Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Race Previews & Tips (Wednesday)

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Altior

After an exciting opening-day, at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, what do we have to look forward to on Wednesday? Here are previews of all 7 races, long with a tip for each one.

Ballymore Novices Hurdle – Grade 1

For 4 year olds and upwards

Distance: 2m5f1y

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Samcro is expected to start as the odds-on favourite and Gordon Elliott’s 6-year-old remains unbeaten, after 6 races. Jess Harrington’s Jetz was piloted by Robbie Power, in the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle, but the partnership never really got off the ground and Jetz was beaten by 12 lengths. Samcro then confirmed what a special talent he is, comfortably holding Duc Des Genievres in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown.

Willie Mullins, the trainer of Duc Des Genievres, should also have Next Destination representing his yard in the Ballymore. As expected, he proved to be too strong for Cracking Smart in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle and the Dubai Destination-sired gelding arrives at the Festival in excellent form.

Tom George’s Black Op looks the wildcard, in Tuesday’s opener. He finished less than a length behind Nicky Henderson’s Santini, in the Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in January and he’s been talked-up by plenty of pundits as the campaign has progressed.

Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos is not without a chance and those who like to back a ‘roughie’ could do worse than taking a look at Dan Skelton’s Knight In Dubai. Lack of experience cost him in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, but there should be plenty more to come from the 5-year-old.

Tip: Black Op

RSA Chase – Grade 1

For 5 year olds and upwards

Distance: 3m110y

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A competitive list of runners in the RSA should lead to one of the 2018 Festival’s best races. Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee was a faller, in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase, but he returned to Leopardstown last month and won what was a very exciting race in which Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only and Dounikos were all in the shake-up.

Presenting Percy defied the handicapper when crushing the field at Fairyhouse in December and then put the likes of Augusta Kate, Diamond Cauchois, Alpha Des Obeaux and Let’s Dance in their places in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park. Defeat to Our Duke, in the Red Mills Chase (also at Gowran Park) was a setback however – particularly as the winner was far from fluent over the obstacles.

Paul Nicholls’ will have high-hopes for Black Corton, but it’s over a decade since he last saddled an RSA winner (Denman in 2007). Ballyoptic was pulled-up in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle after his jumping let-down Sam and Nigel Twiston-Davies. A smart victory over Vintage Clouds, in the Towton Novices’ Chase last month, should serve as a reminder of his ability though and he could be the value bet in this contest.

Tip: Ballyoptic

Coral Cup – Grade 3

For 4 year olds and upwards

Distance: 2m5f1y

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Le Breuil looked way out of his depth, when hugely stepped-up for the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree at the end of last season and he was also disappointing on his seasonal renewal at Kempton in November. He was then a well-beaten even-money favourite, when returning to Aintree the following month, but the false doll marker spooked him in that encounter so the result could well be somewhat misleading.

William Henry, a King’s Theatre gelding, looked utterly out of sorts on his reappearance (at Cheltenham in November) and has been given just one outing since then by Nicky Henderson. That came in the Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle where he looked a completely different animal – staying on strongly to defeat Spiritofthegames by three-quarters of a length.

Willie Mullins has Max Dynamite in this one and this is no ordinary campaigner. He finished 3rd under Zac Purton, in the Melbourne Cup (won by Joseph O’Brien’s Rekindling) and was far from disgraced when 6th of 12 in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. Not too many Cheltenham horses arrive at the Festival on the back of a prep-race like that!

Mount Mews, Fixe Le Cap and Alan King’s River Frost are others that shouldn’t be ruled-out.

Tip: Max Dynamite

10 Horses To Follow, In The 2016/2017 National Hunt Season

Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1

For 5 year olds and upwards

Distance: 2m

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An absolutely mouth-watering line-up will hopefully lead to an epic renewal of Wednesday’s feature contest. Altior is now unbeaten in 12 races and the 2017 Arkle winner had too much in the tank to be troubled by Politologue, at Newbury last month. However, reports of lameness began circulating on Monday so watch closely for market moves.

It would be a huge shame if we don’t get to see Nicky Henderson’s star charge take on the brilliant brace of runners offered-up by Willie Mullins. Douvan disappointed in this race last year, when sent-off as a 2/9 favourite, but he simply has far too much class to be written-off as we saw when he comfortably won the 2016 Arkle – beating the 2017 Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, by 7 lengths.

But if there are doubts over the aforementioned duo, then even more punters are going to be attracted to Willie Mullins other runner – Min. He only lost to Simply Ned at Leopardstown in December, after being demoted by the stewards. The pair renewed acquaintances at the same venue last month and this time Min put the veteran to the sword. He appears to be peaking at just the right time and looks sure to run a very big race.

Special Tiara won this encounter, last year. If you think Henry de Bromhead’s inmate can repeat the feat, you’ll be backing him at long odds.

Tip: Min

Cross Country Chase – Class 2

For 5 year olds and upwards

Distance: 3m7f

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JP McManus horses are always towards the top of the market in this race and Cause Of Causes is the one that punters most like the look of. He was the winner of last season’s Glenfarclas Chase and might have gone one better than runner-up in the Aintree Grand National, had he not been bumped two fences from home. Josies Orders and Auvergnat should also go for JP.

Kim Bailey’s The Last Samurai has not won in two years, but was 2nd to Blaklion in the Becher Handicap Chase with the winner being 6lb better-off. He was 4th in the Cotswold Chase, but was beaten by very good horses in Definitly Red, American and Bristol De Mai.

Tiger Roll will be Gordon Elliott’s flag-bearer and should find plenty of market-support. The 8-year-old was the victor in the 2017 National Hunt Challenge Cup.

Tip: Tiger Roll

Paul Nicholls

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

For 4 year olds

Distance: 2m110y

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This looks to be one of Paul Nicholls’ best chances of getting a Cheltenham winner. Act Of Valour won a valuable introductory race for juveniles at Newcastle in December, holding-off the challenge from race favourite Look My Way. He was also runner-up in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle, at Musselburgh.

Mitchouka showed a clean quartet of hooves to Veneer Of Charm, at Fairyhouse, winning by 8 lengths and with plenty in hand. Gordon Elliott sent Mitchouka back to Fairyhouse for the Grade 3 Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle and was rewarded with a cosy defeat of Mastermind.

Plenty of others have strong claims though including Nube Negra, Style De Garde, The King Of May and Nick Williams’ Esprit De Somoza.

Tip: Look My Way

The Coral Cup, won by Supasundae
Cheltenham Festival.
Photo:Patrick McCann 15.03.2017

Champion Bumper

For 4 year olds and upwards

Distance: 2m110y

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Rhinestone was the emphatic winner of the Ryan Tarmacadam Flat Race at Thurles in December, thrashing odds-on favourite Sancta Simona by a whopping 19 lengths. Joseph O’Brien’s horse then finished runner-up to Blackbow in the Grade 2 Goffs Future Stars Stakes at Leopardstown, so he goes into this encounter with a great chance.

Acey Milan won a Listed contest at Cheltenham, in January, making all under Aidan Coleman. He followed-up with another important victory, this time beating Woulduadamandeveit in another Listed race at Newbury which included smart prospects Good Boy Bobby and Brewin’upastorm.

This race is where champions of the future are often born and it will be fascinating to see the likes of Felix Desjy, Tornado Flyer and Carefully Selected in action at Cheltenham.

Tip: Rhinestone

Good luck, if you are having a bet at Cheltenham on Wednesday!

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