Looking ahead to Cheltenham Festival 2016 – Day 3

With the event of 2016, the Cheltenham Festival creeping ever closer, many ante-post picks are either gold or bust. To see how my current portfolio is looking read Cheltenham Festival 2016 – Ante-post blog which was written last month. But I’m keen to look forward so without further ado, let’s see if we can find some value tips on St Patrick’s Thursday.

JLT Novices Chase

Day 3 of the Finals week at Prestbury College. Ahead of the Super Friday of exams, this seasons’ finishing novice chasers turn up to the JLT sponsored workshop to find things fuller than usual. The professor explains all….. Afternoon class. I hear from Professor Arkle that many of you have run scared of Douvan, so you have decided to go here instead for this workshop. Let us see who is present. Shaneshill? Good. Sizing John? Excellent. Go sit next to Killultagh Vic there. Bristol De Mai? Good. Is L’Ami Serge coming? “Don’t know sir!” Well we’ve no time to waste, he’ll just have to be late. Unlike its often maligned older counterpart, the JLT has quickly worked its way into the calendar as a much love finishing school for both speedy and stamina laden novice chasers, and with the imposing figure of Douvan towering over the Arkle and the RSA looking a formidable renewal, there is plenty of talent on show already. Killultagh Vic is in my personal, but sadly not public ante post book, but his remarkable achievement in getting back up at Leopardstown on Sunday makes him a worthy favourite. For all that Ruby Walsh performed a miracle in staying on and then getting him back up with one iron, he was set to win by a wide margin but for the mistake, showing something like the form that saw him beat none other than Thistlecrack at the Punchestown Festival. It looks likely that he’ll go here, following wins for Black Hercules and Roi De Francs on Saturday giving him a couple of nice options for staying chases too. Shaneshill has impressed with his engine in two starts, but overall his jumping under pressure has pleased some greatly and been a cause for concern for some others. I would personally be on the latter side, and would want to see him run again before the festival. L’Ami Serge was impressive stepped up in trip at Wetherby on the weekend, but drops back for the Kingmaker and is very much an up in the air target. NRNB, he would make the most appeal, with things having gone against him in the Supreme when behind Shaneshill and Sizing John. Sizing John was beaten silly by Douvan at Christmas, but he had looked off his game for most of that race and will surely improve on the better ground; And perhaps, the step up in trip. Wethere he runs before the festival is also open to debate, but better is surely to come from him and he remains of great interest. Bristol De Mai, well beaten by Ar Mad, may struggle to cope with some of the speeider types on hurdling form but still needs much respect here and Zabana has been supported for this race, and not without due cause as he won at Leopardstown over Christmas. A market to watch not to bet on.

Pertemps Network Final

Cheltenham Festival 2016 Tip: 1 pt each way Leave At Dawn (16/1 Coral) A proper standout here amongst the legion of McManus horses as Leave at Dawn is now qualified following a fine effort at Leopardstown in a well contested Christmas qualifier at Leopardstown. Having previously bolted up in a well contested intermediate handicap hurdle in good style at the Open meeting on the new course, he’s travelled into the reckoning comfortably at Christmas but could not cope with the heavy ground and eventually found his wheels spinning as he finished fifth. However, that effort entitled him to huge credit given that of his three wins from just 11 starts (just one at this trip), only one had come on soft or worse and if things do dry up, he must have a major chance. If In Doubt, at winner on Boxing Day at Wincanton, is worthy of respect too and looks the right favourite at this stage, although Missed Approach and Box Office catch the eye and Forthefunofit is another green and gold contender. he Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock is also a good pointer, with three out of the last six winners having finished in the top five in that race prior to coming to Cheltenham, and maybe on decent ground, Batavir might put his best foot forward. When doing so, he has considerable talent, enough to take advantage.

