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Cheltenham Festival 2019: Day Two Preview, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2019: Day Two Preview, Tips

On to Day 2, Wednesday, and another septet of teasers the highlight of which is the Queen Mother Champion Chase and that lad, Altior. That is but one of four Grade 1 shemozzles, those four tiptop treats supported by two impossible handicaps and the good old Cross Country Chase.

1.30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m5f)

The intermediate novices' hurdle but one where speed is usually at more of a premium than stamina. Naturally, class remains a prerequisite.

The favourite and top rated horse is Champ, who brings a most progressive profile to the party. Winning at Perth in May last year hardly hinted at what was to follow, as Nicky Henderson's McManus-owned novice rattled off a four-timer most recently by strolling to victory in the Grade 1 Challow Novices' Hurdle. Prior to that he'd put a big field of high class handicappers to the sword off a mark of 139 and now has a perch of 152, the best in the field by fully five pounds.

He hurdles well, travels well and clearly has an abundance of class. With all his winning at around the two and a half mile range, however, there's a slight niggle as to whether he quite has the speed for this. Yes, I do know the distance of the Ballymore but it tends to go to a horse with a bit of two mile form. He's not run at the shorter trip so it's unfair to say he doesn't have the toe for it. He's a worthy favourite.

The pick of the Irish is presumed to be Battleoverdoyen, Gordon Elliott's unbeaten son of, you guessed it, Doyen. He was good in a Grade 1 novice hurdle over two and a half miles at Naas last time and, after just three starts, retains plenty of upside. He's rated 146, joint third best.

Interestingly, given how good a guide official ratings have been in this race, the second top-rated, on 147, is City Island. Martin Brassil may be a somewhat unfashionable trainer but he's a very good one, and his four time winner (including a disqualification for a banned substance, arsenic, apparently present in a seaweed-based supplement the horse was taking) has been achieved from two miles to this trip. He's yet to face Graded company but that's the sort of thing, allied to his 'no name' connections - though his trainer has saddled a Grand National winner - that makes for a price.

Brewin'upastorm rounds out the single figure odds horses. Olly Murphy's inmate looked set to perhaps get the better of a duel with Birchdale when taking a heavy tumble at the last here on Trials Day. The trainer is convinced Brewin' is not the sort to dwell on such a pearler, but he also has to reverse Challow form with Champ. There he was beaten four lengths, though again Murphy feels he gave the wrong instructions to his jockey on the day. That's a lot of what Lydia Hislop would call 'yak' (i.e. chat or conjecture) but Olly knows the horse better than anyone else and he will have the tactics spot on this time. He has speed and class and might just be his fledgling trainer's best chance of a Festival winner this season, assuming he hasn't already bagged the Supreme by the time you read this!

Elliott runs Galvin as well, a horse which has been running exclusively at two miles and is unbeaten in five bumpers and novices hurdles both sides of the Irish Sea. The form has worked out quite well despite the lesser courses at which it's been achieved; this son of Gold Well could improve for the extra distance and might have sailed under the radar a little hitherto.

The rest have a stone or so to find on ratings but there are a couple who could be better than their current marks. The first is Ben Pauling's Bright Forecast, who made a striking impression on his debut when running on through a field of twenty to win going away. That was a deep-looking Newbury heat which has worked out well and he followed up at Leicester before finding only Supreme-bound Mister Fisher too good in the Rossington Main at Haydock. The longer trip looks sure to be in his favour though I'd not want him to adopt his recent front-running tactics. A more conservative ride early could see him on the premises up the hill. I like him, regardless of the result here.

The other to catch the eye is Sams Profile for Mouse Morris. Winner of a two mile maiden hurdle early in the season, he's since been second in a Grade 3 over three miles and then in a Grade 1 over two and a half behind Battleoverdoyen. There was sufficiently little between the pair to make Sams Profile of interest at 12/1 if you like the winner that day at 3/1 this day.

Ballymore Pace Map

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Selection

It's a trappy betting heat where most of the field still have improvement to come, and where some of the marks allocated at this stage could be awry. Champ looks best of the British, and he's a worthy favourite who looks sure to give backers a run for their money if not getting too far back.

At a bigger price, both City Island and Bright Forecast look capable of getting involved. The former has plenty of speed and no little class, the latter looks a horse with a future.

Suggestion: Back City Island (10/1 Coral) each way. A small nibble on Bright Forecast (33/1 Betfred) could reward Hail Mary players.

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2.10 RSA Chase (Grade 1, 3m)

Almost always a terrific spectacle, the RSA Chase is the race for next season's Gold Cup aspirants. The top of the market had long looked sewn up between Delta Work, Santini and Topofthegame but all three are suddenly surprisingly easy to back.

Clear jolly remains Delta Work, the Gordon Elliott-trained son of Network that won the Pertemps Final at last year's Festival. He then stepped into Grade 1 company to run second at Punchestown. This season has been about fences and, after scoring in the obligatory beginners' chase, he's added back-to-back Grade 1 victories to his impressive CV.

