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Horse Racing

Cheltenham Festival 2023 Preview & Tips: Days 3 & 4

The new course has been reported in slightly better shape than the old course. As such, it should ride a little better, though that of course is dependant on how the weather treats us! Another two days of top horse racing from the Cheltenham Festival 2023 awaits so let’s go over the final 14 races on offer. Prices correct at time of writing.

Thursday 16th March

Turners Novices’ Chase

Four Grade 1 wins in a nine-race career so far for Mighty Potter. No surprise to see him at the top of the market after three slick wins over fences. He was a massive flop at this meeting last year in the Supreme which is a niggling concern in an otherwise strong case.

Banbridge won the Martin Pipe at this meeting last year, returning to win an Arkle trial here in November. He was a long way behind Mighty Potter in the Drinmore on soft ground but perhaps the return to this track will help.

It’s two years since Appreciate It absolutely bolted up in the Supreme. He is closely matched with Banbridge from their running at the Dublin Racing Festival and looks ready for the step up in trip. Unexposed for his age, he is an interesting one.

Runner-up to Gerri Colombe at Sandown last time, Balco Coastal arrives with some solid form in the book. He won on soft at Kempton over Christmas but he will be suited by any drying of conditions.

The opposite can be said of Stage Star. Below par on good ground at Newbury, the return to a softer surface was helpful to him the last twice. He needs to step up on that bare form to win at this level but he’s progressive.

Conclusion: While Mighty Potter holds the strongest form claims, his poor run here sways the vote to Appreciate It at 7/2.

Pertamps Final

Always a trappy contest. The way Thanksforthehelp won at Chepstow last time out suggested he was a long way ahead of his mark. Owned by JP McManus, 2 + 2 has been added together by punters here and he is arguably short enough now. Progressive though, he does need respect.

Gordon Elliott has trained the winner of this three times in the last five years. He runs four here with perhaps the pick of them being Maxxum. He routed what had looked a competitive field over Christmas at Leopardstown and has excuses for his Dublin Racing Festival flop at the same track. This mark may yet be within his reach.

Generally An Tailliur has been kept away from soft ground but the one time he encountered it, he was second to Marie’s Rock in receipt of just two pounds. Beaten seven lengths that day, the form has been shown to be strong since. Still on the upgrade if he copes with conditions.

Mill Green was third in this race last year on very deep ground. He can run off the same mark in 2023 with the surface coming in his favour again. He’s probably too old at the age of 11 to win this but no surprise if he places.

Another who will appreciate soft ground is Hector Javilex. Things didn’t go right for him on a quicker surface and off a steady pace at Huntingdon last time but he suggested this mark is within his grasp. He bolted up over course and distance on soft ground in January, he looks a solid each way player.

Conclusion: Hector Javilex makes plenty of each way appeal at 20/1 in a typically deep renewal.

Ryanair Chase

Back to his best at Ascot last time, hopefully Shishkin can kick on from there. Things went wrong in the Champion Chase at this meeting last year but he had won the Supreme and Arkle the two years prior. A real class act at his best, a repeat of last time would make him hard to beat.

There’s been fair form shown from Blue Lord in two prior runs at the Festival without showing his very best. Three of his four best runs have come at Leopardstown and he only just lasted out over this trip in the Clonmel Oil Chase. Could find others stronger.

Runner-up in this last season was Janidil. He has only been seen in action once so far this season when coming home in front in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran. He enjoys it when the mud is flying and is entitled to sharpen up for that outing.

Fury Road was taken out of the Brown Advisory last season when the ground went soft. He has taken his chase form to a new level this season when third in both the Savills and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. If coping with the drop back in distance, he would be an interesting each way player.

Conclusion: Shishkin 10/11 will be very hard to beat if he arrives in the same form as when winning at Ascot last time out.

Stayers Hurdle

Winner of the race in 2021 and 2022, Flooring Porter is back looking for his hat-trick. In a similar vein, he arrives off the back of defeats, though this time round they were heavier. This will have been the target all season though so it would be foolish to write him off.

