1.30 Cheltenham – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Day two opens with an absolute cracker. Exciting novices Black Op, Duc De Genievres, Next Destination and Samcro are all set to clash. Samcro is being hailed as horse racing’s next star, but this will be the biggest test of his career, and he’s not really a working man’s price at 4/5.
Black Op is a lovely big horse, but he may well have been better suited by the New Course so, one of the Mullins horses may chase home the favourite. At the prices, DUC DES GENIEVRES looks the each-way value bet.
He must make up 4 lengths on Next Destination on his run two starts back, but despite Ruby Walsh deserting him, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see him reverse the form. That day he was in a much inferior position to Next Destination and he shaped like needing the run on his first start for Willie Mullins.
He has since improved for that effort, when finishing second to Samcro in the Deloitte, and may well do so again now he steps back up in trip.
1pt each-way Duc Des Genievres ‘betting without Samcro’ @6/1 (bet365), 11/2 (Paddy Power, William Hill), 5/1 (Sky Bet)
2.10 Cheltenham – RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase
Another top-class race, this time the novices going over fences. This is a real Britain versus Ireland clash, but the Emerald Isle bunch are favoured, with their form looking slightly classier. I couldn’t really put anyone off Presenting Percy, but I’d worry the tacky ground could blunt his class.
I respect the ability of Al Boum Photo and Dounikos, but this undulating track may test their jumping, which on occasion can be less than fluent, so the smooth-leaping and strong-travelling MONALEE is taken to come out on top at the prices. One thing this horse does do is jump well, and I could see him having plenty of the field at it approaching three out. I just hope he can hold on late.
1pt win Monalee @7/2 (general)
2.50 Cheltenham – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
A typically competitive Cheltenham handicap to contend with here. My two against the field are TOPOFTHEGAME and ROYAL VACATION. The former looks the more solid of the pair, but the latter is a big price considering he looks well-handicapped on his chase form.
Paul Nicholls has his team in good order at the moment, and the giant Topofthegame will adore the very soft ground. He was set to go over fences this season, but it just didn’t work out for him, having fallen on chase debut. It will prove to be a blessing in disguise. What I like about his two subsequent hurdle runs is how slicker his jumping was. He was sticky at Kempton, but more fluent at Kempton. On ground that could prove to be very tacky today, he should plough through it better than most.
For a horse reverting to hurdles like he did last time out, I was impressed with how solid-looking Royal Vacation’s jumping was. He was well-beaten in the Relkeel Hurdle in the end, but shaped much better than the distance suggests. He’s subsequently had a breathing op, and if that improves him, his price will look massive.
1.5pts each-way Topofthegame @12/1 (general – use firms paying extra places)
1pt each-way Royal Vacation @22/1 (general – use firms paying extra places)
3.30 Cheltenham – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
This race is what Cheltenham is all about. The best of the best taking each other on. Britain versus Ireland. And in the modern Cheltenham story, Henderson vs Mullins.
I can’t stress enough how good Altior, Douvan and Min are. Politologue is no back number either and the fact he, a 160-rated horse, is 14/1 tells you the level the aforementioned trio operate at.
It’s a race I’m going to watch, but if you want to have a bet, at the prices, Min is the one I’d plump for.
Just make sure you watch this race!
4.10 Cheltenham – Glenfarclas Chase
These cross-country races are always an interesting spectacle, and given the unique test, horses with experience around the track are worth their weight in gold. The ground being so soft means CAUSE OF CAUSES was potentially worth taking on, but I didn’t expect him to be 7/2.
On much quicker ground, he’d be a significantly shorter price, but the cross-country track at Cheltenham always rides quicker than the main tracks, so it may just be dry enough to see this wonderful three-time Festival winner get home.
1pt win Cause Of Causes @7/2 (Betfair Sportsbook, bet365, Paddy Power)
4.50 Cheltenham – Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
My two darts in the Fred Winter are ACT OF VALOUR and NUBE NEGRA. The former is flat-bred, but he’s built like a National Hunt horse – robust and strong-looking. In a field against mainly still developing types, his precocious nature and ability to handle soft conditions could see him go close. To be fair, he’s got sound form anyway and his trainer Paul Nicholls said he’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t run well.
Nube Negra’s jumping has taken my eye this season, especially at Cheltenham. In a race made of inexperienced animals, this fluent ability will be an asset. He’s another with sound form on soft ground and looks to be going the right way.
1pt each-way Nube Negra @12/1 (Paddy Power – 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt each-way Act Of Valour @12/1 (Ladbrokes – 1,2,3,4,5)
5.30 Cheltenham – Weatherbys Champion Bumper
A really tough closing race to finish day two. If you fancy Blackbow, Rhinestone or Acey Milan, don’t let me put you off, but at a much bigger price, I’ll be backing MERCY MERCY ME each-way.
Back in November, he beat a horse I backed called Classic Ben at Sandown. Turning for home, I was counting my money as my bet travelled all over the field. But the further the race went on, the better Mercy Mercy Me looked and in the end, he was a ready winner.
Having watched the replay a few times, to beat a horse of Classic Ben’s quality, giving him weight, while looking extremely green, suggests to me Mercy Mercy Me is a horse of great potential. He’s got a quality pedigree too, and he won’t mind the ground.
His trainer Fergal O’Brien has had a great year with his bumper horses, and the fact he runs him here, suggests this lad could be his best. He’s really likable and looks way overpriced. I just hope he’s more streetwise today.
1pt each-way Mercy Mercy Me @25/1 (general – Sky Bet 5 places, bet365, Paddy Power 4 places)