Saturday Selections

3.00 Kelso – Ron’s Dream

Peter Bowen’s charge ran out a 13 lengths winner on her only previous visit to Kelso and she could take some stopping if running up to the form of her fourth placed finish in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in December.

This contest represents a drop in class for the smart daughter of Kayf Tara and it would be no surprise to see her outclass her rivals if none the worse for her tenth fence fall at Wincanton last month. Her last two victories came in Listed company at Perth and Market Rasen respectively, and she looks fairly treated off a mark of 139.

The ground and trip hold no fears and Sean Bowen, who has ridden the mare on numerous occasions for his father, takes the mount. Therefore, she looks a very solid proposition at a very fair price.

Rons Dream 6/1 – 2pts each way (Boylesports)

⚪️

3.15 Newbury – Etamine Du Cochet & Millarville

Dan Skelton proved yet again just how astute he is at presparing a horse for a specific target when Ch’tibello landed the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last week, therefore Etamine Du Cochet, who has been trained with this race in mind all season long, warrants the utmost respect tomorrow.

The experienced daughter of Martaline has been the model of consistency in her career to date and may have more to offer on her first run since undergoing wind surgery, especially given her trainers track record of success after such procedures.

A glance at her form, which includes flashes of distinct promise, offers sufficient reason for optimism and a mark of 115 looks perfectly fair on this her handicap debut.

The latter will represent Oliver Sherwood, who recorded back-to-back victories in this race in 2008 and 2009.

The promising six-year-old, who cost £52,00 at the Cheltenham February Sale last year, is another contender who has been trained with this race in mind all season long and could be open to plenty of improvement given her lightly-raced profile. Her latest effort, when placing third at Fontwell last month, suggested that this step-up in trip would be right up her street and her solitary victory to date was achieved on the same ground that she will encounter tomorrow.

The booking of champion jockey Richard Johnson further enhances her prospects and she could easily outrun her double figure price.

Etamine Du Cochet 15/2 – 1pt each way (Sky Bet – 4 Places)

Millarville 12/1 – 1.5pts each way (Paddy Power – 5 Places)

⚪️

2.25 Kelso – Joke Dancer

This appears to be a hugely competitive heat on paper, however, Sue Smith’s progressive performer Joke Dancer may be the one to focus on following his impressive return to action at Newcastle last month.

The promising six-year-old, who has won four of his last six starts over hurdles, was handed a 5lbs rise for his comfortable 4 lengths success and was deemed good enough to hold an entry in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Fetaival last week. Therefore, connections must feel that he is still well treated and open to further improvement.

This will be his second run since undergoing wind surgery – which only adds further reason for optimism. While the ground and likely strong pace should also aid his prospects.

Sue Smith has an uncanny knack of improving horses gradually. Therefore, it really wouldn’t be a surprise if Joke Dancer laughs at his rivals once more.

Joke Dancer 9/2 – 2pt win (Generally)

Advertisements

Cheltenham Festival Eyecatchers

Tuesday (12/3/19):

Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle:

Klassical Dream ran out a comfortable winner of the Festival’s curtain-raising contest and could easily go on to Punchestown and record a third Grade 1 success of the season. Ruby Walsh is keen to go down the Arkle route next season, while Willie Mullins is leaning towards the Champion Hurdle. However, one thing is for certain, Klassical Dream is a very big player whichever path he takes.

Thomas Darby, who stayed on resolutely to claim second place, is also worthy of praise as he had only one rival behind him at the top of the hill and went widest of all when making-up his ground. He is undoubtedly a chaser in the making and Olly Murphy has persistently remarked that he is better suited to decent ground. Therefore he could easily develop into an exciting novice chaser next season and is definitely one to follow.

⚪️

Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase:

The supplementary gamble taken by connections of Clondaw Castle didn’t quite pay-off in the Racing Post Arkle, however, he did run well for a very long way and was far from disgraced in finishing fourth. I would be quite keen on his chances should connections attempt to gain compensation at Aintree next month, where the flat track and likely better ground would certainly play to his strengths.

⚪️

Ultima Handicap Chase:

Vintage Clouds, Lake View Lad and Up For Review all ran fantastic trials for the Randox Health Grand National, and the former would certainly be of interest in the Aintree marathon given his consistent profile, sound jumping and dogged determination.

However, Lucinda Russell’s Big River was undoubtedly the biggest eye-catcher as he had no fewer than 16 horses in front of him upon turning for home and still had 11 of those rivals ahead of him when jumping in he final fence. No horse finished quicker up the gruelling Cheltenham hill and he was only beaten six-and-a-half-lengths at the line. The lightly raced nine-year-old doesn’t hold an entry in the Aintree Grand National but I would imagine that both the Irish Grand National and Scottish Grand National will come under serious consideration.

⚪️

Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase:

A Plus Tard has been handed an new Irish rating of 160 following his 16 lengths demolition job at Cheltenham last week and he will now be forced to tackle graded company for the foreseeable future.

Runner-up Tower Bridge looks a shoe-in for a competitive handicap once stepped-up to 3 miles – most likely at Punchestown. While Ben Dundee, who ran well to finish third, took time to get the hang of things over hurdles and may now be ready to reward followers over the coming months.

Highway One O One saw his chances dashed by the weather and is definitely worth supporting next time out. It wouldn’t surprise me if connections elected to drop back to 2 miles to contest the Grade 3 Red Rum Handicap Chase on the first day of Aintree, where they could ride the bold jumping seven-year-old aggressively.

⚪️

National Hunt Chase:

Ok Corral met with trouble in running and couldn’t make up his ground thereafter. However, Derek O’Connor, knowing that his winning chance had gone, pulled the nine-year-old up rather than giving him a hard race on soft ground and that decision may pay dividends for connections this spring.

⚪️

Wednesday (13/3/19):

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle:

This appeared to be a very strong renewal on paper and the first and second home, namely City Island and Champ, are undoubtedly very good horses. However, Bright Forecast and Brewin’Upastorm, who placed third and fourth respectively, certainly caught the eye.

The pair travelled in rear for the majority of the two-and-a-half-mile contest before making-up ground at the top of the hill. The former gained his final placing through stamina and already has the physique of a chaser. While the latter, who travelled into the race as well as anything to the bottom of the hill, lacked the gears of the front pair and paid the price for attempting to win the race when being run-down for third place by Ben Pauling’s charge. Both are really promising chasing prospects.

⚪️

RSA Chase:

There were no individual eye-catchers here, albeit Topofthegame arguably won as shade cosily and Santini ran a huge race given his less than ideal preparation. However, they, alongside the third placed Delta Work, appear to be serious contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next season. This was undoubtedly one of the best renewals of this race in many a year.

⚪️

Coral Cup:

The Coral Cup can often play host to a number of hard luck stories and Dancing On My Own would certainly feature pretty high upon the list this year.

I paid extra attention to Henry De Bromhead’s five-year-old having advised him at 25/1, and he was in the process of running a big race prior to making a shuddering mistake at the penultimate flight of hurdles. There was no way that he could recover from such a significant error at a time when the pace was at its greatest, however, he showed more than enough to suggest that he could well be ahead of his current mark.

The promising son of Milan has twice run well behind the aforementioned Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Klassical Dream in Grade 1 company this season and he could be another name to bear in mind come Punchestown.

⚪️

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle:

No horse has ever defied a higher mark than Band Of Outlaws in this contest, and the turn of foot that he produced after travelling into the race powerfully under a clearly confident JJ Slevin leaves me in no doubt whatsoever that he would have been a huge player in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle. I wonder if connections may be minded to take him to Aintree given his obvious speed. And, should he indeed pass that test, he would have to be considered a Champion Hurdle contender next season.

Dan Skelton certainly isn’t short of horses or indeed ambition and the fact that King D’argent was his only entry in this race certainly put him on the shortlist.

Harry Skelton’s mount was another contender who took the scenic route on Wednesday and stayed on gamely when asked for an effort up the hill. The four-year-old, who was rated 75 when trained by Ger Lyons on the flat, is definitely on a workable handicap mark at present and it will be interesting to see whether his upwardly mobile handler elects to exploit that rating this spring or perhaps wait for a big target early next season, where the Greatwood Hurdle, which is contested over this this very course and distance, could easily be the aim.

⚪️

Champion Bumper:

Having included The Glancing Queen in my blog concerning point-to-point graduates to look forward too this season way back in September I naturally had one eye on Alan King’s mare last Wednesday.

The smart daughter of Jeremy had already scored over the same course and distance in November (16/1) and ran another fine race to place fifth behind some hugely promising prospects.

Alan King saddled Midnightreferendum to place second in the Grade 2 Mares Bumper at Aintree last spring and I wonder if the Barbury Castle based handler will elect to run The Glacing Queen in this year’s edition, where she would undoubtedly be a leading player given her rock solid form and pleasing attitude.

⚪️

Thursday (14/3/19):

JLT Novices’ Chase:

Lostintranslation could only place second behind Defi Du Seuil on Thursday but I fully expect to see him competing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this time next year providing everything goes well between now and then.

Colin Tizzard’s imposing seven-year-old led from an early stage and simply couldn’t match the finishing kick of the former Triumph Hurdle winner after jumping the last in front. It will be interesting to see whether connections decide to tackle 3 miles at either Aintree or Punchestown this spring, however, i am confident that the Ladbrokes Trophy (Hennessy Gol Cup) will be his main target during the autumn. After which, the blue riband contest may be firmly on his agenda.

⚪️

Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle:

I only discovered Black Mischief when going back to look at the run of Sire Su Berlais, as Harry Fry’s progressive seven-year-old was upsides the eventual winner when Barry Geraghty began to weave his magic at the top of the hill.

Black Mischief therefore suffered the same issues in running and although he, like the favourite, managed to navigate his way through the field he had perhaps expended too much energy on his first outing over 3 miles.

It would be easy to assume that he didn’t stay the trip but given his traffic problems and the unique demands of Prestbury Park I would inclined to grant him another chance, especially given the manner of his success at Haydock in November. The Grade 3 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle at Aintree could prove an ideal target this spring.

