2021 Cheltenham Festival: Friday

Frodon landed the 2019 Cotswolds Chase over the Cheltenham Gold Cup course and distance.

Friday Selection:

2pt win Zanahiyr in the 1.20 Cheltenham at 5/4

1pt each-way Champagne Gold in the 1.55 Cheltenham at 7/1 (6 Places)

0.5pts each-way Fifty Ball in the 1.55 Cheltenham at 14/1 (7 Places)

0.5pts each-way Gowel Road in the 1.55 Cheltenham at 16/1 (7 Places)

1pt win Torygraph in the 2.30 Cheltenham at 6/1

1pt win Streets Of Doyen in the 2.30 Cheltenham at 7/1

2pt win Bob And Co in the 3.40 Cheltenham at 5/1

2pt win Gabynako in the 4.50 Cheltenham at 11/2

1pt win Galopin Des Champs in the 4.50 Cheltenham at 8/1

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Live Antepost Bet’s:

2pt win Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 14/1

2.5pt win A Plus Tard in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 7/1

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1.20 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m179y

Zanahiyr has been warm order for this contest ever since his smooth 14 lengths romp in the Grade 3 Bar One Racing Price Boost Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November.

The Noel and Valerie Moran owned juvenile was extremely impressive on the clock at Fairyhouse, and he proved his tactical versatility when equally impressive in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

The chestnut son of Nathaniel won on decent ground on the flat and has been given plenty of time to freshen up following his three successful hurdle starts between October and December.

Jack Kennedy has elected to ride Zanahiyr over the well fancied Quilixios and 2 miles on Cheltenham’s new course should suit him well given that won over 2m2f at Ballinrobe in October.

The British charge will be lead by recent Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle victor Tritonic, whom is rated 99 on the level and is already 2-2 in this sphere.

Alan King’s four-year-old left it late on his hurdling debut at Ascot in January and took a giant leap forwards when scooting clear of eight rivals at Kempton in the manner of a very smart juvenile.

Those looking for crab the form will readily point out that Tritonic wasn’t overly impressive on the clock at Kempton and has beat the same rival home on both on his hurdles starts. However, he didn’t need to be overly extended when storming clear at Kempton and he can only beat those whom are put before him.

There is certainly room for improvement in the jumping department but it is well known that Cheltenham’s new course, which only has two flights of hurdles in the last 7 furlongs, places more emphasis on stamina than it does on fluent hurdling, which should suit this exciting son of Sea The Moon very well.

The unbeaten Quilixios is another big player in this contest judged on his hugely impressive victory in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month – a contest that has gone the way of smart horses such as Our Conor, Footpad and Sir Erec in the last nine years.

The Cheveley Park Stud owned four-year-old has won his four starts over hurdles by a combined distance of 50.5 lengths, and he proved a cut above Tuesday’s Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle runner-up Saint Sam at Leopardstown last month.

The well-build son of Maxios looks a chaser in the making and seemingly possesses both speed and stamina, which should see him run a big race under Rachael Blackmore tomorrow.

David Pipe has enjoyed a fantastic season thus far and a Cheltenham Festival winner would be the cherry on the top. The master of Pond House looks to have a lively contender for this contest in the form of Adagio, whom landed the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow when last sighted in January.

Rated 87 on the flat in France – Adagio made a successful hurdling debut at Warwick in November before chasing home the unbeaten Duffle Coat at Cheltenham two weeks later. He returned to Prestbury Park to score over this course and distance at the International Meeting in December, and that experience will stand too him in the heat of battle tomorrow.

David Pipe recently revealed that the gelded son of Wiener Walzer suffered a bout of colic following his Grade 1 success at Chepstow in January and missed a week of work as a result. However, he hasn’t missed a beat since that untimely setback and could easily launch a bold bid given his solid course form.

Haut En Couleurs won his solitary start in France and will debut for Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins and prominent owner Joe Donnelly.

The runner-up at Auteuil in October has not been seen since. However, the third placed Magic Dream, who was beaten a shade over 15 lengths, has won twice and placed second in three subsequent outings over fences, which is naturally encouraging.

