Sportsmail’s racing experts Sam Turner, Lizzie Kelly and Peter Scudamore preview the third day of the featuring the Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday.
SAM TURNER’S TIPS
SUN BETS STAYERS’ HURDLE (3.30PM)
BEST BET: UNOWHATIMEANHARRY
NEXT BEST: COLE HARDEN
Like many that have lifted this prestigious event, UNOWHATIMEANHARRY has his own way of winning, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t loved and he is taken to extend his remarkable winning run to nine.
Last year’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle winner has taken his career to another level this term, mopping up three staying contests with the minimum of fuss for Barry Geraghty.
Geraghty’s injury means Noel Fehily regains the ride on the warm favourite and that is no negative given the Irishman was on board when the nine-year-old began to blossom for his switch to the Harry Fry stable.
Highly-fancied Unowhatimeanharry is unbeaten in his last eight starts
The one query about the selection’s chance would be the prospect of very quick ground as he has appeared to relish a little cut in his career to date, but it seems unlikely the Cheltenham executive will let conditions become too quick and the watering can may yet be brought out by clerk of the course Simon Claisse.
The prospect of some watering will not enthrall trainer Warren Greatrex who craves a sound surface for 2015 winner Cole Harden.
After a subsequent spell in the doldrums, the green shoots of recovery have begun to emerge and Cole Harden’s latest effort behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleeve Hurdle was another stride in the right direction. Greatrex is adamant he has his gelding back to his best and he could prove a tough rival for the favourite to overhaul with the ground likely to be in his favour.
JLT NOVICES CHASE (1.30PM)
BEST BET: DISKO
NEXT BEST: YORKHILL
Every winner of the JLT to date had run at the previous year’s festival and the Irish have won five of the six runnings which looks good for Yorkhill who won last year’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
Unfortunately, although talented, he has yet to convince over fences and, at the prices, is reluctantly over-looked as there looks like there will be plenty of pace on with the likes of Politologue and DISKO in opposition.
Admittedly, Noel Meade is yet to train a winner over fences at the Festival, but Disko could end that hoodoo if he can repeat the level of performance which saw him beat the talented Our Duke at Leopardstown last time. He has accomplished more than Yorkhill over fences this term and I would rather side with achievement than potential here.
PERTEMPS FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE (2.10PM)
BEST BET: GOLDEN DOYEN (nap )
NEXT BEST: FOR GOOD MEASURE
Tobefair has made astonishing strides this season since winning a Worcester handicap off 95 in the summer. Now rated 143, he only does enough to win so it is hard to know if he has finished improving just yet.
Philip Hobbs really should have won this race 12 months ago with If In Doubt, so For Good Measure and GOLDEN DOYEN, closely matched on their running in a course and distance handicap last October, are both fancied to go well.
Tobefair (above) faces strong competition from Golden Doyen and For Good Measure
Just a short head separated the stablemates that day and both have clearly been targeted at this event all season.
The prospect of good ground and a strong pace will suit both and they look players given their experience of rough and tumble handicaps at this track. Aubusson could outrun his price for the value seekers.
RYANAIR CHASE (2.50PM)
BEST BET: EMPIRE OF DIRT
NEXT BEST: UN DE SCEAUX
The Gigginstown operation are yet to win the race they sponsor in the 12 years since its inception, but EMPIRE OF DIRT could end the hoodoo.
An impressive winner of a competitive handicap for previous trainer Colm Murphy at last year’s meeting, the selection looks to have improved for the switch to Gordon Elliott judged on his two performances this term.
A smooth victory in the ultra-competitive Troytown handicap from the subsequent Leinster National winner precluded a fine effort in the Irish Gold Cup behind serious Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Sizing John and he appears to have the ideal profile for this race.
Tingle Creek winner Un De Sceaux looks the chief danger and he is impossible to discount given his track stats.
The dramatic Champion Chase eclipse of Douvan and Neon Wolf’s narrow opening-race defeat ensured bookmakers Coral took a commanding lead at the halfway stage of their Festival battle with the punters.
Although Douvan’s shock reverse may have looked the best result for the layers, Willoughby Court gamely holding off Neon Wolf could be the result of the meeting according to spokesman James Knight.
‘Neon Wolf was our biggest liability of the week so far,’ he said. ‘So it was a massive swing for us in the photo finish. Overall it has gone well for us, but punters have quite a few solid looking favourites in the next two days.
‘Gold Cup day has the look of a big punting day with Defi Du Seuil, Death Duty, On The Fringe and Cue Card all on the menu.’
BROWN ADVISORY HANDICAP CHASE (4.10PM)
BEST BET: BOUVREUIL (nb)
NEXT BEST: UN ACE
Having finished a narrow runner-up on both Festival appearances to date, BOUVREUIL may not be blessed with the courage of some that have climbed the Cheltenham hill, but his cruising speed means he invariably puts himself in a position to win.
That is a valuable asset when punters are trying to sift through 24 runners in a brutal handicap and the six-year-old has the profile of a horse laid out for this event all season.
With winners at 66/1, 50/1, 33/1 (twice) and 25/1 in recent years this has been a tough race for punters so I’ll take a punt on Un Ace being revitalised by the first time cheekpieces.
Kim Bailey and David Bass were unlucky when Charbel fell when in front in the Arkle, and their charge was only beaten 13l behind stablemate Darna in this race two years ago.
TRULL HORSE STUD MARES HURDLE (4.50PM)
BEST BET: LET’S DANCE
NEXT BEST: AIRLIE BEACH
In an ideal world, the return to two miles may not represent a perfect scenario for LET’S DANCE but she didn’t appear to lack pace when slamming Kemboy at Leopardstown in January where her final circuit time was quicker than both Supreme Novices’ runnerup Melon and on a par with Champion Hurdle third Petite Mouchoir.
That was some performance considering she had already covered four furlongs more than those winners on the day and it’s worth recalling she hunted up Apple’s Jade at Punchestown last spring. On certain lines of form, Airlie Beach is matched with the selection and she is likely to be ridden aggressively, while Dusky Legend could be of some interest for the each-way players as she was second in this race at a tidy price 12 months ago.
KIM MUIR HANDICAP CHASE (5.30PM)
BEST BET: DOCTOR HARPER
NEXT BEST: MALL DINI
Lisa O’Neill has partnered just two winners over fences in an embryonic career and those successes have come in the Kerry National and Monday’s National Hunt Chase.
The 30-year-old Dublin rider has the chance to bring up a notable hat-trick today when she partners DOCTOR HARPER in a typically open Kim Muir Chase, and punters that side with the son of Presenting must forgive him a modest run at Warwick last time.
That race may have come too soon for the selection who had run a terrific race over course and distance a fortnight before. The likes of Jamie Codd aboard Squouateur and the Katie Walsh-ridden Mall Dini will make it tough for O’Neill, but the addition of cheekpieces on Doctor Harper may help and her trainer has an excellent record in the race.