⚪️

Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate:

Kalondra had made stealthy headway from the rear of the field before losing his action as the race began in earnest and Noel Fehily had no choice but to pull his mount up.

The talented eight-year-old was found to be lame post race but will hopefully return to action soon as he is clearly well treated off a mark of 147 and surely has a big prize in him when everything goes right.

Spiritofthegames and Eamon An Cnoic, who placed third and fourth respectively, shaped as though they may have more to offer in the future and are certainly worth following given their shrewd target trainers.

⚪️

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase:

Sky Pirate appeared to be kept back with this race in mind following his late departure at Cheltenham in November and he looked booked for third place when jumping the last, however, his stamina ebbed away on the infamous Cheltenham hill.

Jonjo O’Neill’s lightly-race six-year-old travelled fairly prominently throughout and may have been better suited by a more patient ride. He jumped and travelled very well on the whole and I am confident that he can land a decent prize for his shrewd handler at some stage in the not too distant future.

No Comment belied his inexperience to place a never nearer fifth and looks potentially very well treated off a mark some 7lbs below his rating over timber.

Philip Hobbs’ charge holds an entry in the Irish Grand National and he could easily play a role if making the cut.

⚪️

Friday (15/3/19):

JCB Triumph Hurdle:

Pentland Hills was obviously eye-catching as a 20/1 winner of Fridays opening contest, however, his success was made even more impressive by the fact that he made two significant errors en route to a fine 3 lengths success.

One would imagine that Aintree will now be on the four-year-old’s agenda given his light season to date, where a clash with stablemate Fusil Raffles and potentially Band Of Outlaws would make for a fascinating contest.

⚪️

Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle:

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend have a very good recent record in this race and Mr Adjudicator, who represented the Gold Cup winning duo on Friday, was a notable eye-catcher who may have gone close had he been ridden closer to the pace.

Last year’s Triumph Hurdle runner-up was held-up in rear and was clearly being ridden to challenge late-on. However, he was given too much to do on the day and certainly wasn’t given a hard time when his winning chance had gone. Therefore he could easily gain compensation during the spring.

⚪️

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle:

Minella Indo ran out a commanding winner of this often attritional 3 mile contest but Allaho was arguably the most noteworthy runner.

The former placed second behind the latter in Grade 3 company at Cork in February and most certainly enjoyed the run of the race last week. The Cheveley Park Stud owned runner was unable to make up ground on the leading pair in the closing stages but and was given a somewhat considerate ride with a view to his future career as a chaser. However, Willie Mullins has won the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle three times in the last four years – and sent out Penhill to finish second in 2017 – and there is every chance that Allaho could contest that race prior to his summer holiday.

⚪️

St. James’s Palace Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase:

The late money for Hazel Hill proved telling in the end, however, Road To Rome may be the horse to take out of the race given the way in which jumped and travelled at the head of affairs.

The nine-year-old has been transformed since joining J J O’Shea and his style of running and fluent-fencing could easily make him an ideal candidate for the Aintree Foxhunters should connections be minded to go down that route.

⚪️

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase:

The above mentioned Dan Skelton is far from adverse to a handicap plot and indeed confessed that County Hurdle winner Ch’tibello has been plotted-up for the best part of 18 months. I am under the distinct impression that Marracudja could be receiving the same treatment at present.

The quirky eight-year-old lacked fluency in the early stages and was never in a position to lay down a challenge. However, he is another contender who wasn’t given a hard time and he shaped as though he may have a good prize in him when connections have found the right target.

⚪️

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle:

I have no individual eye-catcher here but it generally pays to follow the form of this competitive two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Last year’s runner-up Discorama placed second in the National Hunt Chase last Tuesday. While the third placed Early Doors went two places better this time around. Throw into the mix the above mentioned Sire Du Berlais (fourth) landing the ultra-competitive Pertemps Final last week and the strength of this race becomes obvious.

⚪️

The 2019 Cheltenham Festival: Profit/Loss

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their unwavering support this week – it really is greatly appreciated.

I can only offer my sincerest gratitude to those who have taken the time to read, retweet, like, share and provide some fantastic feedback over the course of this week.

Thankfully, we unearthed our fair share of winners and I was particularly pleased to receive feedback detailing how informative and insightful the daily previews were, as I don’t write these pieces purely for tipping purposes, but also to provide a helpful form-guide for those who like to delve deeper in search of winners.

The four daily previews contained no fewer than 21,468 words in total, and happily the selections put forward showed an overall profit of 45.62pts. Wednesday proved the most successful day with a profit of 21.37pts, followed by Friday (+14.25pts), Thursday (+7.5pts), and finally, Tuesday (+2.5pts).

There were near misses with Thomas Darby (25/1 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) and Santini (12/1 – RSA Chase), however , Sire Du Berlais (50/1), Band Of Outlaws (16/1) and A Plus Tard (14/1) contributed to an antepost profit of +107.75pts, meaning that, at the end of a very long week, the total profit/loss for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival reads +153.37pts.

As many will already know, I have a full time job and blog as a hobby, however, I would dearly love to work within the industry. Therefore the encouragement that I receive only spurs me on in my quest to land that elusive dream job.

I am very humbled that some people appear to enjoy reading these blogs as much as I enjoy writing them, and long may that continue. So thank you once again and I hope that you have all enjoyed a fantastic week!

Bring on Aintree!

All the best,

Stu

⚪️

DAILY BLOGS:

Day 1:

Profit/Loss: +2.50pts

Day 2:

Profit/Loss: +21.37pts

Day 3:

Profit/Loss: +7.5pts

Day 4:

Profit/Loss: +14.25pts

Daily Profit/Loss Total: +45.62pts

⚪️

ANTEPOST:

Profit/Loss: +107.75

⚪️

Overall Cheltenham Festival Profit/Loss Total: +153.37

⚪️

2018/19 Blog Total: +221.70

⚪️

Image supplied by JTW Equine Images (JTWEquineImag).

All Images Copyright ©JTW Equine Images. All Rights Reserved, please ask them if you wish to use the images. http://tomwilliams275.wixsite.com/jtwequineimages

De Rasher Counter can bring home the bacon

Stayers Hurdle winning trainer Emma Lavelle has sent out 3 winners from her last 6 runners and can improve upon that impressive strike-rate with De Rasher Counter today.

The promising seven-year-old defeated subsequent Grade 3 888Sport Handicap Chase scorer Walt on his penultimate outing at Newbury before placing second behind subsequent Grade 2 runner-up Now McGinty, who was in receipt of 6lbs, at Chepstow last time out.

The re-opposing Captain Cattistock, who also received 6lbs when finishing 6 lengths and one place behind Lavelle’s charge at the Monmouthshire venue, was successful in a competitive heat at Exeter next time out and it is interesting that connections elected to sidestep the Kim Kuir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham on Thursday in favour of this Class 2 contest.

He has previously won on heavy ground and remains unexposed over staying tips. Therefore all looks set for a very big run off a potentially lenient mark of 140.

SELECTIONS: Uttoxeter 2.25 – De Rasher Counter 10/3 – 3pt win (Bet365, William Hill, Unibet, SportPesa)

The Cheltenham Festival: Gold Cup Day (Friday)

1.30 – JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m179y

Joseph O’Brien appears to have a stranglehold on the juvenile division this season and will hope to add this Grade 1 prize to his haul of victories that includes Wednesday’s Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Indeed, his battalion of brilliant four-year-old’s is undoubtedly led by the JP McManus owned Sir Erec, who is well and truly at the top of the pecking order at Owning Hill following his smooth Grade 1 success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

The former Ballydoyle inmate, who is still a full horse, has taken to hurdling well and the fact that Fakir D’oudaries, who bolted up in a course and distance Grade 2 at Cheltenham in January, was re-routed to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is a clear indication of the regard in which Sir Erec is held at home.

Gardens Of Babylon, who placed second behind Sir Erec last month, will represent the same connections.

The son of Camelot made the perfect start to his new career when beating 21 rivals at Punchestown in December and only narrowly failed in his attempt to concede 12lbs to the consistent Surin at Fairyhouse two weeks later. His attitude and running style may be well suited to the demands of the Triumph Hurdle and he could easily outrun his double figure price.

Paul Nicholls last won this race with Zarkandar in 2011. This year the 10 times champion trainer has two live contenders in the form of Quel Destin and Pic D’Orphy.

The former landed the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas and confirmed that promise when cruising to victory in the Victor Ludorum at Haydock last month. While the latter placed second in Grade 1 company on his final start in France and also finished ahead of the aforementioned Fakir D’oudaries at Auteuil last June.

Quel Destin’s attitude and experience are two strong assets in a race of this nature. While Pic D’Orphy has been the subject of positive reports of late and could easily make his presence felt if transferring his smart french form to Britain.

Tiger Tap Tap ran Sir Erec to within a neck on debut and was denied room at a cruicial point when seemingly underperforming at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. I would be inclined to give Rich Ricci’s chestnut another chance given how the race panned out at that day and he could easily be overpriced as a result.

Willie Mullins will also saddle French Made and Runrized, however, both will need to improve markedly to feature.

Adjali led the market prior to his defeat in Grade 1 company over Christmas and has since been put in his place by the aforementioned Fakir D’oudaries.

One suspects that connections may have elected to tackle the Fred Winter but for his lofty rating of 145. However, those who have already backed the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned four-year-old will take some solace in the fact that Quel Destin, who narrowly got the better of Adjali at Chepstow, gave the form a nice boost when comfortably landing the Victor Ludorum at Haydock last month. Therefore all may not be lost just yet.

Nicky Henderson will also be represented by Pentland Hills, who was rated 73 on the flat an comfortably disposed of The Flying Sofa when making an impressive debut at Plumpton last month. While Coeur Sublime, who has kept good company this season and has been reported to be in fine form at present, will represent the potent partnership of Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell.

Hannon placed second behind the potentially smart Chosen Mate in Grade 2 company at Naas three weeks ago and could run well for shrewd handler John McConnell. While Nelson River, who was victorious over this course and distance in December, could only finish sixth behind Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fourth Fakir D’oudaries in Grade 2 company on Cheltenham Trials Day and will need to improve to feature here.