The form of his Drinmore win (2m4f) looks very decent, more so than his three mile chase win last time, but he continues to offer cause for concern with some sticky leaps. He has little - nothing, in fact - to spare on ratings so, while he can win (of course), he's skinny enough and it is easy to see why bookies want to 'get' him.

The flip-flopping pick of the Brits is Topofthegame, Paul Nicholls' Kauto Star Novices' Chase runner up. A maiden over fences after a brace of silver medals, he was also second in the Coral Cup at the Festival last term. He doesn't seem to lack resolution in spite of that string of 2's, his jumping is accurate and he stays well. But he does always seem to bump into one...

My long range fancy for this was Santini. Third in the Albert Bartlett last season and a fine winner at Grade 1 level at Aintree subsequently, he won a Grade 2 chase on his fencing bow before getting predictably outpaced on the speed strip that is Kempton. He rallied best of all from the last there, suggesting the stronger test of the RSA was bang on for him.

Alas, since then it's all gone wrong. First he missed his intended prep in the Reynoldstown due to having to get a booster jab, and then he got a foot problem which wasn't immediately poulticed and took a day or two longer to repair. It probably leaves him under-cooked for this big gig, though his price has drifted from 5/2 to 4/1 and that may overstate his preparation problems. On the other hand, it may not!

Nicky Henderson saddles Santini and he also runs On The Blind Side, a dual Grade 2 scorer over hurdles but found out when upped to G1 company. He was last of four in the Dipper at this track, but has since beaten a 145 chaser three lengths in receipt of six pounds at Kempton. That doesn't add up to an RSA winner in my book.

If the top of the market is to be taken down, then perhaps Tom George's The Worlds End might surprise. He was making a potentially race-winning move in the 2017 Albert Bartlett before coming down at the second last, and that seemed to have left a mark on him in open staying hurdle company last term. But, now chasing, he's looked classy if inconsistent in winning twice and losing twice. First the good: he turned the tables on Ibis Du Rheu two runs back over this course and distance (but on the other, New, track) by some margin, making all and easing clear. Now the not so good: he made mistakes aplenty when taken off his feet in the Kauto Star at Kempton.

That race has famously not yet produced a winner to double up in Cheltenham's RSA. Equally well known is how many beaten horses at Sunbury have prevailed at Cheltenham, the slower tempo and stronger emphasis on stamina allowing horses to get into a better jumping rhythm and grind it out. Though he'd perhaps not want it too heavy, and though he's a Jekyll and Hyde performer, if the good The Worlds End shows up, he's going to look an enormous price at 25/1.

Drovers Lane has had a wind op since winning over 2m5f here and he's won three of his four chase starts. It would be fantastic for Rebecca Curtis, whose yard have had a few seasons in the doldrums since the At Fishers Cross days, if he ran well; he doesn't have a heap to find on official ratings.

RSA Chase Pace Map

RSA Chase Selection

Your first 30 days for just £1

It's a tricky race in which a clear round would probably see Delta Work go close; but that's only what the market is saying. I'd be worried about Topofthegame's propensity to bump into one for all that I don't think he's ungenuine; and Santini's interrupted prep is very far from ideal. No wonder the bookies are looking to get a result here!

I'm going to roll with that theory and take a pony (25/1) punt on The Worlds End who might be considered unlucky not to already be a Cheltenham Festival winner. He probably wouldn't want it too soft but if the worst of the rain misses the course he'll look overpriced come post time.

Suggestion: take a chance each way on The Worlds End (25/1 Unibet, Coral; 22/1 1/5 1234 Victor)

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2.50 Coral Cup (Handicap, Grade 3, 2m5f)

26 runners. In a handicap hurdle. Sponsored by a bookmaker. Seriously? You want to bet in this?

I'm not going to pretend I've ever backed the winner of this race or ever expect to. However, I'm told classier unexposed horses do best, so what about the long absent Diamond Cauchois? He had a little spin round Punchestown in a non-rules race in November and has otherwise been kept away from the track. But a G2 score at this trip last season says he's got the class for the gig if fit enough. Noel Fehily, with the best hands in the business, steps in to ride. The 20/1 will be gone before you read this, and I can't get it anyway (thanks, Fred), but perhaps 14s is still worth a small passing interest.

Brio Conti is another without too many miles on the clock and he will have come on for the run, and win, last time at Ascot. 12/1 is worth a dabble perhaps. And William Henry bids to improve on last season's fourth place off the same mark. He's had a wind op since last seen (Nicky Henderson 12 from 32, +12.92 with W1's according to Query Tool) and seems to love the hurly-burly of a big field. 40/1 looks massive.

But, honestly, I don't profess to have any 'in' to this race whatsoever.

Coral Cup Pace Map

Coral Cup Suggestion: leave well alone, or back your own judgement! Diamond Cauchois (16/1) and William Henry (40/1) are my guesses. And, let's be clear, that's all they are. Maybe we'll be lucky...

