It’s half time at the Cheltenham Festival and the bookmakers are definitely a couple of goals to the good after some shocking results for punters over the first two days.
There are some strong favourites in a number of the markets on day three and the layers may be keen to take them on given their satchels full of money.
They may also be buoyed by the bad luck that seems to be afflicting the Willie Mullins string so far, but surely one of his hotpots will win today?
JLT Novices Chase
First up is YORKHILL and this horse looked like a machine when winning here 12 months ago. He has had an unfair amount of criticism since switching to fences and we believe he can silence the doubters here and put himself firmly in line for a crack at next year’s Gold Cup by taking the JLT.
Don’t forget, there were plenty of doubters when Vautour lined up in last season’s Ryanair and he turned that race into a procession, and we are hoping Yorkhill can do the same.
As long as the dead eight go to post we also think it is worth backing one of the outsiders, FLYING ANGEL. He got his act back together at Warwick last time and was second here last March in a handicap hurdle over a similar trip. He has a first time tongue tie and the assistance of the in-form Noel Fehily.
The complete outsider, Baily Cloud, could also run well. Mouse Morris has a great record at the big meeting and this horse will relish better ground. He is usually a very sound jumper.
|Yorkhill (win)||1.30 Cheltenham||7/4||Betfred|
|Flying Angel (ew)||1.30 Cheltenham||14/1||Bet365, Betfred|
Mullins will be hoping for a double courtesy of Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair, but he looks a more vulnerable favourite with the ground having gone against him.
At the prices, EMPIRE OF DIRT looks a much more solid option having won the Plate here last year to prove his liking for the unique track and atmosphere. The ground is right and the yard is on fire.
Again, if eight run there could be some each way value amongst the long shots and the most interesting one is probably ALARY.
Colin Tizzard clearly loves this horse and thinks he is a lot better than we have seen from him in two starts for his new yard. Tizzard will be learning about him all the time and it may just be that this better ground will be the key to him. He is a speculative selection, but is a juicy price as a result and is a chance worth taking.
|Empire Of Dirt (win)||2.50 Cheltenham||3/1||Bet365|
|Alary (ew)||2.50 Cheltenham||33/1||Bet365|
The day’s other big race is the Stayers Hurdle and there is absolutely no doubt that Unowhatimeanharry has been the star of the division so far this season. His price reflects his chance, but the odds aren’t tempting given 12 rivals go to post, many of whom he’s never encountered before.
The one we like most against him is SNOW FALCON. Again, we are hoping the ground can bring about some improvement, although the form he has already shown isn’t far behind many of these. He was still tanking along when falling behind Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury early on in the season and has a nice pull in the weights with Shaneshill from a recent clash. Being by Presenting you would expect he has more to offer on drying ground.
JEZKI shouldn’t be written off yet either. He was disappointing behind Tombstone last time out, but the “bounce” factor may have played a part and he can get back to something like his old form again here now upped in trip again. He’s the class horse in the race.
Finally, at a massive price don’t rule out AGRAPAT. Nick Williams had his first Festival winner here yesterday and this horse has winning course form from earlier in the season under his belt. He also has a decent swing in the weights with Zarkandar from their recent Haydock clash.
|Snow Falcon (ew)||3.30 Cheltenham||18/1||Bet365|
|Jezki (ew)||3.30 Cheltenham||8/1||Bet365|
|Agrapat (ew)||3.30 Cheltenham||80/1||Bet365|
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle
There are two big handicaps sandwiched around the big races and the first is the Pertemps Final at 2.10pm.
Many of these horses have clashed before in qualifying races, so the trick is to find a horse that might still be improving and will be suited by the change in going.
One who fits that bill is ROCKLANDAR. He has been running consistently well all season on ground that has probably been plenty soft enough for him. He has run well here too and the yard is still in good form.
Of the Irish, it is that man Gordon Elliott who looks to have the strongest claims in the shape of JURY DUTY. This horse went in our notebooks when finishing second to Gayebury at Chepstow last time out. He was no match for the winner that day, but wouldn’t have been suited by the very soft ground. He travelled eye-catchingly well for most of the race and that should have put him spot on for this.
We also like another Irish raider, ELECTRIC CONCORDE. It is a worry that he pulled up last time out, but he looked progressive before that and both trainer and owner have excellent Festival records.
There were plenty of others on the shortlist including For Good Measure, Caid Du Berlais and Alzammaar and Sky Bet are offering 6 places for each-way bets on this.
|Rocklander (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||16/1||Bet365|
|Jury Duty (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||8/1||Sky Bet|
|Electric Concorde (ew)||2.10 Cheltenham||22/1||Bet365|
Brown Advisory Plate
The Plate is at 4.10 and this a proper handicap with top weight on 11-12 and bottom on 10-1. There is plenty of good course and distance form to go on and the one we like most is BOUVREUIL, who has finished runner up in two previous Festival races. He can go one better here having been spared the winter ground and saved for this.
There are dangers aplenty like Thomas Crapper, Baron Alco and Henryville, whilst Un Ace could also bounce back to form, but the unexposed MAD JACK MYTTON is hard to ignore and looks a leading danger. Jonjo O’Neill usually bursts into life at the Festival at some point and, as long as the ground hasn’t been watered too much, this could be the moment as this horse loves a sound surface.
COLD MARCH looks massively overpriced for a yard that excels with its chasers in Festival handicaps and, once again, Sky Bet are offering 6 places for each-way bets.
|Bouvreuil (ew)||4.10 Cheltenham||14/1||Sky Bet|
|Mad Jack Mytton (ew)||4.10 Cheltenham||28/1||Sky Bet|
|Cold March (ew)||4.10 Cheltenham||50/1||Bet365|
Our tips in the later races are as follows:
|Titi De Montmartre (ew)||4.50 Cheltenham||33/1||Bet365|
|Airlie Beach (ew)||4.50 Cheltenham||9/2||Bet365|
|Potters Legend (ew)||5.30 Cheltenham||14/1||Sky Bet|
|Lamb Or Cod (ew)||5.30 Cheltenham||40/1||Stan James|
|Another Hero (ew)||5.30 Cheltenham||14/1||Bet365|
Horses Fitted With First-Time Headgear
Below we list those horses wearing, or switching to, headgear (Blinkers, Visor, Hood) for the first time, given the recent trend for such horses to exceed expectations as a whole. For example Solar Impulse, fitted with first time blinkers, won the final race of last year’s Festival at 28/1.
|Sizing Codelco||4.10 Cheltenham||Blinkers (B1)||14/1||Paddy Power, Bet365|
|Asthuria||4.50 Cheltenham||Hood (H1)||14/1||Sky Bet, Bet365|
|Pendra||5.30 Cheltenham||Blinkers (B1)||14/1||Paddy Power, Sky Bet|