Clearly connections feel that he is worthy of his place in this field and the market may prove the best guide as to how he will perform.

Tax For Max competed in both Group 1 and Group 2 company on the flat in Germany and is a half-brother to stablemate Tiger Tap Tap, whom placed ninth in this race in 2019.

The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned juvenile pulled like the proverbial train on his hurdling debut Fairyhouse last month when chasing home the unbeaten Teahupoo in receipt of 4lbs.

The Maxios colt did well to finish within 7 lengths of that rival given the way in which he travelled, and there is clearly potential there. However, he will need to settle much better here to stand any chance whatsoever of lasting home.

Historic Heart placed second behind the aforementioned subsequent Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle scorer Adagio, whom received 3lbs, over this course and distance at Cheltenham in December and could potentially outrun his huge price if replicating that form.

Talking About You has been successful four times from her ten starts over hurdles and she rattled-up a quick-fire hat-trick before succumbing to subsequent Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle thirteenth Her Indoors when last sighted in January.

Clearly improvement is required tomorrow, which seems unlikely given her exposed status.

VERDICT:

Quilixios ran out an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and will likely prove warm order given the success that Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead have already enjoyed this week. Tritonic was equally impressive when landing the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton and his flat form also make him a huge player in this contest. However, ZANAHIYR looked like a potential superstar when hammering Tuesday’s Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle runner-up Saint Sam at Fairyhouse in November, and he confirmed that promise when landing the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in December. The Nathaniel gelding was extremely impressive on the clock at Fairyhouse and proved his tactical versatility when triumphing in a slowly run race at Christmas. Therefore he looks very solid and can get favourite backers off to the perfect start on Gold Cup day.

1. Zanahiyr 2. Tritonic 3. Quilixios

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1.55 – McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m179y

CHAMPAGNE GOLD defeated two subsequent scorers when getting off the mark at the second time of asking and he ran a fine race to place third in the Grace 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan in November.

Henry de Bromhead’s six-year-old ran a mighty race to place second in the hugely competitive Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, and he is naturally entitled to improve with that experience under his belt, which makes him an interesting contender in this tricky contest.

Fifty Ball ran a fine race to place second in the Betfair Hurdle last month and he looks sure to go well off a 4lbs higher mark. While Gowel Road was successful on the very same card and looks to be progressing at a rate of knots.

Both sets of connections elected to sidestep the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with this race in mind, and both hold sound each-way claims for their very shrewd handlers.

1. Champagne Gold 2. Fifty Ball 3. Gowel Road

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2.30 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m7f213y

Ronnie Bartlett is yet to win the race that he sponsors but seems to have his best chance to date with the promising Stattler, whom shed his maiden tag at the second time of asking and was far from disgraced when placing third in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

That race was contested over 2m6f and Danny Mullins was keen to ensure that it was good test of stamina by jumping off sharply and attempting to make all. However, he couldn’t run the sting of out of stablemate Gaillard Du Mesnil, whom chased home Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday, and was headed by the promising grey Gentlemansgame in the shadows of the post.

Stattler defeated yesterday’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle sixth Glens Of Antrim when successful at Leopardstown in December and he shapes as though the extra yardage tomorrow will be right up his street.

Willie Mullins has bagged this Grade 1 contest twice in the last four years, firstly with subsequent Stayers Hurdle hero Penhill and latterly with the hugely exciting Monkfish, whom landed a stellar renewal 12 months ago. Therefore the Irish champion trainer knows exactly what is required.

Fakiera has shaped as though trip will suit on many occasions this winter, and his vast experience should stand too him a race that often goes the way of a battle-hardened campaigner.

Indeed, the promising son of Cokoriko tends to do his best work in the finish and again ran on strongly when placing fourth in the aforementioned Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, finishing just 2 lengths adrift of the above mentioned Stattler in spite of being one of the first off the bridle.

Fakiera’s defeat of Fire Attack, Champagne Gold and Farouk D’Alene in the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle looks like a decent piece of form and his pleasing profile has not gone unnoticed by the masses, with his price for this contest slowly contracting over the course of the last few months.

