13:30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices’ Chase
Yorkhill is the most talented horse in this race, but he’s not a straight-forward character and while I think he’ll win, I’d rather back something at a bigger price to finish second to him. FLYING ANGEL (7/1 without Yorkhill) was a sound runner-up at the Festival last season and while he has had a start-stop novice chase career, his win last time out maybe suggested he is on the improve and now in a better place. Plenty of his main opposition have form on soft ground and he may be able to handle today’s quicker conditions better.
14:10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
Twenty-four runners are set to compete in the Pertemps Final and I’ll take two against the field in GAYEBURY (25/1) and Golden Doyen. The former was a 13 lengths winner at Chepstow last time out and comes here at the top of his game. GOLDEN DOYEN (20/1) was visually impressive winner here 145 days ago when he looked beaten, only to rally in impressive style and get back up to win. He’ll love the decent ground on offer, competitive pace and this stamina demanding course.
14:50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase
I’m just not sure whether Empire Of Dirt wants this drop in trip on today’s ground having been running well over further on soft terrain. Un De Sceaux is without a doubt the best horse in this race, but these conditions won’t prove ideal for him and it may put extra pressure on his jumping. Uxizandre was a brilliant winner of this race two seasons ago, but this is his second run back from injury and it’s hard to know what way he will go.
An each-way chance is taken with the smooth-travelling, slicking-jumping SUB LIEUTENANT (15/2) who I’ve been itching to see on this nice ground. Henry de Bromhead has his team in good form, fresh from landing yesterday’s Champion Chase, so hopefully he can strike again.
15:30 Cheltenham Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle
UNOWHATIMEANHARRY is my banker of the week, of the horses that weren’t odds-on. He’s been in the form of his life this season and is already a Cheltenham Festival winner, having taken last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. He’s improved since and as long as the ground doesn’t ride too quick, he should win.
At the prices, I’ll also be going in again on LIL ROCKERFELLER (33/1) whose is grossly overpriced. He’s been in good order this season and his second to the race-favourite at Ascot two runs back is some of the best form on offer. He could easily run into a place and is worth a bet in the without market, too, where you can get 20/1 if you shop around.
16:10 Cheltenham Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase
Another big field handicap to get stuck into now, 24 runners go to post for this contest over two-and-a-half miles. TANGO DE JUILLEY (20/1) and Road To Respect are my two against the field. The former was a good second in this race last season to a well-handicapped horse who is now competing in Grade 1s. He comes here off the same prep as last year and with the Venetia Williams team among the winners in general, he can run well off just a pound higher mark.
The well-bred novice ROAD TO RESPECT (20/1) looks to be on a workable mark and is reported to be in top form by his trainer, Noel Meade. The six-year-old has shaped well in some good Grade 1s this season and could run well if his jumping holds up in this big field.
16:50 Cheltenham – Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
It’s not ideal LET´S DANCE (6/4) drops in trip given she has improved over further this season, but the combination of a strong end-to-end gallop and the stamina-sapping New Course may see her overcome the distance worries.
17:30 Cheltenham – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
I’ll have to stick to my guns with MALL DINI (8/1) here who has been campaigned with Cheltenham in mind again this season. He won the Pertemps Final at the Festival last year and now he steps back up in trip on decent ground, he can show his full worth.
ANOTHER HERO (16/1) is a horse who appears to have been campaigned with this race in mind. He was a big eyecatcher on his seasonal debut at Chepstow and has since run well in two good races. Time and time again, Jonjo O’Neill has shown he can produce horses to peak here and the selection has that profile.