At The Races expert pundit Simon Rowlands has enjoyed a terrific Cheltenham Festival so far and bids to add to his tally on Day Three of the meeting.
The Ryanair Chase is Shishkin’s to lose, which he will do if he runs like he did in the Champion Chase here 12 months ago but should not if he runs like he has done on a number of other occasions, including when trotting up in the Ascot Chase last month.
I have him priced up at 4/5, which is pretty much what the bookies make him at the time of writing. But I do disagree with some of the bookies’ pricing of the Stayers’ Hurdle, and reckon there are two worth siding with against the field in that.
Neither Blazing Khal’s nor Home By The Lee’s form is especially good, though the former remains an untapped talent, unless that is you believe that Meet The Greet is a 160-rated performer despite having won just a bumper and a maiden hurdle from 15 starts. I do not.
Blazing Khal had Meet And Greet 5lb and three lengths behind when winning the Boyne Hurdle at Navan last time, while Home By The Lee previously had Meet And Greet three and a half lengths in arrears at levels when coming out on top in a slow-motion finish to the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Blazing Khal is ridden by a 5lb claimer unable to draw his allowance here, as he was in that Navan race. That is not to say that either cannot win, but I do believe they are under-priced, and that has consequences for others. In particular, I like the claims of the pair who filled the first two places, just ahead of Honeysuckle, in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December.
TEAHUPOO won that day, showing himself to be the high-class performer he had threatened to be on a few occasions previously, but had to work quite hard to see off KLASSICAL DREAM, who has been just that since winning the Supreme Novices’ here four years ago.
Klassical Dream is seen about once in a Preston Guild, but Teahupoo has been out again since, winning the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran easily by 15 lengths and apparently proving his stamina for this trip in the process.
All Teahupoo’s form is on soft/heavy ground, and it looks like being not far off that here. I reckon it is worth splitting stakes between the two, with Teahupoo a more solid proposition but Klassical Dream arguably more over-priced if all is well with him.
The rest look fairly underwhelming, unless Flooring Porter and Paisley Park recapture all their old sparkle. Gold Tweet was impressive when winning the Cleeve Hurdle here in January, but did not achieve a whole lot on form or on the clock.
The day starts with an intriguing Turner Novices’ Chase at 1:30. This could well have Mighty Potter’s name on it, as the strapping gelding has been impressive (though not quite flawless) in three chase wins out of three this campaign.
He did look a bit of a hairy conveyance before asserting to beat Gaillard du Mesnil in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse before Christmas, and had that one back in third when scoring well at the Dublin Racing Festival last time.
It can be questioned as to whether beating Adamantly Chosen by eight and a half lengths in the latter was really all that sensational after all – that gelding was unplaced at big odds here on Wednesday – but Mighty Potter’s odds suggest it was. He is close to even money at the time of writing.
One of his rivals who is not really feeling the love sufficiently is STAGE STAR, whose win on this course in January came under a big weight and at the chief expense of one of the better-handicapped horses in training at that time, Datsalrightgino.
The clock backed up the interpretation of the form as smart, and while Stage Star probably needs to do more here, he may not need to do much more. His odds look generous, and he appeals as an each-way proposition in what is a nine-runner affair.
I will not be getting involved in the Pertemps Final at 2:10 (usual remarks about it providing a useful time comparison with the Stayers’ a bit later on), though the clear favourite Thanksforthehelp does look to have been let off lightly for a facile win at Chepstow last time.
Nor will I be playing in the Plate Handicap Chase at 4:10, in which I made it 10/1 the field (including Fugitif). But the Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 4:50 looks a tasty proposition despite the big field.
Luccia is an understandable favourite given how impressive she has been, but it is worth noting that the horse she slammed at Exeter last time, Palace Boy, went off at 200/1 and finished last in the Supreme on Tuesday. It is also worth noting that she and three others are penalised in this.
Neither HALKA DU TABERT nor NIKINI, among her rivals, is, and I like them both. The former beat a decent type in Eabha Grace easily and in a fast time at Naas just before Christmas, seeming well suited by a good gallop and soft ground (which are likely here).
She came unstuck in a better race at Fairyhouse last time but probably did not have enough use made of her that day. Nikini has not been seen since coming out best at the weights against the likes of Magical Zoe and The Model Kingdom in a Grade 3 at Down Royal in November, and the bookies/punters seem to have forgotten about her judged by her odds.
She had won both her starts over hurdles before that, albeit against ordinary opposition. As with the Stayers’ earlier in this piece, I reckon it is worth splitting stakes on the pair.
The leading flat stayer Princess Zoe adds some glitz to this contest, but she achieved little when dead-heating for first at Punchestown on her only outing over hurdles.
Angels Dawn was my longer-term fancy for the Kim Muir at 5:30, looking well handicapped still after unseating when likely to go close last time, but she has not exactly been missed in the betting.
1:30 CHELTENHAM – TURNERS NOVICES’ CHASE 0.5 pt e/w STAGE STAR
3:30 CHELTENHAM – PADDY POWER STAYERS’ HURDLE 1 pt win TEAHUPOO, 0.5 pt win KLASSICAL DREAM
4:50 CHELTENHAM – JACK DE BROMHEAD MARES’ NOVICES’ HURDLE 1 pt win HALKA DU TABERT, 0.5 pt win NIKINI