Day two of the Cheltenham Festival 2016 will long be remembered for the spine-tingling victory of Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The 10-year old returned to his very best to prove doubters wrong in winning the two-mile championship race. He jumped and travelled with his former zest, before powering up the hill to win his second Champion Chase crown.
On to day three…
13:30 – JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1):
The JLT Novices’ Chase is a wide-open renewal this year. The field is lacking a standout contender to that of Vautour 12 months ago, but it is hugely competitive nonetheless.
The market is headed by co-favourites Garde La Victoire, Bristol De Mai and Outlander.
Garde La Victoire is unbeaten in his three starts over fences this season though they have all come amongst small fields. However, he put seven-lengths between himself and Bristol De Mai at Uttoxeter in October and should confirm that form on the better spring ground tomorrow.
Outlander has looked good across the Irish Sea this season but all of his three victories have come in very soft conditions. His run in last year’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle was somewhat disappointing and he’s best left alone here.
Instead, ZABANA could offer value at the 12/1 mark after his fine second in last year’s Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. Andrew Lynch’s horse recorded a superb debut win over fences at Leopardstown just after Christmas, but later disappointed at that track last month.
However, he is sure to relish the better ground at Cheltenham and should prove very competitive if returning to the form of his Coral Cup second 12 months ago.
Advice: Zabana 12/1 E/W (BetVictor)
14:10 – Pertemps Network Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle):
Owner JP McManus is responsible for six of the 24 runners in this year’s renewal of the Pertemps for which If In Doubt could be his best chance of a winner. Philip Hobbs’ eight-year old eased to victory in a handicap at Wincanton on Boxing Day and could still be well-handicapped off of 146.
It is OUR KAEMPFER that really takes the eye though. Charlie Longsdon’s talented inmate was bitterly unlucky when being brought down in the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Newbury last November.
The seven-year old was travelling very well in that contest and looked sure to run a bold race. However, he was stopped in his tracks five flights from home and his trainer has kept him especially for this three-mile handicap prize.
Our Kaempfer finished third behind Thistlecrack in a Grade One Novices Hurdle at Aintree in April and will be better suited to a fastly-run three miles on good ground here. His mark of 139 is still workable and he should boast solid claims for bullish connections
Advice: Our Kaempfer 12/1 E/W (Bet365)
14:50 – Ryanair Chase (Grade 1):
The late inclusion of Vautour to the Ryanair field has thrown a real spanner in the works. Last year’s JLT Novices’ Chase winner was scheduled to run in Friday’s Gold Cup though has not satisfied entirely throughout his preparation.
Instead, the seven-year old has been rerouted to the 2m4f race and should take all the beating, granted he stays on his feet.
It may be best playing in the ‘without favourite’ market where Vibrato Valtat could flourish in his move up in trip. Paul Nicholls’ chaser has been contesting the very best two miles races in recent months and is now well worth a go over the long distances.
He finished a respectable fourth behind Un De Sceaux in last year’s Arkle and proved he retains all of his ability this season when winning the Halton Gold Cup at Exeter in November.
Vibrato Valtat was staying on gamely over 2m4f at Aintree last season and is worth chancing each-way in the without Vautour market.
Advice: Vibrato Valtat 20/1 E/W (without Vautour) (Bet365)
15:30 – Ryanair World Hurdle (Grade 1):
The World Hurdle centres around one horse in the betting. Thistlecrack has been the supreme three mile hurdler this campaign and rightfully deserves to be the short-priced favourite.
Colin Tizzard’s charge has beaten all before him in his three victories this season, which was headlined by his romp in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. The eight-year old is set to improve further for good ground and will take all of the beating.
However, a chance is taken on the talented WHISPER for in-form trainer Nicky Henderson. He won the Coral Cup in 2014 before annihilating the field in last season’s Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.
The eight-year old convincingly beat reigning World Hurdle champion Cole Harden in that contest and will relish tomorrow’s spring underfoot conditions. Nicky Henderson has reiterated that he is a horse that desperately needs ‘Good’ ground to been seen to best effect, and the vibes surrounding Whisper could not be stronger as he heads to Prestbury Park.
Advice: Whisper 14/1 E/W (Bet365)
16:10 – Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Grade 3 Handicap Chase):
Another wide-open Festival handicap where John’s Spirit is all the rage for Jonjo O’Neill. The horse is now rated 15lbs lower than finishing fifth in the Ryanair Chase last season, but has failed to show any kind of form this term.
It’s clear his trainer has laid him out for this race though I’m not convinced that the New Course at Cheltenham really suits him. His best performances have come on the Old Course and at 6/1 is short enough in the betting.
It’s a very competitive race and you could make a strong case for at least half of these. Fingal Bay is dropping back in trip and has good form at Cheltenham when winning the Pertemps Final two years ago. If he’s in similar form then he should go close.
Nothing really stands out in the market, so I’ll be leaving this race alone.
Advice: No Bet
16:50 – Trull House Stud Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2):
Limini could prove to be leagues above her rivals in the first running of the Mares’ Novices Hurdle on Thursday. Willie Mullins’ mare won a maiden hurdle at Punchestown last May and showed that she retains all of her ability this campaign in thumping her rivals at Fairyhouse a few weeks ago.
She needn’t come out of second gear to win that contest but showed signs of inconsistencies in her jumping. Connections believe she’ll improve greatly for that run and are expecting a bold showing here.
Limini should win this but is no betting proposition.
Advice: No Bet
17:30 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateurs):
The Kim Muir handicap chase is another open event where Britain and Ireland’s leading amateurs usually rise to the top. Bold cases can be made for Cause Of Causes and Doctor Harper who will both have the assistance of leading riders.
The former won the four-miler at the Festival last season and clearly loves the course. The latter could be well handicapped having contested three small-field novice events this season. Reports from David Pipe’s yard suggest that Doctor Harper is in fine fettle, but this is another race I’d prefer to just watch.
Advice: No Bet