Ecco, who finished sixth in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on debut, and Authorizo, who made a successful hurdling debut in January before placing third in Grade 3 company last month, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Sir Erec rates a worthy favourite based on what he has achieved to date but, as Apple’s Shakira proved 12 months ago, short priced favourites can still be vulnerable and there are many potential improvers who could easily have a say. Tiger Tap Tap is worthy of a second chance given how the race panned out at Leopardstown. Quel Destin is battle hardened and appears to progress with every run. While Pic D’Orphy could be anything at this stage but has to be respected given the current form of Paul Nicholls. However, Sir Erec’s stablemate GARDENS OF BABYLON may give him the most to think about. The smart son of Camelot ran a fine race in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, which is often a good trial for this Grade 1 heat, and looks sure to be suited by this greater test of stamina. Barry Geraghty has won this race 4 times in the last 10 years (5 times in total) and could easily enhance that strike-rate tomorrow.

⚪️

2.10 – RANDOX HEALTH COUNTY HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m179y

Whiskey Sour placed third in this contest 12 months ago and should run well once again. Western Ryder has been running consistently all season long and should run his race once more. Dan Skelton fields last year’s winner Mohaaayed and the Ch’tibello and it would be no surprise to see them run well. While Monsieur Lecoq and Crooks Peak have scope for further improvement. However, last year’s Triumph Hurdle runner-up MR ADJUDICATOR makes plenty of appeal. The lightly raced five-year-old has plenty of scope for improvement after just five starts over hurdles and his 11 lengths defeat at the hooves of Espoir D’Allen in Grade 3 company at Naas in November reads much better after Gavin Cromwell’s charge ran out a 16 lengths winner of the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday. Paul Townend has steered both Wicklow Brave (2015) and Arctic Fire (2017) to victory in recent years and has every chance of improving his fine record tomorrow.

⚪️

2.50 – ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m7f213y

Lisnagar Oscar was deeply impressive when running out a 10 lengths winner of the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock last month.

The exciting son of Oscar placed second behind Rockport, who will re-oppose representing last year’s winning trainer Colin Tizzard, in Grade 2 company at the International Meeting in December and clearly improved markedly for the step-up to 3 miles. In between which he managed to squeeze in a narrow success over the re-opposing Dickie Diver at Chepstow.

Rebecca Curtis landed this prize with At Fishers Cross in 2013, and Lisnagar Oscar has every chance of emulating that stable success.

Ask Ben and Stoney Mountain placed second and third respectively in the above mentioned Haydock contest and are also interesting contenders at double figures prices.

Commander Of Fleet looked like a potential star of the future when landing the Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown last April and clearly relished the step-up in trip when out-battling Rhinestone in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

The Gigginstown House Stud owned five-year-old is seen as long term chasing prospect by his trainer Gordon Elliott and his age and lack of experience would not scream Albert Bartlett winner. However, he clearly possesses plenty of ability could easily make his presence felt.

Rhinestone will re-oppose tomorrow.

The Joseph O’Brien trained six-year-old placed ninth in the Champion Bumper last season and took a huge step forwards when making Commander Of Fleet pull out all of the stops at Leopardstown.

Rhinestone had to concede 2lb to the winner that day and could have plenty more to come after just three starts over hurdles. His best form has come on ground with plenty of give, however, the quick ground in Dublin didn’t stop him last month and another bold bid can be expected.

Birchdale and Dickie Diver will represent Nicky Henderson and JP McManus.

The former made a hugely impressive debut at Warwick in December before benefitting from the final hurdle fall of Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle runner Brewin’Upastorm when scoring in Grade 2 company on Cheltenham Trials Day. While the latter looked green as grass when narrowly being denied by the exciting Lisnagar Oscar at Chepstow, but returned to the Monmouthshire track to shed his maiden tag at the second time of asking.

Both rate extremely exciting long term prospects, but again their lack of experience may hinder their prospects here.

Willie Mullins will field the lightly raced Allaho, who made a good impression at Clonmel last month.

The Cheveley Park Stud owned five-year-old accounted for smart types Minella Indo, who will re-oppose and could outrun his generous double figure price, Moskovite and Eurobot that day and looked better the further he went. He has size and scope in abundance and is undoubtedly a chaser in the making. However, he hit the line full of running at Clonmel and may therefore relish the gruelling Cheltenham hill.

The Irish champion trainer will also saddle Salsaretta and Dorrells Pierji.

The former fell in the Mares Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago and could outrun her price if running up to the form of her success over Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fifth Felix Desjy at Limerick over Christmas. While the latter was well beaten behind the aforementioned pair Commander Of Fleet and Rhinestone at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and will struggle to reverse that form here.

Derrinross is a second season novice who appears to have improved for his enforced break having returned to action with a brace of victories in December.

The first of those successes came in Grade 3 company at Cork, where subsequent Garde 1 runner-up Sams Profile and the potentially smart The Big Dog give the form some substance. While the latter success came at Grade 2 level, where he beat the consistent yardstick Defi Bleu and last months Pertemps Qualifier winner Cap York, who were both in receipt of 3lbs.

Every drop of rain that falls will further enhance his prospects and his experience and age are definite positives in a race of this nature.

Dinons landed a 3 mile novice hurdle at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting in October and is somewhat of a forgotten horse following his winter break.

Gordon Elliott’s good ground loving six-year-old rattled up a five-timer between August and October and was badly hampered when tasting defeat at Navan last time out.

His experience and course form will stand him in good stead in this rough and tumble Grade 1 and he could well represent great value at a double figure price.

Cap York landed a Pertemps Qualifier at Punchestown last month and boasts plenty of experience which is always advantageous. While First Approach, who was a shade over 6 lengths behind Commander Of Fleet and Rhinestone at Leopardstown, will also look to make his experience count.

Nadaitak, who ran out a hugely impressive 22 lengths winner of the Grade 2 River Don Hurdle at Doncaster in January, and Aye Aye Charlie, who placed sixth behind subsequent Stayers Hurdle hero Paisley Park in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle in January, could easily outrun their double figures prices. While Alsa Mix and Darlac, who placed first and second respectively in Grade 2 company at Sandown in December, will need to find improvement in order to feature.

SUMMARY:

Commander Of Fleet and Rhinestone are worthy of respect following their Grade 1 exertions at Leopardstown last month. While Lisnagar Oscar has already got the better of many of these rivals and looked potentially very smart when storming to success at Haydock. Allaho and Minella Indo already have the physique of chasers but could easily get involved. While both Dickie Diver and Birchdale are also nice prospects but may lack the experience for such a race. Experience is often desirable in this contest and, with that in mind, both DERRINROSS and DINONS make plenty of appeal. The former has returned to action better than ever this winter and is 2-2 over this trip. While the latter is 5-7 over hurdles and ran out a 14 lengths winner at the Showcase Meeting in December. Both will relish this attritional test.

⚪️

3.30 – MAGNERS CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP (Grade 1) 3m2f70y

Much has been written and indeed spoken about the unconventional preparation of long time favourite Presenting Percy, however, Pat Kelly, who has trained a winner at each of the last three Cheltenham Festivals, is no stranger to taking an unconventional route and it certainly didn’t stop Presenting Percy from landing the RSA Chase 12 months ago.

You have to go back to 1928 to find the last Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who hadn’t run over fences that season, however, Philip Reynolds hugely exciting eight-year-old will have jumped plenty of fences at home and recently enjoyed a spin around Galway, who went to the trouble of turning their fences around so that Pat Kelly’s charge could school left handed.

That attention to detail clearly demonstrates just how meticulous the aloof Irish trainer is when it comes to planning and preparation. Therefore you can guarantee that Presenting Percy, who landed the Glamoy Hurdle for the second time in January, will be spot on for this blue riband contest.

Clan Des Obeaux has been building a strong case in Presenting Percy’s absence and is undoubtedly a huge player given his perfect preparation.

The imposing seven-year-old took his form to a whole new level when landing the King George at Christmas and confirmed that to be no fluke when sauntering to a smooth 11 lengths success in the rescheduled Denman Chase at Ascot.

The fact that he is yet to win at Cheltenham is somewhat of a red herring as he was only narrowly denied by Guitar Pete – who received 24lbs – over two-and-a-half-miles in the Caspain Caviar Gold Cup last season, and he has clearly improved mentally, physically and for the step-up to 3 miles this winter.

Paul Nicholls has already won 4 Cheltenham Gold Cups and he has every chance of taking home a milestone fifth tomorrow.

Reigning Gold Cup King Native River has done little wrong this season and stayed on resolutely to claim third place behind Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton.

That sharp 3 miles certainly wouldn’t have suited the bold jumping chestnut, however, it would have been very easy for Native River to throw in the towel and pull up stumps that day. Therefore the fact that he didn’t is a clear indication that the fire and desire is still present. With that in mind, and the recent rainfall, he could prove very tough to pass if leading the way up the gruelling Cheltenham hill.

Colin Tizzard will have him spot on for this defence of his crown and the softer the ground the better his chance.

Stablemate Thistlecrack is also firmly in the mix based on his sound second placed effort behind Clan Des Obeaux in the King George at Kempton. While Elegant Escape, who provides Colin Tizzard with a solid third string to his bow, will welcome any rainfall and will be running on dourly when others are paddling.

The recent rainfall will also be a positive for dual Betfair Chase scorer Bristol De Mai, who was an early faller in the King George at Christmas but could easily outrun his price with conditions set to suit.

Willie Mullins will field 4 in an attempt to end his Gold Cup hoodoo.

Kemboy and Bellshill placed first and fourth respectively in the Savills Chase over Christmas and are arguably the most likely candidates.

The former hasn’t looked back since placing fifth in the JLT Novices Chase 12 months and his win at Leopardstown was undoubtedly a career best performance. David Mullins gave the progressive seven-year-old a opportunist ride that day, however, the form has worked out well and he could easily have more come.

The latter landed the Irish Gold Cup on his only subsequent start and has comfortably dismissed the notion that he can’t go left handed. That said, his Cheltenham Festival record reads 003, which doesn’t offer too much encouragement.

