Cheltenham 2017: Day 2 Preview
Paul Jones, former author of the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, offers his thoughts and the latest news on all the Grade 1 races on Ladies Day of the Cheltenham Festival.
13:30 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle
“Invitation Only was described as only 50-50 to make the race last Monday, even less than that according to Ruby Walsh, so it looks like Willie Mullins will switch the Deloitte Hurdle winner Bacardys from the Albert Bartlett and be the leading Irish hope as he goes in search of his fifth winner of this 2m5f Grade 1 novices’ hurdle. We’ll have a better idea after Bunk Off Early has contested the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 24 hours earlier whether the Deloitte form is up to scratch this season.
Shattered Love heads here rather than the mares’ novices’ hurdle according to Gordon Elliott who could also be represented by Runfordave but it’s the home team that dominate the market with Neon Wolf being strongly backed in the last fortnight which has seen the Tolworth Hurdle winner, Finian’s Oscar, ease slightly in price. Three Tolworth winners have gone on to win the Neptune since 1998.
The Challow Hurdle winner, Messire Des Obeaux, is another Grade 1 winner in the contest though winners of that Newbury race are 0-14 in the Neptune. Still, many Challow winners have been placed here and he ran well in his prep race when narrowly beaten giving away weight when only 90% fit on a course too sharp for him.
Monalee is potentially interesting if he runs here rather than the Albert Bartlett. He was second to Death Duty before Christmas and has won well since and expected to appreciate better ground. If he is declared here and if Death Duty is the good thing in the Albert Bartlett that many believe, then Monalee is a very plausible candidate.
Le Breuil took the 2m4f novices’ hurdle at Newbury in good style last week and Ben Pauling wasn’t ruling out taking him to the Festival afterwards (also has the Albert Bartlett entry) and described him as up there with the best he has got.”
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14:10 RSA Chase
“The major news on the RSA front in the last week was that Coney Island misses the Festival with a setback. He was second favourite behind Might Bite.
It looked like Bellshill was back in the picture for this race or the J T McNamara National Hunt Chase according to Willie Mullins at his media day last week but, having fallen at the first fence in his public schooling session at Leopardstown yesterday, that could cause a rethink.
Alpha Des Obeaux is the new second-favourite and was reported on target by Mouse Morris who commented all has gone well in his preparations since Christmas after he broke a blood vessel. He would prefer better ground and many will see him as the class horse having finished second to Thistlecrack in the Stayers’ Hurdle last season finishing over 20 lengths clear of the rest. His owners have won this prize recently with Weapons Amnesty and Don Poli and he would have been a superior hurdler to that pair.
Acapella Bourgeois is also on target for the Irish after winning the Ten Up Chase by 32 lengths but there are big question marks over the form as he looked to be have been given an easy lead which is back up by sectioning timings.
Whisper will now run here according to Nicky Henderson having stated at least twice that he was much more likely to contest the JLT so he is set to join the favourite Might Bite and O O Seven. Whisper’s wins this season at Cheltenham have been over around 2m4f but he is dual winner of the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle over the RSA trip over three miles. The big question with Might Bite is whether he can be as effective on an undulating course as he is on flat tracks.
Harry Fry has commented that American will need soft ground to run, or worst the word ‘soft’ has to be in the going description. He likes to get on with it up front as does Acapella Bourgeois and Might Bite so a strong gallop looks assured that could suit a horse like Royal Vacation who looks all stamina.
This was Shantou Village’s aim at the start of the season and he was one of the early market leaders and he is a bit forgotten having been given the winter off as he doesn’t like soft ground. However, he has five other alternatives at the Festival in addition to the RSA.”
13:30 Queen Mother Champion Chase
“Douvan towers over all his rivals and seemingly only something going amiss is going to stop him from becoming the eighth Arkle winner to win the Champion Chase the following season from the last 16 to try.
Simply Ned will take his chance according to Nicky Richards but he has come up short at Grade 1 level on many occasions so the main three dangers appear to be Fox Norton who has improved since he was third in the Arkle last season winning twice at Cheltenham this season before incurring an injury so he was likely not to be fully fit when Altior thrashed him in the Game Spirit, and last season’s third and fourth, Special Tiara and God’s Own. The first-named was also third in the 2015 renewal and the latter has since won two Grade 1s including a defeat of Vautour over 2m at last season’s Punchestown Festival.
It’s looking very much as if Sire De Grugy won’t attempt to win back his title having been working “extremely lethargically” according to Gary Moore. If he misses the race then he is likely to be put away until next season.
Also likely to bypass the race is Garde La Victoire as Philip Hobbs commented that he is more likely to run in the Plate or Grand Annual unless Douvan’s presence means the race cuts up to just a few runners.”
17:30 Champion Bumper
“Ballyward was second-favourite last week but he has pulled a muscle and his participation is now up in the air virtually confirming that Patrick Mullins will be on Carter McKay.
The Dan Skelton-trained Cause Toujours worked well at Warwick last week and has been a notable market mover but the shortest-priced home hope is the mare, Daphne Du Clos, who beat Western Ryder at Newbury in the same bumper that Ballyandy won before he won this Grade 1 prize last season. Three mares have won the Champion Bumper before.
There has been a good for Bakmaj on the Irish preview evening circuit who was only beaten 2½l by Carter McKay at Leopardstown over Christmas and then won at the same course on his next start after moving from Peter Fahey to Alan Fleming having been bought by Barry Connell who loves to have Cheltenham Festival runners.”
Now you’re up to speed with all the Ladies Day news, it’s time to find your bets over at Mr Green. For more clear, concise and comprehensive horse racing analysis and insight from Paul, head to pauljoneshorseracing.com.