There’s more terrific action to look forward to, on Day 3 at Cheltenham (Thursday). Here is a run-down of all 7 races, that take place on Day 3 – plus a look at the horses that are keeping our ante-post department busy!
JLT Novices’ Chase
While Footpad is the clear ante-post favourite, for the 2018 JLT, Willie Mullins star-in-waiting also tops the market for the Arkle. You certainly won’t be alone if you decide to back Footpad in both races, with RaceBets’ incredible ‘Non-Runner No Bet’ Cheltenham ante-post offer!
That’s not to suggest that Footpad is a surefire winner of whichever Cheltenham race Mullins decides to go with and Willoughby Court certainly looks able enough to at least keep him honest, should both horses run in the JLT. The 7-year-old beat Yanworth by 3 lengths, when winning in Grade 2 company at Newbury in early December. However, that horse is also in contention after winning the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase (New Year’s Day, Cheltenham) with Willoughby Court 8 lengths back in 3rd place.
Fairyhouse was buzzing following the chasing debut of Sutton Place, in another encounter that was held on January 1st. Gordon Elliott’s charge proved too good for Kemboy and let’s not forget just how well he was travelling in the Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown before Mark Walsh pulled him up due to an injury scare.
Gary Moore’s Benatar has won 3 on the bounce and this one is going to be taken seriously after holding-off the challenge of Finian’s Oscar in the Grade 2 Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot. The trainer is already eyeing the final stepping-stone for him.
“All being well, he will go to Sandown on February 3rd for the Scilly Isles. We thought about going up to three miles, but he is not a slow horse so we will stick to two and a half miles.”
You can also back Invitation Only, Al Boum Photo, Monalee, Shattered Love, Modus and others right now for the JLT.
Top Pick: Benatar – 10/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
Pertemps Network Final
Holly Bush Henry put the needle into his rivals, at Fakenham earlier this week, winning the Wendling Handicap Chase under a smart ride from James Bowen – despite giving plenty of weight all-round. Phil Middleton (trainer) made a killing with various accumulator bets that afternoon and told reporters in no uncertain terms about his intentions for the horse, before laughing all the way to the bank with the bookies’ loot!
“The Pertemps is the plan. He is off 142 so he will get in it now. We will give him a little break now.”
This Grade 3 handicap contest is open to horses aged 5 and up, with 12 hurdles to be jumped over 3 miles. Presenting Percy won in 2017, with Davy Russell on-board. Russell also partnered Mall Dini to victory in 2016 and both horses were trained by Pat Kelly.
The most-famous winner is undoubtedly the 1983 champion, Forgive ‘n Forget. Trained by Jimmy Fitzgerald, the chestnut gelding went on to win the Timeform Chase (1984, 1985), the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1985), the Edward Hanmer Chase (1985, 1986), the Charlie Hall Chase (1986), the Tommy Whittle Chase(1986) and the Vincent O’Brien Irish Gold Cup (1987).
It’s highly-unlikely that the 2018 champion will go on to taste that sort of success, but this is always a fascinating encounter and our ante-post market has some interesting names for punters to conjure with. They include Bags Groove, Louis’ Van Pouch, The Organist, Protek Des Flos, Glenloe, Who Dares Wins, Dell’ Arca and Harry Fry’s Whataknight.
Top Pick: Holly Bush Henry – 20/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
Un De Sceaux proved that he can still do the business at the highest level, by winning a third consecutive Clarence House Chase last week. On testing ground, the front-running Speredek’s noble endeavours were not enough to prevent this outstanding horse from scooping an 8th Grade 1 success. Paul Townend was on-board and he was full of praise for how Un De Sceaux handled the testing conditions, at Ascot.
“He gallops through that ground better than any horse I’ve ever ridden. I rode my horse to suit him and the further we went, the more confident I was getting.”
Yorkhill would be expected to go very-close, although the Champion Chase looks a more-likely target for Willie Mullins’ to aim at. Much may depend on the well-being of Faugheen and Douvan, so those thinking of an ante-post bet on the 2017 JLT winner should tread carefully.
Waiting Patiently, trained by Malcolm Jefferson, took advantage of tactical blunders to win in Listed company at Kempton recently. The skirmishes involving Josses Hill and Art Mauresque tempted God’s Own to also get involved and Waiting Patiently lived up to his name – picking the pockets of all three at the second-last and quickening clear. That was his 6th victory in a row and the last 5 have been with Brian Hughes as jockey.
Others worthy of consideration include Road To Respect, Disko, Top Notch, Double Shuffle and Sub Lieutenant.
Top Pick: Waiting Patiently – 6/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
Yanworth has been at work over fences so far in this campaign, but Alan King admits to finding the £300,000 purse on offer for this year’s renewal of the Stayers Hurdle very tempting.
“He will go straight to Cheltenham, but I don’t know what race for. He definitely won’t run beforehand and we will keep him fresh and he will either go for the RSA Chase or the Stayers’ Hurdle. He is in very good form and has just been doing the odd canter and is ticking away. The Stayers’ Hurdle is worth fortunes this year and his form with Supasundae puts him right in the mix, so we will have to see what they want to do.”
King will also take heart from Yanworth’s victory in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase, at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Willoughby Court and Ballyandy were well-beaten and only the fact that the relatively unfancied Sizing Tennessee finished such a close runner-up casts any kind of shadow over the form.
Connections of The New One must be heartily sick of their asset being described as ‘not good enough’ whenever Cheltenham comes around and it does feel like a ‘now or never’ moment is approaching for the 10-year-old.
If Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge does eventually retire without a Championship race win under his belt (The New One did win the Neptune in 2013), he will surely be regarded as among the best not to achieve this over the last few years. A half-length defeat of Ch’tibello in the Grade 2 Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle should not be taken as definitive proof that he’ll be having a 5th tilt at that race and he’s currently shorter for the Stayers.
Penhill, Wholestone, Lil Rockerfeller and Shaneshill are others attracting ante-post bets.
Top Pick: The New One – 12/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
Brown Advisory Plate
Vaniteux has received a degree of market-support, despite not winning any of his last 6 races. You have to go back to April 2017 for the 9-year-olds most-recent victory, which came in a Listed handicap chase at Ayr. In 3 of the 6 defeats, Vaniteux finished stone-last and he got a good view of the other 7 runners when he finally went past the post in last year’s Ryanair Chase.
David Pipe’s excellent record in this 2m 5f encounter will be one of the main reasons for punters optimism, though. The trainer has won 3 of the last 8 renewals (Great Endeavour in 2010, Salut Flo in 2012 and Ballynagour in 2014) and his father saddled a further 4 winners between 1997 and 2002.
Gary Moore’s sole success came with Tikram in 2004. Baron Alco is fancied by many to represent his yard this time around and that horse was runner-up last year, giving a pound to the eventual winner Road To Respect. The 6-year-old hasn’t had an outing since then, however.
Paul Nicholls has several potential runners, including Clan Des Obeaux, Romain De Senam, Frodon, Bouvreuil and Le Prezien who was a disappointing favourite in the 2017 Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. He lost out to Foxtail Hill by just a neck, in the Randox Health Handicap Chase (October) though, with the winner a full 4lb better off.
Two Taffs, Tully East, Gold Present, Theinval, Kylemore Lough and Guitar Pete (a Cheltenham winner in December) are others to monitor over the next few weeks.
Top Pick: Le Prezien – 20/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
Mares Novice Hurdle
This race was only introduced as recently as 2016, when the Festival expanded to 28 contests. The first winners were Limini and Let’s Dance – both trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh. The symmetry may continue, should Walsh be on-board Laurina and the French import certainly looks a capable recruit. She cruised to a 15-length victory on debut, a race in which Paul Townend was to some extent merely a passenger and an impressed one at that.
“She was very good. She’s a tank of a filly and is like sitting on a gelding. She loved the ground and had the experience in France. She was showing us that at home and to be honest we would have been disappointed if she didn’t do that. If they can keep her in one piece they will have fun with her.”
Maria’s Benefit has been busy rewarding those who have backed her, in each of the 6-year-old’s 4 most-recent races. Stuart Edmunds’ charge has yet to be sent-off as an odds-on favourite and she was scintillating when crushing rivals in the Listed Mares Hurdle, at Taunton last weekend. For those of you that didn’t see the race, the fact that Edmunds has decided to run her again on Saturday (in the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, at Doncaster) should tell you how much the trainer feels is left in the tank.
Irish Roe will be among those taking on Maria’s Benefit in Saturday’s Grade 2 encounter, which was won by Vroum Vroum Mag last season. Peter Atkinson’s mare has been victorious in 7 of her 10 races and the last 2 successes came at Doncaster. Both were handicaps though and she’s yet to win a race that’s yielded any truly-convincing form.
Apple’s Shakira, Salsaretta, Mystic Theatre, Countister, Cap Soleil and Ray Hackett’s wonderfully-named Crackerdancer are others that can be backed.
Top Pick: Laurina – 9/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
Kim Muir Handicap Chase
The final race, on Thursday’s card, is a 3m 1½f chase with 19 fences to be negotiated. This contest has been a fixture since 1946, when it was won by Astrometer. Famous victors include Nicolaus Silver, Cool Ground and Ballabriggs.
Domesday Book won last year for Stuart Edmonds and you can currently back the 8 year-old at a big price to repeat the feat. Squouateur is the clear market-leader, despite finishing a defeated favourite at Leopardstown in late-December. It’s almost two years since Gordon Elliott’s horse won a race though and he unseated Jamie Codd in last season’s renewal, when blundering at the 3rd last.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Tintern Theatre has shown an even greater degree of keenness, in terms of treating his rider to an unscheduled dismount, recently. The partnership has remained intact in just 2 of his last 5 outings, although he was impressive when winning a valuable Kempton handicap in which he carried a pound more than Brandon Hill (3 lengths back, in 3rd place).
Doing Fine‘s most-recent win came in a handicap chase at Cheltenham last April and the 7 lengths he put between himself and Fourth Act (on level terms) indicates he’s worth running the rule over. That horse won convincingly at Fontwell, last weekend.
David Pipe’s What A Moment had suffered plenty of frustration in 2017, before finally coming good in a Cheltenham amateur riders race last November. In a blanket finish, the Milan-sired gelding beat both Sugar Baron and Tintern Theatre to the lollipop with both horses just a couple of pounds worse-off. It was a close enough finish to cast doubt on whether he would have got there, without this small advantage, but the performance certainly puts him in the conversation.
Others that could feature include Mall Dini, Daklondike, Cogry, Woods Well and Nicky Henderson’s Premier Bond.
Top Pick: Domesday Book – 20/1 Non-Runner No Bet!
The odds mentioned were correct at time of publishing on 26th January 12:07 pm and are non-binding and without guarantee.