The feature race of Day Two at the Festival provided a wonderful story for all interested in sport, or for that matter anyone who just loves a wonderful fairytale. The Moore family’s pride and joy, Sire de Grugy, emphatically showed his class with a faultless round of jumping to earn a much deserved victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Bought for Mr Preston by his family for a birthday present, he was the owners first and only horse in training and my, what a journey they’ve had with the chestnut gelding with the big bold blaze.
All week Sire de Grugy had been weak in the market, but eventually went off the 11/4 favourite. Ridden by Jamie Moore in 22 of his 24 races, and to all of his 12 victories, the charismatic jockey has forged a bond with his charge reminiscent of any great partnerships; the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Alexander and Bucephalos. He is the apple of the eye for Jamie’s father Gary Moore, and in a yard not characterised by expensive Festival winners this really is a lovely story. The jockeys knew how much this meant to connections and received Jamie with a guard of honour. The crowd also showed their admiration, welcoming them into the winner’s enclosure with a cheer, the volume of which is rarely heard.
With two other favourites winning on the card this was a day of the punters getting their own back. Faugheen was impressive in the opener, forging clear under Ruby Walsh to repay the faith of punters at a short 6/4. This was the ideal way to start Day Two, and gave a much-needed positive mental attitude to those looking to claw back the losses of the first day. Later on the card Balthazar King defeated the brave Any Currency by a mere short head, another favourite bringing home the bacon at 4/1. After two days it’s fair to say that honours are even as we reach the half way marker.
Day Three promises to be equally as compelling as the two before. The feature championship race, the World Hurdle, is one of the most intriguing of the week and could be as competitive as the Champion Hurdle on Day One. With six top quality races it promises to offer exceptional sport, wonderful drama and some amazing stories.
RACE 1: JLT Novices’ Chase
The first race of the day off at 13:30 is the JLT Novices’ Chase over 2 miles 4 furlongs. A highly competitive race with the the best charges from England and Ireland, there are many with a squeak and the odds reflect this. Willie Mullins’ hand is three strong and a case can be made for each. Felix Yonger, second in the 2012 Neptune, is the pick for Ruby Walsh and will relish the return to a sounder surface. He has to have a very strong chance and is likely to go off favourite. Wonderful Charm is from the Paul Nicholls yard who, without a winner in the first two days, are due one. He has some great chasing form, and has an eight pound pull in the weights against Oscar Whiskey, who beat him by half a length at Cheltenham in December. The latter however is a shrewd operator over this trip, loves Cheltenham, and although his jumping needs to polish up a little he is am exciting charge at 6/1. Those looking for more value are pointed towards Tarquin Du Seuil at 8/1 who has solid form around Cheltenham.
Win: Oscar Whiskey, 6/1 EW: Tarquin Du Seuil, 8/1
RACE 2: Pertemps Network Final
Up next is the Pertemps Network Final, a handicap hurdle over 3 miles. With 24 declared runners it is the big lottery of the day, however there will be some juicy odds and an opportunity to try and land a gamble. Top weight Fingal Bay is a class above his opponents and a worthy favourite. He completed a very appealing return recently at Exeter, winning in good style, and should give you a good run for your money at 9/1. An alternative would be Josies Orders who, at the other end of the weights, looks an interesting proposition. Ridden by the capable Maurice Linehan, he takes an invaluable 5 pounds off his charges back which could be the difference as they approach the hill. At 12/1 he looks good value. Those looking for better value may look towards Lie Forrit who has be reinvigorated under the stewardship of Lucinda Russell. At 25/1, he could get your week back on track.
