The brilliant Douvan (3.30) will face nine rivals for today’s Queen Mother Champion Chase the feature event on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. The seven-year-old is unbeaten in thirteen previous races under rules and is so dominant in this two mile chasing division that he is ¼ at BetVictor to maintain his unbeaten record.
The seven-year-old has won his four races by an aggregate of nearly 50 lengths so far this season and is in a class apart from his peers – the recommendation is to sit back and enjoy and hope that he and Altior meet in the corresponding race in 2018. Altior is 4/1 for the race after his 6l win in the Arkle yesterday and that could look very big – albeit in 12 months’ time.
The card starts with the Grade 1 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and I just wonder if the ground has dried out too much for likely favourite Neon Wolf (2/1 at BetVictor) and marginal preference goes to Bacardys (1.30) who looked in need of this 2m 5f trip when winning the Deloitte Novice Hurdle over 2m 2f at Leopardstown last time.
The selection finished third in the Cheltenham Bumper last year before winning at Aintree and he again finished with the bronze at Punchestown. One could argue that the form of his Leopardstown success was let down by Bunk Off Early who disappointed in the Supreme yesterday although a bad mistake three output paid to his chances in a rough race. The selection is 3/1 at BetVictor and must go close.
The RSA Chase is the second Grade 1 race on the card and I hope to see Alpha Des Obeaux (2.10) bounce back having burst a blood vessel when disappointing in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. The noises coming across the Irish Sea suggests Mouse Morris has him back to his best and at 11/2 with BetVictor he is taken to reward each way support.
Tombstone (11/2 with BetVictor) has been very well supported in the Coral Cup and must go close for the brilliant Gordon Elliot who somehow got yesterday’s Supreme winner Labaik to put his best foot forward. At 33/1 (each way five places with BetVictor) I am going to take a chance on the veteran Monksland (2.50) who has the valuable assistance of 3lb claimer Donagh Meyler and has bits of form which suggest he could still, even at the age of ten, have a big race in him.
I can also pass on a good word for Scoir Mear who I know has been very prominent in many a Festival preview evening across the Irish Sea.
Cause Of Causes (4.10) will bounce off the prevailing fast ground in the X-Country Chase and he had a “sighter” here back in January when he was not given an over-vigorous ride shall we say. The selection is a previous dual winner at the Festival and jockey Jamie Codd has been in the plate for both the 4m National Hunt Chase (2015) and the Kim Muir twelve months ago. The Gordon Elliot-trained horse is one of four near the head of the market who run in the colours of JP McManus and is 7/2 with BetVictor.
There are a number at Seven Barrows who feel Divin Bere holds an outstanding chance despite top-weight in the Fred Winter and 6/1 looks a very fair price given the form of his last run at Huntingdon when he gave weight and a beating to non-other than Master Blueyes, trained by Alan King, who is to the fore in the betting for the Triumph Hurdle.
Marginal preference, however, goers to Dino Velvet (4.50) who travelled like a very good horse when beaten at Ludlow last time on ground, which may have been softer than ideal. The selection is 33/1 at BetVictor and the suggestion is he a shade overpriced.
The Festival Bumper concludes the card and Willie Mullins, who used to have a near monopoly on the race, is looking for his first win since 20143 courtesy of Carter McKay (5.30) who impressed everyone when making all at Naas last time. The best of the home challenge may be Western Ryder who might have faced a near impossible task when failing to give 21lbs to the promising Daphne Du Clos at Newbury back in February. The selection is 9/2 at BetVictor and he is another each way recommendation.