Cheltenham – Day two and we go again!

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If you re betting at Cheltenham then I’ve done the legwork for you, and all we need now is a little luck and for me to be right!

1.30pm Ballymore Hurdle

Stats: Ireland 7-3 United Kingdom here, and the raiders had won the last four as well. Nine out of the last 10 were six-year-olds which is interesting, and we have seen five winning favourites in the last decade, and only two winners bigger than 9/2, suggesting the market is historically a decent guide.

Thoughts: Gutted to see that my long-term fancy is absent here and we will have to wait for Aintree to lump on, but all eyes will be on the classy Sir Gerhard now, the winner of his last two starts over hurdles and runner-up in the bumper here last season. I always thought connections would send him here as the easier option, and so it proved, but he isn’t bulletproof and at current odds of 8/11, he ought to be. He may well win this and do so with ease, but he has never raced beyond two miles, and as a son of Jeremy there has to be a question over his stamina. Once again I am being tempted in to an each-way alternative for the heck of it, and the lucky pin has fallen on Journey With Me. Of course his form is not at the level of the favourite, but he arrives here unbeaten, has won over two miles three and two miles four over hurdles, looks to have more to come as he gains in experience, and has the assistance of Rachel Blackmore in the saddle. At 13/2 he may well hit the frame, giving us a win bet for nothing, though if you prefer to back the jolly here, I can’t really blame you except for his price.  

2.10pm Brown Advisory Chase

Stats: 6-4 to the home team and nothing bigger than 4/1 in the last five years with three winning favourites. Seven winners were aged seven, two aged eight and the solitary six-year-old. Nicky Henderson has trained three of the last 10 winners, and Willie Mullins two.

Thoughts: Nicky Henderson is sweet on the chances of Dusart, Paul Nicholls sees Bravemansgame as his best chance of the week, and I am ignoring them both to back Ahoy Senor – I must be mad. A proper old-fashioned stamp of a chaser, he is a brute of an animal but has treated his fences with a lack of respect now and then hence his record of two wins form four having unseated at Carlisle and tried to take a few fences with hm when second to Bravemansgame at Kempton. He is certain to have been well schooled since with Peter Scudamore in the Lucinda Russell yard, and you have to ask yourself – would he be an 11/2 start if he was housed in a more “fashionable” stable? Personally, I doubt it, and if he puts in a clear round, I can see him reversing the Kempton form with Bravemansgame, and powering clear up the Cheltenham Hill.

2.50pm Coral Cup

Stats: No winners bigger than 40/1 in the last 24 runnings, no winners older than nine, and only one rated lower than 126. 6-4 to the home team once again while Nicky Henderson has had three of the last 10 winners, Nico de Boinville riding two of those. Just the one winning jolly with others at 33/1 (last year and 2013) suggesting all things are possible. Kings Theatre was the sire of two of the last six winners.

Thoughts: Not a race I can be remotely confident about but after applying the stats (for what that is worth), I have got it down to “just” the entire field – that was a waste of time! If the Irish are as well-handicapped as some seem to think they are we may all be wasting our time, but as many of you will know, I am a big fan of Nigel Twiston-Davies and I know that he expects a big run from Gowel Road who may have more to offer at the tender age of six. I believe he has been campaigned with this race in mind all season and although beaten by Metier last time out, that was over two miles and surely just a pipe-opener. He won easily enough over C&D in November top suggest he can go well here and although 11lb higher in the handicap now, Nigel does not think that rules him out by any means. Each way material in a tricky contest to call.  

3.30pm Queen Mother Champion Chase

Stats: Four winning favourites from the last 10 but here’s the shocker – the Brits have won eight of the last 10 with Nicky Henderson training five of those. Age seems irrelevant with three aged seven, two aged eight, three aged nine, and the other two aged 10.

Thoughts: All about Shiskin if you look at the form book, and even Willie Mullins doesn’t seem to think that Energumene can reverse Ascot form with the Henderson beast. He ought to win as an odds-on shot and I will hear the bookmakers cheer from here if he fails, he will be in that many accumulators both ante post and on the day. I am a little wary of Envoi Allen who returns from a wind operation and seems to have been ignored. The winner of five of his eight starts over fences as well as the Ballymore over hurdles here in 2020, if he is back to his best then no way shoud he be a 25/1 shot, and I may include him in any forecast bets on the day.

4.10pm Cross Country Chase

Stats: Seven Irish winners, one French and just the two for the home team. Keith Donoghue has ridden three of the last four renewals, and Gordon Elliott has trained three of the last five. There has only been one winner under the age of eight (4 out of 16 runnings in total), and none older than 12 (no shock there). No winner has arrived here after pulling up last time out (see Tiger Roll!) despite 27 trying, and we have only had the one winner at a bigger price than 20/1.

Thoughts: Not exactly a one-off these days but strange old race when many punters slope off to grab themselves another Guinness. If Tiger Roll wins he will bring the house down on his last race before retirement, but he needs to be in the mood and sadly that cannot be guaranteed at the age of 12, despite all the bullish noises coming out of the Gordon Elliott yard. Prengarde won a similar race in France at Compiegne before being bought by J P McManus specifically for this race, and was then given a run over an inadequate two miles over hurdles at Naas in a race best forgotten but he will be spot on now and at 7/1 or bigger looks stonking each-way value.

4.50pm Grand Annual Challenge Cup

Stats: No winner has carried more than 11 stone eight on the 24 years of stats I have at my disposal, and only one was rated higher than 150.The Irish have won four of the last 10 but only one of the last four, and we have only had one winning favourite since 2013. Paul Nicholls has won two of the last six, and Davy Russell has ridden two of the last eight.

Thoughts: I am thinking we could well see a surprise here and not for the first time, but thinking that and finding the horse concerned are very different things. At 16/1 I quite like the look of the Colin Tizzard trained Elixir De Nutz who has won his last two over further and won’t be stopping up the Cheltenham Hill however fast they go here. He can go well looking for his hat-trick but Paul Nicholls has won two of the last six runnings of this and I will take an each-way chance on Il Ridoto. Open to any amount of improvement at the age of five, he won over fences at Newbury in November and can be forgiven his last run when third at Lingfield on heavy ground that clearly didn’t suit. He will get a sounder surface here as things stand, and more importantly the stable are firing again after a spell in the doldrums, and although no good thing, the 20/1 is sorely tempting – again each-way.

5.30pm Champion Bumper

Stats: Willie Mullins has won five of the last 10, and the Irish have won eight of the last 10, though surprisingly we have only seen two winning favourites. Six five-year-olds and four six-year olds have come home in front, and Jamie Codd has ridden two of the last five for Gordon Elliott.Thoughts: Those who read my articles regularly will remember me tipping Facile Vega before his racecourse bow, and some of us (cough cough) are sitting smugly on an antepost voucher at 9/1 (to be honest, I have already cashed out). He really does look like the next big thing, quickening up to put the race to bed last time out at Leopardstown and if I have one small issue, its whether he will handle Cheltenham. If he does, he wins with his head in his chest if he is as good as they think, but he is priced accordingly and so be it. American Mike is his obvious rival for an Irish one-two and won’t go under without a fight, while those looking for something at a bigger price might like a closer look at Poetic Music, unbeaten after three bumpers over shorter, crying out for step up in trip, and in receipt of a massive 17lb from her older male rivals as a four-year-old filly.

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