Win: Josies Orders, 12/1 EW: Lie Forrit, 25/1
RACE 3: Ryanair Chase
At 14:40 we have a real riddle in the shape of the Ryanair Chase. With 6 of the 12 runners having winning form around Prestbury Park, all of a sudden my way of whittling down the field has become even less useful. In recent history the race has been won by some classy sorts, and last year the excellent and sadly missed Cue Card was victorious over First Lieutenant. A case can be made for many of the runners. Boston Bob is a quality animal who was full of running when falling at the last in the RSA. This may be his chance to redeem himself at a tasty 10/1. Benefficient did what Boston Bob didn’t manage to do, winning the now JLT Novices Chase on this day last year and as such must be taken very seriously, and is an interesting option at 5/1. Dynaste has got his season back on track after flopping at last years Festival and is likely to go off the favourite, currently priced around 4/1. Aside of these runners, a case can be made for many others, including the very classy Al Ferof who has been tried at the highest level this year, and Hidden Cyclone, who has great form around Cheltenham and is fancied to go one better and get his head in front at an attractive 9/1.
Win: Hidden Cyclone, 9/1 EW: Boston Bob, 10/1
RACE 4: Ladbrokes World Hurdle
The feature race of the day is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. Off at 15:20 and over three miles, it is the championship race for staying hurdlers and will certainly be one of the most eagerly anticipated contests of the week. Star of the show is undoubtedly Big Bucks, victorious in this race no less than four times, a hero who racked up an immense 18 victories on the bounce prior to injury. A satisfactory return on unsatisfactory heavy ground back in January resulted in a third placed finish, however many question whether at the grand age of 11, the master will regain the regal heights of his former glories. Chinks in the old hero’s armour have also encouraged a competitive field to take their chance. At the fore is undoubtedly Annie Power, a super-mare in the making with a reputation that inflates with each appearance. Although untried over this distance, she was victorious around Cheltenham over 2 miles 4 furlongs in January on heavy ground and she has to be fancied to be there when the screw really turns. Hailing from the Mullins/Walsh team, there are many reasons to fear this new mare, who, at the tender age of six and five years younger than Big Bucks, surely is a name we will hear a lot more of in the future. Those looking for a little more value may turn to Medinas who won last years Coral Cup and is proven to stay over this trip.
Win: Annie Power, 6/4 EW: Medinas, 25/1
RACE 5: Byrne Group Plate
The penultimate race on the card is the Byrne Group Plate, a handicap chase over 2 miles 4 furlongs. As ever the art is to try and beat the handicapper and find a charge who has a little in hand, and as such any form on the course, distance and ground should be taken very seriously. Colour Squadron is the McManus choice for AP McCoy and has solid form around Cheltenham this season. He could well go off favourite at 8/1. Venetia Williams however has an outstanding record in the event with three victories in the last seven years and has three options this year. Her Shangani is fancied to follow up on his recent success and give her another victory at 16/1.
Win: Colour Squadron, 8/1 EW: Shangani, 16/1
RACE 6: Kim Muir
The last race on the card is the Kim Muir for amateur riders over 3 miles one and a half furlongs. Jockey bookings could be key, as we have seen inexperienced pilots cause havoc in recents renewals. Same Differnce was victorious in the contest last year and could go close again for the Nigel Twiston Davies yard who deserve a slice of luck. The pick however is Indian Castle who has some very solid form lines and an able partner in Derek O’Connor. At 6/1, he is a short price and is likely to go off favourite. Those needing to get their day back on track in grand style may look to the bottom weight, Problema Tic, from the shrewd Pipe yard and with little weight on his back.
Win: Indian Castle, 6/1 EW: Problema Tic, 25/1
All in all another mesmerising day of sport, with riddles galore and a case to be made for plenty of the runners. We haven’t been far away with the tips so far and managed to land a couple of victories yesterday with Faugheen and the juicy Whisper at 14/1 in the Coral Cup. A shrewd punt can be undone by a stumble at the last or being pipped a short head, but over 4 days luck will even itself out and we don’t want anyone feeling hard-done-by. Barry Geraghty recently pointed out the trick to winning round Cheltenham is to believe, truly believe, you’re on the winning horse and that you can’t get beaten. Whether circling at the start, watching from the armchair of yelling from the grandstand, this is a sound mantra, so keep faith in your charges and plough into Day Three.
by The Ferret
All odds supplied by http://www.paddypower.com. For more details on the festival, please check here: http://www.cheltenham2014.net/cheltenham-festival-race-calendar-2014/