Declan Rix, previews day two of the Cheltenham festival, Declan has tipped up lots of big priced horses for this afternoons racing.
1.30 – National Hunt Chase
Day two of the Cheltenham festival kicks off with the grueling four miles National Hunt Chase for novices. Jumping will as ever be at a premium in a race that will prove tough to unlock – plenty hold chances. At the top of the list is the likes of Chicago Grey, Alfa Beat, Beshaber and Some Target. Aderdale is not far behind the market leaders either. Strong word for Charles Byrnes’ Alfa Beat has materialized in the last number of days. He’ll love the good ground the seven-year-old son of Environment Friend has been laid out for this contest since his Kerry National win. He also has one of the races top jockeys aboard in Andrew McNamara. Another Irish challenger in Chicago Grey looks to have very strong claims. Like Alfa Beat, this can been the aim for a number of months. Much has been made of his jumping, but, over this trip it won’t be a problem for me. He is the races class horse, but, can he fend of the big improvers? Beshaber is a horse with serious talent – he was by far the best of these over hurdles, but, has taken time to warm to fences. The giant nine-year-old was very slow and deliberate in his early races, but, has got better with practice. He has a serious engine and the heart of a lion. The trip will suit. The on fire Willie Mullins sends out Some Target hoping for more Cheltenham success. I really liked this horse ante-post. But, I have gone off him now as the value is gone. He is sure to go well for a trainer in form. Jonjo O’Neill has an excellent record in this winning four of the last ten runnings. His Aberdale has a nice each-way squeak at a good price. Hi is the best jumper in this field.
Advice: 1pt win Alfa Beat @5-1
2.05 – Neptune Novice Hurdle
This year’s renewal of the Neptune looks an above average affair with many highly touted horses among the line-up. There’re multiple Grade One winners in the field and all are improving fast, but, will the Grade One form come to fruition. Again, Ireland will be very disappointed if they don’t take the scalp of the English here. They have three very strong contenders in So Young, Oscars Well and First Lieutenant. Best of the English look to be Minella Class, Rock On Ruby and Megastar, but, it’s the Irish runners that you should keep on your side. First Lieutenant looks to be the outsider of the trio. The Mouse Morris trained son of Presenting is a Grade One winner – with the form of that race hard to weigh up. He beat Zaidpour a neck that day, but, he has since proved very disappointing. However, the third horse, Hidden Cyclone, has now racked up three wins on the bounce. He looks to have a chance, with good ground further boosting his claims, but, the other two Irish runners look better. Jessica Harrington’s Oscars Well shot straight to the top of the market when winning the Deloitte last time out. It was a hugely impressive performance, but, like First Lieutenant, the form looks a little weak now. The race also fell into his lap that day so he maybe a little flattered by the bare result. There are question marks about today’s ground, too, but, looking at his pedigree he should be fine. This leaves of with the Willie Mullins trained, So Young. I have to admit, when looking at this race ante-post I wasn’t too taken by the French-bred gelding, but, I’m starting to warm to him now after watching his last two races, again. First thing that has to be said is he is a super slick jumper for a novice, quick and economical. Two, he looks to have a potent turn of foot judging by the way he went way from Big Game Hunter in his last start. The scary thing is that weapon may be seen to better effect today on this quicker ground. He just looks a class horse and big noises have been coming from the Mullins camp in the run up to this race – he could be world class. An each-way bet on Megastar is also advised. Horses coming from the year’s previous Cheltenham bumper have a great record in this race so at 14-1, he looks a nice play.
Advice: 2pts win So Young @5-2
0.5pts each-way Megastar @14-1
2.40 – RSA Chase
A tough little race to weigh up is this years RSA Chase. Plenty of class in abundance throughout the field, but, no doubting that Time For Rupert leads the pack in this department. In a race of this nature, a three mile chase for novices, jumping is of prime concern. From watching replays last night Wayward Prince and Mikael D’haguenet don’t jump fences well enough for me at all. Quel Esprit looks very vulnerable on quick ground as will Magnanimity. That leaves Time For Rupert, Aiteen Thirtythree, Jessies Dream and Wymott. The fact that Ruby Walsh rides Willie Mullins’ horse here doesn’t bode well for Aiteen Thirythree. Paul Nicholls also stated that the Cheltenham experience may not suit him. Jessies Dream is horse the trainer really likes and he has a touch of class, but, for me I think one or two will come that hill a little better and so, is passed over. That leaves me with Time For Rupert and Wymott. The one thing these two horses have in common is they stay and jump very well. The former has more class, but, if he fails to fire Wymott will be snapping at his heels. I do like the McCain horse, but, I think he’ll play second fiddle to Time For Rupert who loves Cheltenham.
Advice: 2pts win Time For Rupert @5-2
1pt each-way Wymott @10-1
3.20 – Queen Mother Champion Chase
For me, this race is all about Big Zeb. Last years winner will be hoping for back to back successes after running away with this race twelve months ago when Master Minded was a hot favourite. Jumping used to be an issue with Bib Zeb, but, he has improved greatly in that department in the last eighteen months. He has a big chance and connections are very happy with him. I simply can’t have Master Minded anymore – he isn’t the great horse he once was. This quicker ground looks like it will scupper his bid for a repeat win and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him finish out of the first three. This leaves the each-way places wide open and in this market I like the look of French Opera. Around Cheltenham his figures read 1 1 3 – not bad you must admit. The better ground will be right up his street and he may even push Big Zeb all the way. Andrew Tinkler is not a jockey I’m a huge fan of – that’s the only worry.
Advice: 2pts win Big Zeb @3-1
1pt each-way French Opera @20-1
4.00 – Coral Cup
I’ll keep this short and sweet. The four horses to note in this race are Call The Police, Aegean Dawn, For Non Stop and Ballyhaunis. All four are well handicapped at present from yards going well. At the prices, Ballyhaunis gets the call, but, the other three all look to have good hopes. I’ll be playing reverse fore-casts and tri-casts to hopefully get a nice return.
Advice: 1pt each-way Ballyhaunis @10-1
4.40 – Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle
A very open looking contest with a big field going to post. Many have chances, but, at the prices, the two for me are Looks Like Slim and L’eminence Grise. Both are grossly over priced for what that done and represent great value in a very wide open race. Both horses have a similar level of form to Paintball, who is one of your market leaders. They don’t have an awful lot of ground to make up on Paintball, but, yet, are three and four times his price. I just hope they go a flat put gallop to allow them to bring their stamina into play. Two from the left field, but, at the prices we can’t go wrong.
Advice: 1pt each-way Looks Like Slim @33-1
1pt each-way L’eminence Grise @20-1
5.20 – Champion Bumper
Picking the winner of the bumper is an absolute nightmare every single year- it’s hard to get to grips with the form. Ericht, Knight Pass, Raise The Beat and Divine Rhapsody are all well fancied to go well. There your market leaders, but, as we’ve seen the past big price winners are not uncommon in this race so Go All The Way will do for me. Second in a very hot bumper on his debut at the Punchestown festival, he has clearly been laid out for this race for a long time. The son of Milan finished ahead of some now classy types including Kid Cassidy and Gagewell Flyer. It was a super debut run considering if he didn’t run green, he may well have won. With the form of the race working out well and him since changing hands for no less than £310,000 – he’ll do for me in an open race.
Advice: 1pt each-way Go All The Way @20-1