1.30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices’ Chase
I’m hoping we can kick off day three of the Cheltenham Festival in style with INVITATION ONLY. For me, he’s comfortably got the best form on offer. He’s a horse that travels well, jumps fine in the main and has a progressive profile this season. Today’s race looks a slight drop in class compared to his fine third in the Flogas Novice Chase last time out. The minor step back in trip is another positive, and if he runs to that level again, he’ll be tough to beat for the inform Willie Mullins team. He should be shorter in the betting.
2.5pts win Invitation Only @100/30 (general)
2.10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
The British horses may well struggle to contain the Irish challenge in the Pertemps Final. Although they are to the fore in the market, I still think there is juice in the prices of GLENLOE and SORT IT OUT. Both had eyecatching and nice preps for this race, and the pair should be at home on the ground. If one horse has the potential to make a mockery of his mark, it’s Glenloe and he’s the stronger fancy of the pair.
2pts each-way Glenloe @11/2 (Paddy Power – 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt each-way Sort It Out @17/2 (Sky Bet – 1,2,3,4,5,6)
2.50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase
I wanted to take on Un De Sceaux in this about three weeks ago, but so many horses have come out of the race through injury it’s a much easier contest for him to win, as his price suggests. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but at the age of 12, CUE CARD is the horse I think will give him most to do. One of National Hunt’s greatest, most-loved and toughest horses of the modern era, he continues to run to Grade 1 level despite his advancing years. The ground has come right for him, and if there is any chink in the favourite’s stamina, he may well capitalise and bring the house down.
1pt win Cue Card @5-1 (general)
3.30 Cheltenham – Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle
The soft ground could see the likes of Bacardys, L’Ami Serge, Penhill, Supasundae, The New One and Yanworth swimming late on. Apart from Penhill who may not be fit enough to do himself justice, the other quintet, to various degrees, have stamina doubts on the prevailing ground.
He’s yet another obvious selection, but SAM SPINNER really does look to have a great chance. Given underfoot conditions, I’ve no doubt he should be shorter in the betting. He’s trained by a relative unknown in Jedd O’Keeffe – especially when compared to Elliott, Henderson and Mullins – but the northern-based handler has done an outstanding job with his charge this season. He brings him here fresh, which is a bold call, but he’s gone well off lengthy breaks before and can go close.
There are also doubts about WHOLESTONE seeing out the trip late, but he may still stay better than most. He’s a horse that travels well, jumps fluently and has plenty course form. He could well be travelling best turning for home, I just hope he can last out. Out at the prices, without the favourite, he’s a big price.
1.5pts win Sam Spinner @100/30 (general)
1pt each-way Wholestone ‘betting without Sam Spinner’ @14/1 (general)
4.10 Cheltenham – Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase
This really does look a bad renewal of The Plate and it could go to the race’s class horse, THE STORYTELLER. He’s yet another that comes from that Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown when he finished behind Monalee and on that form, he looks fairly treated. He lacks experience, and while he’s not a really slick jumper, he’s pretty safe. Keep an eye on how Invitation Only runs in the first, because he represents that form.
At bigger prices, coming here fresh, WILLIE BOY could outrun his price. He’s a forward-going front-runner and a bold jumper who I think may well be best after extended breaks. He was really tough in winning at Newbury earlier in the season before flopping next time out, the race coming too soon after a tough victory, I suspect.
2pts win The Storyteller @7/1 (general)
1pt win Willie Boy @14/1 (general)
4.50 Cheltenham – Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins’s odds-on favourite Laurina will be tough to beat, but take her out of the equation, and CAP SOLEIL looks to have a fair chance. Earlier in the season, I was really impressed with her victory at Newbury. She’s reportedly in great order and could chase home the fav.
1pt win Cap Soleil ‘betting without Laurina’ @4/1 (general)
5.30 Cheltenham – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
The ground has come right for SQUOUATEUR in the sense it will slow down the race tempo and help his jumping. He ran a cracker in the competitive and valuable Paddy Power Chase at Christmas before getting an interesting prep for this race over two miles last time out. The Paddy Power form is solid and he was doing all his best work at the end. It may be a similar story here.
1pt win Squouateur @11/2 (general)