DAY TWO is another action packed day at Cheltenham and I have ended up with quite a few selections and some races where I have gone for two picks.
Remember to keep your stakes under control and if you are winning or losing don't increase your bets. Keep it steady and we'll do OK in the long run.
1.30pm – Ballymore Novices Hurdle
(2 miles 5 furlongs, hurdles, novices only)
If the hype is to be believed we are all set to see a superstar in this middle distance hurdle for novices. Samcro is the one that has got everyone all revved up and is probably the horse with the biggest buzz surrounding him this year. He has looked excellent so far without being really tested and it may well be that he won't be tested at Cheltenham either if he really is that good. I can't recommend a bet at the current odds-on prices though.
Next Destination is the second favourite and also has absolutely rock solid form having won all three hurdles starts and finishing a close 4th in the Bumper at the Festival last year. Crucially he has top form on soft and heavy ground and I would maybe put him a bit closer to Samcro than the prices suggest.
Looking for an each way alternative is tricky. I think Black Op looked decent over course and distance in January but he didn't quite do enough to win that day although the front two were well clear of the rest.
Duc Des Genievres has been beaten by Samcro and Next Destination already so I doubt he will find the necessary improvement. I would have been more interested in him for a novice handicap but perhaps Willie Mullins knows something I don't. In fact, he almost certainly knows a whole lot that I don't know. Anyway, I'm not backing his horse this time.
The one I like for a bit of a Hail Mary punt is VISION DES FLOS for Colin Tizzard and ridden by Robbie ‘Puppy' Power. This horse was bought for silly money after winning a point-to-point in Ireland and was then pretty poor on his first two runs for Colin Tizzard. A wind op soon sorted that out and he absolutely sloshed up on heavy ground at Exeter in a listed chase. He had them strung out like the washing that day and although it wasn't a great race it wasn't dumplings that he beat and he might just turn out to be as good as his price tag suggests in the long run. At the current prices he is my idea of an outside gamble to spring a shock or at least get us a nice each way return. Small stakes though.
2.30pm – RSA Chase
(3 miles, fences, novice chasers only)
There is a brilliant race in prospect here although I can't see it being anything other than an absolute slog given the likely soft or heavy ground so we really need to make sure our selection is rock solid on heavy ground and will stay the trip.
I really like Black Corton but I'm going to rule him out because he doesn't have form on soft or heavy ground. Presenting Percy the favourite is rock solid and he finished close to the impressive Our Duke last time out who is one of the favourites for the Gold Cup on Friday.
Percy was getting a bit of weight that day but he also wasn't given a tough time of it by Davy Russell and he looks perfect for this race, particularly after winning at the festival last year. Soft/heavy ground shouldn't be an issue.
Monalee is decent and the ground shouldn't be a problem but I would rate Presenting Percy a bit better. He also has a fall which is a negative. Al Boum Photo also has a fall and his form isn't quite as good as the two at the top of the betting.
The one that I like at a bigger price is Dounikos who had two good wins earlier in the season on heavy but I think I am just looking for something to take on Presenting Percy for the sake of it. In reality I think PRESENTING PERCY will win and the current price is more than fair.
2.50pm – Coral Cup
(2 miles 5 furlongs, hurdles, handicap)
As always the Coral Cup looks fiercely competitive with plenty of classy horses in the field. Again, we need to be conscious of the soft or potentially heavy ground and for me that counts out the favourite Max Dynamite who doesn't have any strong form on soft or heavy ground. William Henry‘s form is very strong but he is now quite high in the handicap and short enough in the betting.
Le Breuil could be very well handicapped and is on my shortlist but I'm concerned about his lack of experience in the hurly burly of a big field like this. The one that I have plumped for at a very big price is RED INDIAN for Ben Pauling. His form ties in with William Henry and he has plenty of form on soft and heavy ground and in big field handicaps. A strong gallop in testing ground over a trip like this could bring out the best in him and I think he looks like the value each way bet for me.
Don't be afraid to have a wee saver on a second horse in a race like this, particularly when the bookies are offering enhanced place terms. My second choice would be LE BREUIL.
3.30pm – Champion Chase
(2 miles, fences)
I'm not going to comment on the on/off participation of Douvan in this race. At the end of the day it looks like he is going to line up alongside Altior and Min and this could be one hell of a race.
Altior is unbeaten over fences but appears to have picked up some sort of injury/infection and is now a doubt for the race. Let's hope he can make it because he would be a huge loss to the Festival but I'm not going to recommend a bet on him because even if he makes it there is no way of knowing that he will be firing on all cylinders.
