Thursday’s meeting at Cheltenham is sure to be one to remember with a number of high-profile races. The feature race, the World Hurdle, is one of the highlights of the festival, with thousands of punters expected to make the trip to Prestbury Park.
1:30 Jewson Novices’ Chase (Registered As The Golden Miller Novices’ Chase) (Grade 2) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 4f, 13 runners)
Dynaste is the current market leader at 6/4 and hasn’t put a foot wrong over fences so far. He was won three from three since changing to fences and has a rating of 161, further underlining the grey’s pedigree. David Pipe’s charge has had the perfect preparation and it is hard to see beyond the favourite. Other notables include Captain Conan and Aupcharlie, with the former racing off a mark of 152.
Selection: Dynaste will have too much and should win this year’s Jewson Novice’s Chase. Take him at 6/4 with Boylesports.com
2:05 Pertemps Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle) (5yo+, Class 1, 3m, 24 runners)
A lot of punters will be backing Paul Nicholl’s Sam Winner for the Pertemps Final. The market leader was a very good juvenile hurdler in his time and a good win in a jumper’s bumper at Kempton last time out means the bay gelding will no doubt run a strong race. However, David Pipe’s Close House is available at 10/1 and has an excellent chance. He won the Wincanton qualifier on St. Stephen’s Day and was fourth to Simonsig in the 2012 Neptune.
2:40 Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Chase) (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 5f, 8 runners)
The Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant is the current market leader for the 2 mile 5 furlong trip. Last year’s victor Riverside Theatre is aiming to defend his title for trainer Nicky Henderson, while many of the commentators, including Jessica Harrington, look no further than Colin Tizzard’s contestant Cue Card, who is still available at odds of 7/2. However, it is hard to see past the Davy Russell on First Lieutenant The gelding is a former Festival winner and never seems to run a bad race having finished third in the Hennessy in November and second in the Lexus in December.
Selection:First Lieutenant is available at 9/4 with Boylesports.com.
3:20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+, Class 1, 3m, 13 runners)
With no Big Bucks in this year’s World Hurdle, a new king will be crowned at 3:20 on Thursday. In a race full of talent, Wonderful Charm has attracted support in the market following a a win in a Grade 2 novice even on his UK début. However, it is the Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola that looks the more attractive option. Having beaten Oscar Whisky here last time, the gelding has been exceptional since switching back to hurdles. He annihilated Smad Place in the Long Walk in Ascot in December and has the ability to win Thursday’s feature race. Oscar Whisky is a potential danger and currently leads the market at 4/1. Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson have great records at Cheltenham but Richard Johnson on-board Reve De Sivola should be the one in the winner’s enclosure at 3:30.
Selection: Reve De Sivola at 5/1 with Boylesports.com.
4:00 Byrne Group Plate (Grade 3 Handicap Chase) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 5f, 23 runners)
One of the hardest races to call, this handicap chase is full of experienced horses. Divers, Tartak, Finger Onthe Pulse, Matuhi, Giorgio Quercus and Hector’s Choice all ran in this last year and race off lower marks this time around. There are a number of horses in with a chance of winning the race, but the one that is most appealing is Cantlow. AP McCoy has chosen to ride the 8-year-old and it looks like it could be a wise decision. Despite being beaten in his first two races over fences, Cantlow has been improving steadily. Those losses came over 2 miles and the Paul Wbber-trained gelding has benefited from a step up in distance. Simple wins at Plumpton and Taunton ensured the handicapper couldn’t be too harsh on Cantlow and he represents great value at 7/1.
Selection: Cantlow at 7/1 with Boylesports.com.
4:40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders) (5yo+, Class 2, 3m 1f 110y, 24 runners)
Another handicap chase with a full field, Thursday’s 4:40 is also a difficult race to call. However, Jonjo O’ Neill’s runners, Galaxy Rock and Alfie Sherrin, are very quick horses and could have a say on the outcome. Galaxy Rock was fourth in this race two years ago and boasts and excellent Cheltenham record. Alfie Sherrin won at last years festival but is off a 7lb higher mark now. However, Chartreux offer the best each-way value at 16/1 . Jocky Jamie Codd has twice ridden the winner of this and is definitely worth a punt.
5:15 Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country) (5yo+, Class 2, 3m 7f, 16 runners)
Arabella Boy’s race at Punchestown early last month may well be the key to this. Enda Bolger’s charge is being ridden by Nina Carbery and has a mark of 140. His win in Punchestown saw him beat Big Shu, Uncle Junior, Shakervilz and Boston’s Angel with Sizing Australia, winner of this on much faster ground in 2011, a faller. On better terms with most of his rivals, you’d expect Arabella Boy to come out on top again.
Selection: Arabella Boy at 4/1 with Boylesports.com.