Cheltenham 2017: Day 3 Preview

Get the inside track with Paul Jones, former author of the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide. The latest news and expectations on Thursday’s biggest races.


The very latest: (Updated on Thursday 16th March at 10am.)


JLT Novices’ Chase

Had the Mullins team had a good first couple of days at the Festival then Yorkhill might be odds-on and the strong chances are if he jumps adequately then he should have too much class for his rivals. However, he has jumped to his left on both chase starts and wasn’t impressive in the first three fences in his public schooling so there will be plenty wanting to take on the odds-on favourite.

The professional, admirable little Top Notch looks the one most likely to benefit if Yorkhill is too deliberate or wastes too much ground by jumping to his left as he is getting better from race to race this season, his stable have enjoyed a cracking first two days and he looks an assured jumper.

Disko and Politologue could both try and lead and make this a very truly run 2m4f. Of the pair, Disko looks the stronger stayer of the two having been a close up third in a Grade 1 over 3m at Christmas. Politologue, on the other hand, has been looking to come to the end of his effort in the closing stages over his 2m4f runs. He may therefore sit just in behind Disko which means there is a greater chance of Noel Meade’s grey enjoying himself out in front and that was a good place to be yesterday on the drying ground.

Flying Angel runs here rather than in the Arkle and could get amongst the leading fancies on his good win in the Kingmaker and second over hurdles at the Festival last season.


Pertemps Final

El Bandit is a leading player to give Paul Nicholls his first winner of this race having gone mighty close twice in the last three years and to improve his brilliant record in handicap hurdles at the Festival over the last decade. He has course winning form back in October and his trainer even suggested he might be a Stayers’ Hurdle horse then. Being such a strong stayer he did well to win in a tactical race on a speed track last time.

Impulsive Dream won the Exeter qualifier in February that Fingal Bay won before adding the Final three years ago and it has been suggested that was the strongest of all the qualifiers beating Rocklander and Ballymalin and he’s a progressive novice who won it very well so there is likely to be more to come.

Jury Duty could start favourite for Gordon Elliott after doing enough to qualify when second to Gayebury at Chepstow in the final qualifier but many will prefer Presenting Percy as best of the Irish despite connections not being happy with his British rating compared to his Irish. He has had an almost identical preparation to last season’s winner Mall Dini for the same connections but Presenting Percy is considered a better horse, though not as strong a stayer.

For Good Measure has been popular of late and has solid course form, many can see Barney Dwan really appreciating this stiffer test of stamina and, at bigger prices Electric Concorde could be a sneaky one as Jim Culloty’s horses have a habit of bursting to life at Cheltenham and he won the Leopardstown qualifier in good style from Isleofhopendreams and the ground could suit him well.


Ryanair Chase

Sub Lieutenant has solid form finishing a close up third behind the Gold Cup fancies Djakadam and Outlander and then second to Sizing John who then won the Irish Gold Cup but Empire Of Dirt has become extremely fashionable and is the choice of Bryan Cooper of the Gigginstown runners He finished second in the Irish Gold Cup, he will have his required ground, won over C/D at last season’s Festival and the stable are going great guns with five winners at the meeting so far.

Un De Sceaux, on the other hand, would prefer softer ground, probably a shorter trip, less horses to take him on up front and the Mullins yard have still not got on the board yet this week. His greatest weapon is putting rivals under pressure with a strong gallop from the front but that is likely to be taken away from him to ensure he gets the trip as Uxizandre is likely to lead. Many can see Empire Of Dirt usurping him as favourite.

Uxizandre made all to win this race two years ago in first-time blinkers and now they try first-time cheekpieces. He was an encouraging second to Un De Sceaux on his only run since then here in January when held up but expect him to be ridden very differently this time.

Josses Hill looks the pick of the Henderson pair over Vaniteux and ran in the King George like 7 of the last 9 Ryanair winners.


Stayers’ Hurdle

Unowhatimeanharry has won all three major staying races in GB this season like Thistlecrack did last season and is chasing a ninth consecutive win since joining Harry Fry. He will also be ridden by Noel Fehily who won the big championship races on Tuesday and Wednesday. He is comfortably the best of the British but the Irish have strong representation.