Al Boum Photo and Invitation Only will also face the starter.

The former fell in the RSA last match

Might Bite will bid to get his career back on track following poor efforts at Haydock and Kempton respectively.

The 2017 King George winner has had his soft palate quarterized since his latest defeat and has been reported to be in fine form by Nico De Boinville. He ran a huge race to place second behind Native River 12 months ago and could easily outrun his price if bouncing back to form.

Anibale Fly was only eight-and-a-half-lengths behind Native River when placing third 12 months ago and could run well once more en route to the Aintree Grand National. While Shattered Love, who won the JLT Novices’ Chase last March, will have her first start since undergoing wind surgery.

Definitely Red, who was beaten at odds of 1/6 on his prep run at Kelso, Double Shuffle, who saves his best performances for Kempton, and Yala Enki, who will need to improve by at least a stone to feature, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Native River will appreciate every drop of rain that falls between now and 3.30 tomorrow and will undoubtedly launch a bold bid in defence of his crown. While Presenting Percy, who has had an interesting preparation for this blue riband contest, will have a big following given his two previous victories at this meeting. Bellshill and Elegant Escape are interesting contenders at double figure prices. While Thistlecrack also enters calculations following his return to form at Kempton over Christmas. However, the former Stayers Hurdle winner found CLAN DES OBEAUX too good that day and the imposing seven-year-old is the one to beat based on this season’s form. He confirmed the promise of his King George success when sweeping aside Terrefort at Ascot last month and there is no better handler than Paul Nicholls when it comes to training 3 mile chasers. The yard have enjoyed success with both Topofthegame and Frodon this week and there is every chance that Clan Des Obeaux can provide his 10-time champion trainer with a fifth success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

⚪️

4.10 – ST. JAMES’S PLACE FOXHUNTER CHALLENGE CUP OPEN HUNTERS CHASE (Class 2) 3m2f70y

Pacha Du Polder has landed back-to-back renewals of this race and will look to go out with a bang as retirement looms. While Road To Rome has thrived since joining Joe O’Shea and holds sound claims in this open contest. This race may come a year too soon for he promising Stand Up And Fight but he could easily run well in the hands of Derek O’Connor. While the formerly smart trio of Ucello Conti, Caid Du Berlais and Shantou Flyer are also of interest. However, HAZEL HILL is relatively lightly raced for his age and beat a decent field when scoring at Warwick in January. The eleven-year-old has won 14 of his last 15 starts is proven on varying types of ground, therefore he won’t mind what the weather does between now and 4.10. He clearly gets on very well with regular rider Alex Edwards and a bold bid can be expected.

⚪️

4.50 – JOHNNY HENDERSON GRAND ANNUAL CHALLENGE CUP (Grade 3) 2m62y

This has been the plan for Whatswrongwithyou all season long and he will undoubtedly prove popular given his trainer’s connection with this race. While Not Another Muddle, who is 3-4 over fences, rates a very interesting contender for the shrewd Gary Moore. Le Prezien is only 1lb higher than when winning this race 12 months ago and should go well for the in-form Paul Nicholls, however, he may have to play second fiddle to stablemate MAGIC SAINT, who ran out a cosy winner at Wincanton last month. The french import appreciated the drop in trip when successful last month and could have much more to come given his tender years. He jumps well and travels strongly, which are desirable assets in this strongly run contest, and has a jockey who is riding with plenty of confidence.

⚪️

5.30 – MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ HANDICAP HURDLE (Class 2) 2m4f56y

This has been the plan for Dellas Des Pictons ever since his success at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and he has to be respected given Gordon Elliott’s recent dominance in this race. Cartwright and Defi Bleu will also represent the chief of Cullentra Stables therefore also come under consideration. While Getareason, who chased home Battleoverdoyen and Sams Profile in Grade 1 company at Naas in January, is also an interesting contender. However, EARLY DOORS placed third in this race 12 months ago and could easily go two places better under Jonjo O’Neill jr. The JP McManus owned six-year-old has chased home Apple’s Jade in Grade 1 company on his last two visits to the racetrack and therefore holds sound claims back in handicap company. He will compete from a 3lbs higher mark this year but should enjoy the drop back to two-and-a-half-miles.

⚪️

SELECTIONS:

1.30 – Gardens Of Babylon 12/1 – 1.5pts each way

2.10 – Mr Adjudicator 12/1 – 2pts each way

2.50 – Derrinross 10/1 – 1pt each way

Dinons 12/1 – 1pt each way

3.30 – Clan Des Obeaux 11/2 – 1pt win

4.10 – Hazel Hill 6/1 – 1pt win

4.50 – Magic Saint – 5/1 2pt win

5.30 – Early Doors – 13/2 2pts each way

The Cheltenham Festival: St Patrick’s Thursday (Thursday)

1.30 – JLT NOVICES’ CHASE (Grade 1) 2m3f198y

Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation are tied on one victory each this season and will bid to settle the argument in this opening Grade 1 heat.

The former was narrowly denied by the latter in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices Chase over this course and distance on New Years Day, but gained his revenge when prevailing in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown last month.

Defi Du Seuil had to concede 3lbs to Lostintranslation at Cheltenham and exacted his revenge off level weights at Sandown. Therefore the 2017 Triumph Hurdle winner, who will be ridden to challenge after the obstacle, may just have the edge tomorrow.

Kim Bailey had initially ruled Vinndication out of appearing at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, however, last week he changed his mind and decided to aim the hugely exciting six-year-old at this open Grade 1 prize.

The tough as nails son of Vinnie Roe defeated Jerrysback and Lil Rockerfeller in Grade 2 novice company at Ascot in December and was sent off a well supported 11/8 favourite against the above mentioned duo at Sandown in February, where he could only finish third under regular rider David Bass.

It was a surprise to many that Vinndication didn’t make the running that day and put his fluent fencing to good use against two pacier rivals. I’m sure that Bass would elect implement those tactics if he could ride that race again and he certainly won’t allow himself to make the same mistake twice.

Real Steel has won his last two starts over fences and will be the mount of Arkle winning jockey Paul Townend.

The Jared Sullivan owned six-year-old fell on his only other outing in this sphere but is already showing positive signs that he will develop into a much better chaser than he ever was hurdler. He placed eleventh in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago and could run a much better race this year given the obvious lack of depth.

Kidisart scored a handicap victory over this course and distance on Cheltenham Trials Day and appears to be improving for each outing.

Ben Pauling was hoping to run the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned six-year-old in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase until he was hit with a 7lb rise for his Trials Day success, however, this doesn’t appear to be the strongest of of renewals and the smart son Dubai Destination could easily feature.

Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Mengli Khan made the perfect start to his new career before placing fourth and third respectively behind the talented Le Richebourg.

Both of those outings came over the minimum distance and Gordon Elliott’s talented six-year-old, who possesses size and scope in abundance, could play a big role here if seeing out this longer trip.

This race was won by a smart mare 12 months ago and both Castafiore and Pravalaguna will bid to make it another female success.

The former lowered the colours of Jerrysback and subsequent Uttoxeter scorer Crucial Role in Grade 2 company at Haydock in February and could easily launch a bold bid to defy her double digit price once again. While the latter, who progressed from her debut effort to land back-to-back mares’ races at Limerick and Naas respectively, could easily be overpriced given her obvious ability.

Voix Du Reve, who crashed out when contesting lead with Le Richebourg in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, is a confirmed front-runner and could put a few of his rivals in trouble if jumping fluently at the head of affairs. While Capeland, who boasts a wealth of experience but will need to improve to compete at this level, completes the field.

SUMMARY:

Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation are closely matched on form. While Kildisart boasts a progressive profile and is worthy of his place in this field following his smart course and distance success on Cheltenham Trials Day. However, VINNDICATION may lead them all a merry dance. Kim Bailey’s exciting six-year-old could only finish third behind Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown last month when ridden off the pace and unable to close. It was clearly a mistake to allow the above mentioned pair an easy time in front and I’m sure that David Bass will make more use of his solid jumping and stout-stamina in this Grade 1 contest, which will put his rivals under pressure and therefore increase his chances of success.

⚪️

2.10 – PERTEMPS NETWORK FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) 2m7f213y

First Assignment is 2-2 at Cheltenham and followed up his win in November with a fine third placed effort behind Stayers Hurdle favourite Paisley Park at Haydock. While Aaron Lad, who won a competitive handicap at Prestbury Park in December, could easily outrun his double figure price for the very shrewd operation of Dr Richard Newland. However, SIRE DE BERLAIS could take plenty of stopping. The JP McManus owned seven-year-old placed fourth in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle 12 months ago and it’s hard to ignore his qualifying effort, where he was eye-catching to say the least. Gordon Elliott sent out a 1-2 in this race last year and he has every chance of scooping the main prize once again.

⚪️

2.50 – RYANAIR CHASE (Grade 1) 2m4f166y

Footpad ran out an impressive 14 lengths winner of the Arkle 12 months ago and is arguably better over this slightly longer trip.

The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned seven-year-old enjoyed a stellar novice campaign, winning each of his 5 races with the bare minimum of fuss whilst earning a lofty rating of 166 in the process. However, he has suffered an overreach on both of his outings this season and is therefore yet to confirm the promise that he displayed last term.

The Closutton inmate enjoyed a racecourse school at Naas in February and his presence in this field is a clear indication that Willie Mullins is 110% happy with his well-being. Therefore he warrants the utmost respect in a wide open race.

Monalee boasts very strong Cheltenham Festival form having placed second behind subsequent Stayers Hurdle hero Penhill in the 2017 Albert Bartlett before filling the same position behind leading Gold Cup hope Presenting Percy in the RSA last March.

Henry De Bromhead’s imposing gelding travelled menacingly on both occasions but has found little when asked for an effort up the hill. Therefore this drop in trip on the more stamina demanding new course could really play to his strengths.

He limbered up for this contest with victory in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park last month and is undoubtedly a very big player given his impressive festival form and record over this trip, which reads 1131 over fences.

Frodon has been in the form of his life this season will attempt to make all in the hands of Bryony Frost.

