It was a solid day yesterday at Cheltenham with the highlights being the NAP Footpad and Rathvinden winning The National Hunt Chase at 7/1 from a patient ride from Patrick Mullins. We go again for Day 2.
1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Samcro hasn’t put a foot wrong. He was visually impressive in winning the Grade 1 over two miles at Leopardstown last month and he comes into this race a worthy favourite. We could potentially be talking about an absolute superstar. We hope he absolutely bolts up but cannot be tipping a novice odds on, especially with a niggling doubt about the trip on this ground.
A speculative bet at a huge price is Scarpeta. When asked, Willie Mullins said he could be absolutely win anything and he won very well at Gowran Park on his second hurdles start. A horse from the flat, he is a very interesting contender.
He’s probably too inexperienced and potentially a long-term prospect. Despite him also being the stable’s third or fourth string in the race, there’s a temptation to take some of the 33/1 ew or indeed 16/1 w/o fav. The without-the-fav markets can be lucrative because if Samcro finishes in the top 3 you essentially have an extra place on the race.
Selection: Scarpeta each way @ 33/1, or 16/1 each way without the favourite.
2.10 RSA Insurance Novices Chase (Grade 1)
This race was one of the best of the Festival last year with Might Bite winning a thriller. He now stands at the head of the betting for The Gold Cup. It is the novice version of the race so you need a potential Gold Cup horse for the future.
Out of all these, Presenting Percy is a worthy favourite and indeed my NAP. His preparation has been indifferent but it wasn’t exactly ideal last year either before he absolutely bolted up in the Pertemps Final.
Davy Russell thinks the world of this horse and while the going is a slight concern he will be well used to running over this ground in Ireland. Patrick Kelly has targeted this race and while Monalee is also heavily fancied I think he should be running over a shorter distance in the JLT. Al Boum Photo likewise.
Selection: Presenting Percy @ 5/2 NAP
2.50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
This is a potential lottery of a race so do take the 6/7 places in some bookmakers to make sure you get paid each way. A case could be made for many of these but the one I like at a big price is Diamond King.
He won the race in 2016 before going chasing where he ultimately disappointed. However, this would have been the target for this season and a decent preparation back over hurdles at Punchestown.
The only concern is he is the top weight but he was only 4lbs lower when he won this race in 2016. Again with the places on offer he could be a massive price.
Selection: Diamond King 25/1 ew
3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
Very tough to call, this is potentially the race of the festival with Altior, Min and Douvan taking each other on. Altior at evens could be a massive price in hindsight, as one cannot possibly say for certainty that Douvan will be back to his best. Min has had the most solid season, but should struggle to beat a peak form Altior and Douvan.
Taking the above on board, and with Altior the most likely winner, I am going with a horse that has some form with Altior in The Arkle last year, Charbel.
Charbel took Altior on two out and looked like he was going to run a big race before falling at the second last. While I’m sure Altior would have won in hand, Charbel is 50/1.
Despite his mixed season this year he does have form over soft so on the back of his performance last year, he is a massive price both with and without the favourite.
Selection: Charbel @ 50/1 ew or 22/1 ew w/o fav
4.10 Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase)
I have backed Tiger Roll for this race over the last couple of months anf for good reason. Gordon Elliot has been bullish about this horse and targeted the Glenfarclas Chase. He ran over these fences back in December and has schooled over them since. He has also won twice at The Festival before so will be primed for the day.
My only concern is the ground for him but at 6/1 it’s factored into the price and I think he’ll run a big race.
Selection: Tiger Roll @ 6/1 NB
4.50 Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Act of Valour seemed a smart bet in the run-up when one takes into account Paul Nicholls’ fantastic record in this race. However, the ground is a bit of a concern and despite him winning on soft before is factored into the slight drift to 10/1. Don’t let that put you off backing him.
However, the horse I fancy is Oxford Blu for Richard Johnson. He will love the ground and despite being more exposed than other horses in the race, he could end up outrunning his 20/1 price.
Selection: Oxford Blu @ 20/1
5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Standard Open NH Flat Race) (Grade 1)
Champion Bumper has always been a tricky race to call but the best form of this year’s bumper was probably the race at Leopardstown last month. Blackbow won that and is the current favourite to do similar at Cheltenham today.
A horse I like, Rhinestone, was second to Blackbow that da in Leopardstown and stayed on very well throughout. This extra test of stamina might be enough to reverse the form.
Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride him over Didtheyleaveuoutto which represents a major plus. At 8/1 each way with as many as 5 places available out there he could run a big race.
Selection: Rhinestone @ 8/1 ew
1.30 Scarpeta @ 33/1, 16/1 ew w/o fav
2.10 Presenting Percy @ 5/2 (NAP)
2.50 Diamond King @ 25/1 ew
3.30 Charbel @ 50/1, 22/1 ew w/o fav
4.10 Tiger Roll @ 6/1 (NB)
4.50 Oxford Blu 20/1 ew
5.30 Rhinestone @ 8/1 ew
DOUBLE: Presenting Percy & Tiger Roll
EW TRIXIE: Diamond King, Oxford Blu & Rhinestone