1.30 NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANGEMENT NOVICES’ HURDLE
Nichols Canyon – Decent Flat performer achieving a rating of 104 when finishing second in a Group 3 for John Gosden 17 month ago. Three from four for Willie Mullins over hurdles the only blip coming when unseating rider early on at Leopardtown. Made all to beat high-class field of novices in Grade 1 last time and worthy favourite.
Parlour Games – Another decent recruit from the Flat who was impressive in wiining Cheltenham Grade 2 in November before following up in Newbury’s Grade 1 Challow Hurdle. Was beaten at 1-5 in a Stratford novice hurdle last July and only beat four home in the Galway Hurdle so capable of the odd bad run. Travels well and has good turn of foot but may be suspect in a battle up the Cheltenham hill.
Windsor Park – Beaten by Outlander and Nichols Canyon last two starts but will almost certainly be better suited by good ground so chance of turning the tables on those two although looks short enough around the 9-2 mark
Outlander – Won three bumpers before finishing sixth behind The Liquidator in Punchestown Grade 1. Two from three over hurdles and gained revenge for neck defeat by Martello Tower by beating that horse over three lengths in Leopardstown Grade 2 with Windsor Park back in fourth. Leading player.
Vyta Du Roc – Narrow winner at both Cheltenham and Sandown before going down by a neck to Parlour Games at Newbury. Needs to improve on what he has achieved so far against a strong Irish team.
Beast Of Burdon – Beaten at odds on in first start over hurdles but got off the mark in weak Ffos Las contest before easily outpointing decent chaser Mendip Express in four-runner Bangor affair. Plenty to prove in this class.
Ordo Ab Chao – Easy winner of two novice hurdles at Huntingdon before well behind Vyta Du Roc at Sandown. Proved that run all wrong when getting the better of favourite Value At Risk last time but this is much tougher.
Conclusion – This one looks to be heading the way of the Irish and hard to fault the form of the ex John Gosden inmate Nichols Canyon who can supply the combination of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh with yet another festival winner.
1 Point Win Nichols Canyon 9-2 (888sport)
2.05 RSA CHASE
Don Poli – Easy winner of Martin Pipe at last year’s festival before finishing second to Beat That at Punchestown. Winner over an inadequate 2m 4f on fencing debut at Gowran before impressive in taking Leopardstown Grade 1 over Christmas. Tall reputation as potential Gold Cup horse for the future but short enough at 7-4 with just two chase starts to his name.
Kings Palace – Good staying novice hurdler who is three from three over fences, two of those at Cheltenham where jumped like an old hand. Only blot came in the Albert Bartlett 12 months ago when falling at the final flight when well beaten but has since had a breathing operation. Massive chance is forgiven that one poor run.
The Young Master – Done nothing but improve since going over fences and unlucky to have been disqualified when not qualified to run in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton last November where the horse ran out an easy seven length winner. Gained some compensation by taking a valuable Ascot contest on his next start when beating Houblon Des Obeaux two and a half lengths but was in receipt of 17lb from the Gold Cup outsider and probably need to improve again in this company.
Southfield Theatre – Beaten a nose in the Pertemps Final at last year’s festival and four wins from five starts since, the last four in novice chases. Excuse for Newbury defeat in November as small field and soft ground didn’t play to the seven-year-olds strengths. Looks sure to run his usual game race and was our each-way ante-post advice at 20-1 several weeks ago
If In Doubt – Ran out an easy winner of Doncaster’s Skybet Chase in January but still has plenty to learn about the art of jumping and needs to put those mistakes behind him if he is stand any chance in this company.
Wounded Warrior – Very much the owner’s second-string but deserves to take his chance based on Grade 2 Naas victory in January. Will do well to make the frame and may have had a better chance if going for original target, Tuesday’s National Hunt Chase.
Apache Jack – Good third in last year’s Albert Bartlett but only one from three over fences and ran a stinker in Navan Grade 2 last time and looks out of depth here unless better ground brings improvement.
Conclusion – Don Poli is regarded as one of the week’s bankers by many but is short enough after just two starts over the bigger obstacles while Kings Palace has been allowed to dominate small fields so far. The Young Master is stepping up in class after competing in handicaps and the value may still lie with our ante-post selection Southfield Theatre who shouldn’t be far away granted a clear round.
1 Point each-way Southfield Theatre 15-2 (Paddy Power)
2.40 CORAL CUP
Aux Ptits Soins – Debut for Paul Nicholls after three run in native France and could be thrown in off a mark of 139 but impossible to evaluate. No surprise to see the five-year-old go close although bookmakers are taking no chances at a top price 8-1.
Activial – Good novice last season and third in two valuable handicaps this season at Ascot and Newbury. Does not look particularly well handicapped off a mark of 147 but virtually guaranteed to be there or thereabouts.
Blackmail – unexposed hurdler who looks to have been laid out for this by shrewd trainer but vulnerable to something better handicapped.
Marinero – Stablemate of Blackmail and just creeps in off bottom weight. Open to plenty of improvement and hard to assess after just three starts over hurdles, one of those when less than seven lengths behind douvan Punchestown.
