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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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