The gutsy seven-year-old simply loves the new course at Cheltenham and defied a mark of 164 when landing the Caspain Caviar Gold Cup over this course and distance in November.

Frodon then landed the Grade 2 Cotswolds Chase when last sighted in January and may have taken his place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup had the rain stayed away. However, he will undoubtedly have a much greater chance in this intermediate contest and he could take some pegging back if granted an uncontested lead.

Road To Respect and Un De Sceaux are big players for Noel Meade and Willie Mullins respectively.

The former, who placed fourth in the Gold Cup 12 months ago, lacked fluency in the jumping department when giving way to Bellshill in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, but could easily feature if finding his rhythm. While the latter, who was a sparkling winner of this race in 2017, ran a huge race behind Altior in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and could easily run well given the ease underfoot.

The Storyteller ran out a good winner of the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate over this course and distance last March and could easily outrun his price given his consistent level of form in Grade 1 company this season – especially dropping back in trip with Davy Russell in the saddle.

Last year’s winner Balko Des Flos has offered very little since, however, he could easily be reinvigorated by the return to Prestbury Park. While Terrefort, who chased home the aforementioned Frodon on Cheltenham Trials Day, could be interesting if recapturing the form of his second placed effort in the JLT Novices’ Chase 12 months ago.

Aso, who placed third behind Un Des Sceaux in 2017, and Charbel, who has been in fine form this season, are further contenders who should not be discounted.

While Coney Island, who is very capable on his day, and Sub Lieutenant, who was narrowly denied by the progressive Tout Est Permis at Thurles in January, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

The Storyteller landed the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate over this course and distance last year and will appreciate this drop in trip having been campaigned over staying trips this winter. While Footpad, who was a mightily impressive winner of the Arkle 12 months ago, and Road To Respect, who reverts to this trip after placing fourth in the Gold Cup last season, are worthy of the utmost respect. However, it may pay to side with MONALEE and FRODON. The former has chased home subsequent Stayers Hurdle winner Penhill and leading Gold Cup hope Presenting Percy on his two previous visits to the Cheltenham Festival and may have found the ideal opportunity to gain a much deserved success with the track and trip firmly in his favour. While the latter, who is in the form of his life this season, simply adores this new course at Cheltenham and is a huge danger to all if granted an uncontested lead. He won a hugely competitive handicap off a mark of 164 in December before landing the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day in January. The track, trip and ground look ideal.

⚪️

3.30 – SUN BETS STAYERS HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m7f213y

Paisley Park has improved tenfold this season and is undoubtedly the one to beat based on his facile success in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.

The recent rain is a slight concern but he is undoubtedly the best staying hurdler in Britain this season and it will take a huge performance to lower his colours tomorrow.

Faugheen has been the subject of bullish reports in Cheltenham Festival previews and has therefore shortened accordingly.

Rich Ricci’s former champion hurdler ran out a hugely impressive winner of his solitary completed start over this trip at the Punchestown Festival last spring, but arrives here on the back of a very heavy fall in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in December.

The popular eleven-year-old was only 2 lengths behind Apple’s Jade when crashing out at the penultimate flight of hurdles and could easily run a huge race if none the worse for that incident.

2018 Irish Champion Hurdler Supasundae will represent Gold Cup winning trainer Jessica Harrington.

The classy son of Galileo won the Coral Cup in 2017 and went desperately close to landing this championship contest 12 months ago when chasing home former flat performer Penhill. His stamina may be stretched on the rain softened ground, however, he is deserving of respect given his smart Cheltenham Festival form.

Kilbricken Storm was a surprise winner (33/1) of the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over this course and distance 12 months ago and is a fascinating contender back over hurdles following two unconvincing efforts over fences. While Black Op, who was second in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last March, should come on plenty for his third placed effort behind Paisley Park in January and could easily run into a place.

Bacardys was in the process of running a huge race when coming down at the final flight of hurdles 12 months ago and could easily go well once again. While Top Notch, who is better know for his exploits over fences in recent times, is an zinteresting contender for champion trainer Nicky Henderson.

Both West Approach and Wholestone generally run well in these staying contests and could easily exceed expectations once more. While Bapaume, who was only one-and-a-quarter-lengths behind Gold Cup hopeful Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January, could also go well at a price.

Sam Spinner could only finish fifth when sent off a 9/4 favourite for this race 12 months and returned to something like his best form when placing fourth behind the aforementioned Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle in January. While Aintree Grade 1 winner Yanworth, who was extremely disappointing when pulling-up on his return to action at Haydock three weeks ago, will be fitted with first time blinkers.

Petit Mouchoir is a dual Grade 1 winner over 2 miles and rates an interesting contender on his first run beyond 2m2f.

While Coquin Man, who has been woefully disappointing since landing a Grade 2 contest at Fairyhouse last April, Keeper Hill, who won a Pertemps Qualifier at Warwick in November, The Mighty Don, who was tailed off in the Cleeve Hurdle in January, Nautical Nitwit, who landed a weak Grade 2 contest at Wetherby in November, and Man Of Plenty, who will need to improve at least 2 stone in order to feature, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Paisley Park warrants his position in the market given what he has achieved this season. While Faugheen, who has been the subject of very positive reports in recent weeks, would undoubtedly be a very popular winner. However they are both short enough in a race of this nature and it may therefore pay to look for a viable each way alternative. BLACK OP may have been in need of the run when placing third behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle in January and could represent value at 14/1. His record in the Cotswolds, which includes a second placed finish at this meeting 12 months ago, reads well and he could have more improvement to come over staying trips.

⚪️

4.10 – BROWN ADVISORY AND MERRIEBELLE STABLE PLATE HANDICAP CHASE (Grade 3) 2m4f166y

Favourite Janika will meet his Cheltenham Trials Day conqueror Siruh Du Lac On 4lbs better terms tomorrow and could easily go close if replicating that effort. While Spiritofthegames, who placed third in the novice contest earlier on that card, could be fairly handicapped off a mark of 147 and will represent Dan and Harry Skelton, who will be buoyed by their maiden Grade 1 success on Tuesday. However, it may be worth siding with KALONDRA and EAMON AN CNOIC. The former goes particularly well at Prestbury Park and was travelling kindly before stumbling badly and unseating his rider in the BetVictor Gold Cup in November. While the latter, who was an eye-catching fifth in that very same contest and will compete from just a 2lb higher mark tomorrow, may have been campaigned with this race in mind given his trainers impressive record in this contest.

⚪️

4.50 – TRULL HOUSE STUD MARES’ NOVICES’ HURDLE (Grade 2) 2m179y

Nicky Henderson has spoke of Epatante in the highest possible regard and the JP McMnus owned mare looked very smart when cantering to a facile success at Exeter three weeks ago. Sinoria has been impressive in Ireland and will look to build upon her Listed success at Puncestown last month. While My Sister Sarah, who will be the mount of Ruby Walsh, and Lust For Glory, who will also represent Seven Barrows, are also noteworthy contenders in this Grade 2 contest. However, POSH TRISH may be the one to lay it down to the favourite. Paul Nicholls’ smart mare will have to concede a 5lbs penalty to Epatante but does have an experience advantage over that rival and also boasts a victory at Prestbury Park already. That success came in a soft ground bumper in November 2017, therefore conditions hold no fears. She looks to be an each way banker who could easily scoop the main pot should the favourite falter.

⚪️

5.30 – FULKE WALWYN KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP AMATEUR RIDERS HANDICAP CHASE (Class 2) 3m2f

Measureofmydreams has been gambled in from 33/1 in recent weeks and will be the mount of Jamie Codd, who has already ridden two winners this week (Le Breuil and Envoi Allen). While Stablemate Its All Guesswork, the enigmatic Any Second Now, and Jonjo O’Neill’s intriguing novice Sky Pirate are also very lively contenders for this amateur riders race. However, TOUCH KICK is completely unexposed over this trip and appeared to relish the extra yardage when scoring at Taunton in February. Paul Nicholls, who won the RSA Chase with Topofthegame yesterday, is a master at eking out improvements in staying chasers and the form of his latest success has been well advertised by both the runner-up and third. At a bigger price PERFECT CANDIDATE may also be worthy of each way support. Fergal O’Brien’s Prestbury Park loving twelve-year-old placed third behind Tuesday’s Ultima Handicap Chase scorer Beware The Bear over this course and distance on New Years Day. While he is getting no younger, he has now dropped to a 12lbs lower mark than when last successful and he will relish the soft ground that he will encounter tomorrow.

⚪️

SELECTIONS:

1.30 – Vinndication 8/1 – 1pt each way

2.10 – Sire Du Berlais 11/2 – 2pts each way

2.50 – Monalee 9/2 – 2p win

Frodon 7/1 – 1pt each way

3.30 – Black Op 14/1 – 1pt each way

4.10 – Kalondra 14/1 – 1pt each way

Eamon An Cnoic 12/1 – 1pt each way

4.50 – Posh Trish 6/1 – 2pts each way

5.30 – Touch Kick 16/1 – 1.5pts each way

Perfect Candidate 33/1 – 1pt each way

The Cheltenham Festival: Ladies Day (Wednesday)

1.30 – BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m5f26y

Champ, who was named in honour of the legendary Sir AP McCoy, has topped the betting for this Grade 1 prize ever since his impressive Grade 1 Challow Hurdle success at Newbury in December.

The JP McManus owned gelding was sent off a strong even money chance for that well-contested heat following a comfortable handicap success over the same course and distance four weeks earlier, and he certainly didn’t disappointment with a commanding two-and-a-half-length victory.

The Seven Barrows inmate took the rise in class in his stride and won a race that developed into a virtual sprint despite pulling Barry Geraghty’s arms out for the majority of the contest, which is a testament to the ability that the seven-year-old possesses.

Nicky Henderson has proven time-and-time-again that he can prepare a horse for the Festival after a period of time off the track. Therefore I would not be concerned that Champ has not been seen this year. However, he will need to settle better than he has previously in order to get home up that long and gruelling Cheltenham hill.

Battleoverdoyen leads the Irish challenge.