Decent ground should not be an issue and he looks tailor made for the demands of Cheltenham’s new course, which has a nice long straight in which he will be able to reach top gear.

Paul Nicholls and Andy Stewart teamed up to land 4 Stayers Hurdle crowns with the legendary Big Bucks, and the pair look to have another promising young stayer on their hands in the form of Barbados Buck’s, whom is out of a half-sister to the champion stayer.

The promising son of Getaway split stablemate Skatman (whom made a successful hurdling debut at Musselburgh two weeks ago) and smart novice chaser Lieutenant Rocco when placing second on his solitary start between the flags before disappointing in a brace of heavy ground bumpers at Cheltenham and Wincanton respectively. However, he improved to place second behind an experienced rival on his hurdling debut at Stratford in October, and he has won his three subsequent starts in very taking fashion.

Barbados Buck’s comfortably reversed that form when stepping up to 3 miles next time out and the runner-up of that contest has also won since. Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old successfully conceded a penalty to another subsequent scorer – namely Fantastikas – at Southwell in December, when displaying a good attitude and plenty of stamina.

Barbados Buck’s successfully conceded a double penalty on his latest outing at Kempton when again jumping well and picking-up nicely on the run-in. His form, experience, neat jumping, reserves of stamina and his ability to handle decent ground makes him a solid proposition. He therefore holds leading claims.

Stablemate Threeunderthrufive is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles and also brings solid form to the table.

The McNeil Family owned six-year-old bumped into the 140 rated hurdler Kid Commando on his bumper debut at Fontwell in 2019, but duly obliged on his next outing at Chepstow two months later. However, he always looked to type to improve for jumping, and his record this season speaks for itself.

The promising son of Shantou won his first two starts over intermediate trips before stepping-up to 3 miles at Musselburgh last month, when successfully conceding 8lbs to subsequent scorer Fantastikas, whom had finished second behind the aforementioned Barbados Buck’s on his previous start at Southwell.

Threeunderthrufive could be anything at this stage and is naturally open to further improvement over staying trips. Therefore he could easily outperform market expectations.

Torygraph defeated a subsequent dual scorer when stepping-up to 3 miles at Fairyhouse in December, and he improved his record over the trip when successful at Thurles in January.

The Gigginstown House Stud owned six-year-old is clearly improving over staying trips and his four runs in bumpers should stand to him in this contest. Therefore he is an intriguing contender whom may be well suited by the demands of this race.

Fergal O’Brien is enjoying a fantastic season to date and a maiden Cheltenham Festival success would be the icing on the cake. Alaphilippe will attempt to provide the local handler with his breakthrough success in this open looking Grade 1 contest, and connections will be encouraged by his runaway success in the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock last month.

The rapidly progressive seven-year-old seemingly relished the step-up to 3 miles at Haydock last month and is now 4-5 under rules, with his solitary defeat coming against a similarly promising rival whom received 4lbs and had won his solitary point-to-point and only previous run on the racetrack.

Brindisi Breeze (2012) is the only horse to have completed the Prestige Novices’ Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle double, suggesting that winning the these two races in such quick succession is no mean feat. Indeed, last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar could only finish fifth in this contest after tasting victory at Haydock in 2019, which further supports that suspicion.

On a more positive note, Alaphilippe had five runs in Irish point-to-point’s and will therefore arrive a Prestbury Park with 10 runs under his belt which, as alluded to previously, I’d be beneficial in a race that often rewards experience.

Yet to encounter good ground, the Morozov gelding’s solitary success between the flags came on yielding ground, which provides hope that he will handle conditions.

Adrimel shaped like a stayer when landing the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January and he will put his unbeaten hurdling record on the line in this Grade 1 contest.

Indeed, the promising six-year-old’s solitary defeat to date came in the Champion Bumper last March, and the form of his penultimate outing at Haydock reads well as the runner-up, namely Grumpy Charley, won three of his next four starts before placing sixth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday.

