Ceebee previews Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival on St Patrick's Day.
In a recent twitter poll to discover the favourite day of the Cheltenham Festival, I voted for Thursday. I was well and truly in the minority. It’s not the best days racing for sure, but in my opinion it is the best day for betting. The Pertemps Final, The Plate and Kim Muir are three big field handicaps that offer big opportunities.
1.30 JLT Novice Chase
The first race on day three is a tricky puzzle. I backed Outlander for this ante-post back in January. Read that HERE. He’s still the one to beat in my opinion. There’s a slight question about his resolution, but his form is rock solid. A smart novice hurdler last term, he’s know 3 from 3 over the larger obstacles. He looks a proper G1 2m4f chaser.
I’d be against Bristol de Mai; his wins have come on very different ground to what he’ll encounter today. Black Hercules is another I’m against. He could find this trip a bit sharp, especially after flopping here 12mts ago. L'ami Serge is another who didn’t run his best here 12mts ago and he didn’t last time out either so is a risky proposition.
Zabana and Three Musketeers both have the potential to make up into G1 chasers, but neither has done enough over fences to warrant their current odds. Garde la Victoire is the main danger to the selection.
1pt e/w Outlander 5/1 with Bet365, Coral, William Hill and Paddy Power (already advised 1pt win 25/1)
2.10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle
As is always the case there are loads to fancy in this. Leave at Dawn is too short now. His last win has not worked out at all well, it looks to have been a very weak race he won. If In Doubt is the McManus horse I prefer but I am not convinced he’ll handle the good ground. I could see him making mistakes and getting behind horses before struggling to make up lost ground.
Arpege D’Alene is my main selection. Team Nicholls are after having fine performers in Bouveril, Romain de Senam and Diego du Charmil, all of whom were well handicapped having been aimed at their respective handicaps for a while. I think Arpege D’Alene is similar. His chasing career was put on hold after below par efforts before Christmas but then he had a wind-op and returned to hurdles off a favourable mark. He promptly won at Chepstow in February but there was plenty to suggest that wouldn’t be the end of him winning. Sean Bowen rode that day and he was very eager not to commit too soon as he didn’t want to win by 10L and destroy a handicap mark in a Pertemps Qualifier. After waiting to challenge, almost luckily he went and clattered the last, seemed to lose all chance but still got back up to win. It was a run that suggested there’s loads more in the tank. A 6yo with only 7 career starts – he has yet to reach his peak. He was good enough to beat Tea for Two (G1 chase winner this season) in a novice hurdle last year.
The second selection, at a much bigger price is Kim Bailey’s Un Ace. He was sent off 6/1 for the Festival Plate on this day last year. He was racing off an official mark of 144, he didn’t make much of an impression, but did win off the same mark next time out. This put him up to 149 over fences. He runs off 140 over hurdles today. On his seasonal reappearance this term (off 144) he finished 4th in a 3m1f handicap hurdle. He travelled well but didn’t quite go through with his effort, most likely due to fitness first time out after his summer break or possibly just not staying. Back to the bare 3miles today on better ground he should stay ok. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the plan to come back today was hatched after that effort. Now fitter and rated 4lbs lower he could run a big race.
1.5pt e/w Arpege D’Alene at 16/1 with Bet365, Skybet and William Hill
1pt e/w Un Ace at 25/1 with Bet365, William Hill and Stan James
2.50 Ryanair Chase
The late rerouting of Vautour has created a hell of a grade 1 chase but unfortunately it’s also meant watching without having a bet may be the best approach. Road to Riches is solid e/w at 7/1 and of the outsiders I’d rather back Gilgamboa than Dynaste, Vibrato Valtat, Champagne West etc.
3.30 World Hurdle
I wrote an ante-post anti-Thistlecrack piece a month ago. Read that HERE. Martello Tower is probably still overpriced at 28/1, but I wouldn’t be advising anyone not on Saphir to take 8//1. Cole Harden the bigger threat to the favourite. He’ll love the good ground and will hope to skip clear again before the last where others may not have the pace/acceleration on good ground to catch him.
1pt e/w Cole Harden at 7/1 with Bet365, Paddy Power, Stan James and William Hill
0.5pt e/w Martello Tower 28/1 Bet365, Stan James and William Hill
4.10 Festival Plate Handicap Chase
Darna is the second Kim Bailey horse to carry my cash today. I summed up his chances in a piece from last week. Read that HERE. Just 4lbs higher now is a decent mark, he had no chance on soft ground here in November but will love these conditions.
