Day two was all about the English and the punters. The bookies were hit for six in almost every contest – every good thing that shortened did so with menacing momentum, and there’s no doubt about who was licking their wounds on Wednesday evening. Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies had a double together, and a third win for Nicholls and a further victory for David Pipe with the extremely impressive Moon Racer in the last meant the British evened things up against the Irish, who were so impressive in Day One.
Sadly for us racing fans, the feature event, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, was a bit of a damp squib, with the big guns carrying lofty reputations misfiring. Whether it was just not a going day, or whether something more serious is the root cause, only time will tell. We mustn’t take anything away from Dodging Bullets, a Champion on his own merits, but the overriding aftertaste is one of anticlimax.
So what have we learnt from Day Two? Willie Mullins’ good things will continue to frank their promise, as when the hugely impressive Don Poli romped to success. Also that Lady Luck will continue to play her hand in an unpredictable fashion, as we saw in the Cross Country Chase as the favourite ran out carrying Quantativeeasing with him.
Day Three, typically the weakest in terms of quality, should be another excellent tussle between honest, faithful punter and the merciless, bloodsucking bookmaker (apart, of course, from Paddy Power – ed.). Let’s see if we can find the answer to the riddle.
First up at 13.30 is the JLT Novices’ Chase over 2 miles 4 furlongs. As with many of the novice races this week, the Irish look to have the strongest hand. Willie Mullins is once again well represented, and Noel Meade sends over a useful animal to bolster the invasion.
Preference is for Mullins’ Vautour, the impressive winner of last years Supreme and the class act in the race. At anything north of 2/1 it is worth lumping on and he should take all the beating.
There isn’t a huge amount of value elsewhere. Ptit Zig should chase him home, but is too short for any EW bets. Valseur Lido will so be there or thereabouts, but preference is for his stablemate.
The second race is the Pertemps Final over 3 miles, a ludicrous enigma featuring 24 handicappers.
If you’ve got any dollars left then you can back your bottom one that at least half a dozen of these horses have had this race as the target for a year or two and someone is trying to land a sneaky coup.
Nonetheless we will look through the mist to find our charge. Dawalan is a young horse with plenty of weight on his back, but he has class and much potential, and we feel therefore that he could represent value at approximately 16/1.
Other each way charges worth bearing in mind are Aqalim in the first time visor. A horse with useful form on his day, the visor should sharpen him up and he’s worth a few quid each way at 20/1. Unique de Cotte is a course winner with potential to exploit and could give a good show at 16/1.
Next comes the Ryanair Chase at 14.40. A high-class race with a good list of past winners, there is one horse that stands out above the rest.
Anyone who has flown with Ryanair will know that Michael O’Leary gives nothing away for free, and that will be the same case here as he greedily takes back the prize money he oh-so generously put up in sponsorship. Don Cossack has looked excellent this season over fences after falling at last years Festival and is tipped to roll like a good ‘un. Anything larger than 3/1 should be gobbled up like a fat kid with cake.
Those looking for each way value should turn to Johns Spirit, more at home at Cheltenham than tweed and pashminas. He showed this when he took the Paddy Power chase earlier in the season, and at 14/1 you know you’ll get a run for your money. At a higher price Double Ross has good course and distance form and has a squeak at a generous 66/1.
The Championship race of the day is the 15.20, the ‘Less-Good-Version-Of-Paddy-Power’ World Hurdle (aka, Ladbrokes). (OK, that’s enough sucking up to the sponsors – ed.)
Since the retirement of Big Bucks this race has lost its perennial hero. The result is less hero-worshipping, but much more competitive racing. This year it is a very competitive renewal with many horses in with a shout.
Those looking for a sure fire winner should side with Saphir du Rheu; winner over course and distance in the Cleeve Hurdle for the same connections as Big Bucks. Today will be his day and this favourite will roll in at around 5/1.
Blue Fashion is an intriguing runner for those looking for more value. In only two runs in the UK he has the prestige of chasing home our new Champion hurdler, Faugheen, and he could put in a bold bid at 20/1. Jetson is also of interest for minor honours.
The penultimate race of the third day, at 16.00, is the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Chase over 2 miles 5 furlongs. As another 24 runner handicap, there is once again a slice of luck and a dash of a lottery about the race.
Buywise looks extremely progressive and although he has limited experience, he has won over course and distance. He could be interesting at 7/1, but preference instead is for Monetaire who looks the classic Pipe sort for such an affair. The Pipes won the race in 2012 and 2014 and this chap has a similar profile. Impressive on his last start, he should be sided with at 7/1.
Elsewhere Un Ace is developing into a very nice chaser and should run well under the Champ. Rawnaq is interesting for the Irish and may give a little EW value at around 20/1.
Finally we have a good old chase for amateur riders. Over 3 miles 2 furlongs, the Kim Muir is always a little bit dangerous, and it is always wise to ensure your horse has an accomplished pilot.
Buddy Bolero looks like he could be coming back to his clever handler, and could give you an exciting final race at odds of 25/1. Gold Bullet also has a strong chance and should be kept onside; especially with Mr Derek O’Connor on board, a particularly able steerer. At 12/1 he should be there or thereabouts, but could go off favourite.
Day one was excellent. Day two was excellent. Day three will of course be excellent – this is the Cheltenham Festival, it’s all excellent! The battle will continue between bookie and punter, the English and Irish, in what promises to be more brilliant fun.
By The Ferret
Race 1, JLT Novices’ Chase (1:30) – Vautor @ 6/4
Race 2, Pertemps Final (2:05) – Dawalan @ 14/1
Race 3, Ryanair Chase (2:40) – Don Cossack @ 9/2
Race 4, World Hurdle (3:20) – Saphir du Rheu @ 13/2
Race 5, Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Chase (4:00) – Monetaire @ 15/2
Race 6, Kim Muir (4:40) – Gold Bullet @ 9/1