The form of his Warwick success also looks solid as the fourth and fifth won next time out. However, there are questions marks hanging over the current form of his yard (0-31 over the last 47 days at the time of writing) and his ability to handle decent ground, as he is yet to encounter a surface quicker than soft.

The Cob was supplemented for this Grade 2 contest after running out an easy 9 lengths winner of the Grade 2 River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in January, and he could get involved if handing these quicker conditions.

Ben Pauling’s seven-year-old has won three of his last four starts and remains unexposed over staying trips. Therefore he could easily outperform market expectations.

Vanillier had the aforementioned Stattler back in third when shedding his maiden tag at Naas in November and he appeared to relish the step-up in trip when staying-on doggedly behind the well regarded Farouk D’Alene in Grade 2 company at Limerick in December – beaten just three-quarters-of-a-length.

The grey son of Martaline could only place tenth of thirteen in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, however, he could easily run well here if bouncing back to form.

N’golo has won three of his seven starts over hurdles thus far and placed third in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November. However, he has failed to beat a solitary rival home in two subsequent starts (9/9 & 13/13).

The Rich Ricci owned grey has often shaped as though he will be suited by a sterner test of stamina, however, it’s quite a leap going straight from 2 miles to 3 miles, therefore he isn’t a certain stayer.

The progressive Streets Of Doyen landed 4 consecutive races within 26 days before being put away for his winter break. The final success in that sequence came at Cheltenham in October when staying-on well to secure a three-and-a-half-lengths verdict under Richard Johnson.

John McConnell’s seven-year-old enjoyed a pipe-opener over 2 miles at Naas three weeks ago and will appreciate the decent ground that he will encounter tomorrow given that all five of his previous career victories have been achieved on a sound surface. While his vast experience is often an advantage in this contest.

Oscar Elite was successful on his first two starts over hurdles before proving no match for the aforementioned Adrimel in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle (2m5f) at Warwick in January. While Champagnesuperover, whom looks a chaser in the making, could improve for this distance but may want the ground a touch softer.

Castle Robin was successful over 2m5f at Cheltenham in November and again ran well when placing second, conceding 11lbs to the winner, over the same trip at Ascot in December.

The intriguing son of Robin Des Champs ran a fine race to place sixth in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton and was far from disgraced when placing third behind The Cob at Doncaster in January. Better ground will be in his favour and he boasts experience as a second season novice, which is often advantageous in this race.

Charlie Longsdon’s six-year-old has something to find on official ratings, but he could easily outperform market expectations given his solid form/experience.

Pat’s Fancy placed second in Grade 2 company over this course and distance in December and is perhaps a touch overpriced.

The Rebecca Curtis trained six-year-old was pulled-up behind The Cob at Doncaster in January and clearly needs to bounce back to the form of his Cheltenham effort. He handled good ground when placing second in his solitary point-to-point and can call upon the assistance of top jockey Rachael Blackmore, which is clearly a positive.

Ask A Honey Bee was one-and-a-half-lengths behind Pat’s Fancy at Cheltenham in December and also pulled-up at Doncaster in January, therefore they boast a very similar profiles. While Beatthebullet defeated a subsequent scorer at Hereford in November before placing sixth behind the aforementioned Alaphilippe in the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock, and he may struggle to reverse that form.

VERDICT:

Stablemates Barbados Buck’s and Threeunderthrufive have the potential to improve further and may well be up to this grade. While Stattler and Fakiera are closely matched on their form in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown. However, it may pay to side with TORYGRAPH, whom has solid form in the book and looks a thorough in the making, and STREETS OF DOYEN, whom defeated yesterday’s Stayers Hurdle hero Flooring Porter at Gowran park in October. The former remains open to significant improvement and seemingly possess the physical and mental attributes required to land this prize. While the latter proved his effectiveness at Cheltenham when defeating two subsequent scorers at the Showcase Meetings in October, and his vast experience – and indeed the decent ground – should see him run well.

1. Torygraph 2. Streets Of Doyen 3. Barbados Bucks

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3.05 – Wellchild Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m2f70y

The hat-trick seeking Al Boum Photo had the chance to create history, and it’s very much a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ when it’s comes to his Gold Cup preparation.

