Day-one of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival belonged to the bookies, as 25/1 shot Labaik floored the fancied pair of Melon and Ballandy in the first race. The second race wouldn’t have cost many of them that much either as Altior landed odds of 1/4, though one leading bookies did lay one punter a bet of £400,000 to win £100,000. A gamble on Singfarmpayment was then foiled by Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Chase, whilst punters steamed into Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle only to watch him flounder as JP McManus’ other two runners finished first and second. Apples Jade also foiled the money for the Mullins pair of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in the Mares Hurdle, whilst not too many punters would have got out of jail on either Tiger Roll or Tully East in the final two races.
That’s not going to stop punters wading in again on day-two of the Cheltenham Festival, and many people’s idea of the Cheltenham Banker, Neon Wolf, runs in the opening race the Neptune Investment Novice Hurdle. That’s followed by the RSA Chase, the Coral Cup, the Champion Chase, Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle and the Champion Bumper, and we’ve analysis and tips for all of the races on day-two.
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle 1.30
· Ireland have had 6 winners, England 4 winners
· 7 winners have been aged six, three winners have been aged 5
· 7 winners won last time out
· Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins have teamed-up for four winners
· 9 winners were returned at 7/1 or less, the other was 20/1
· Winners last ran 28 to 77 days previously
Neon Wolf has won 3 out of 3 over hurdles so far, and he was backed from 3/1 to 4/5 when sluicing-up from useful yardstick Elgin last time at Haydock. His jockey Noel Fehily has said this horse is the one he’s most looking forward to riding at the Festival, and he has a great book of rides to look forward to, including Stayers hurdle Favourite Unowhatimeanharry, and he won yesterday’s Champion Hurdle. His main market rival is Bacardys, for the Mullins and Walsh combination, who stayed on well to win a valuable novice hurdle at Leopardstown last time in the style of a horse who looks sure to relish this trip on his first attempt at it. He’s also proven at Cheltenham having finished third in last year’s Cheltenham Bumper, when again staying on in the style of a horse who will be suited by stepping-up in trip. Neon Wolf and Bacardys tick plenty of the 10-year-trends and, as they’re the only two horses priced lower than 9/1, they could have the race between them. However, if you’re an each-way player, then Messire Des Obeaux could be a bit of value. He’s shown improved form throughout the season and, though he didn’t win last time out, he certainly wasn’t disgraced trying to concede the re-opposing Keeper Hill 8lb.
Win Bet: Neon Wolf @ 15/8 (Bet365)
Each-Way Value: Messire Des Obeaux @ 11/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places
RSA Chase 2.10
· England have had 5 winners, Ireland have had 5 winners
· 9 winners have been aged 7
· SPs ranged from 6/5 to 16/1
· 7 winners won last time out
· Winners ran 24-72 days previously
· Willie Mullins is the only trainer to have trained 2 winners
· Both Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell have ridden 2 winners
Might Bite has been favourite since he nearly posted a stunning performance on Boxing Day in the Kauto Star Novices Chase. However, the fact he fell at the last there when 10-lengths clear, and many shrewd judges think Cheltenham won’t suit him nearly as well as Kempton, means there will be plenty of bookies out to get Nicky Henderson’s 8-year-old. It was Royal Vacation that benefitted from Might Bite’s Kempton fall, and he has since proved himself at Cheltenham, and looks sure to be suited by the step-up in trip. Whisper is another who should be suited by the step-up in trip after recording two novice chase wins over shorter this season, and is a previous Festival winner over hurdles, though he’s older than ideal at 9. Ireland also have an interesting trio of challengers in Alpha Des Obeaux, Bellshill and Acapella Bourgeois. Alpha Des Obeaux was favourite for the race earlier in the season and, despite not looking quite as good so far over fences as he did he did over hurdles, he wouldn’t be the first Mouse Morris trained horse at his peak for the big occasion, and he was second in last season’s Stayers Hurdle. Meanwhile, Bellshill was also favourite earlier in the season, but has a poor Cheltenham Festival record, whilst Acapella Bourgeois may prefer softer ground.
