Day two of the Cheltenham Festival begins with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the British debut of the unbeaten Gordon Elliot-trained Samcro (1.30) who has looked a potential star in winning all seven career starts to date.
The selection is 8/11 with BetVictor and I believe that is a fair price given he had the pace to win a Grade One by a long looking five lengths at Leopardstown over two miles last time – yet is considered by many to be a future Gold Cup winner.
Whilst we may not see the best of this point winner until he goes over fences I feel Samcro will have too much class for Next Destination who finished third in the Festival Bumper 12 months ago and has won all three starts over timber. Next Destination looks a potential top-class staying hurdler going forward but if there is an equine superstar in the field, I believe it will be Samcro.
The RSA Chase is one of the races of the week and preference for Monalee (2.10) over Presenting Percy is marginal although I felt the selection’s jumping over 2m 5f last time was exemplary and this step up in trip should suit.
The selection (3/1 at BetVictor) finished runner up in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle last season and his jumping has been exemplary save one shuddering error at Leopardstown when he fell – when going very well – in a Grade 1 over Christmas.
Davy Russell was on board for the selection’s first two chase starts – Noel Fehily took over last time – and Russell rides the 11/4 market leader Presenting Percy today. The favourite won the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at the corresponding meeting 12 months ago and is top class, but I just think Monalee’s jumping might be the difference.
The Jeremy Kyle-owned Black Corton and Elegant Escape are the best of the home challenge but I think the Irish hold the key to the RSA Chase.
The Coral Cup is one of the most competitive races over the four-days and my two against the field are William Henry (8/1 at BetVictor) and BetVictor’s 7/1 market leader Max Dynamite (2.50) who finished third in the Melbourne Cup on the level in November.
The selection has not been seen since finishing sixth – beaten less than four lengths – in the Hong Kong Vase back in December and has experience of big field handicaps on the flat and over timber. Do note BetVictor are betting each way five places on the race.
Altior (3.30) drifted out to 5/4 at BetVictor for the Champion Chase following the news from Nicky Henderson that the brilliant unbeaten chaser was lame on Monday and was considered a doubtful runner.
Henderson reported on Tuesday morning, however, that the horse was perfectly sound and will take his chance and he has been clipped back in to 6/5 with BetVictor – if he is in the same form as when making a belated season reappearance at Newbury I cannot see him being beaten
The fact that Ruby Walsh prefers Douvan to Min would suggest the former is first choice of the Mullins’ pair but Douvan has not seen the track since disappointing in the corresponding race last year although he did go off 2/9 for that race such was his previous form. There are optimistic noises coming out of the yard but I am a massive Altior fan and odds against is a fair price.
I think Cause Of Causes is vulnerable in the X-Country Chase and if I was honest, I do not want him to have too hard a race on soft ground with one eye on Aintree – if it ever stops raining. Another JP McManus horse Auvergnat (4.10) finished fourth in this corresponding race 12 months ago and is my each way recommendation at 8/1 with BetVictor.
Twenty-two juveniles go to post for the Fred Winter and my two against the field are Lisp (14/1 at BetVictor) and Oxford Blu (4.50) with each way preference for the latter who is 16/1 with BetVictor (five places) and has Richard Johnson in the plate. The selection is 3lbs higher than when second to Solomon Grey at Market Rasen last time and will need an end-to-end gallop to be seen at his best as he looks sure to be staying on up the hill when others have cried enough.
Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Champion Bumper eight times previously – but not since 2013 – and the trainer has five runners in the finale. Blackbow is the 9/2 favourite at BetVictor but the each way recommendation is Rhinestone (5.30) despite the fact that he has a length-and-a-half to find with the market leader on Leopardstown running last month. The selection is 9/1 at BetVictor and is another each way – four places – recommendation.
Didtheyleaveuoutto would have been the selection on better ground for Nick Gifford and Acey Milan might be the best of British for Anthony Honeyball.
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