Al Boum Photo kick-started the new year with a victory at his beloved Tramore and will arrive at Prestbury Park fresh and well once again. His first success was achieved in a truly run race, and he overcame a distinct lack of pace when triumphing 12 months. Therefore he is tactically versatile and, unlike many Gold Cup winners, has very few miles on the clock, which means plenty when competing at this level over fences.

If being named in honour 20 time champion jockey AP McCoy wasn’t enough, Champ further enhanced his already lofty reputation when flying home from a seemingly impossible position in last year’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, and he made a hugely encouraging belated seasonal reappearance in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on four weeks ago.

I’m fairly confident in saying that no horse has ever undergone a Cheltenham Gold Cup preparation consisting of a 3 mile simulated race and a spin over 2 miles at Newbury. However, the of the two confirmed both his well-being and form and will have put him spot-on for this contest.

That said, it does raise slight concerns over whether Champ will be able settle sufficiently in the early stages of the race given that he was allowed to bowl along from the outset at Newbury. However, the presence of Native River, Frodon and Minella Indo virtually guarantees a strong gallop from the outset, and that will undoubtedly aid Nico De Boinville in his quest to bottle Champ’s enthusiasm.

A Plus Tard may well go off favourite following the exploits of Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead this week, and last year’s Ryanair Chase third look a big danger to Al Boum Photo’s crown following his impressive success in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December.

A Plus Tard stayed-on powerfully to chin Kemboy and Melon in the shadows of the post at Christmas, and that form was franked when Kemboy landed the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

The Cheveley Park Stud owned seven-year-old hit the line hard on that occasion giving the impression that another 2 furlongs would be right up his street, which is very impressive when you consider that he had the gears to defeat red-hot Champion Chase third Chacun Pour Soi over two-miles-and-one-furlong at the corresponding meeting in 2019. And let’s not forget that he also ran out a 16 lengths winner of the now defunct Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m4f) in 2019, demonstrating his class and ability from 2 miles to 3 miles.

Indeed, Henry De Bromhead’s charge has plenty in common with 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John, who was also accomplished over shorter trips before gaining his crowing glory over three-miles-and-two-furlongs in the Cotswolds. Like Sizing John, A Plus Tard has solid form at Cheltenham and is completely unexposed over staying trips, and he too could prove to be the new kid on the block in the staying division tomorrow.

Like Al Boum Photo, A Plus Tard has been given plenty of time to recover from his exertions at Christmas and will arrive at Prestbury Park a fresh horse, which can only be positive. While his current rating is superior to many Gold Cup winners prior to landing Cheltenham’s prestigious main event.

Connections have rolled the dice with the hugely progressive Royal Pagaille, whom could have run in the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday. The Rich Ricci owned seven-year-old is 3-3 this season and turned what is traditionally a very competitive Haydock Grade 2 handicap into a procession when last sighted January.

The scopey son of Blue Bresil is a novice in name only, as he’s actually been jumping fences since March 2018 and already has 11 starts to his name. Therefore he possesses sufficient experience to contest a race of this nature and his rating of 166 puts him firmly in the mix. 

Royale Pagaille undoubtedly needs to progress again in order to feature in a race of this nature, and his low-slung way of jumping can lead to one or two heart-stopping errors on the way around. However, he is clearly at the peak of his powers at present and has earned the right to take his chance.

Santini ran a mighty race to place second in this race last year given that he would have been one the worst effected by the obvious lack of pace.

The presence of genuine front-runners this year will undoubtedly be in his favour. However, it is impossible to ignore that fact that he has been disappointing on each of his three visits to the racecourse this season and he is far from the easiest of rides, therefore Aidan Coleman, whom rode him for the first time in the rescheduled Cotswolds Chase at Sandown last month, will have his work cut out.

That said, Nicky Henderson’s stout staying nine-year-old has placed second at the last two Festival’s and will undoubtedly be coming home well when with a wet set when many are flagging up the gruelling Cheltenham hill. Therefore it would be far from a surprise were he to run into a place now sporting a first time visor.

