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Cheltenham Feature Day 2

Wed 16 March 2016


Cheltenham Feature Day Two


There is always huge anticipation surrounding the Cheltenham festival and the first day lived up to everyone’s expectations. Altior continued his rapid progression and put himself into Champion hurdle contention for 2017. He had shown his liking for the course when winning narrowly at the end of 2015 but that was in a slowly run race and the fast early pace allowed him to fulfil his potential. Willie Mullins lost his stranglehold on the race but Min ran well in second, he just ran into a very good horse.

The Mullins team did not have to wait long for a winner when Douvan destroyed his six rivals. He went long at every opportunity and took advantage of the near perfect jumping ground. Vaniteaux paid the ultimate price when trying to take him on and it was left to the smart Sizing John to chase him home. It will be a spectacle to behold if a healthy Un De Sceaux and Douvan take each other on in the 2017 Champion Chase.

Annie Power finally fulfilled her potential in the Champion Hurdle and put her last fence mishap at last year’s festival well and truly behind her. Connections were unsurprisingly emotional in the aftermath and whilst it looked a sub standard Champion Hurdle on paper, she broke the track record. Ruby Walsh asked her at the final hurdle and this time his mare delivered, she is a fine mare and Rich Ricci can be rightly proud of her. I must add what a fantastic performance it was by Nicky Henderson to bring My Tent Or Yours back after over seven hundred days off to run a  fine second.

Vroum Vroum Mag had a lot to live up to when starting a red hot favourite in the Mares’ hurdle, a race her trainer has had a monopoly on. She was held up unlike both of her stablemates but the result was the same, an emphatic victory. She travelled effortlessly through the race and won easily. She continues to have untapped potential.

The National Hunt Chase was won by Jonjo O’Neill, the efforts from his team will give him great heart for the week. Minella Rocco had hinted he was coming back to form on his penultimate start and having been nursed around towards the rear of the field, his very able pilot delivered him perfectly. He looked momentarily in trouble before the home bend but shaped like a stout stayer and he held on from the rallying Native River. The second made a bad error in the earlier stages of the race and that may have cost him.

The handicaps were won by two horses that had questions to answer. Un Temps Pour Tout had won his last two races on heavy ground and one of those was at Auteuil where it gets very soft. He banished any ground concerns by beating a back to form Holywell convincingly. Holywell got a good early position and jumped well suggesting the winner put up a very good display. The last was won by a horse that had finished second in the Neptune last year but had yet to win over fences this season. The better ground suited and he beat last year’s Fred Winter second Bouvreil. It was an ultra competitive handicap and Ballyalton’s win for his trainer Ian Williams highlighted the importance of course form. The placepot was landed but there were no surprises and it paid a modest £38.90 to a £1 stake.



1330 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle


We start Wednesday’s card with the Neptune over 2m5f on what will be genuine good ground. Yanworth caught the eye in the Champion bumper last year when finishing fourth and he has progressed to display very few chinks in his armour when remaining unbeaten in four runs over hurdles this season. His main rival Yorkhill had a very smart rival behind in second last time and the third has since won the Betfair hurdle. It is incredibly difficult to split them. I think you have to put one of the two in your placepot and it is very unlikely there will be a placepot buster here. Silver Concorde was very disappointing in the Supreme for Dermot Weld but it might be worth adding in Vigil at 25-1. He has run well in the Champion Bumper and a fast run race over 2m should suit him, he just might not see his race out at the death.


1410 RSA Chase

The RSA looks to be a competitive race and a number of these have form around Cheltenham. We all know that More of That has won a World Hurdle and beat a Champion hurdle winner when doing so. I would be prepared to take him on however with two horses for the placepot. I don’t think the ground will prove a problem for No More Heroes and I expect a big run from him and I would expect a big run from Shaneshill now he is stepping up in trip. Las time was a disaster and I am prepared to forgive him that run over two miles. It is a shame for Seeyouatmidnight’s small stable that the ground has dried up so much and he will struggle for toe around here even if he will not struggle for heart.

1450 Coral Cup

Diamon King has been incredibly lightly raced this season and I expect a lot of support for him. He has been brought along with this race in mind and he seems to be back on the right track now, he should travel well enough for a race like this and good ground will hold no fears. I could not leave him out of the placepot but not many people will. Baron Alco is a tough progressive horse and I could not leave him out despite the ground being a slight concern. My last selection is Long House Hall, he comes back from a fall over fences but that was back in October and he has an upwardly mobile profile.

1530 Champion Chase

A year ago you may have been worried that this ground would be too fast for Un De Sceaux but he really impressed in the Arkle, finding plenty when momentarily challenged. He is a horse I really like and whilst over enthusiasm can get the bteer of him, I really think he will be too good if he can put in a clear round. Just Cameron chased him home last year at Punchestown. He has had an interrupted season but decent ground will suit him and he is unexposed as a chaser. Whilst he has a lot to find on official ratings, should the unthinkable happen to Un De Sceaux then he might have a little chance and is 100-1. I would add him into my placepot.


1610 Cross Country Chase

What a story it would be if Balthazar King could come back from his Aintree injuries and win here. This race is no longer a handicap and that will help him a great deal, only fellow veteran Any Currency and Third Intention are rated higher. Uncle Junior returns at the ripe age of fifteen and no one could begrudge him winning either! Balthazar King has such a great record around here that you have to believe a fairytale can happen and good ground will be helpful given the length of his absence. In the hope that he stays more than in complete expectation that he will I would add Third Intention to the placepot at 20-1. He is frustrating and has not won over further than 20f but this race may bring him back to life.

1650 Fred Winter

This race is always very competitive and there will be a fast gallop, I think this race will suit the unexposed Jaleo and it would be a significant victory given his trainer is closing his stable down at the end of the season. Fixe Le Cap will appreciate a proper gallop here and he is my second selection for the placepot. Le Curieux is a curious runner indeed as he heads over from France having been fourth in a valuable hurdle at Auteuil  and he is my third pick.


1730 Champion Bumper

This race is run a lot faster than the majority of bumpers and it will be run on better ground too. Augusta Kate has a tremendous cruising speed and was unextended to win a valuable mares’ bumper. We have already seen what a difference a seven pound mares allowance can make yesterday. Ballyandy has won here and the form is rock solid but I am going for the well bred Compadre. He may lack the experience for the race but it is a chance I am willing to take at 22-1.

I hope Wednesday’s action is as enjoyable as Tuesday’s was. I must mention the sad passing of Jacqueline O’Brien, the wife of the late great Vincent O’Brien. I did not know her but it sounds like she was extraordinarily talented and a fantastic person to be around. I would also like to offer my condolences to the connections of the two horses who sadly lost their life at Cheltenham yesterday.

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