Win Bet: Alpha Des Obeaux @ 5/1 (Bet365)
Each-Way Value: Royal Vacation @ 10/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places
Coral Cup Handicap
· England have won 7 renewals, Ireland 3
· Winners have been rated 128 to 149
· Winners have carried between 10-3 to 11-1
· Winners last ran 32 to 181 days previously
· Winners have been aged 5 to 9
· Davy Russell has ridden 3 of the last 9 winners
· Gordon Elliott has trained 2 of the last 6 winners
· Nicky Henderson has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
Gordon Elliott saddles 3 runners, and looks to have two obvious contenders in Tombstone and Automated. Tombstone has been the horse for all the money since the handicapper seemed to treat him very fairly after he beat the high-class Jekzi, whilst Automated was favourite before that and he looks to have been put away for this race after easily winning a handicap 87 days ago. There are dangers aplenty, as you’d expect in a field of 26-runners, and one of the more interesting ones is Taquin De Seuil. He has an excellent record at Cheltenham over fences, and he reverts to hurdles on an 8lb lower mark than the one he won this season’s Betvictor Cup off. However, the horse that makes plenty of appeal from a handicapping point-of-view is Nicky Henderson’s Hargam. Formerly placed in the Triumph Hurdle, he’s dropped 15lb since his last win, and now gets the chance to carry a reasonably low-weight over a longer trip which could be the making of him.
Win: Tombstone @ 4/1 (Bet365)
Each-Way Value: Hargam @ 14/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 5 places
Queen Mother Champion Chase 3.30
· England have won 8 renewals, Ireland 2
· Winners were aged 5 to 10
· 7 winners had won last time out
· Ruby Walsh has ridden 2 of the last 9 winners
· Winners ran 32 to 80 days previously
Douvan should win this with his head in his chest, and he has nothing to fear from last year’s Arkle third Fox Norton, who could still be good enough to finish second. However, the best each-way value may be Gods Own, who was fourth last year, but will be powering past horses late-on if they’ve burned themselves out trying to keep tabs on Douvan.
Win Bet: Douvan @ 2/7 (Bet365)
Each-Way Value: Gods Own @ 14/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
· Winners have been aged 8 to 12
· SPs have ranged from 15/8 to 16/1
· Winners ran 9 to 117 days previously
· Edna Bolger and Nina Carberry have teamed-up to win 4 of the last 10
· Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson have teamed-up for 2 winners
This was a handicap up to last season, when the rules were changed so that all the horses carry the same weight. It’s no surprise that Edna Bolger saddles the favourite Cantlow, and he also saddles Quantitiveeasing. However, neither of them would have been as good as some of the opposition over regulation fences, such as Alechi Inois, Cause Of Cause and Sausalito Sunrise. Cause Of Causes has a good record at the Festival and, having been backed-off the boards in recent weeks, he looks the most likely winner. However, Alechi Inois and Sausalito Sunrise offer some each-way value, with the latter just preferred for the Hobbs/Johnson combination.
Win Bet: Cause Of Causes @ 7/2 (Bet365)
Each-Way Value: Sausalito Sunrise @ 14/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 3 places
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle 4.50
· England have won 8 renewals, Ireland have won 2
· Winners have carried between 10-4 and 11-10
· Winners have been rated between 120 and 133
· Winners ran 3 to 133 days previously
· Paul Nicholls has trained 3 of the last 7 winners
Paul Nicholls has an outstanding record in the race, and his Dreamcatching has to be given serious consideration as a mark of 131 looks ideal with Nicholls’ three previous winners carrying 127, 131 and 133. Rainbow Dreamer might also have got in light after finishing second to Triumph Hurdle Favourite Defi Du Seuil over course and distance last time. However, Poker Play is potentially thrown-in on his French form when he finished just a length behind the highly-touted Charli Parcs. He was bought for £280,000 after that, and he arrives here after just one run in England, which is all he needed for a handicap mark. The Irish trained runners are also respected, though Long Call would be the highest-rated winner of the race, whilst ex flat-racer Icario could be interesting for Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy now he gets to run on better ground. However, the booking of Ruby Walsh for Prospectus catches the eye, and he could be an interesting outsider.
Win Bet: Dream Catching @ 12/1 (Bet365)
Each-Way Bet: Poker Play @ 20/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 4 places
· Ireland have won 6 renewals, England 4
· Willie Mullins has trained 3 winners
· Patrick Mullins has ridden 2 winners
· SPs have ranged from 9/2 to 40/1
· All winners won last time out
· 6 winners have been 5-year-olds
· Winners ran 22 to 144 days previously
Carter McKay is very likely to go off favourite for the combination of Patrick Mullins and Willie Mullins, and he’s looked impressive on his last two runs, proving his stamina to last a longer trip when winning over 19-furlongs. Mullins also saddles Next Destination with Ruby Walsh on board, though his form in a slowly run race last time needs improving on. The 4-year-olds look worth passing over, as only the might Cue Card has won this at 4, whilst Someday didn’t have his form boosted by Cilaos Emery on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the English challenge is spearheaded by Cause Toujours and Dan Skelton’s 5-year-old looked like he could be very special when winning at Warwick. However, the best of the English could be Western Ryder, and Warren Greatrex’s 5-year-old is expected to relish this galloping track on decent ground.
Win Bet: Carter McKay @ 4/1 (Bet365)
Each-Way Value: Western Ryder @ 9/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 4 places