Ryanair Chase

If Vatour runs, he should win and win easily. Whether he does so is not a call to make now, with a range of factors potentially diverting him one way or the other. Smad Place would be an each/way bet to nothing if being sent from the front here, with him making more appeal than Al Ferof being ridden prominently, although he too would deserve respect; Previous effort from Dan Skelton’s horse would need improving on. Many here look likely not to run; Don Cossack will go to the Gold Cup and Valesur Lido, disappointing in the King George, must go further rather than backwards, and Vroum Vroum Mag looks very likely to stay over hurdles too. Simonsig is yet to prove himself fully back and surely goes to the Champion Chase. Second last season, Ma Filleule has disappointed this year and did not run to the level of last year’s form when winning a Mares’ chase at Doncaster. The interesting one is Road To Riches, third in the Gold Cup last year when always on the heel of Coneygree on ground softer than he would have wanted. With two prime Gold Cup contenders, they could easily send him here and his win in the Clonmel Oil Chase showed an awful lot of speed for one so robust when staying. His NRNB price is short enough given that he may take on Vautour. Sound Investment could have a good chance if the race cuts up, being rated 162 and now on something like the ground he wants to race on following fine efforts in handicaps. Vibrato Valtat, from the same stable, could be given a chance on the very best of his form as a novice, although at Aintree last year he did not run to standard that would have suggested he could win this and Saturday’s run in the Clarence House will tell us more. With the race potentially cutting up majorly, this could be within the reach of the uber progressive handicappers Village Vic and Champagne West. Both would be upped markedly in class (and on badly worse terms with Sound Investment) but the best is surely yet to come from both of them, given that Champagne West was making his comeback in the December Gold Cup and that Village Vic, who has won on the heaviest ground Cheltenham are likely to race on all year and had previously won twice on good ground too. Big runs from both wouldn’t surprise. No tip.

World Hurdle

Already Advised: 1 pt each/way Thistlecrack 10/1 (pictured above) &  1 pt each/way Cole Harden 10/1 The best of my previous Cheltenham 2016 ante-post tips. A deeply impressive winner of the Long Walk Hurdle, to follow on from his win in the Long Distance Hurdle, it would seem that the only thing that stands between him and victory for some is the track. His one bad run there came early in his development, and the Cleeve should tell much more, but he has a fine chance. The arrival of Camping Ground on the scene has spiced things up, and the further he went the better he looked in the Relkeel, although on good ground it would be interesting to see how he copes given that many he was facing floundered on soft in the Relkeel. One of those is Cole Harden, who is yet to find his ground, but remains value on a dry surface. Annie Power doesn’t look likely to go but we’ll know a lot more about the claims of Vroum Vroum Mag on Saturday, when she faces a decent field including four mares rated in excess of 140 in the Fairfield Hurdle. Alpha Des Obeaux was locked in a duel to the death with Thistlecrack when falling at Aintree, and on better ground, could be overpriced, but some have cottoned onto that fact now. He runs in the Galmoy Hurdle, along with Albert Bartlett winner Martello Tower, and that should tell us more about them with Martello Tower fit although he must give a penalty of 7lbs. Prince of Scars beat him at Christmas, staying on powerfully to win easily. Whether he could do that on better ground remains to be seen however. Aux Ptis Soins has huge potentially but has had the worst possible season leading upto this and the same is true of Saphir Du Rheu. The New One doesn’t look a likely runner, but would be one of interest. Briar Hill (runs in the Galmoy) has become disappointing and Kilcooley hasn’t won on good ground. Windsor Park would be feared if going here, and some have rumoured that it will be the case. However his run in the Ryanair Hurdle was consuming and he now doesn’t have another chance to run. If he runs on the day, he looks a fine each/way bet. No further tips.

Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate

The following three races are all worth following closely for those trying to get a start on things here; the Williamhill.com Handicap Chase at Kempton in January has been a good trial with eight of the last ten winners taking this path before going on to the Festival, The Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham on trials day and the Lord Gyllene Chase at Uttoxeter. However if one of Village Vic or Champagne West goes here there must be a good chance one or both outclasses this field over a course and distance over which they are very comfortable. Many quoted are more exposed than one would want, but I can’t help but give Buywise another chance if he went there given the potential defectors.

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

Knowing who turns up is half the battle here for what is an on the day race. Eight of the last ten winners were ridden by non-claiming amateurs, with the yards of David Pipe, Ferdy Murphy and Donald McCain having a good record in this. It’s usually a stout stayer that ends up winning this, and The Job Is Right looks to have an ideal profile. A veteran of handicap chases with big fields, he contested the four miler last season and runs in the Thyestes tomorrow. If diverted to this, he may break the barren record of the Irish here. The third last year, Buddy Bolero, could be another likely contender if aimed at this straight away.

Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

The form of the one run (and win) of Limini makes her a worthy favourite. Rici Ricci’s charge beat four subsequent winners with plenty in hand on her debut and if she improves more in terms of jumping then she has plenty going for her. But at 3/1, the secret is out and she wouldn’t be much shorter in the week of the race, or even on the day, without a run. The Mullins’ yard has a grip on this race like no other; Not even the Champion Hurdle, with Listen Dear and Karalee for the Supreme Racing and Ricci camps, and those two may tempt each/way players given their impressive hurdling wins although it’s to be noted that only the Supreme two have run in this season proper. The Organist, another wide margin winner of late, might make the final field. For more info on race details click the link below. Cheltenham Festival 2016 race schedule and times plus ticket information