Gordon Elliott’s imposing six-year-old confirmed that he retained all of the promise that he had displayed between the flags when running out the comfortable 6 lengths winner of a Punchestown bumper on his belated racecourse debut in November last year.

The talented son of Doyen progressed to land his maiden hurdle in a canter before being sent off a well supported 2/1 favourite for the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle in January – a contest that he won with plenty in hand.

The Gigginstown representative already has the physique of a chaser and would undoubtedly relish a truly run race. However, should there be a lack of pace up front, he could easily get tapped for toe by sharper rivals.

Sams Profile chased home Battleoverdoyen at Naas and could run a huge race for the super shrewd Mouse Morris, who landed this Grade 1 prize with First Lieutenant in 2011.

The promising five-year-old made at least two momentum stopping mistakes at Naas and may have given Gordon Elliott’s exciting prospect much more to think about with a clear round. He beat a subsequent dual scorer – namely Eclair De Beafeu – when shedding his maiden tag at Cork in November and you can bet your last pound that he will be trained to the minute for this Grade 1 prize.

Brewin’Upastorm may have had Birchdale’s measure before coming to grief at the final flights of hurdles on Cheltenham Trials Day.

Olly Murphy exciting six-year-old travelled and jumped with ease that day and Richard Johnson was clearly keen to avoid being dragged into another 2 furlong sprint after placing fourth behind Champ in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle on his previous outing.

The form of his debut success at Huntingdon reads very indeed – second, third, fourth and sixth have all won since – and a truly run race will undoubtedly bring out the best in Barbara Hester’s promising son of Milan.

I suspect that Richard Johnson will be hopeful of getting a nice tow into the race and will then look to pounce on the long climb for home. He could easily reverse the Newbury form with Champ should the favourite expend too much energy early on.

City Island limbered-up for this contest with a smooth success at Naas.

Martin Brassil’s smart six-year-old accounted for subsequent dual scorer Dellas De Pictons at Leopardstown on Boxing Day and should be well suited to this two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Regular jockey Mark Walsh will continue in the saddle and the ground should be ideal for this promising son of Court Cave.

Beakstown changed hands for the princely sum of £440,000 following an impressive 3 lengths success at Turtulla in November 2017, and connections will be hopeful that he can land a blow tomorrow.

The scopey son of Stowaway hasn’t been seen since his smart Grade 2 success in the Leamington Novices Hurdle at Warwick in January, the same race that both The New One (2013) and Willoughby Court (2017) used as a launchpad to success in this Cheltenham Festival Grade 1.

Undoubtedly a chaser in the making, Beakstown displayed a smart a smart turn of foot at Warwick and will have learned plenty about his job in the process. Therefore he should not be dismissed as merely a chaser in the making.

Gordon Elliott will also field the intriguing Galvin, who is 5-5 under rules.

The Ronnie Bartlett owned gelding is yet to be truly tested over hurdles and undoubtedly faces his sternest test to date. It is virtually impossible to access exactly what he is capable of and he could easily outrun his generous double figure price tomorrow.

The locally trained Jarvey’s Plate ran out an impressive 13 lengths winner of Listed contest at Cheltenham on New Years Day, however, the form hasn’t worked out very well since and he was soundly beaten over the same course and distance on Trials Day. While Easy Game, who has plenty of experience and was last seen winning a Grade 2 contest at Navan in December, will represent Willie Mullins and Wicklow Bloodstock.

Bright Forecast chased home Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner Mister Fisher in Grade 2 company at Haydock in February and could easily find improvement over this intermediate trip. While Dunvegan, who made a sparkling hurdling debut at Fairyhouse in December, was disappointing when stepping in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and may lack the required experience to feature here.

Castlebawn West will have to improve from his maiden success at Leopardstown over Christmas. While Notebook, who could only finish second in Grade 3 company on his latest start, will also need to find more.

Ask Dillon, who will provide Fergal O’Brien with a second string to bow, Valdieu, who tackles two-and-a-half-miles for the first time, and Seddon, who is a chaser in the making, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Both Champ and Battleoverdoyen command the utmost respect and could easily fight out the finish, however, this appears to be a very good renewal of this contest and there are smart horses who are currently available at double figure prices. Beakstown was impressive when landing the Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January, however, he is most definitely a chaser in the making and may get tapped for toe. While Brewin’Upastorm, who would probably have beaten the well regarded Birchdale had he jumped the final hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day, is also a strong contender. However, it may pay to side with the Irish trained duo of CITY ISLAND and SAMS PROFILE. The former, who is owned by the sponsor of this race, hasn’t put a foot wrong to date and has the attitude required to go close in this contest. While the latter would have given Battleoverdoyen plenty to think about if jumping better at Naas and will have been trained to the minute by the very shrewd Mouse Morris. They should both flourish in a strongly run race.

⚪️

2.10 – RSA NOVICES’ CHASE (Grade 1) 3m80y

Santini has endured a less than ideal preparation for this contest having missed his intended prep run in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase as a result of the infamous equine flu outbreak before losing a shoe during a racecourse school at Newbury 10 days ago.

The scopey son of Milan could only place third when sent off a well supported 11/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 12 months ago, but he has always promised to make up into a much better chaser and he ran a fine trial for this race when staying on resolutely behind the high class mare La Bague Au Roi in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day.

Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old will relish this test of stamina and is undoubtedly a huge player if ready to do himself justice. However, his stop-start campaign and lack of experience simply has to be a cause for concern.

Delta Work also missed his intended prep run on account of the unseasonably quick ground at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

Last year’s Pertemps Hurdle hero has quickly developed into a top class staying novice chaser this winter and is already a dual Grade 1 winner following impressive victories in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse and the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The spring heeled six-year-old accounted for subsequent dual Grade 1 scorer Le Richebourg at Fairyhouse and was more than value for narrow margin of success. While the manner of his comfortable 8 lengths triumph at the latter venue was made even more impressive by the fact that he suffered significant interference at the 5th fence and dropped to the rear of the field as a consequence.

Davy Russell has landed this race twice in the last six years – with Lord Windermere in 2014 and Presenting Percy in 2018 – and will be hopeful of bringing up the hat-trick tomorrow.

Topofthegame arrives here on the back of a fine second placed effort in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

Paul Nicholls’ imposing chestnut looked the winner approaching two out and perhaps would have won had he been delivered later in the contest. Therefore i expect that Harry Cobden will be under strict instructions to keep his power dry until after the final fence.

The talented seven-year-old, who placed second in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup on this day 12 months ago, gifted the field a 20 lengths head start on his penultimate outing at Exeter but still managed to finish second just 3.5 lengths behind JLT Novices’ Chase favourite Defi Du Seuil. Therefore he has solid form in the book and holds very strong claims.

Mister Malarkey has progressed with every outing this season culminating in a gutsy Grade 2 success in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot last month.

Connections thought long and hard about whether to contest this race or the National Hunt Chase before deciding that he deserved his place in Grade 1 company. Colin Tizzard saddled subsequent Welsh Grand National hero Elegant Escape to place third in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and Mister Malarkey could easily outrun his price if laying up with the principals in the early stages.

Now McGinty placed second behind Mister Malarkey at Ascot and could easily improve for this greater test of stamina.

The form of his Chepstow success was given a boost by the third placed Captain Cattistock, who scored at Exeter next time out. Stuart Edmund’s charge tends to run his best races during in the spring and he could easily run a huge race at a double figure price.

Mortal ran a good race to place second behind the aforementioned Delta Work in Grade 1 company over Christmas and could easily outrun his double figure price. While Drovers Lane, who steps back up in trip following a smart success at Cheltenham in December, will represent Rebecca Curtis, who landed this Grade 1 prize with O’Faolains Boy in 2014.

On The Blind Side got the job done in fine fashion at Kempton, however, his chasing debut at Cheltenham on New Years Day was far from convincing and he will have to jump much better in order to feature.

He schooled upsides the aforementioned Santini 10 days ago and his champion trainer wouldn’t run him unless he felt that he could be competitive. Therefore he could easily outrun his price.

While The Worlds End, who recored an impressive 25 lengths success at Cheltenham’s International Meeting in December, hasn’t been seen since his disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over Christmas and will have to improve markedly in order to trouble those at the head of market.

Drinks Interval, who hasn’t been seen since December, Count Meribel, who won over two-and-a-half-miles at Cheltenham in November, and Top Ville Ben, who failed to justify favouritism in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices Chase at Ascot last month, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Santini has endured a far from ideal preparation which rather tempers enthusiasm. While Topofthegame, who may have won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novice Chase had he been delivered later in the contest, is a big player for the bang in-form Paul Nicholls. However, they may struggle against last year’s Pertemps Final scorer DELTA WORK, who is already a dual Grade 1 winner over fences. Gordon Elliott’s classy six-year-old lowered the colours of Le Richebourg, who has won a brace of Grade 1’s subsequently, in the Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse in November and overcame early interference to record his second top level success at Leopardstown over Christmas. This has been the plan for a very long time and he will undoubtedly appreciate the recent rainfall.

⚪️

2.50 – CORAL CUP HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) 2m5f26y

Uradel was an eye-catching fifth at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and will represent the same connections as last year’s victor Bleu Berry.

The talented eight-year-old enjoyed a productive summer on the flat – including a second placed finish in the Cesarewich at Newmarket – and his fine run in the ultra-competitive Ladbrokes Hurdle suggested that this step up in trip will be right up his street.

Ruby Walsh will be in the saddle and a bold run can be expected.

Willie Mullins is also responsible for Kilultagh Vic, Wicklow Brave, Scarpeta, Bleu Berry and Calie Du Mesnil.

The former finished a close up third behind Gold Cup hope Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park and could be on a decent mark based on the best of his form. While the second named, who ran out an easy winner of the County Hurdle in 2015, is a fascinating contender over this intermediate trip.

Scarpeta, who ran a big race to finish fifth in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago, could easily go well over the same course and distance this year. While last year’s winner Bleu Berry will attempt to repeat the feat off a 5lbs higher mark.

The last named contender placed second behind current Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle favourite Dellas Des Pictons at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and runs off the same mark that he carries in Ireland. Therefore he may be handicapped to run a big race.

