdles with a minimal amount of fuss, winning a hot maiden at Doncaster when finishing ahead of City Chief on the bridle. The runner-up has since won a Grade 2 Chase and is now rated 142 over fences. If you look further down that Doncaster race he battered Watergrange Jack and Pearly Island, they've both turned out to be decent horses, rated 125 & 117 and they were 30+L behind. Wonderwall then went for a Listed race which probably saw him booked for a close 2nd or 3rd if he didn't hit the final hurdle and sprawl on landing, but the form of that race looked strong at the time it happened, with the likes of Gentleman At Arms going on to finish 2nd in a Grade 1, granted, this horse's form tailed off since then, but he was much better back then.
He wasn't seen for 288 days before reappearing at Newbury in a Grade 2 chase for his chase debut, he was gambled in from around 25/1 to 15/2 and it was probably fair as he travelled into that race like a big threat. His jumping was good and accurate, but the time away from the track probably told as he did look tired, but he made Sebastopol and Stage Star worry in that race, and both of those horses are Class 1 quality.
He's had a flat season over the late summer and he has hit the crossbar on three occasions and had a try in the Cesarewitch which was a midfield finish, he'll be fit for today's race with those flat runs under his belt and has had a wind surgery to aid him further. He is a player in this race and I only think the two carrying the heavier weights are the ones to be concerned about.
I think Ginny's Destiny will be better than his chase debut, he was too keen that day and he went well for a long time. Crebilly makes his chase debut, so who knows how he'll fare on his reappearance. Elle Perfecta makes the trip over from Ireland but Brian Hayes is a noticeable absentee as he has opted for one ride for the same trainer in Ireland on Sunday, which would be a pointer to which has a better chance of winning.
Cheltenham 2:20 – Rose Of Arcadia 7/1 (1pt Ew Skybet 4pl)
I'm writing this before Saturday's racing kicks off, but from the Friday meeting and in general at other tracks, Joe Tizzard's stable look to be in great shape at the moment and he should've had two winner on Friday if it wasn't for an unlucky unseat for JPR One. With that in mind, Rose Of Arcadia looks a big player in this race.
This race was often a bit of a target for Joe's dad, Colin, when he had the training licence and he managed to win this race twice in the last ten years as well as having a runner-up in 2018, so it's not a great surprise to see Joe having a crack at this race. This mare came into the jumps world with a decent reputation from the PTP sphere and was picked up by Cheveley Park around the same time they bought some big names in Ireland with the main stables over there, she was bought for £170,000 and made a good introduction when winning her sole bumper run, but she didn't quite carry that on as she was underwhelming over hurdles despite getting a win and finishing in the places. However, her switch to PTPs seemed to have brought out that spark again as when she came back from her two wins in points, she started to win races again and showed she was being campaigned over too short of trips in hurdle races. She has since won four races since last October and has won or been placed one every start over 3m+.
The form of her races look strong. She was touched off by Blackjack Magic at Exeter, that horse recently won the Badger Beer chase at Wincanton and has improved 13lbs since the pair met. She was 3rd at Cheltenham on her final start of last season when finishing behind My Silver Lining, conceding plenty of weight to that horse. The winner has since won again and finished 2nd in a competitive Class 3 races off a mark of 120 (was rated 110 when she beat ROA). Credo was in fourth at Cheltenham that day, he has since come out and won, so I'm quite bullish about her chances in this race.
She's had a nice prep run over hurdles which she won, and it seems the rain has come at the right time for her as she enjoys soft surfaces.
Cheltenham 3:30 – L'Eau Du Sud 6/1 (1pt ew WilliamHill 5pl)
For the Greatwood Hurdle, I've gone for the Dan Skelton trainer, L'Eau Du Sud.
This horse has always threatened to be a good horse, and a horse who is better than his handicap marks have been, but it hasn't quite clicked for him just yet. He is normally a strong traveller in his race, he cruises in behind the leaders but hasn't been seeing his races out as strong as you'd have liked if you have been backing him in the past. He has finished 4th, 3rd and 3rd in his three runs for Skelton and in the UK and the form of his runs looks very strong. He probably didn't stay 2m 3f when he looked booked for 1st or 2nd behind Stainsby Girl, that horse is always dangerous when getting an easy lead and has won twice since and is rated 12lbs higher than winning at Haydock.
The Kempton form looks rock-solid, with the winner (No Ordinary Joe) going on to finish 2nd in the Martin Pipe in March behind Iroko, who we all know what he has done since. Favoir was fourth at Kempton, that horse won the County Hurdle in March and then the form from Kelso's Morebattle Hurdle looks just as strong. Benson won that race, he was on a role last year and was an inform horse, the runner-up, Colonel Mustard finished 2nd to Rubaud in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and 3rd in a Grade 1 at Punchestown.
The form lines are there for all to see, but he's also had a wind op over the summer break which is eyecatching as he hasn't been seeing out his races, so the tinker with the wind will hopefully give him more in the finishing drive under Harry. Dan is great at targeting races, and I do firmly believe this horse will win a big pot at some stage during this season as I do think he is possibly 10lbs better than his current mark.
Cheltenham - 1:10 pm
20/1 @ The Pools
Cheltenham - 1:45 pm
8/1 @ The Pools
Cheltenham - 2:20 pm
7/1 @ The Pools
Cheltenham - 3:30 pm