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CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL WEDNESDAY (DAY 2) – CHAMPION CHASE DAY

13:30 Neptune Novices Hurdle

The first day at the festival saw the irrepressible Mullins team almost complete an unprecedented four-timer which was scuppered by Annie Power’s late fall at the final fence. The Neptune provides a chance for the Irish behemoth to get punters off to a cracking start. Outlander has shown some decent form over in Ireland and may run a huge race here at prices that punters may be willing to stick with at 4/1. There is no doubt that both Mullins’ runners will go off as one and two in the betting and the presence of Ruby Walsh on Nichols Canyon will see this progressive animal ahead slightly for punters.

I feel today could be the day for value and two could strike me out as value in Beast of Burden and Vyta Du Roc for Messer’s Curtis and Henderson. The supreme stylist Paul Townend who benefitted from Annie Power’s slip yesterday takes on a horse with exceptional form, having beaten placed effort Mendip Express and beating him at short odds the last day at Bangor. This horse could be a huge improver and at six years old could prove to be a formidable force.

Vyta Du Roc could be the each way value in this race and on official ratings could be only 2lb behind likely favourite Nicholls Canyon. The horse has only been beaten once under rules by Parlour Games by a neck and naturally the services of A P McCoy will see a lot of punters backing the champ, however I feel the French import could reverse the form here.

Vyta Du Roc (E/W)
Beast of Burden (E/W)

 

14:05 RSA Chase

The Willie Mullins show of yesterday has every chance of continuing today and the masterful Champion Irish trainer is represented by the highly progressive and current favourite Don Poli in this. A good winner of the David Pipe ( Hurdle ) last season around here, he is two from two over fences and has some extremely strong form over the larger obstacles. Sent off a 9/4 favourite at Leopardstown in a Grade One the last day, he readily saw off fellow Grade One winner Apache Stronghold by three lengths and is a most deserving favourite here. The strength of his form and form of Willie Mullins is however, likely to remove see him sent off at prohibitive odds and so we shall look for an alternative

The Young Master could lay claim to being the most improved horse in training, he must prove he is up to this sort of level but he deserves the upmost respect and has every chance of improving further.

Southfield Theatre has plenty of form around here and also turns up in good form, the worry for Paul Nicholls charge is that he has shown to be beatable and was disappointingly brushed aside a couple of starts back.

If In Doubt did me and the Picksfromthepaddock podcast a huge turn when winning cleverly at Doncaster last time, he did hit almost every fence however and McCoy will have to pull out some ride to see him winning this.

King’s Palace has a tremendous record at this venue and went into last seasons Albert Bartlett strongly fancied, in the even he rather blotted his copybook and took a tired fall when beaten. David Pipe’s charge has since looked a natural over fences and despite a slight blip at one last time, he has been pretty much in command ever since the switch. With him looking the likely pace angle and with his assured jumping looking a strength, he is taken to atone for last seasons Festival blip and can put the Pipe team on the score-sheet.

King’s Palace (WIN)

 

14:40 The Coral Cup

This looks a very strong renewal of the Coral Cup and discounting any out of hand would be foolish, the recent trend of classy sorts winning also gives them who fancy the higher weighted challengers every hope.

Activial has proved rather costly to follow in a few major handicaps so far this term and his third last time was once again a frustrating miss, the step up in trip looks sensible though as he did look woefully short of tactical speed in that aforementioned effort last time and he holds major claims. A Grade Two winner as a juvenile, Harry Fry’s lightly raced sort is very hard to ignore and with the hill likely to aid his cause and he looks the one to beat. Volnay De Thaix has been the subject of two rather big gambles this term and failed on both occasions, he wouldn’t have to improve much to win this but the impression I have of him is that he’ll be better over fences next season. Dell’ Arca is as frustrating as they come and rarely wins, he’s from a powerful yard though and his effort when fifth in this last season gives him major place claims. The decision to put blinkers on him could prove a masterstroke and a big run is expected. Lac Fontana was desperately disappointing when hammered by Rock On Ruby last time, he is much better than that though and is better judged on his victory in the County Hurdle here last season. Paul Nicholls Six year old does look the potentially chucked in sort having followed that Festival success up with a Grade One at Aintree and so with risks clearly attached, he is taken to bounce back and run into a place.

Aux Ptits Soins is another from the Nicholls yard and has some strong French form, he could be absolutely anything but is impossible to judge and cannot be recommended on that basis.

