Day two of the Cheltenham Festival is set to welcome another cracking display of racing.
Ballymore Novice Hurdle
The Irish against the English trainers is really what the Cheltenham Festival can sometimes be about and ante-post favourites, Champ and Battleoverdoyen are poised for a fascinating clash in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. This contest kicks off day two of the Festival. Open to horses four years and older it welcomes a field of 16 interesting runners.
Nicky Hederson’s stable star Champ will be ridden by Barry Geraghty. Champ quickened clear to win Grade 1 Challow at Newbury in December; and is certainly a strong contender.
Interestingly, stats prove that six of the last nine winners started their racing careers in Irish point to points.
Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen is certainly going to set a strong standard in the race and the six year old is set to be steered by Jack Kennedy. Straight from a bumper to hurdle and then went on to win a Grade 1 – he will be one to watch. He has also had a nice length break since his last run where on his last outing he proved he’s a high-class novice when bagging a two mile and four furlong, Grade 1 at Naas in January.
City Island is a horse who is also a little bit under the radar and once he keeps his cool he may be one to keep an eye on.
Others to watch include Dan Skelton trained Beakstown and Ricard Johnson’s Brewin’upastorm.
The RSA Chase
Stats prove that ten of the last twelve winners were seven years old – but who is set to take this usually wide open three and a half mile furlong competition?
Delta Work boasts a successful three from three record over fences this season and is set to be partnered by champion jockey Davy Russell – who has described the six year old as “very unassuming but very athletic, he has taken very well to fences and won a Grade 1 at las month. He is also very versatile when it comes to ground conditions.”
Nicky Henderson’s stable star Santini, although in a bid to be fit on time, has been a talking point in this race. Regular rider Nico de Boinville has been booked for the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old. He is a strong contender and off the back of a respectable third place in a Grade 1 at Kempton in December.
A usually very open race, this year the front three really have a strong hand in this race and the third horse to make up this triplet is Paul Nicholls trained Topofthegame. His hurdle game is strong and he was 2nd in Coral Cup. A horse who continues to improve and progress, he is a big player and on his last outing he won a Grade 1 at Kempton. The seven year old will be ridden by Harry Cobden.
The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
A full field of 26 runners go to post in this two miles and five furlongs handicap.
Willie Mullins trained and ante post favourite Uradel’s appeal is very clear but watch out for a return to form fromn Alan Fleming trained Tully East who has run very well at two Festivals in the past. However if the going goes to just soft, he will be in trouble.
Farclas comes with the strong team of Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell behind him – 2018 Triumph Hurdle winner here; disappointing since; new trip looks like a good move. The five year old will be one to watch at each way.
Nicky Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira has minor honours when favourite for top four year old races last spring; however pulled up on return. This is a new trip for the five year old and owner J.P Mc Manus will be hopeful the mare will return to winning ways.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase
The Champion Chase, the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival is all about Altior who’s won his last 17 starts including this contest last season.
Amazing, agile, astounding are all words that have been used to describe the favourite. The son of High Chaparral is a ray of sunshine to watch race and the question hangs in the air, this going to be a one horse race? It certainly looks rather one sided on paper. I think one can not only describe the seven year old as all of the above, but also as the most talented chaser in training.
It’s very difficult to look past Altior and barring an accident he should be making it 18 wins in a row and a second Champion Chase.
Willie Mullins sends Min into yet another Altior battle. The Willie Mullins trained eight year old has won on his last two starts but has not had to run within a stone of the level he did when runner up here last year. Willie Mullins must be getting sick of seeing Altior as he’s inmate also chased him in the Supreme in 2017!
Of the others, Sceau Royal is another Grade 1 winning novice chaser from last season that’s found life tough this season. He was well beaten in the Tingle Creek behind Altior earlier in the season. I struggle to see him troubling the principals but could be a player for the place markets.
The Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase)
Tiger Roll is the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to the Cross Country three miles and six furlongs challenge. A small, but mighty horse, he has a heart of a lion. At even money, he will be the one to beat.
The nine year old took the title of the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year and has won at the Cheltenham track twice previous to this. His celeb status comes from his stellar performance where he won the Grand National at Aintree in 2018 partnered with Davy Russell.
Hoping for a repeat of last year, Keith Donoghue will take the ride on Gordon Elliott’s superstar for the second year in a row at the Festival.
Well-known trainer to this race is Limerick man Enda Bolger who brings two talented bank horses to the field.
Josie’s Orders is set to be ridden by Mark Walsh and has certainly plenty of experience in this race. The eleven year old is a four time C & D winner and won’t be far behind the favourite.
Stable mate Auvergnat will be ridden by Donal Mc Inerney and comes off the back of a stylish winning performance at the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown last December.
The nine-year-old also finished fourth on his last two outings in this race and so will certainly be one to watch at an each-way price. He will be wearing blinkers which may help.
Selection: Tiger Roll
Fred Winter Juvenile handicap hurdle
A typically wide-open renewal this race will host a field of 22 runners. This handicap hurdle hosts an interesting field and Gordon Elliott trained Lethal Steps will be one to watch. The four year old has shown some aptitude for hurdling and is judged on his useful Flat form. Set to be ridden by Davy Russell.
Ante post favourite Band Of Outlaws will be ridden by JJ Slevin. The Joseph O’Brien trained four year old sidesteps the Triumph for this contest. The son of Fast Company has won on his last two track appearances – the latter being a stylish performance at Naas last month to win the 2 mile Rated Novice Hurdle.
Star Max represents Owning Hill based trainer Joseph O’Brien. He has improved each run over hurdles and his previous history on the flat in Germany is good. Ridden by Rachael Blackmore he will be one to consider as the four year old won on his last outing at Gowran Park where he kept on well.
Selection: Star Max
Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Willie Mullins has dominated this Grade 1 for many years winning it nine times and will be aiming for the tenth. Blue Sari is Mullins only entry and is set to be ridden by Barry Geraghty in the two and a half mile challenge.
Jamie Codd takes the ride on Envoi Allen for trainer Gordon Elliott. He is a strong contender and comes off the back of a Grade 2 win at Leopardstown last month. Previous to this he won three bumpers previous to this.
Others to keep an eye on include Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras and Ask For Glory who is representing Paul Nicholls yard.
But this has been a springboard race for certain horse careers in the past and will make an interesting contest.
Selection: Envoi Allen