2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River rolled back the years in the aforementioned Cotswolds Chase at Sandown and could easily run well again with that confidence boosting success under his belt. However, his victory in this race was achieved on hock deep ground which placed an increased emphasis on stamina, and tomorrow’s conditions may leave the stout-staying chestnut vulnerable.

That said, Richard Johnson has been very complementary about Native River in the build-up to this race and you can never discount a horse whom possesses the heart of a lion.

King George VI Chase hero Frodon is arguably seen to best effect at Prestbury Park and is certainly more than worthy of his place in this field. However, the 2019 Ryanair Chase winner was allowed to dictate matters at Kempton and his trusty partner Bryony Frost was able to slow the race down and indeed re-inject the pace as and when she liked – something that will not be possible tomorrow.

Clearly Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old stays three miles, however, his best form is arguably over intermediate trips and three-miles-and-two-furlongs at Gold Cup pace will certainly take plenty of getting – especially with a horse like Native River injecting pace from flag-fall. Therefore, others make greater appeal.

Minella Indo was a single figure price for this contest prior to falling in the Savills Chase at Christmas and failing to justify favouritism in the Irish Gold Cup last month, and although that can hardly be considered an ideal preparation, he is a horse whom appears to spark at Cheltenham and he may find further improvement over this stamina-sapping trip.

Henry De Bromhead’s talented eight-year-old caused a 50/1 surprise in the 2019 Albert Bartlett and almost doubled his tally of Cheltenham Festival victories in last year’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, when falling victim to the late rattle of the aforementioned Champ.

Minella Indo perhaps paid the price for taking on yesterday’s hugely impressive Ryanair Chase scorer Allaho a long way from home on that occasion, and he may still have triumphed had he jumped the last with any degree of fluency whatsoever. A combination of those factors is almost certainly to blame for his agonising defeat, however, it is also worth noting that he did pick-up again when Champ came surging past up the hill, suggesting that he was idling in the closing stages and was no spent force.

The Beat Hollow gelding won his first two starts this season, defeating last season’s impressive Kim Muir Challenge Cup hero Milan Native, whom received 5lbs and a 25 lengths beating at Wexford in October, before cruising to a Grade 2 victory at Navan in November. Those victories were sufficiently impressive to see him sent off favourite for his two subsequent Grade 1 assignments at Leopardstown, therefore it’s far too soon to write him off and he could represent good each-way value with Jack Kennedy in the saddle.

Minella Indo is returning to a track that he likes, and indeed plays to his strengths, and he may well have finished much closer at the Dublin Racing Festival had he not made a momentum checking error at the penultimate obstacle. Henry De Bromhead has suggested that more forceful tactics may be deployed tomorrow, and I would suggest that those whom pass him will know that they’ve had a race.

Kemboy was allowed to dictate in the Irish Gold Cup last month and he didn’t seem to enjoy his experience in this race 12 months ago. While Lostintranslation blew up after shaping promisingly in the Denman Chase last month and it’s hard to know what to expect of him tomorrow.

Both have questions to answer and are opposable given the strength of opposition.

The admirable Aso may struggle to truly see out the 3m2f trip. While Black Op has failed to fire in three starts this season and looks very unlikely to feature.

VERDICT:

Al Boum Photo will cement his place in racing folklore if he can land a third Cheltenham Gold Cup tomorrow, and he is clearly the one to beat on all known form. Last season’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase hero Champ made an encouraging reappearance in the rescheduled Game Spirit Chase at Newbury and he is undoubtedly a big player if his jumping holds up. However, A PLUS TARD was hugely impressive in the Savills Chase at Christmas and he is completely unexposed over staying trips. The Cheveley Park Stud owned seven-year-old bolted up in the now defunct Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase in 2019, and he again displayed his liking for the track when placing third in the Ryanair Chase 12 months ago. A Plus Tard hit the line hard at Leopardstown and he had the speed to defeat Chacun Pour Soi over 2 miles in December 2019, therefore he possesses a potent blend of speed and stamina not dissimilar to 2017 Gold Cup hero Sizing John. Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead are already enjoying a fantastic week in this Cotswolds, and they have yet another opportunity to make history in racing’s blue riband contest.