Brio Conti defied the odds when scoring at Ascot in February.

The lightly raced grey travelled powerfully throughout that two-and-a-half-mile contest and Paul Nicholls was quick to voice his opinion that he would strip fitter for that outing. The 10 times champion trainer won this race with Aux Ptits Soins in 2015 and sent out Topofthegame to finish second off a mark of 151 last season. Therefore Brio Conti could easily have a big say in this open looking heat.

Gordon Elliott has always held Cracking Smart in the highest regard and he could easily prove better than a mark of 150.

The Gigginstown House Stud representative missed the second half of last season through injury and returned to the track with a respectable third placed effort in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month.

The scopey son of Great Pretender landed a Listed contest before chasing home the classy Next Destination in both Grade 1 and Grade 2 novice company last season. He is undoubtedly a chaser in the fullness of time, however, he could easily make his presence felt over timber this spring.

The chief of Cullentra Stables will also be represented by Diamond Cauchois and Farclas.

The former hasn’t been seen for 321 days but will undoubtedly be trained to the minute for this competitive contest. While last year’s Triumph Hurdle hero Farclas was soundly beaten in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on his only previous start over this trip and has only beaten 8 horses home in 5 starts since scoring at last year’s Festival. However, he will have the handicap wizard Davy Russell on his back.

Vision Des Flos and Highest Sun will represent Colin Tizzard.

The former placed sixth in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle last March and has run a number of respectable races in defeat this season. He did, however, get his head in front in the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell three weeks ago and he could easily have a say back in handicap company.

The latter placed fourth behind subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Al Dancer at Cheltenham in November and got off the mark in comfortable fashion at Chepstow in February. The promising five-year-old is yet to test his stamina beyond two miles but his flat form would suggest that he could improve over further.

Canardier won over this course and distance at the Showcase Meeting in October and has been the subject of significant support in the last seven days.

The form of that contest was boosted by the runner-up Go Another One, who scored in Grade 3 company at Thurles last month. Therefore, Dermot McLoughlin’s promising novice – who is a half-brother to the formerly smart chaser Oiseau De Nuit – could easily be well treated off a mark of 137.

Erick Le Rouge arrives here in search of a five-timer and will be the mount of Chester Williams, who will take a handy 7lbs off his back.

The progressive five-year-old is hard to assess given his lazy style of running, however, he could easily run a bold race off just a 3lbs higher mark.

Burbank, who finished six places and 7 lengths behind Bleu Berry 12 months ago, could run well off a 2lbs lower mark.

Tully East landed the 2017 Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase and is interesting off a mark of 138. While fellow Irish raider Dancing On My Own was only seven-and-a-half lengths behind Klassical Dream in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and could find improvement over this intermediate trip.

Fan favourite Lil Rockerfeller placed second behind the aforementioned Vision Des Flos in the National Spirit Hurdle and went agonisingly close to landing the 2017 Stayers Hurdle. He is slowly creeping back down the handicap and could run well for a very long way.

William Henry placed fourth in this race off the exact same mark last season. However, he was pulled up on his only outing this season and therefore has questions to answer. While Ballyandy, who is already a Cheltenham Festival winner having landed the 2016 Champion Bumper, will run off the same mark from which he placed third in the Ascot contest won by the aforementioned Brio Conti last month. He will meet that rival on 5lbs better terms tomorrow.

Knight In Dubai will appreciate the recent rain and but is 4lbs higher than when being narrowly touched off at Newbury in December. While Apple’s Shakira, who was a disappointing 6/5 favourite in the Triumph Hurdle last March, may be suited by this step-up in trip.

Joke Dancer, who made a successful reappearance at Newcastle last month, Eragon De Chanay, who is 5lbs higher following his success at Wincanton three weeks ago, Oscar Night, who is without a win since November 2017, and Monbeg Theatre, who has undergone wind surgery since his latest outing, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Uradel could have plenty in hand and will undoubtedly prove popular for the powerful combination of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. While Cracking Smart and Farclas are also likely to attract support given their strong connections. However, Paul Nicholls was adamant that BRIO CONTI would come on for his latest run at Ascot and, if indeed he has, he may be capable of defying a 5lbs rise. The lightly raced eight-year-old has always been held in high-regard and tends to travel strongly through his races, which is definitely a positive in such a competitive Cheltenham heat. Nicholls won this race with Aux Ptits Soins in 2015 and sent out Topofthegame to finish second from a mark of 151 last year. Therefore, he knows exactly what it takes to be competitive in this race. While DANCING ON MY OWN, who has run very well behind easy Supreme Novices Hurdle scorer Klassical Dream on his latest two outings, should appreciate this strip up in trip and could run a big race at a double figure price.

⚪️

3.30 – BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (Grade 1) 1m7f199y

Reigning champion chaser Altior has extended his unbeaten sequence to 17 starts this season and will match the record of legendary staying hurdler Big Bucks if successfully defending his crown tomorrow.

Nicky Henderson’s pride and joy has barely put a foot wrong on the racetrack thus far, however, he did jump markedly left when landing the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last month, which would be of no concern at Cheltenham providing there is no sinister reason lurking underneath the surface.

That said, it may still offer the slightest glimmer of hope to his select band of rivals. However, barring accidents or injuries, it is very hard to see the champion being dethroned.

Min placed second behind Altior both in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and in this race 12 months ago and could be the one to take advantage should an opportunity arise.

Rich Ricci’s talented eight-year-old landed the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on his seasonal reappearance and was last seen cruising to victory in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown. He will therefore arrive in the Cotswolds at the top of his game and may pose the greatest threat to his old adversary.

Sceau Royal returned to action with a course and distance Grade 2 success over Simply Ned in November.

Alan King’s speedy son of Doctor Dino disappointed behind Altior in the Tingle Creek subsequently and looked to have been found a golden opportunity over hurdles at Wincanton last month but could only manage a second placed finish behind Paul Nicholls’ consistent second season novice Grand Sancy.

His potent turn of foot is seen to best effect on quick ground, therefore the recent deluge of rain is undoubtedly a negative.

Politologue could only finish fourth in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and is arguably seen to best effect over intermediate trips. While Saint Calvados, who landed the race in which Footpad fell on his seasonal reappearance, also has ground to make up with the favourite based on his 19 lengths defeat in the Tingle Creek.

Gods Own and Ordinary World finished third and fifth respectively last year and will do well to fill those places once again.

While more will be required of both Castlegrace Paddy and Hell’s Kitchen, who will represent Pat Fahy and Harry Fry respectively.

SUMMARY:

ALTIOR is head and shoulders above his opposition and should record his second success in this race barring accidents. Min has chased him home in both the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle and in this race 12 months ago and is a clear second best. While Politologue will be suited by the ease in the ground and could easily fill the frame if ridden for a place.

⚪️

4.10 – GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHASE (Class 2) 3m6f37y

Tiger Roll made a mockery of his opposition in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month and will arrive at Cheltenham fit and firing in defence of his Cross Country crown.

Gordon Elliott’s three time Cheltenham Festival scorer ran out out a smooth winner of this race 12 months ago before going on to claim a popular victory in the Aintree Grand National just four weeks later, and that will again be the plan for the loveable nine-year-old this spring.

Regular rider Keith Donoghue will maintain the partnership tomorrow and he is undoubtedly the one that they all have to beat.

Josies Orders and Fact Of The Matter were in receipt of 15lbs and 26lbs respectively when finishing ahead of Tiger Roll over this course and distance in November, but they will find it hard to uphold that form off level weights tomorrow.

The former is 4-7 in Cross Country Chases at Prestbury Park and rates a very solid contender for Enda Bolger, who has won this race no fewer than 5 times in it’s 14 year history. While the latter, who reversed the form with Josies Orders when victorious in December, is open to plenty of improvement given his lightly raced profile in this discipline.

Both warrant the utmost respect and hold solid place claims at the very least.

Auvergnat will provide the aforementioned Enda Bolger a solid second string to his bow.

The battle-hardened nine-year-old landed the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase when last sighted over Christmas and also boasts plenty of experience in the Cotswolds. However, his form figures of U4F4 fail to inspire great confidence.

Ballycasey made a promising debut in this sphere when placing fifth behind Fact Of The Matter in December.

Rich Ricci’s former Grade 1 performer conceded weight to the majority of his rivals yet wasn’t beaten far, and he has since returned to Cheltenham in order to gain more experience over these unique obstacles, which can only enhance his prospects.

The ageing will need to bounce back from a poor showing over the banks at Punchestown last month. However, he was found to be lame after that outing and could easily be overpriced as a result.

Jarob made a good debut in the sphere when placing third behind Josies Orders and Fact Of The Matter in November – one place ahead of Tiger Roll.

Gearoid O’Loughlin’s twelve-year-old received 25lbs from Gordon Elliott’s Grand National winner on that occasion and will therefore find life tougher off level weights. However, he could run into a place if replicating that effort.

Bless The Wings boasts a wealth of experience in threse contests and enjoyed a pipe-opener over hurdles at Navan last month. He could only finish fifth of seven runners in November and sixth of eleven runners in December, however, he could easily bounce back to form tomorrow.

French raiders Urgent De Gregaine and Amazing Comedy also have previous experience in the Cotswolds.

The former placed second in this race 12 months ago and will arrive here fresh having been off the track since October. While the latter was well supported when placing fourth over this course and distance in December. He may, however, struggle on these revised terms.

Former Grade 1 winner Tea For Two and the battle-hardened Aubusson will represent Jane Williams. While Ultragold, who is running here in preparation for Aintree next month, will represent Colin Tizzard.

The middle named contender boasts the most experience in this sphere but would be some way behind the other pair over regulation fences. However, all three look vulnerable against vastly more experienced rivals.

Vyta Du Roc is also a fascinating contender who lacks experience. While Punchestown specialist Hurricane Darwin was pulled up in this contest 12 months but is definitely worthy of a second chance.

Kingswell Theatre was successful over these obstacles in November 2017 but hasn’t been sighted since placing fourth over the same course and distance one month later. While Devils Bride, who was rated 159 at his peak but has shown little enthusiasm of late, completes the field.

