1:30 BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE
It’s very difficult to oppose Envoi Allen, for many the banker of the meeting. He is seven from seven, a dual Grade 1 winner over hurdles and already is proven at the Festival courtesy of his tough Champion Bumper win last season. He isn’t the flashy type who quickens away to win easy, he’s more a tough and resilient sort, but he is all the more reliable for that and he should win here.
It won’t be a walkover and there is an element of danger in the unknown quality of the unexposed and untested trio of Sporting John, The Big Getaway and The Big Breakaway. Either of them could emerge to provide the favourite with a stern test. At a bigger price, Gordon Elliott’s runner Easywork could be one to make the place money. He was really impressive over this sort of trip earlier in the season but failed to cope with a drop down in trip when second to Asterion Forlonge at Leopardstown. Back up in trip here, he could outrun his odds.
SELECTION: ENVOI ALLEN ALTERNATIVE: EASYWORK
2:10 RSA INSURANCE NOVICES’ CHASE
Champ has been favourite for this for a while but has been uneasy in the market in recent weeks, with many keen to crab his jumping. With that in mind, Minella Indo is perhaps a more solid option. He only has two starts over fences but he came into the Festival with a similarly light campaign last season and was still able to run out a very impressive winner of the Albert Bartlett, producing a powerful staying performance having raced freely earlier on and hit the front a long way from home. The form of his previous run over fences is strong, the second having won a Grade 2 next time out and he is taken to prosper back at the Festival.
Allaho is respected but has to turn the tables on Minella Indo, he has beaten him the last twice over hurdles. Copperhead is seriously progressive for Colin Tizzard and that is why it is a surprise that Robbie Power has decided to ride Slate House. Not that the eight-year-old doesn’t have a chance, he is already a Grade 1 winner over fences having taken the Grade 1 Kauto Star at Kempton and earlier he was set to win the BetVictor Gold Cup around this course, but for tipping up at the second last.
SELECTION: MINELLA INDO ALTERNATIVE: SLATE HOUSE
2:50 CORAL CUP
A wide open renewal again in which bookmakers are going 7/1 the field. Willie Mullins runs seven and though the stable first string seems to be Franco De Port, I like the chances of Stratum, who will be ridden by Robbie Power. He won the Cesarewitch last October, elevating his flat assessment to 107, and he is still an unexposed sort over hurdles, where a mark of 145 looks very workable.
There are any amount of live chances, including Cracking Smart, a once promising novice who bounced back to form on his previous run, but further down the betting is Traffic Fluide. He is a bit of a specialist around here and he was about to run a huge race in the Grade 1 Ascot Gold Cup last time out, when he fell at the last. Providing that hasn’t left a mark, he must have a good chance now off a hurdles mark which is 12lbs lower than his chase rating.
SELECTION: STRATUM ALTERNATIVE: TRAFFIC FLUIDE
3:30 BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
It’s a huge blow to the race that Altior was ruled out yesterday morning and it now looks to be a bit of a match. Defi Du Seuil has convinced he is Champion Chase horse by utilising his lethal turn of foot this season but the problem is the horses he has done it against, namely a 12-year-old Un De Sceaux, who went way too slow in the Clarence House and who nearly beat the Hobbs runner in the Tingle Creek.
Chacun Pour Soi beat Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown last year and made his Champion Chase case by toppling his stablemate Min at Leopardstown in the Dublin Chase. That is very strong form and although he is unproven around Cheltenham, there doesn’t seem much of a reason why he won’t act at the course.
It’s difficult to see anything else getting involved but Dynamite Dollars could be one to go well at a big price. He ran third to Altior at Newbury on what was his first run in 378 days.
SELECTION: CHACUN POUR SOI ALTERNATIVE: DEFI DU SEUIL
4:10 GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHASE
The hope is Tiger Roll can win here and set himself up for a third Grand National bid at Aintree next month. However, this doesn’t look straightforward. Gordon Elliott’s 10-year-old came into this race last season with a brilliant performance in a Grade 2 hurdle race at Navan but this season, after a setback, he could only finish fifth in the same contest. He should come on for that of course but the the fact is he isn’t coming into the race in the same form. He also has a real solid contender to deal with in the French-trained Easysland. David Cottin’s six-year-old won over this course and distance earlier in the season, was subsequently bought by J.P. McManus and comes into this race off the back of six wins. He is a huge threat.
The French are specialists in this type of race and it would be no surprise to see Urgent De Gregaine go well again for Emmanuel Clayeux. The 12-year-old has plenty of experience around this course having been placed in the last two renewals of this race.
SELECTION: EASYSLAND ALTERNATIVE: TIGER ROLL
4:50 BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE
This is typically a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve and it’s no different this year with bookmakers likely to go 6/1 the field. Aramax is favourite after a very good performance at Naas last time out. That puts him right in the mix and he looks like a real improver. That said, most of these juvenile hurdles are improving. One of the most obvious is Nicky Henderson’s apparent first string Palladium, who won his last two and particularly caught the eye last time out at Sandown where he toughed it on soft ground.
Galahad Quest has course-and-distance form and could be a little underrated for Nick Williams who won this with Flying Tiger in 2017. Thyme White looked good at Musselburgh, where beat the reopposing Group Stage, and is another with good claims.
SELECTION: PALLADIUM ALTERNATIVE: GALAHAD QUEST
5:30 WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER
Appreciate It is all the rage for this and coming off a seriously impressive win at the Dublin Racing Festival but he is a very short price in what is usually a frantically run big-field race. You might be better served taking a chance on one at a bigger price and that could be Queen’s Brook. She was really impressive winning on soft ground at Gowran Park last time out and mares have a good record in this race in recent seasons.
Darling Daughter is another mare, also trained by Gordon Elliott, worth keeping an eye on after her win at the Dublin Racing Festival. But at a bigger price, Third Time Lucki, trained by Dan Skelton, could be worth keeping on side. The time he recorded at Huntingdon was smart for a bumper and the second franked that form with a good run next time out.
SELECTION: QUEEN’S BROOK ALTERNATIVE: THIRD TIME LUCKI