1. A Plus Tard 2. Minella Indo 3. Al Boum Photo

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3.40 – St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters Chase (Class 2) 3m2f70y

BOB AND CO looked better than ever when making a successful seasonal reappearance at Haydock last month, and he could prove hard to beat if in the same form tomorrow.

The vastly experienced ten-year-old readily kicked aside the consistent Wishing And Hoping and formerly smart The Worlds End on that occasion, and it’s a huge bonus that Sean Bowen can continue in the saddle.

Bob And Co underwent wind surgery prior to that success, and it’s fair to presume that it was a worthwhile procedure. The decent ground should not be an issue given that he won of good ground in France, and it’s worth remembering that Paul Nicholls has won this race twice in the last four years and four times in total, therefore we know that’s it’s a race that the eleven time champion trainer likes to target.

1. Bob And Co 2. It Came To Pass 3. Stayer Wallace

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4.15 – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (Grade 2) 2m4f127y

Elimay was a mere fourth string (on prices) for the Irish champion trainer when placing sixth behind Roksana in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle. However, she is very much Willie Mullins’ first string in tomorrow’s inaugural running of the Grade 2 Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, and understandably so given that she is 3-4 over fences and ran out a smart winner of the Listed Opera Hat Mares’ Chase at Naas last month.

The JP McManus own grey won both of her starts in novice company last season – at Grade 3 and Grade 2 level respectively – and she again displayed her ability over fences when chasing home stablemate Allaho in the Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles in January, when beaten 3 lengths in receipt of 2lbs.

Willie Mullins is well renowned for targeting mares contests at Cheltenham having plundered 10 of the 14 renewals of the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle and all five renewals of the Grade 2 Mares’ Novice Hurdle. Therefore this contest has most likely been Elimay’s target for quite some time.

Stablemate Colreevy is 3-3 over fences and booked her ticket for this contest when cantering to a facile 12 lengths success in Grade 2 company at Thurles in January.

The scopey daughter of Flemensfirth has always looked a chaser in the making and ran with great credit when palcing fifth in the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over a trip short of her best last March. She well and truly displayed her ability when landing the Grade 1 Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick in December, and it’s easy to see why connections have bypassed a much easier Grade 2 target at that same track in favour of this newly formed contest.

That said, Willie Mullins eight-year-old is undoubtedly seen to best effect on testing ground and quite possibly on right-handed tracks. Indeed, all three of her chase starts have come at right-handed courses, and she also has to concede a 5lbs penalty to all barring Elimay, whom will receive 2lbs, as a result of her Grade 1 success at Christmas, which will naturally make her task that much harder.

Shattered Love landed the 2018 Marsh Novices’ Chase over this course and (near) distance and will appreciate this return to two-and-a-half-miles following recent spins over 3 miles and 2 miles respectively.

The Gigginstown House stud owned ten-year-old chased home the aforementioned Elimay in the Listed Opera Hat Mares’ Chase at Naas last month and will be 2lbs worse off at the weights tomorrow, which is clearly a slight negative.

The decent ground is also a small cause for concern given that the daughter of Yeats hasn’t encountered anything quicker than soft ground since October 2019, and she is obviously vulnerable to improving young rivals. However, she clearly possesses plenty of back-class and could easily run well on a track that suits.

This trip may prove on the short side for 2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light, however, she looked as good as ever when scoring at Newbury in December and was far from disgraced when chasing home a peak Roksana over hurdles at Ascot.

Softer conditions would perhaps be preferable, but she has won on decent ground and possesses the class to run well.

Zambella boasted a perfect 3-3 record over fences prior prior to chasing home smart mare Annie Mc in Listed company at Warwick last month, and she is clearly open to further progression in this sphere. However, all five of her previous career victories have been achieved on testing ground, which is an obvious concern given the conditions that she will encounter tomorrow.

Moyhenna, Cabaret Queen and Salsaretta placed second and third and fifth respectively over this trip at Fairyhouse in January.