Dell’ Arca (E/W)
Lac Fontana (E/W)

 

15:20 Queen Mother Champion Chase

A fascinating renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase is likely to unfold today with a number of intriguing puzzles to solve here. Sprinter Sacre “The Chaser from the Gods” comes her 19lb better off than anything in this race and on the bare form of two years ago, he should absolutely destroy this field. There have however, been some concerning developments in the physical scope and health of the horse and his run the last day may worry punters backing him at short prices. Certainly his defeat to Dodging Bullets is a worry but Barry Geraghty was very kind on him in the Clarence House, not even picking up the whip. Connections are confident he can at least reverse the form with that rival.

Sire De Grugy my prove to be the biggest danger to the selection given his last performance at Chepstow where he gave away 20lb to all rivals he had jumped wonderfully and routed all in his wake. The horse is the reigning champion and must be feared.

Of the remainder Champagne Fever and Mr Mole could fight it out for a place with the former having the best chance based on previous festival form.

Sprinter Sacre (WIN)

 

16:00 Cross Country Chase

A race that some feel shouldn’t exist at the festival but personally is something that acts as a different and special spectacle for the racing fans and a spectacle I advocate.

Last year I was fortunate enough to attend the running and saw Balthazar King win that day.

The Philip Hobbs trained winner only just held off the late surge from today’s favourite Any Currency and that effort certainly stands the market leader in good stead. The horse knows what it’s doing around this very different task and in my eyes is a certainty for a place. If the price remains bigger than 4/1 it’ll be the nearest to a sure fire thing for place money at least.

Of the remainder there’s two runners that look noticeable dangers and ones to possibly fear.

Quantitiveeasing comes from a yard that loves the cross country and Enda Bolgers charge did well here last time but without a win in a good while I have to go against it, despite it having a very lively chance.

Another that could threaten is one of the unknown quantities from France. I actually prefer what seems to be their second string in Nuage D’Ainay who seems markedly over priced and could cause an upset.

My outsider is a horse that’s tackling the cross country for the first time at the ripe old age of twelve.

Charingworth has a great record on the normal Cheltenham course and I’m hoping that translates in some way to the more obscure obstacles. I’m hoping the saying you can’t teach an old dog, or in this case horse, new tricks isn’t true and it could throw up a surprise or two.

Any Currency. (E/W)
Charingworth (E/W)

 

16:40 Fred Winter

The Fred Winter is a renewal that should give punters a good chance to pick a big price winner. There are 22 declared at present for this race and an interesting angle could be A P McCoy’s selection of Box Office over The Saint James. Paul Carberry takes the ride on the latter and he is rated 1lb higher on the bck of just one run at Sandown with the champ on board. McCoy also rode Box Office on his sole start at Taunton and has selected this four year old to give him festival winner before he retires.

There are a few other selections that could cause problems to the selection with Arabian Revolution looking a big price to at least bring home some place money. The horse acts mainly on soft ground but will like it around here and could run a big race.

This race could be decided by who has the quickest turn of foot and Unanimite and All Yours could give two big stables a big chance at decent prices too.

Arabian Revolution (E/W)

 

17:15 Champion Bumper

Willie Mullins will once again be under the microscope here having taken two of the last three renewals, he is responsible for a third of todays field though and recent history tells you that the prices do not indicate which of his are the best.

If a gun was put to my head and I was forced to pick one of his, Bordini would probably be the one having looked ultra impressive the when last seen. Anything other than an Irish victory would probably be seen as a major shock but we are going to play in that direction and hope to find one from the UK to place.

Phillip Hobbs intriguingly asked Wait For Me to beat a bunch of good looking sorts on debut at Ascot in February and the horse duly answered what on paper looked a serious question. He will almost certainly have to improve significantly on that effort but its worth bearing in mind that the only other debutant to take that Ascot race in recent times was Sprinter Sacre, with the Irish of course massively respected we shall hand the Hobbs challenger a speculative vote to cause a shock.

Modus was a personal fancy of mine in this last season, he tired out of thing late on that day under a very poor ride (raced widest of all) He has plenty enough to prove having also flopped at Aintree subsequently but is interesting and may have strengthened up.

Vigil was another to run in this last term, he is another with claims in what looks an impossible sort of heat.

Wait For Me (E/W)

 

today’s selections come from:

Dave Smith

Chris Connolly

Rory Paddock

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