Un Atout – fourth in 2013 Supreme Novices Hurdle but has had problems since winning at Punchestown almost two years ago and little encouragement in both starts this season.
Goodwood Mirage – Got no further than first in Betfair Hurdle but capable of going well for champion jockey as ground and fast pace likely to suit.
Taglietelle – Smooth winner of Perth novice hurdle last September before taking four runner Punchestown contest. Although last of four on most recent start not beaten far behind a decent horse in Plinth and no surprise to see run big race off current mark.
Dell’ Arca – Consistent form in this type of race winning Greatwood Hurdle in 2013 before finishing second in the Betfair Hurdle. Fifth in this race last year off a 3lb lower mark and has reverted back to hurdles after failing to get off the mark over fences. Capable of going well at a big price.
Conclusion – Activial has solid form but may find one or two too good once again as there are plenty of unexposed runners including Aux Ptits Soins. Marinero and Taglietelle but it could be worth chancing the David Pipe runner Dell’ Arca who has some good form in big field handicaps and could prove value at a big price.
1 Point each-way Dell’ Arca 33-1 (Ladbrokes)
3.20 BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
Sprinter Sacre – Considered unbeatable when winning the race in 2013 but has had well documented problems since suffering an irregular heartbeat in December of that year. Inconclusive reappearance at Ascot. Does he retain most of his ability or is he passed his best?
Sire De Grugy – Reigning champion who has also had his training problems but after falling at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance made no mistake under top weight in Chepstow handicap. Still not convinced Cheltenham is his course though despite last years win.
Dodging Bullets – Big improver this season but possible to pick holes in form as second and third in Tingle Creek well beaten since and Sprinter Sacre looked in need of run at Ascot after travelling like the winner for most of race.
Champagne Fever – Enviable record at the festival but failed to hold Western Warhorse in last year’s Arkle and will need to run way above that form to beat two previous Champion Chase winners.
Mr Mole – Massive improver this season but still showed mulish attitude at Newbury last time so is one to back in running rather than before the tapes go up. Capable of big run if in the mood.
Special Tiara – If there is to be a shock in the race this one is likely to provide it as this front runner could take some pegging back if getting into a good jumping rhythm, as was the case at Kempton last time.
Conclusion – With doubts surrounding all of the principles it could be worth chancing Special Tiara who can be quite spectacular when conditions suit and if able to dominate may take some catching.
1 Point each-way Special Tiara 25-1 (Generally)
4.00 GLENFARCLAS HANDICAP CHASE
Any Currency – Short head behind Balthazar King in this race last year and went one better when winning over course and distance at Open meeting but 17lb higher than 12 months ago. Sure to be thereabouts again though in a race that suits.
Duke Of Lucca – Unseated rider as the 5-1 favourite behind Any Currency in December but enjoys a 9lb pull and this has been the horse’s target for some time. Fourth last year and weighted to go close.
Toutancarmont – French challenger who has a 50% strike rate over fences and could easily turn out to be better than these. Fell when odds on for a similar contest latest but normally a safe jumper and big player.
Sire Collonges – Amazingly last eleven starts have all been at Cheltenham and won twice including when beating Any Currency by half a length over course and distance in December 2013 and a massive 16lb better off. Third with Any Currency fourth in similar race last November and should confirm that form on tomorrow’s terms.
Quantitativeeasing – Should finish closer to Any Currency than when beaten sixteen lengths by that horse in December without overturning form.
CONCLUSION – Most of these have taken each other on several times and it could be worth taking a chance on French challenger Toutancarmont who has strong form in this sphere in his native country and may be underestimated.
1 Point each-way Toutancarmont 7-1 (Generally)
4.40 FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE
A field of 22 unexposed juvenile hurdlers makes for an impossible to solve conundrum in which any amount can be fancied including Hostile Fire, Arabian Revolution and Zarib who were all successful on their most recent starts but at the 16-1 generally available the one who appeals most is the Donald McCain-trained Starchitect. The trainer has sent a smaller than usual squad to Prestbury Park and rates the son of Sea The Stars as his best chance of a winner and It’s easy to see why. Easy winner of his first two starts over hurdles Starchitect has bumped in two leading Triumph Hurdle contenders on his most recent starts finishing second to Peace And Co at Doncaster and Hargam at Musselburgh. Unlikely to come up against anything of that calibre here and 133 looks a decent enough mark.
1 Point each-way Starchitect 22-1 (Coral)
5.15 WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER
A race that makes little appeal as a betting medium as past results show this to be a race virtually impossible to solve with a history of long priced winners. The fact that leading trainer Willie Mullins runs seven suggests that even he is in the dark regarding which of his string are likely to come to the fore and for those who must have a bet the tentative selection is the Philip Hobbs-trained Wait For Me. Selected by Hobbs as one of his best chances of a winner this week the son of Saint Des Saints made an impressive winning debut at Ascot last month, always travelling well and quickening clear in the closing stages.
Recommendation – 1 Point each-way Wait For Me 12-1 (Generally)