The former has since placed third in the Punchestown Grand National Trial but may prove vulnerable over this trip on better ground. While Cabaret Queen was the last of eight finishers in the Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park in January, however, she could bounce back on better ground if rediscovering the form that saw her place third in last year’s Galway Plate.

The latter, whom is arguably seen to best effect on testing ground, won her first 4 starts over fences before falling on her seasonal reappearance at Punchestown in November. She failed to beat a single rival home when beaten 46 lengths at Fairyhouse and now has something to prove.

Really Super landed the Grade 3 Summer Plate at Market Rasen last July and warmed up for this contest with a cosy victory in a ‘jumpers bumper’ at Lingfield last month.

Amy Murphy’s seven-year-old has something to find on official ratings but is clearly a smart mare on her day. She will appreciate the decent ground that she will encounter tomorrow and could easily give her owners, the White Diamond Racing Partnership 1, something to cheer about.

Cut The Mustard has placed second, beaten 16 lengths, behind Annie Mc at Doncaster, second, beaten 2.5 lengths, behind the aforementioned Zambella at Leicester, and third, beaten 7.25 lengths, behind Midnight Tune and My Old Gold at Uttoxeter in three starts for Paul Nicholls this season, and she will need to improve upon that form in order to feature in this contest.

Chilli Filli had Really Super back in third when scoring over 3 miles at Market Rasen in November and was far from disgraced when attempting, and narrowly failing, to concede 4lbs to Nicky Richards’ talented mare My Old Gold at Carlisle next time out.

Henry Daly’s seven-year-old is another capable mare on her day and she could easily outperform market expectations if non the worse for her fall behind the aforementioned Annie Mc at Doncaster in December.

VERDICT:

Shattered Love landed the 2018 Marsh Novices’ Chase over this course and distance and has been in good form of late. While 2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light could easily run well on ground that will suit. However, it’s very hard to oppose ELIMAY after Allaho boosted her form in such commanding fashion yesterday. The JP McManus owned grey was in receipt of 2lbs when chasing home Allaho at Thurles in January and she made light work of Shattered Love in the Listed Opera Hat Mares’ Chase at Naas last month. Willie Mullins has won 14 of the 20 mares races that have been contested at the Cheltenham Festival, and he can take the inaugural running of this Grade 2 contest.

1. Elimay 2. Shattered Love 3. Magic Of Light

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4.50 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m4f56y

This is always a tricky puzzle to solve and there are many form lines of interest. However, the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle may prove the best line to follow given that the winner, Bob Olinger, bolted-up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday, and the runner-up, Blue Lord, would have been a good second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday had he not fallen at the final flight of hurdles.

GABYNAKO was the third home on that occasion and and it’s interesting that connections elected to drop him back to 2 miles on his handicap debut at Leopardstown last month, which possibly suggests that they wanted their charge to gain valuable handicap experience without risking his mark in the process.

A bad mistake at the second ensured that Gabynako wasn’t going to trouble the judge and he was allowed to coast around thereafter. He remains unexposed after just two outings over this trip and the drying ground may also be in his favour.

Narrowly defeated by Eskylane and then Fakiera on his first two starts over hurdles, Gavin Cromwell’s six-year-old ran out a ready winner at Naas in November and again ran well when chasing home Ashdale Bob and old adversary Fakiera in Grade 2 company at Navan in December, which is another piece of valuable graded form.

The talented Conor McNamara will be in charge of the steering and a mark of 141 may be fair judged on his promising effort behind Bob Olinger and Blue Lord at Naas. Therefore he makes plenty of appeal.

GALOPIN DES CHAMPS was turned over at a shade of odds-on on his Irish debut at Gowran Park in November and was found to have a fibrillating heart when pulled-up on his penultimate outing at Limerick, when sent off an even money favourite in Grade 2 company.

However, he shaped with distinct promise when placing sixth behind stablemate and subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle scorer Appreciate It in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, and he looks sure to improve for this step-up in trip. Therefore he is worthy of support too.

1. Gabynako 2. Galopin Des Champs 3. Gentlemen De Mee

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