Home By The Lee is the horse to win the last two races that Flooring Porter has been beaten in. He has taken a fair step forward this season from being well beaten in this race last season. Stamina is very much his strong suit so the harder they go the better.

The new kid on the block is Teahupoo. He’s only run over this trip once when winning the Galmoy. Visually impressive in that Grade 2 but it’s hard to be positive about what he actually beat. The ground has come right for him and this will be the acid test.

An injury sustained in his comeback win made Blazing Khal‘s participation touch and go. He is entitled to come on for his Boyne Hurdle win given it was his first run in 14 months but it perhaps leaves him vulnerable to the bounce factor.

Fifth in this least year, Klassical Dream was sent off the favourite on that occasion. Behind Teahupoo when last in action, he should run his race again but it’s not hard to think a couple will be too strong for him.

A latecomer to the party is Gold Tweet who beat a field that included 2019 winner Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle. He tanked through that contest and looks the type to appreciate a decent gallop. An interesting each way contender.

Conclusion: It’s tempting to put up Flooring Porter to bounce back to form but a chance is taken on Gold Tweet at 11/1 each way.

Magners Plate

Top weight is Haut En Couleurs with the excellent Michael O’Sullivan (who is having a great week) in the plate. Runner-up to Janidil off level weights last time out, that one heads to the Ryanair with each way claims so looks strong form.

Emmet Mullins has the favourite in So Scottish. Eight pounds higher than when finishing second at Ascot last time out, he progressed well on a sound surface over the autumn. He’ll need to come on again but that’s entirely possible for canny connections.

Plenty of cut in the ground suits Two For Gold. He is only 13 months removed from finishing second in a Grade 1 at Ascot. Both runs since have been over the Grand National fences, this will suit better. Interesting if a first time visor can spark the veteran back to form.

Midnight River was a course and distance winner on New Year’s Day on soft ground. Up seven pounds for that against less exposed rivals will be tougher but proven course and distance form is a plus for his chances.

Little separated Il Ridoto and Fugitif when first and second over course and distance at the end of January. Both have more on their plates up in the handicap in a decent race but the pair look capable of better.

At a big price, Marvel De Cerisy is fascinating. Five of the last ten winners were rated between 140-142, he is one of only two in the field who fit that. He wouldn’t have been far behind a very smart mare but for falling at the last on chasing debut. His point win saw him in front of The Goffer who was 4th in the Ultima on Tuesday off 149.

Conclusion: Another race where a big price appeals in the form of Marvel De Cerisy each way at 25/1.

Mares Novices’ Hurdle

All eyes on Luccia who is a perfect 4/4 in her career. She is going to have to brush up her jumping a little from her win at Taunton last time out but she is in the right place to do so. A lot of pundits felt she would go close in the Supreme on Tuesday, this is an easier target.

Henry de Bromhead is well represented in a race named after his late son. Magical Zoe has been out of action since November when beating the re-opposing Nikini at Down Royal. That bare form needs improving on but she’s only had four career starts.

Rachael Blackmore is on Foxy Girl for de Bromhead. Pitched into a Listed bumper in France for her previous yard on debut, her current connections have brought her along slower. Her latest start was a big step forward which makes her interesting at a price.

There would be few more popular winners than Princess Zoe. A top notch flat performer, she had to dig deep to win her debut over hurdles. The more of a stamina test this becomes, the more she will like it.

A Grade 2 winner at Sandown over further You Wear It Well returns to two miles now. She went from the front that day which she may need to again to make this enough of a test. Her prior run in the Challow wasn’t franked in the Ballymore.

Conclusion: Luccia is taken to live up to the hype and pick up a win at 6/4.

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir

Rather in and out in his career so far but Mr Incredible showed what he is capable of in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time. Runner-up there, stamina is his strong suit and Paddy Mullins has been sweet on his chance.

A winner over course and distance on New Year’s Day on soft ground, Rapper is an interesting one at a big price. He sported cheekpieces for the first time that day, a visor being added for the first time today. Conditions are in his favour and he’s only five pounds higher.

Six of the last ten winners of this race were aged seven, Western Zara the biggest priced of the four of that age in the field this year. She wins no medals for consistency but is on a fair enough mark on the pick of her form and will enjoy the soft ground.

