Wednesday was a day of ups and downs at Cheltenham. It started with an up as Samcro survived a few dodgy jumps to win the Ballymore Hurdle on what could be his first big-step to stardom in a journey that connections will be hoping leads to a future challenge for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, it may well be this year’s winner Presenting Percy who wins a Cheltenham Gold Cup first and he looks sure to be suited by the extra-distance of the Gold Cup next season. After those two highlights, it was a big down as Ruby Walsh was taken to hospital after a fall from Al Boum Photo. Paul Townend must have then been gutted as he got off Coral Cup winner Bleu Berry to ride Max Dynamite in the absence of Ruby.
Altior then thrilled favourite backers by storming up the Cheltenham hill to win the Champion Chase after looking in trouble for most of the race, but connections can only wonder how Douvan would have fared as he was absolutely cruising when falling at the third-last.
On Thursday, it’s the turn of the 3-mile hurdlers as the Stayers’ Hurdle takes the spotlight on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival, and Sam Spinner, Yanworth and Supadundae are disputing favouritism. However, for many punters, the highlight may well be the Ryanair Chase in which the 12-year-old Cue Card will be hoping to roll back the years as he takes on Un De Sceaux.
JLT Chase, 1.30
There have been 6 Irish winners and just one from Great Britain
Willie Mullins has trained 4 winners
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have teamed up to win the last 3 renewals
Five winners have been aged 7 and two aged 6
5 winners had won last time out
SP’s have ranged from 6/4 to 20/1
JLT Chase Summary
Great Britain have the two top-rated runners in Modus and Finian’s Oscar but both have decent chances at their best. Modus is decent at the trip and ran a fantastic race off top-weight in the Coral Cup last year. Meanwhile, Finian’s Oscar has always had a big-reputation and could find his best form again after a wind-op.
However, it’s the Irish who have won 6 of the 7 renewals. The top Irish-rated runner is Invitation Only and, with Presenting Percy and Monalee finishing first and second in the RSA on Wednesday, his form behind Monalee last time looks the most solid form on offer.
Pertemps Final, 2.10
Great Britain have won 8 renewals, but Ireland have won the last 2
P G Kelly and Davy Russell have teamed up to win the last two renewals
Winners have been aged between 6 and 10
Winners have been rated between 129 and 146
Winners have carried between 10-4 to 11-12
SP’s have ranged from 9/2 to 25/1
4 winners had won last time out
Pertemps Final Summary
A race that has no real strong stats with winners being young and old and carrying light-weights and big-weights. The winner may not be easy to find, but owner JP McManus looks to have an interesting hand. Glenloe could be the pick, as Barry Geraghty takes the ride, and he looks unexposed at the foot of the weights after being placed in handicaps on his last three starts.
Meanwhile, A Great View went into loads of books for this after finishing strongly over 3-miles on his last two starts. Sort It Out also has festival form, having been placed in a County Hurdle off an 8lb lower mark in the past, and he could be suited by this trip on his return.
Ryanair Chase, 2.50
Great Britain have won 8 of the last 10 renewals, Ireland have won the last two
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have teamed up to win the last two renewals
Winners have been aged between 7 and 10
Only three winners had won last time out
SP’s have ranged from evens to 16/1
Ryanair Chase Summary
No horse older than 10 has won the Ryanair Chase, so it’s asking a lot of the 12-year-old Cue Card to win a second one five-years after he won his first one. However, he did run a tremendous race to be second to Waiting Patiently last time and could easily have won a couple of Gold Cups in between but for falling.
Likely favourite Un De Sceaux is also only rated 2lb his superior and the stamina of the Willie Mullins trained 10-year-old could be tested here, though he’ll relish the soft ground. The improving Balko Des Flos is also rated Cue Card’s equal but hasn’t achieved anywhere near as much, whilst Frodon is an improving youngster who goes well at Cheltenham and handles soft ground.
Stayers Hurdle, 3.30
Great Britain have won 8 renewals, Ireland 2
Ruby Walsh has ridden 5 winners
Paul Nicholls has trained 4 winners
8 winners had won last time out
Winners have been aged between 6 and 9
SP’s have ranged between 5/6 and 14/1
Stayers’ Hurdle Summary
It’s over 30-years since a horse aged older than 9 has won this race so, whilst a win for Unowhatimeanharry or The New One would be popular, they do look up against it with respective doubts over form and stamina. This race also usually goes to a horse near the head of the market, so the winner looks most likely to come from the top-rated trio of Sam Spinner, Supersundae and Yanworth.
Sam Spinner won the Long Walk Hurdle fair and square last time, whilst the form of Supasundae took a couple of knocks on Tuesday when Faugheen and Apple’s Jade both got beaten, Meanwhile, Yanworth reverts to hurdles after an aborted chasing career but this test could be perfect for him and he’s won 8 of his 10 starts over hurdles. Those looking for one at a bigger-price could do worse than chance L’Ami Serge each-way, as he could easily run into the frame if the pace collapses, but he finds winning difficult.
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase, 4.10
Great Britain have won 8 renewals, Ireland have won the last 2
Winners have been aged between 6 and 11
David Pipe has trained 3 of the last 8 winners
Brian Cooper and Tom Scudamore have each ridden 2 winners
SP’s have ranged between 9/2 and 66/1
Only one winner has been returned at a single-figure price
The last 9 winners have all carried less than 11-0
Winners have been rated between 125 and 145
Only 2 winners had won last time out
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Summary
The last nine winners have all carried less than 11-stone, so it could be worth taking a chance on leaving the top 10 horses in the field out of the equation. King’s Socks must be of interest off a mark of 140 as in 2016 he once got within 3-lengths of Footpad in France. He’s run just once since though when third behind at Modus, but David Pipe has trained 3 of the last 8 winners. The likes of King’s Odyssey and Ballyalton both have decent course form off similar marks.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, 4.50
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have teamed up to win both renewals of this race with horses priced at 8/11 and 11/8. Both horses’ names also began with “L”!!!
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Summary
If it really is as simple as picking a Willie Mullins trained favourite whose name begins with “L” then we need look no further than Laurina. However, the highest-rated horse is Maria’s Benefit who beat a useful field last-time and is going for a six-timer. Money for one of the other Mullins’ runners Salsaretta would be interesting but that one makes her debut for Mullins after over 500 days off the track.
Kim Muir Challenge Cup, 5.30
Great Britain have won 8 renewals, Ireland 2
Mr J J Codd has ridden 4 of the last 9 winners
David Pipe has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
SP’s have ranged from 10/3 to 40/1
No winner had won last time out
The last 9 winners were rated between 134 and 142
The last 9 winners carried between 11-4 and 11-12
9 of the last 10 winners were aged between 7 and 9, the other was 12
Kim Muir Challenge Cup Summary
Unlike the earlier handicap chase, the Kim Muir is usually won by classier types carrying over 11-4. Mall Dini will be popular after stablemate Presenting Percy won the RSA Chase yesterday but is only on the same mark as when fifth in the race last year.
Missed Approach should also go well after being second in last year’s National Hunt Chase, especially if his recent wind-op brings about any improvement. Another who has had a wind-op is Squouateur and, though carries just 11-2, it’s worth remembering that he was sent-off favourite last year before falling. He also has the services of the race’s specialist jockey MR J J Codd.