Ruby Walsh has chosen Nichols Canyon over Shaneshill and that has to be respected. Probably because he is the lesser-known quantity over 3m as Walsh probably has Shaneshill pegged as placed at best given his Festival profile of 222 whereas Nichols Canyon is a potential improver moving up to 3m. He has also won a shedload of Grade 1s.

The ground has also come in Jezki’s favour and many will be happy to throw out his defeat to Tombstone on his second run back on heavy going. The former Champion Hurdler has also finished third in a hot Supreme so this is his time of year. Some have questioned whether he will stay as his only previous win over 3m (his only try) he was beating Hurricane Fly who was also stepping up in trip but he is bred to stay as his brother is a Grade 1 winner over 3m.

That trio of Irish horses look the main dangers to Unowhatimeanharry as it’s hard seeing any of the home hopes reversing places with Noel Fehily’s mount. Maybe Ballyoptic can get closer after his wind op, maybe West Approach can push him as he is getting better from race to race or maybe Cole Harden can win it for a second time with the ground in his favour?


Brown Advisory and Merribelle Stable Plate

Sizing Codelco has been the recipient of positive reports from connections and promising course runs but some punters will be concerned about the form of the Tizzard yard lately. Diamond King has an obvious chance being a good-ground-loving novice from an in-form yard that won at the Festival last season and is potentially well handicapped. Starchitect is another well fancied contender and the Pipes have a brilliant record in this race. They seem to think he’ll be as effective at this trip as he is over 2m but I’m not so sure. That’s the current top three in the betting but this is a race that often throws up huge-priced winners.

Village Vic runs his heart out in these races but this is not a race for highly-rated horses so he will do well to defy top weight. Bouvreuil has run plenty of good races in defeat at the course so he has each-way prospects as has Thomas Crapper who sneaks in at the bottom and finally broke his chase maiden tag when winning the Greatwood Gold Cup two weeks ago. We also have to respect Venetia Williams in this race and Tango De Juilley was second it in last season on his seasonal debut and they try the same plan again.

The Gary Moore stable won this race with another novice in Tikram, and Baron Alco has more class and is more dependable than he ever was. He never seems to run a bad race and his second to Whisper in December was franked yesterday. He then ran second to another Henderson class act in Top Notch in the Scilly Isles, jumping soundly again.


Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Willie Mullins supplies the favourite and second-favourite attempting to win this race for the second time having won the inaugural running last year with Limini. Let’s Dance heads the market and is so much stronger than last season. She has seriously impressed with both her 2m4f wins this season but this is a drop of 3f and her trainer stated that he saw her as more likely to step up in trip rather than down after she won at Christmas. There is £50K bonus for the stable staff if she can win any race at the Festival and this is the weakest race so she runs here to try to take advantage of that.

Airlie Beach has not run since winning the Royal Bond where she kept up her unbeaten record. Maybe she keeps surprising connections as Ruby Walsh chose another rival that day but she had the race sewn up front two out and then the runner-up, Saturnas, won a Grade 1 on his next start. She’s a remarkable mare alright as she is a mother and that is likely to toughen up any filly/mare.

La Bague Au Roi leads the home defence and has also been off the track for a while, in her case to be kept away from winter ground, having beaten last season’s 50/1 runner-up Dusky Legend (beaten again since) at Newbury on Hennessy Day. She’s a big, powerful mare that really fills the eye who led that day but is more likely to settle in behind on this occasion.

Forge Meadow looked very good in her last race having been well beaten by Shattered Love (did nothing for the form yesterday) on her previous run and is peaking at the right time for Jessica Harrington who won the Coral Cup yesterday. She was a well regarded bumper mare and also enters the equation as does Barra who won well on her last start.


Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase

Southfield Royale looks the best British hope having finished fourth in last season’s NH Chase which has thrown up lots of big race winners since. He has only had one run since which should have put him spot on.

The Irish pair of Squouateur and Mall Dini also look like they have been laid out for the race Jamie Codd has won this race four times and could end up leading rider for the week if Squouateur wins with On The Fringe still to come. Mall Dini won at the Festival last year in the Pertemps Final whereas the gamble on Squouateur in the Martin Pipe came unstuck last year.

