Cheltenham day 2
Ballymore Novices Hurdle (4000m):
Just 10 go to post and only four are from the home side. That said, this isn’t the penalty kick for the Irish it might first appear. HERMES ALLEN won the Challow at Newbury, the credential middle distance novice hurdle at Christmas and is clear second favourite at 3s.
Favourite is IMPAIRE ET PASSE, but he hasn’t been seen since winning the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown on heavy ground in mid-January. I wasn’t that taken with his jumping that day and I think it would be put under a lot more pressure in this race.
The apparent second string from the Mullins team is GAELIC WARRIOR and he’s proven himself in the hurly burly of Cheltenham where he was second in the Juvenile handicap hurdle last year and at Leopardstown where he won the big handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. His jumping is also a concern as he tends to jump right which will be an issue on this left hand track.
I think this one stays this side of the Irish Sea with HERMES ALLEN.
Brown Advisory Novices Chase (4850m):
11 go to post for the staying novice chase championship race. Seven Irish take on four British and again the home side have real claims.
Favourite though is GERRI COLOMBE whose last two chase wins have been at Grade 1 level in the shape of the Faugheen at Limerick and the Scilly Isles at Sandown. This is left handed and over 850m further – now, it may well be the horse will enjoy the extra trip and there’s no suspicion he won’t but 13/8 is skinny enough in my view.
SIR GERHARD won the Ballymore last year and comes to this off a single chase run over 3200m. He won it beating two other opponents at 1/6. It told us nothing – he enjoyed the rain-softened Cheltenham ground last year, but this is a different test.
After winning the Dipper on New Years Day, there was talk of the Gold Cup for THE REAL WHACKER, but this is the realistic target, and he has form over course and distance which puts him right in this.
THYME HILL was runner up in the Stayers Hurdle last year and came to chasing quite late. His efforts at Exeter and Ascot were uninspiring but he was much better at Kempton on Boxing Day in the Kauto Star and on that he has a significant chance. I’m just wondering how his fencing will stand up in this top company.
My idea of the winner is the mare GALIA DES LITEAUX who won well at Warwick after a disastrous run at Kempton on Boxing Day. She never looked happy, and I just wonder if going back left handed will help – she’s a good each way bet to me at 8s or bigger.
Queen Mother Champion Chase (3200m):
One of the four Blue Riband races of the week. Just seven runners but a quality renewal. Last year’s winner ENERGUMENE had been widely thought a near certainty for this (especially with the likes of SHISHKIN and CHACUN POUR SOI falling by the wayside) but that’s not how the season has played out so far.
EDWARDSTONE, last year’s Arkle winner, burst into prominence with a big win in the Tingle Creek at Sandown but blotted his copybook at Kempton over Christmas with an uncharacteristic error which sent Tom Cannon out the saddle. The beneficiary was EDITEUR DU GITE that day.
The Clarence House was moved from Ascot to Cheltenham following the December snow and with EDWARDSTONE and ENERGUMENE again in the field, EDITEUR DU GITE wasn’t expected to win again but he did. ENERGUMENE was let down by his jumping including a bad blunder at the last while EDWARDSTONE was perhaps given too much to do but led half way up the run in only to just be run down by a rallying EDITEUR DU GITE in the final strides.
The betting suggests EDWARDSTONE and ENERGUMENE will have the advantage but that’s a bit insulting to EDITEUR DU GITE and the 5s on offer probably reflects the fact he’s not from a top stable.
I think he could win again but the percentage call is probably EDWARDSTONE.
NUBE NEGRA and GREANETEEN have had their limitations exposed at this level and one for an outsider (though with only seven runners it’s not really an each way race) would be FUNAMBULE SIVOLA who chased home ENERGUMENE last year and looked back to his best in the Game Spirit – 33s is an insulting price and were there eight I’d be on but with seven I’m less convinced.
Champion Bumper (3200m):
The top National Hunt Flat race of the calendar and another maximum field of 24 runners.
Just five British horses take on 19 Irish and on this occasion it’s hard to give the home team any chance.
A DREAM TO SHARE won the Bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival beating FACT TO FILE but I was particularly taken by the win of IT’S FOR ME at Navan in January. He won 10 lengths without, as they say, coming out of second gear.
Day Two Selections:
1.30: HERMES ALLEN
2.10: GALIA DES LITEAUX
3.30: EDITEUR DU GITE
5.30: IT’S FOR ME