SUMMARY:

Last year’s winner TIGER ROLL demonstrated his well-being when running out a comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month and it will take a very big performance to deny him tomorrow. Josies Orders, Fact Of The Matter and Auvergnat are all capable of running big races, however, BALLYCASEY may represent the best each way value given his impressive run in December when conceding lumps of weight to the majority of his rivals.

⚪️

4.50 – FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) 2m87y

Band Of Outlaws was propelled to the head of the betting following an eye-catching 4.75 lengths success at Naas last month.

Joseph O’Brien has been dominant in juvenile division this season and this promising son of Fast Company would undoubtedly be contesting the Triumph Hurdle but for the presence of his stablemates Sir Erec and Gardens Of Babylon, who both rate big players in Friday’s Grade 1.

The 93 rated flat performer barley jumped a twig on debut but has been much better on his latest two outings. He could easily be better than this grade and should therefore go close with J J Slevin in the saddle.

Fine Brunello, who placed second behind stablemate Fakir D’oudaries in the Grade 2 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day, will also represent the Melbourne Cup winning trainer.

The JP McManus owned juvenile placed fourth behind the above mentioned Band Of Outlaws on his solitary start in Ireland and it is obviously advantageous that he is proven at Cheltenham. Therefore he is definitely one for the shortlist.

Star Max, who is yet another contender from Owning Hill, got off the mark at Gowran Park last time out and could easily feature if taking confidence from that success.

Lethal Steps is rated 102 on the flat and has improved with each start over hurdles this season. The Cheveley Park Stud owned grey has been the subject of steady support in the antepost markets following a fine third placed effort behind two smart types when last sighted at Punchestown.

That effort came over a trip just shy of two-and-a-half-miles and this drop back to 2 miles and likely strong pace could easily unlock significant improvement in the four-year-old, who could have no better partner than the mercurial Davy Russell.

Top weight Torpillo will be suited by conditions but is certainly vulnerable to pacier rivals. While Cracker Factory, will also carry the familiar two tone green silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, was only one-and-a-quarter lengths behind Triumph Hurdle hopeful Quel Destin in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham in November.

The thrice raced four-year-old got the better of Gordon Elliot’s four-time scorer Chief Justice at Wetherby in early November and it is interesting that his canny trainer, who often does well with his juvenile hurdlers, elected to give him a prep-run on the All Weather as opposed to over hurdles – presumably with the intention of protecting his mark for this contest.

Belargus displayed very little in his first two outings over timber before getting off the mark at Ascot in January. He beat Zafar (second) and Beat The Judge (third) that day, who are both well regarded by their respective trainers. Therefore it would be no surprise to see this JP McManus owned gelding improve once again.

Beat The Judge made an impressive debut over Christmas before placing third behind Belargus at Ascot. He chased home the hugely impressive Fusil Raffles on his latest outing at Kempton and could easily be fairly treated off a mark of 135.

Maze Runner and Coco Beach chased home the aforementioned favourite Band Of Outlaws at Naas in February and could easily have more to come for Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott respectively. While Dogon, who was pulled up on his British debut at Cheltenham in January but shaped with much more promise on his second outing at Wincanton, could also find more for Paul Nicholls.

The Irish champion trainer will also field Ciel De Neige, who is yet to be seen since arriving from France and could therefore be anything at this stage. His form figures across the channel read 445 and the market may prove the best guide as to how he will perform.

Ian Williams will field Oi The Clubb Oi’S, who was a close up third behind Quel Destin in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster last month. While Chief Justice, who has undergone wind surgery since his latest outing, has plenty of experience and could easily run well at a price.

Our Power and Prabeni will represent Alan King and Charlie Mann respectively.

The former was 2 places and 5 lengths behind the aforementioned Fine Brunello at Cheltenham in January could easily put his previous course experience to good use. While the latter progressed from his debut third to land back-to-back races at Huntingdon and Doncaster, on each occasion pulling clear of the third with his main market rival.

Both could outrun their price.

Got Trumped finished fourth behind Surin and Gardens Of Babylon before placing sixth in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and could run a big race for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power. While Fanfan Du Seuil, who defeated the above mentioned Our Power at Exeter before placing second at Cheltenham in December, will represent Tom George.

Zizaneur, who is the most experienced runner in this field, has placed second on both of his British starts and doesn’t appear to be overly well treated off a mark of 132.

La Sorelita has been disappointing since arriving from France and will need to progress markedly in order to feature. While Fox Pro, who is yet to race in the UK, could be anything and represents shrewd connections.

Praceps was two-and-a-half-lengths behind the aforementioned Beat The Judge in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton three weeks ago and could be fairly handicapped off a mark of 129. While King D’argent, who is another contender to have had wind surgery since his latest start, was Dan Skelton’s only entry in this race and could run much better than his price would suggest.

SUMMARY:

Short priced horses don’t have a great record in this race, however, both BAND OF OUTLAWS and LETHAL STEPS hold very strong claims. The former would be a big player in the Triumph Hurdle but for the presence of his stablemate Sir Erec and looked to have any amount in hand when sprinting to victory at Naas last time out. While the latter appears to have been trained with this race in mind and will welcome the return to two miles and likely strong pace. Cracker Factory makes the most appeal of those at bigger prices

⚪️

5.30 – WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER (STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE) (Grade 1) 2m87y

Envoi Allen cost Cheveley Park Stud a cool £400,000 at the Cheltenham February Sale last year and will bid to claw back some of the hefty fee in this concluding Grade 1 contest.

Gordon’s Elliott’s imposing five-year-old has won all 3 of his starts under rules, culminating in a Grade 2 success at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

The striking son of Muhtahir is undoubtedly a chaser in the making and would certainly need a truly run race in order to be seen to best effect. Should he get that, his chance is obvious.

Gordon Elliott will also saddle Abacadabras, who was in the process of running a big race in the above mentioned contest before running out in the closing stages.

The Gigginstown House Stud representative landed a Galway Bumper in October and he could easily run a big race if everything goes right.

Blue Sari made a deep impression when readily sprinting clear at Gowran Park on Thyestes Day.

JP McManus snapped up the exciting four-year-old on the back of that promising performance and Willie Mullins feels that he is ready for this acid test despite his tender years.

Blue Sari will receive an 8lb weight-for-age allowance which can only aid his chances. And he could prove very hard to catch if displaying his potent turn of foot once again.

Meticulous and Sempo will represent Joseph O’Brien.

The former has improved with each start and was only one-and-a-quarter-lengths behind Envoi Allen when placing second at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. While the latter, who placed third in a very hot bumper over Christmas before bolting up by 15 lengths at Thurles, could easily run a very big race.

Master Debonair boasts form figures of 21 at Prestbury Park this season and the fact that Colin Tizzard has resisted the urge to send him over hurdles should not go unnoticed.

The well bred son of Yeats bumped into a more experienced rival at the Showcase Meeting in October before going one place better in November. The form of those contests have worked out well and the time off will have afforded him the chance to grow and mature both mentally and physically.

Tizzard has remarked that he is the sharpest horse that he has trained since the mighty Cue Card, who landed this race as a four-year-old in 2010 (40/1). Both his form at Cheltenham and his potential for improvement render him a very live candidate tomorrow.

Thyme Hill was only a neck behind Master Debonair in November and is also entitled to improve for that outing. While Cascova, who placed second in 1m5f209y Listed bumper at Prestbury Park on New Years Day, also has scope for further progression.

Ask For Glory ran out a very impressive winner at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National Day.

Paul Nicholls’ exciting recruit landed his solitary start between the flags at Bartlemy last May, and the manner in which he put the race to bed with 2 furlongs left to run at Chepstow marked him out as a well above average prospect.

There is little, if any, collateral form to assess but Paul Nicholls has only had 1 runner in the last 8 renewals of this race, therefore he must feel that Ask For Glory has the right credentials.

Flic Ou Voyou, who placed fourth on debut before snaring a brace a victories at Wincanton in November and December respectively, will also represent team Ditcheat. While Jelski, who also improved from his racecourse debut to land a bumper at Ffos Las in January, will also face the starter.

The Glancing Queen landed a Listed Mares bumper at Prestbury Park on debut before placing third behind David Pipe’s unbeaten performer Eden Du Houx in an traditionally warm contest at Ascot. She could easily go well at a double figure price.

Thor De Cerisy and Some Detail, who will also need to find significant improvement in order to feature, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

Envoi Allen is a top class chaser in the making and will appreciate the recent rainfall that will bring his stamina into play. While Blue Sari, who is Willie Mullins solitary representative this year, made a striking impression at Gowran Park on Thyestes Day and is very dangerous in receipt of 8lbs. However, the fact that Paul Nicholls has elected to run ASK FOR GLORY should not go unnoticed. The 10-times champion trainer has run only 1 horse in the last 8 renewals of this race, therefore this promising five-year-old must be showing his trainer all of the right signs at home. The winning pointer made a hugely impressive debut at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National day, where he cruised around in front before readily kicking clear with 2 furlongs left to run. He showed a fantastic charge of gear that day and clearly possesses plenty of stamina having won a 3 miles point on soft ground. Therefore he is a very solid contender for his bang in-form trainer.

⚪️

SELECTIONS:

1.30 – City Island 10/1 – 1pt each way

Sams Profile 12/1 – 1pt each way

2.10 – Delta Work 11/4 – 3pt win

2.50 – Brio Conti 14/1 – 1.5pts each way

Dancing On My Own 25/1 – 1pt each way

3.30 – Altior – No Bet

Politologue 25/1 – 0.5pt each way

4.10 – Tiger Roll 11/8 – 4pt win

Ballycasey 25/1 – 0.5pt each way

4.50 – Band Of Outlaws 7/1 – 2pt win

Lethal Steps 8/1 2pts each way

Cracker Factory 40/1 – 0.5pts each way

5.30 – Ask For Glory 9/1 – 2pts each way

⚪️

Image supplied by JTW Equine Images (JTWEquineImag).

All Images Copyright ©JTW Equine Images. All Rights Reserved, please ask them if you wish to use the images. http://tomwilliams275.wixsite.com/jtwequineimages