After a thrilling day one at the festival, we move onto day two. I personally think this is the best betting day at the festival, and one where I have quite a few fancies. We finished up with some nice placed horses yesterday, but went without a winner, so let’s hope that gets put right at some point this afternoon.
The first race of the day will centre around Samcro. I’ve not seen many other names thrown into the ring for this race, it seems to be strictly those who think Samcro will win, against those who can’t have him at the prices. I’m firmly in the latter camp, I’m not really sure what he has proved so far and backing unproved horses at 4/6 at the Cheltenham Festival is not for me. He COULD be special, there is no doubting that, but he is priced up as though he has already proven his ability, and for me he hasn’t.
I’ll put up two against him at bigger prices, in the hope that one or both can run into a place, or better still go and win the race. I have seen many good novices in the flesh this season, the majority of them at Doncaster and two horses I have seen there have been Black Op and Gowiththeflow. Both impressed me in different ways, and both are my selections for the opener.
I was at Doncaster when Black Op made his bumper debut last season, and immediately put him down as one to follow later down the line when he went chasing. There is no doubt that he will make up into a chaser next season, and it would be no surprise at all if we were talking about him as a 2020/2021 Gold Cup horse, he could be that good. I also saw him win nicely at Doncaster this season, two starts ago when he made all for a nice success. He probably ran even better than that at Cheltenham last time out, when an error coming up the straight probably cost him the race. He won’t do anything too quickly, but he will gallop and stay and has no issues getting up the hill. Should he be in front at the bottom of the hill, it will take a good horse to get past him providing he doesn’t make a mistake like last time.
At far bigger odds, my next horse in this race is Gowiththeflow. He won nicely at Doncaster in February, and although the winning margin was only a length that day, he was always doing enough and is value for more than that margin. He should improve for that experience once again, beat a nice rival and could just squeeze into a place at huge odds.
In the opening race I’ll back Black Op each way at 10/1, and throw a fun bet on Gowiththeflow using the four place market at a huge 80/1. Even if he doesn’t place, I am sure he will outrun those odds.
I will be very surprised if any of the British runners are good enough to take the RSA Chase ahead of the Irish runners. There is no doubt that Presenting Percy will stay this trip, he has won over 3m5f this season, and will relish the test ahead of him. However, he last run a month ago came on desperately testing ground, and that took a lot out of him. I am not sure running again on testing ground is what he needs, he may win but there are too many quesiton marks for me to consider him.
My fancy for the race is Monalee, a horse who has won nicely twice over fences this season, falling on his other start. He stays well, he jumps well and tactically he can either go from the front or sit in behind. He ran a nice race to finish second at the festival last season, when always looking like chasing would suit him better. He has beaten some of his rivals recently and I see no reason why he won’t again.
At 7/2 I am more than happy to take a punt on Monalee.
I’ve got two fancies in this race, but will only be backing one of them today. The one I won’t be backing is Mount Mews, even though I think he’s an extremely interesting contender, as I mentioned on my Yorkshire Cheltenham preview earlier this week. The one I will be backing is Le Breuil, a horse who has been laid out for this, has the right profile and was spoken about in high regard by Ben Pauling at the Doncaster preview evening I attended.
We haven’t seen Le Breuil since December as his yard have protected his handicap mark. He ran a great race to finish second at Aintree behind Black Ivory, a horse who went onto win after that race, and they were well clear of the other two horses in the race. Many of this field will have been targeted for this race, and Le Breuil falls into that category. After hearing his trainer speak so openly about his chances last week, I have to follow him in.
At 16/1 he is the bet for me in this wide open Coral Cup.
For months leading up to the 2017 festival, all people could talk about was a potential meeting between Altior and Douvan. That fell by the way side (so we thought) when Douvan was injured in this race last season, and then when Altior missed the start of this season the matchup looked further in doubt. However, by what can only be described as a miracle, racing gets the matchup it wants, although unfortunately it is highly unliely that both will be 100% at their best.
This race throws up far more questions than it does answers, and is by far and away the most intriguing contest we will see this week. I’ve found it much easier to solve the handicaps today than I have this one. I won’t personally be having a bet in the race (that could of course change!) but if you had a gun to my head, I’d go for Min.
The reason for doing so is this:
Would I back a horse on Wednesday that I knew had foot problems on Monday at 6/5? No
Would I back a horse having its first run back from injury in a Grade One after a year out? No
Do I think any of the rest can beat a fully fit Altior or Douvan? No
Who is most likely to run their race, and win if Altior and Douvan underperform? Min
I’d love to see Douvan come back and win this, I’d also love to see Altior dominate the 2m chase division for years.This is a no bet race from me, it is a race that has baffled me, and one that I am hugely excited for.
I know some people don’t like the Cross Country race, but I don’t mind it myself, although it is not a race I get too involved in. The horse I like in the race is Tiger Roll, a horse who will have no trouble getting the distance, has had an eye opener around these fences, and Gordon Elliott is a man that knows what it takes to win this race. He also runs the favourite Cause Of Causes, who will head to the Grand National after this. He did the same last season, winning this then going onto finish second in the National, so is clearly a talented horse.
The difference for me between the two horses is that Tiger Roll will have been trained with this race in mind. He has entries in both the English and Irish national’s, but his day is today. Cause Of Causes on the other hand, will have been trained for the Grand National, that is his main target this season. He will of course be fit and ready to run, but he may only be 95% ready, and that could be the difference.
At the prices, I’ll happily take a punt on Tiger Roll at 6/1.
One of the strongest fancies I have this week is The King Of May. He has been slowly backed over the past couple of weeks, he was as big as 20/1 not too long ago and is now an 11/1 chance on the day. He is the best chance the North have of a winner this week in my opinion, and looks to be extremely well weighted based on his sole British start.
His only run came at Musselburgh, behind We Have A Dream (who was a strong Triumph fancy) and Act Of Valour who is also 11/1 right now, but has been near the head of the betting for this race for the past few weeks. The King Of May has to make up two lengths on Act Of Valour based on that run, but has a five pound pull at the weights to do so, making it highly likely that he will. Add onto this the improvement we will see from The King Of May from that debut run, because it is highly unlikely he was at 100% that day. He also didn’t appear to be stopping near the end of that Musselburgh run, and that points to him relishing the uphull finish here, another thing in his favour.
It may seen odd to select a horse in one of the toughest handicaps of the year to be my bet of the day, but I have very high hopes for The King Of May today, and I can’t wait to see him out on the track.
The final race of the day is the bumper, a race that is often just as much about whispers from yards as it is form on the track. Strictly on the form, Acey Milan must have a big shout here, and is one of the better bumper horses the British have had for a while. However, the Irish know what it takes to win this bumper, and I am going to pluck a horse out of the Willie Mullins yard based on a story from earlier this year.
Tornado Flyer didn’t win as easily as some on his debut but he did beat a horse who bolted up the time after, so the form of that race appears to be strong. He was bought and sent to Willie Mullins from a small trainer, and if you believe the stories then this horse was not in the best of condition when he arrived. If there is one man who can get a horse in tip top condition and firing then Willie Mullins is that man, and he will have worked very hard to get this lad ready. He is a horse that will continue to improve, and I really think we will see a completely different horse today to the one that we saw on debut, and if that is the case then he looks to have a great shout of landing the bumper.
All the best on day two!