CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL DAY TWO SCHEDULE AND BETTING TIPS
13.30 - Ballymore Novices Hurdle
After some well-meaning late uncertainty, Envoi Allen was finally confirmed for the Ballymore by trainer Gordon Elliott on Sunday, after he walked the course at Cheltenham.
He is the most exciting horse in training, currently holding onto an unbeaten record and won the Champion Bumper at this meeting last year. The form of that race has been rubber-stamped emphatically since the cast returned this season to go jumping, and front and centre is this exciting Cheveley Park Stud-owned six-year-old.
A wave of money came for him last March and he justified the support, after being ridden with sheer confidence by Jamie Codd (four wide on the bends!).
This season he has won three-from-three over hurdles, two of them Grade 1’s. He’s effective at two-miles and two-four on any ground and this longer trip shouldn’t pose a problem. He can make the running or sit just off the pace. Effectively, the dream ride for Davy Russell.
In the likes of Abacadabras and Elixir D’Ainay, he’s already beaten some top performers this season at his leisure.
Anyone that cribs that Envoi Allen has yet to be really challenged will do well to revisit the Bumper here last March, when he willingly repelled Blue Sari in the final furlong. If anything’s good enough to truly engage him in a battle, the chances are he’ll be willing to go to war.
He’s the Irish Banker of Cheltenham 2020 and is expected to deliver for his supporters. All that being said, this is his toughest mission so far and Sporting John is a very viable opponent.
Philip Hobbs charge has done all that was asked of him so far in winning three times. He possesses a neat turn of foot and Barry Geraghty is very likely to try and fell the favourite late in the day with that pace.
An unbeaten record must go here and the JP McManus-owned runner won’t go down without a fight. He’s the clear next best.
The supporting cast is headed by The Big Getaway (Willie Mullins) and The Big Breakaway (Colin Tizzard) - not to be confused - horses which cost their owners the princely sums of £230,000 and ?360,000 respectively.
The Tizzard runner is also unbeaten and open to any amount of improvement here, while Mullins has won this race four times. For an alternative each-way option, Elliott’s second string Easywork wouldn’t look out of place in the frame here.
14:10 - RSA Novices Chase
This is a proper headscratcher and while there’s only ten in the field, you can give a fair chance to at least eight!
The only real starting point is Champ. He was fated to generate an awful lot of talk from the moment JP McManus decided to call him after the legendary AP McCoy and, like his namesake, this Champ hasn’t let anyone down in that regard.
He was second in the Ballymore here last year behind City Island, before gaining Grade 1 compensation over three-miles in fine style at Aintree.
Back this season to go chasing, he won his first two starts around Newbury though not without an odd bit of incident (Barry Geraghty nearly took the wrong course in the second win).
He also tended to jump his fences like they were a minor inconvenience to his progress and that would haunt him here on New Year’s Day. He was four-lengths clear and on his way to another win at the second last, when a calamitous error brought him shuddering into the turf nose first.
That’s either sure proof that he can’t be trusted to do a professional job in a race like this or, as Ruby Walsh has opined this week, the sort of life-lesson that no amount of schooling can buy for a horse and therefore a mistake he’s certain to learn from.
It’s a conundrum for punters, as Champ certainly has the ability to win this race if he’s got his mind on the job. The flip side is that he’s now taking on the best horses he’ll have faced.
Minella Indo won the Albert Bartlett here last year and there’s plenty confidence he can oblige again for Henry De Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore. He holds Allaho on their hurdles exploits last spring, though Willie Mullins charge is more than capable of improving here.
He was turned over at Christmas by stablemate Easy Game, though Paul Townend sides with the former now after Allaho won well next time.
Battleoverdoyen has sometimes lacked a bit of fight and is known to throw in the towel, while Kempton Grade 1 scorer Slate House doesn’t hold many happy memories at this venue.
The intriguing runner is Copperhead for Colin Tizzard’s yard. He’s rapidly improving over fences this season and put up a superb galloping display at Ascot last month, to win the Grade 2 Reynoldstown.
Some of these may possess a bit more speed, but nothing in the field is likely to stay longer and if Harry Cobden’s mount is on the premises at the second last, it will take a good one to repel him coming up the fearsome Cheltenham hill.
14:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
So arrives the first cavalry charge over hurdles, with a maximum field of 26 intended runners for this 2m 5f Grade 3 handicap contest. No favourite has managed to win this race in the last 12 years, so beware the market leader.
If you are looking to side with some stats, take a look at Davy Russell’s mount Black Tears for Gordon Elliott.
Russell is amongst the most gifted horsemen of his generation and he has navigated the traffic of this contest to win on three occasions since 2008, with the two most recent of those being for Elliot on board Carlito Brigante (2011) and Diamond King (2016).
Black Tears was close-up in fourth here last March in the Mares Novices Hurdle and her form this season is pleasing. She won at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival - enough to get a rating that would qualify her for this race - and was an eye-catching second under a patient Russell ride since, in a Grade 3 over 2m 4f at Punchestown.
A mark of 144 certainly puts her in the right place to strike and she’s a worthy contender at a fair price.
Nicky Henderson has landed this contest on three occasions since 2010 and so his trio of runners command attention; Birchdale, Burrows Edge and Dame De Compagnie.
Burrows Edge was flattered by the winning margin in the Lanzarote at Kempton last time but is still progressing and, of the other two, it has to be noted that Barry Geraghty sides with the potentially well-handicapped Dame De Compagnie.