The top weight Pendra wouldn’t be without a chance under Derek O’Connor on his seasonal debut having run well twice in handicaps at the Festival and horses who run well in the Ultima in a previous year do well in this less classier race. They are usually trained by the Pipes though.

Their Doctor Harper was favourite for this race last year but blew his chance at the very first fence. The stable showed again what a force they are in the handicap chases at this meeting winning the Ultima on Tuesday with Un Temps Pour Tout and Doctor Harper was a really good second here earlier in the season. David Pipe moved to within one winner of his father’s trio of success when The Package won two years ago having also prepared the 1-2 in 2011. Lisa O’Neill rides and will be full of confidence after winning the NH Chase on Tiger Roll.


Now you’re up to speed with the latest for Thursday’s big races, 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



One week to go preview:


13:30 JLT Novices’ Chase

“It will be the JLT for Yorkhill or so says Willie Mullins. What a shame for such a talented horse that he isn’t being given the chance to win a more prestigious Grade 1 like the Champion Hurdle or Arkle but a winner is a winner is a winner as far as his connections are concerned.

His public schooling session didn’t go ideally by any stretch of the imagination as he was buzzy beforehand and then put in three ropey leaps at the first three obstacles so he will have another schooling session before his big day. What did impress however was that Yorkhill looked like he wanted to take off into the distance when Ruby Walsh eased him upsides his two schooling companions pulling his riders arms out.

Opposition is falling away with Charbel confirmed for the Arkle, Coney Island ruled out of the Festival (had this entry and the RSA), Waiting Patiently also ruled out of the meeting and most disappointingly of all, Whisper now heading to the RSA according to Nicky Henderson in his latest rendition of the hokey-cokey.

As such, Top Notch, Politologue and Disko look his only realistic threats (add Flying Angel if he runs here rather than the Arkle) and the latter pair both like to front run so they could set it up for a horse from off the pace.”


14:50 Ryanair Chase

“Not a lot to report on in the last week on the Ryanair front, though Alan King has commented that he would like a dry spell for Uxizandre and Colin Tizzard keeps talking up Alary.

Empire Of Dirt continues to shorten and has been a popular choice on the preview evening circuit and is now getting close to pushing Un De Sceaux for favouritism. Sub Lieutenant and Zabana are the other Irish-trained pair with realistic chances, though there is still a chance that Zabana could run in the Gold Cup. It is looking like the start-of-season ante-post favourite, Black Hercules, will not be returning despite having won the JLT last season.

Taquin Du Seuil remains on target according to Jonjo O’Neill despite a disappointing run in the Ascot Chase last month and Philip Hobbs reiterated that the r/u to him in the BetVictor Gold Cup, Village Vic, runs in the Plate.”

Bet on the Mr Green Price Boost of Josses Hill to win the Ryanair Chase, was 10/1 now 14/1 (Available Thursday 9th March only)


15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle

“Camping Ground “definitely doesn’t run in the Stayers’ Hurdle” according to Gary Moore and it looks like he will need a deluge to run in the Coral Cup. Aintree is the main aim for him.

Nichols Canyon looks like bypassing Cheltenham altogether so Clondaw Warrior is set to be Willie Mullins’ second-best chance behind Shaneshill who has finished second at the last three Cheltenham Festivals.

Clondaw Warrior is a dubious stayer and his chances would be seriously compromised it came up soft. Supporters of Shaneshill and the former Champion Hurdler Jezki will also hope that the rain stays away but Harry Fry wouldn’t mind some cut underfoot for Unowhatimeanharry who has been beating up the British horses this season (holds Ballyoptic on two form lines) extending his winning sequence to eight races which has propelled him to clear favouritism.

The 2015 winner Cole Harden has been the subject of bullish reports from Warren Greatrex after he exceeded expectations on soft ground that he didn’t like when second to Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleeve Hurdle, a trial that has featured 10 of the last 20 winners or runners-up in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Also don’t dismiss Snow Falcon as he is entitled to finish close to the second-favourite, Shaneshill, on two pieces of form this season so he is arguably the overpriced horse of the race.”


Now you’re up to speed with the latest for Thursday’s big races, 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

Mar 09, 2017