Johns Spirit should be hard to beat, he is very well handicapped and has a similar profile to Jonjo’s Holywell who ran very well on Tuesday. The big issue he will have is traffic. On the new course in big fields it is often a negative to be held up.
Kings Palace should enjoy the trip and ground more than anything he has encountered in a while. He’s well handicapped on his very best form but I’m happy to ignore him today as he was absolutely rancid last time in Chepstow so others are preferred. His stablemate does make my shortlist though.
Ballynagour was a long-term fancy of mine for the Ryanair Chase. Off 157 in the Plate with another 5lbs off with a claimer means he must be backed at 25/1. This fella is at his best at a sharp 3miles or less, many of his recent outings were at a trip that was too far for him. The strongly run 2m5f should be ideal. Many of his best efforts are on good ground and in the springtime (these go hand in hand I suppose). He actually won this very race in 2014 before placing in two G1s that spring. Then last season he ran Silviniaco Conti to a head in the G1 Aintree Bowl. Ballynagour has been bad this year but so have plenty of Pipe’s but the yard seems to have turned a corner recently and had a big handicap winner on Tuesday.
Buckers Bridge nearly made the cut. He ran well in the Thyestes last time and the step back in trip should suit. However the fancy prices are gone.
1pt e/w Darna at 25/1 with Bet365, Skybet and William Hill
1pt e/w Ballynagour at 25/1 with Stan James
4.50 Mares Novice Hurdle
Limini will be a banker for most this week. Certainly anyone who was following Willie and Ruby won’t be shy about going in at odds on but for me there’s a standout each way bet against her which makes far more appeal.
Smart Talk – has won her last two races at Haydock and then Doncaster. She was eased down for an 8L success in Haydock and the second and third have both won since. At Doncaster she beat older mares whilst giving weight to some. The 5th that day finished 2nd to Vroum Vroum Mag on Tuesday whilst the 4th was again 4th. That was a huge form boost for Smart Talk.
Smart Talk has a higher official rating and racing post rating than Limini. She races prominently which will help in a big field full of mares not good enough for Cheltenham. Limini doesn’t look a natural jumper which could leave her vulnerable.
2pts e/w Smart Talk at 7/1 with Bet365, Paddy Power, William Hill and Ladbrokes
5.30 Kim Muir Handicap Chase
Cause of Causes is rock solid here. He’s coming from a yard who has acquitted themselves very well in handicaps already this week (Diamond King won and Campeador would’ve went close when falling). In Jamie Codd, CoC is due to be ridden by the best amateur jockey in the field. Following top jockeys in the 4miler, Kim Muir and Foxhunters is traditionally key and it played out again on Tuesday in this year’s 4miler. Most importantly though is the horse has tremendous festival form. He won the 4miler here last year and was 2nd in this very race the previous year. He should have won that day – he got a poor ride. That effort came off a handicap mark of 140 so his 142 today is certainly workable.
At a far bigger price I’m going to have a small play on Splash of Ginge. The 3m2f trip is a worry for this lad but there’s enough positives to get involved at 40/1. Firstly the yard just had a double on Wednesday. Splash has good course form having opened his account over fences here in Oct’14. Three starts later he won a decent handicap chase (2m5f) back here off a mark of 145. He also ran here in the Paddy Power GC when 7th beaten 11L off 149. That was a fine effort as the form has worked out well with the likes of Annacotty and Buywise running well all season. He’s down 8lbs to 141 now. That’s a generous enough drop by the handicapper because his last two bad runs both came on atrocious ground. Back at Cheltenham, with the yard in form, off a lenient mark he’s worth a few shillings at 40/1.
Silvergrove – a young improving in-form horse, Doctor Harper – clearly well-handicapped on his hurdles form, Knock House – a CD winner this season who ran well at the Festival last season, The Giant Bolster – after dropping to a very low mark, Upswing – 2nd here to a well handicapped sort back in November and Alternatif – ran well at the course earlier this season when Pipe’s weren’t in as good a form as nowadays; are all on the ‘long-shortlist’ but you can’t back them all.
1.5pt e/w Cause of Causes at 6/1 with everyone.
0.5pt e/w Splash of Ginge at 40/1 with BetVictor, Paddy Power and William Hill
Finally - For those looking for a retirement win; today is made for each way multiples. The likes of Outlander, Cole Harden, Road to Riches and Smart Talk all look very solid each way and can be combined with a few big priced selections in the handicaps for a potential big payday.