Douvan was unbeaten over fences himself until this time last year when an injury hampered his performance in this race and he could finish only 7th. He hasn't been seen since which has to be a huge worry but if he is back to his best he would go very close to winning this.
Min has rock solid form and unlike the two horses ahead of him in the betting he doesn't have injury worries. He is ever so slightly behind them in terms of quality but given the current situation he might be the most likely to run to form. If he were up against just one of Altior or Douvan I would suggest that we have a win bet on him but with both of them lining up the likelihood is that one of them will beat him.
The angle I am going to go for then is to pick POLITOLOGUE as a fourth alternative to the big three. His form is solid, he will have no problem with the ground and although he has 4 lengths to find with Altior we don't know whether Altior will run to his best. His price is far too big given the doubts over the top two and seems the sensible bet to me.
4.10pm – Cross Country Chase
(3 miles 6 furlongs, cross country chase course)
This is one of my favourite races of the whole year. It really is a sight to behold as these great animals leap, jump and hop their way around all manner of obstacles on the cross country course in the middle of the track at Cheltenham.
Last year's winner CAUSE OF CAUSES was my tip for the Grand National last year as some will remember and he was agonisingly close to winning it. He used this race as a prep last year and will do the same this time round. He is a very worthy favourite and is my idea of the winner.
If The Last Samurai takes to the cross country test first time out he will have a really strong chance but it usually takes horses a few attempts to get the hang of it so he is too short in the betting when you build in that risk.
Tiger Roll has been aimed at the race by Gordon Elliott and will be the main danger to Cause of Causes I reckon. I think Josies Orders will find the competition tough this year despite being a former winner and Bless The Wings and Urgent De Gregaine are both solid each way shouts. It's CAUSE OF CAUSES for me though and I look forward to cheering him and Jamie Codd home.
4.50pm – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
(2 miles, hurdles, 4 year olds only)
Always a tricky race but I have a pretty straightforward formula that I follow and that is to back Paul Nicholls. His record in the race is exceptional and this year he has two running: Act of Valour and Grand Sancy. Grand Sancy doesn't look like he will be good enough having not won a hurdles race yet although soft/heavy ground should suit him so I wouldn't put you off having a small each way bet on him. ACT OF VALOUR on the other hand looks rock solid to me.
He was thought of as a potential Triumph Hurdle horse before a below par performance at Doncaster in December but he returned to decent form behind We Have A Dream at Musselburgh. His best runs have come on soft ground and he looks like a great shout for the win here.
One other selection that I like at a big price is another French import CASA TALL. He has the considerable benefit of James Bowen on board and could be very well handicapped having won on heavy ground in France before being transferred to Tom George's yard. It's a bit of a hit and hope but at the big price it could be worth it.
5.30pm – Champion Bumper
(2 miles, flat race)
I had a cracking winner in this last year with Fayonagh but I must admit that there isn't one that I have quite as much confidence in this year. It might be time to look out your old Franco Baresi or Paolo Maldini shirts though because the one that I am going for is ACEY MILAN trained by Anthony Honeyball and ridden by Aidan Coleman.
He has an outstanding chance based on his three wins this season on soft and heavy ground. There will be a strong Irish contingent as there always is but I think this lad looks like he could be the one to beat.
Back in 2013 when Briar Hill won at 25/1 I swore I would never ignore a Mullins-trained, Walsh-ridden horse in the bumper at a nice price and the this year they combine with CAREFULLY SELECTED who has won two races from two, both on soft ground and although the opponents were nothing special I would expect him to improve again. Blackbow is the horse that has been talked up from the Mullins yard and will be ridden by Willie's son and assistant Patrick but I think Carefully Selected could be the value alternative and I can't let him go unbacked.
- 1.30 – Vision Des Flos – 1 point e/w at 16/1 with Betbright
- 2.10 – Presenting Percy – 4 points win at 5/2 with Betbright
- 2.50 – Red Indian – 1 point e/w at 33/1 with Betbright
- 2.50 – Le Breuil – 1 point e/w at 14/1 with Betbright
- 3.30 – Politologue – 1 point e/w at 14/1 with Betbright
- 4.10 – Cause of Causes – 4 points win at 11/4 with Betbright
- 4.50 – Act of Valour – 3 points e/w at 8/1 with Betbright
- 4.50 – Casa Tall – 0.5 points e/w at 33/1 with Betbright
- 5.30 – Acey Milan – 2 points e/w at 8/1 with Betbright
- 5.30 – Carefully Selected – 1 point e/w at 12/1 with Betbright