Look out also for Cesarewitch winner Stratum, already a two-time hurdles winner and potentially slipping into this contest off a mark of 145 for Willie Mullins, with Robbie Power steering.
15:30 - Queen Mother Champion Chase
Just the six contenders left for the two-mile Championship crown, after the late news that Altior hasn’t recovered in time to run.
Nicky Henderson’s pride and joy would have attempted to become only the second horse after Badsworth Boy to win this contest for the third time, but he was facing his biggest challenge yet in the form of Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi.
Defi Du Seuil loves Cheltenham more than most. He’s won six times from eight starts and is a dual Festival winner already. This season he has pocketed the main trials for this event, the Tingle Creek and the Clarence House.
He was beaten last season by Chacun Pour Soi at Punchestown but that came at the end of a long season, while the Mullins horse was a fresh one at that stage.
That run set Chacun Pour Soi up as a talking horse. He had missed three years after being purchased by Rici Ricci from France, but won both starts last spring and started this season as ante-post favourite for this race.
He was then beaten by A Plus Tard (leading Ryanair contender for tomorrow) on his comeback at Christmas but has since won the Grade 1 Dublin Chase at Leopardstown, beating stablemate Min. Chacun Pour Soi is a superb jumper and that stands him in good stead for this race.
He may end up making this look a foolish assessment but, when all the jumping is done, I suspect Defi Du Seuil will have too much speed for him up the hill.
Good luck to Dynamite Dollars, Politologue, Sceau Royal and Bun Doran in their attempts to butt into this high-class argument.
16:10 - Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
"You come at the king, you best not miss." The French are here and they want Tiger Roll’s crown. Wanting it is one thing, getting it is another.
Gordon Elliott’s redoubtable superstar is seeking his fifth Cheltenham Festival win and a hat-trick in this unique test. He only had the 22-lengths to spare last season, before heading on to Aintree to win a second Grand National.
He is remarkable in every sense. His wins around here have ranged from two-miles to four, a Triumph Hurdle and a National Hunt Chase before he turned his eyes to this discipline.
Tiger Roll returned to action at Navan last month and looked good, a run that should leave him perfect for this. I don’t envisage him getting beat.
The big threat is Easyland, winner of a handicap over C&D in December and the rising star of this scene in France. He has since been bought by JP McManus. At six-years-old, he is entitled to keep on the upgrade but, off level weights, he needs another big step forward now that he’s coming for the king, as he currently has a stone and more to find on ratings.
Also of interest from the continent is Urgent De Gregaine, only beaten two-lengths by Tiger Roll in 2018 though much further back last year.
Might Bite, second in the Gold Cup two years ago, attempts this discipline for the very first time but has not shown any spark for a while, so each-way preference is for Yanworth, now trained by the one-time master of this race, Enda Bolger.
16:50 - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Band Of Outlaws justified favouritism in this race last year, but its worth noting that six of the last eight winners in this helter-skelter contest have started at odds of 25/1 or bigger.
The burden of favouritism this time around may rest on Aramax for Gordon Elliott and Mark Walsh. He was an emphatic winner at Naas last month and is joined near the head of the market by the Paul Nicholls-trained Ludlow winner Mick Pastor - both in the ownership of JP McManus.
Decent claims however can go the way of Repetitio, who kick-started his hurdles career with an August success around Newton Abbot. He was three times placed afterwards, including behind smart types in Nordano and Allmankind.
But it was his December victory over C&D that really makes him interesting. He beat off his elders to win that handicap and the form stands up to scrutiny since, with three subsequent winners and the runner-up Oakley having gone well in the Betfair Hurdle.
As such, a 5lb rise for Nigel Hawke’s charge is far from prohibitive and he’s one against the field here.
The Alan King-trained Blacko has won both starts in Britain so far and should also go on the shortlist for a race in which the home team has lorded it over the Irish, scoring 11 wins in 15 years.
17:30 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper
A straight choice for punters here, with the Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It already a short-priced favourite.
The yard has won this contest no less than nine times and big-race rider Patrick Mullins has exuded confidence in this contender.
He was beaten on his debut at Fairyhouse in December but has landed successive Leopardstown wins (2m 4f/2m) since, including the same Dublin Racing Festival contest that Envoi Allen won last spring before landing this race. He was, however, only the second favourite in 12 years to prevail.
In a field of 23, it won’t take much to go wrong for the price to look short enough about Appreciate It, but he’s undoubtedly the standard setter.
David Pipe is enjoying a revival this season and he has a pair of strong candidates in Panic Attack and Israel Champ. The latter is already a winner of two Listed bumpers, though this is a lot tougher, while Panic Attack was snapped up by connections of Moon Racer (won this in 2015) after an impressive Market Rasen success on debut and transferred to Pond House from the Mullins yard!
She is getting a lot of weight from her rivals as a four-year-old filly, but does lack the big-game experience.
Queens Brook was a £160,000 purchase and made short work of her rivals on debut at Gowran Park last month. She represents last year’s winning trainer/jockey combination and they also won with another, the fabulous Fayonagh in 2017, ensuring maximum respected is required.
Ireland has won six of the last eight renewals of this contest.
ALL ABOVE PRICES ARE CORRECT AS OF 12:30 10/03/2020 AND ARE SUBJECT TO FLUCTUATIONS
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