The favourite Stumptown is only a six-year-old but things have really clicked in his head of late. He’s ten pounds higher than when winning at Sandown last time out but he won that by seven lengths and the runner-up has bolted up since. Could still have more to come and needs consideration.

Conclusion: Rapper was impressive over course and distance in January and looks overpriced at 25/1 each way.

Friday 17th March

Triumph Hurdle

Blood Destiny laid down a marker for this contest when bolting up at Fairyhouse in January. It was not as deep a contest as a couple of his rivals have run in but the impression he made was notable.

A difficult passage through saw Lossiemouth lose her unbeaten record last time out. She had been made favourite for this off the back of a pair of graded successes at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown. The market will tell the tale given she represents the same stable as Blood Destiny.

In front of Lossiemouth at the Dublin Racing Festival was Gala Marceau. She had previously not seen what way that rival went over the same course and distance at Christmas. The impression was that she was a fortunate winner last time and will need some luck again.

At a bigger price Zenta is interesting. She has only had a pair of starts over hurdles, winning both. She is another from the Willie Mullins yard so looks like being third fiddle to Blood Destiny and Lossiemouth but at an each way price, she might hit the frame.

Conclusion: It will be intersting to see how Zenta moves in the market but she’s a fair price each way at 16/1.

County Hurdle

Top weight won’t be easy but it’s fascinating to see Sharjah taking on this assignment. Runner-up in the 2020 and 2021 Champion Hurdle, he is a class act despite his advancing years. A mark of 155 could be ripe for the taking.

Willie Mullins has a raft in here with Winter Fog one of the more interesting ones along with Sharjah. Generally seen over further (fourth in the Pertemps Final last year) he ran riot dropped to this trip at Leopardstown. The stiff track will bring his stamina into play.

Runner-up in this race last year was First Street. He was unlucky to run into subsequent Champion Hurdle second State Man on that occasion. He’s ten pounds higher this time around which will make things difficult but another place would no surprise.

Aucunrisque returned to hurdles to take the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. That came on good ground from a mark nine pounds lower so this is a very different test for him but clearly these big field handicaps suit.

Like Willie Mullins, Dan Skelton has won three of the last seven renewals of this contest. Skelton’s best chance would appear to be Pembroke this year. His stamina ran out over further in a Grade 2 novice event last time out, entering handicaps off what looks a workable mark.

Conclusion: The ground will be as soft as Sharjah wants but at 8/1 he could be very well treated for an each way bet.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Winner of his last three over hurdles over three different distances, Corbetts Cross has been purchased by JP McManus since the most recent of those. He’s put up an improved effort with each start so has to be strongly considered.

This is a step up in trip for Three Card Brag but he looks set to relish it. A neck behind Inthepocket at Naas in December, that form was given a boost when his conqueror a close up fourth in the Supreme. He holds huge potential for this new trip and is a big player.

It took Embassy Gardens until his third run over hurdles to get his head in front, running riot at Thurles. He beat trees there so it’s hard to get excited about the bare form but his dam was a Grade 1 winner so he is bred to be smart.

3/3 this season over almost three miles, Favori De Champdou is one of those with proven stamina in this race. All of those wins have come going right-handed, he has only gone this way round twice in points when beaten so has to prove this is suitable.

Minella Indo was runner-up in the same Clonmel Grade 3 before winning this that Monty’s Star won for the same owner last time out. A half-brother to Monalee, soft ground is ideal and stamina is his strong suit.

Conclusion: The same prep race as Minella Indo makes the same connections Monty’s Star fascinating each way at 20/1.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The 2022 winner A Plus Tard has not had an ideal preparation. Pulled up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, he has not been seen since. He seems to have been written off in some quarters but the same stable’s Honeysuckle suffered the same before winning on Tuesday.

Stamina is not conclusively proven for Galopin Des Champs but he has looked an absolute tank. Such a strong traveller, he will relish the competitiveness of this contest. A last fence faller in the Turners last year, punters will be following him in again this year.

Third in this last year was Protektorat. Despite that, the majority of his form here has not been close to that level, well beaten in the Cotswold Chase last time. It would be unwise to completely write him off on the back of that but others are preferred.

Ahoy Senor came out on top in that contest and with her father (and part owner of this horse) passing away not long ago, it would be some story for Lucinda Russell to win this race. Stamina won him the day on that occasion and will be crucial again.

Noble Yeats was third in the same January contest, the winner of the 2022 Grand National. He stays well, won’t mind the ground and the stronger the pace they go, the more he will like it as they start to come back to him up the hill.

Winner of the National Hunt Chase at his meeting last year, Stattler has been turned over in both starts this season but has run well. He is another for whom stamina is his strong suit and it’s not always the classiest runners who take glory in this contest.

Conclusion: If he stays, Galopin Des Champs is the most likely winner but the 2022 scorer A Plus Tard is a big price each way at 7/1 to bounce back.

Hunters Chase

Vaucelet heads the market, hard to know just how good he is given that he only seems to do enough with his wins coming by narrow margins this season. There might be more to come given that he is only an eight-year-old and he is the pick of the strong hand his trainer entered.

It was quite a performance from Billaway to land this last season. He got up on the line which looked hugely unlikely for the majority of the contest. Connections try blinkers for the first time instead of cheekpieces which is interesting for the veteran.

The best of the home team would look to be Famous Clermont. An impressive winner of both his hunter chase starts this season, the question mark over him will be on ground that is softer than he would ideally like. He has a heavy ground point win but that is chalk and cheese from this level of combat.

It’s a long time since Chris’s Dream showed any worthwhile form under rules but he appears to have been sweetened up by a pair of point wins. He relishes deep ground so conditions should be ideal for him and it’s interesting to see if he can make a mark back under rules.

Conclusion: David Christie had the top three in the betting at one point so the fact he only runs Vaucelet is taken to be a hint at 11/4.

Mares Chase

One of the new additions where Allegorie De Vassy has been vying for favouritism for a long time. She has done her winning right-handed for this stable which leaves her with a little bit of a question to answer for this but she has equally looked hugely impressive in her wins.

Impervious looks the main danger on the form book. She relishes deep ground so won’t mind any further rain falling. Three lengths in front of Dinoblue two starts back off level weights, that mare ran well in the Grand Annual on Wednesday to give the form a bit of credence.

A winner at Huntingdon last time out, Jeremys Flame has really found her stride over fences. Three wins in her last four starts, her only below par run came when pitched in against the boys over Christmas

Elimay and Pink Legend were first and second in this race last year. It looks a far tougher renewal this time around and neither have been close to their best so far this season.

Conclusion: The strongest form here is from Allegorie De Vassy but she is 0/4 when racing this way round, 4/4 going right-handed. As such, the vote goes to Impervious at 11/4.

Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle

In a race named for his mentor, Gordon Elliott always fields a strong hand. Imagine looks his strongest chance this season. Runner-up on his last three starts, all over two miles, he steps up to this trip for the first time which should suit on his pedigree.

Fourth in a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival, Cool Survivor could appreciate this step into handicap company. Good Land the winner of that contest ran well enough in the Ballymore without making the form look outstanding but 140 should be workable.

Might I chased home the likes of Jonbon and Three Stripe Life last season as a novice. He took well to soft ground at this track in January over a shorter trip. That should have set him up perfectly for this, holding each way claims.

Pitched straight into Grade 1 company on his UK debut, Iroko has finally shown a level of ability this season that lives up to that reputation. He has won both his starts over a slightly shorter trip than this at Wetherby, one of those on soft ground. Ten pounds higher for that wide margin win, it’s unlikely he’s done improving.

Langer Dan has been the Skelton’s horse for this in recent years, moved to the Coral Cup this year with great success. Molly Ollys Wishes is one of two for the stable this year. Disappointing of late but she is well treated on her best.

It’s been a consistent level from Spanish Harlem in three runs for a mark. Proven over this trip and on soft ground there is enough to think that he has ability. Michael O’Sullivan is an interesting booking and he looks a contender.

Conclusion: Iroko has been nibbled at for this and is now 9/1. Given his owner that could be significant, he looks a solid each way angle.