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3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1, 2m)

And so to the Royal Procession that looks likely to be the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Altior, a perfect 17 from 17 over hurdles and fences, is solid odds on to make it 18. Until a couple of weeks ago, when he was usurped by an upstart called Cyrname, he was the highest rated chaser in training. There are many unhappy about Altior's deposing and it might be that impressive victory here returns the Nicky Henderson superstar to his golden plinth.

Be all that as it may, this is a horse race and we must consider the merit of the favourite in the context of his field as well as the race conditions. Dealing with the latter first, it will be two miles at Cheltenham on rain softened ground, exactly the medicine he drank so stoically at the Festival last year. There, after an interrupted preparation, he looked momentarily in trouble before rattling home in trademark fashion from the high class Min.

So, no dramas on the race conditions score; what about the field? The truth is, with the exception of the re-opposing Min and the unpredictable Politologue, he is miles clear of the others. In another year, a year when Altior didn't show up, Min would have been an eleven length winner last year. His margin over God's Own, Politologue a further five back lengths back in fourth - of five finishers - was decisive. He again looks set to do battle with the 2018 also rans for the honour of runner-up, a performance he is odds on to reprise.

Champion Chase Pace Map

Champion Chase Selection

In truth, it looks a shallow contest, notwithstanding the sumptuous cherry on top of the somewhat flimsy cake; and those looking for a bet might do worse than Saint Calvados each way without Altior. He was utterly compromised last year in the Arkle when taking on Petit Mouchoir for the lead, both of them collapsing to the rear of the field and allowing Footpad to saunter home in his own time.

But here he might get his favoured solo on the front. God's Own is eleven now, Politologue is deeply unreliable and Sceau Royal, the other in front of him in the market aside from Min, was behind him on soft ground in the Tingle Creek.

Suggestion: Try Saint Calvados at 16/1 without Altior each way (1/4 123 bet365)

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4.10 Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country, Class 2, 3m6f)

The 'marmite' race. Some people love it, some hate it. Me? I'm a fan: it's something different, it often showcases some of the old warriors, and it's a damn fine prep for the Grand National to boot. It is a race dominated by the Irish - only Philip Hobbs' Balthazar King, twice, has wrested the prize from the Emerald Isle since its inception in 2005 - and they again have a strong hand this term, spearheaded by last year's winner, Tiger Roll.

The Tiger's palmarès is one of the most brilliantly eclectic in racing. A winner on his juvenile hurdle debut for Nigel Hawke in 2013, he was snapped up at the sale that December for £80,000 and sent to Gordon Elliott. With Elliott, Tiger Roll has since won a Triumph Hurdle, a Munster National, a National Hunt Chase, a Cross Country Chase, a Grand National, and a Boyne Hurdle. I mean, just, WOW!

He's still only nine and could have this in the palm of his hand if in the same form as he was when winning the race last year. That day he had two lengths to spare over the French cross country expert, Urgent De Gregaine, now eleven and returning for another crack. Emmanuel Clayeux's veteran has run three times over course and distance, adding a win and a third in handicaps to that silver medal last March. He's been very lightly raced in recent seasons making the 144 day layoff less of a concern; but I want to be against him I think, even though older horses had a decent record in the race in its formative years.

More likely are the Enda Bolger contingent of Auvergnat and Josies Orders. Auvergnat was fourth in this last year before winning the Le Touche Cup at Punchestown, and is a banks specialist. He's rated within a pound of Tiger Roll in this discipline, and comes here in great form off the back of a valuable big field handicap chase win at Leopardstown at Christmas.

Josies Orders is eleven now, but seems to have found a new lease of life this season, winning the cross country race here in November and the PP Hogan at Punchestown, a major trial for the Glenfarclas. He's a four time winner over course and distance, including the 2016 renewal of the Festival race and his full record over these banks reads 1113613, the bold figures representing Festival races. Granted, he was a little out of form last term when finishing only sixth, but he looks close to his best again now.

Jamie Snowden saddles Fact Of The Matter, winner of the December handicap and second in the November handicap both over course and distance. He's far worse off at level weights with a number of these but handicap ratings have been no sort of indicator down the years and, as a horse proven to relish this unique test, he looks a reasonable each way play. He's had a wind op since that December victory.

Hurricane Darwin, twice closest to Josies Orders in the past year, most recently in the PP Hogan, is worthy of mention, as perhaps is the other French entry, Amazing Comedy, fourth in the December handicap here and fifth in this race last year. 40/1 may marginally downplay his place prospects.

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Pace Map

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Selection

A cracking renewal - deeper than normal - so, whilst I thoroughly respect Tiger Roll (what a horse!), I have to look elsewhere for a bet. Auvergnat and Josies Orders should both go well and maybe dutching the pair at around 3/1 is a way to go. Fact Of The Matter is tempting each way at 16/1.

Suggestion: Split your stake 60/40 between Auvergnat (6/1 general) and Josies Orders (9/1 Paddy) for an approximately 3/1 dutch.

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4.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 1/2f)

The Fred Winter as was. My crikey - this is not my jurisdiction! Last year, Gordon Elliott won with a 33/1 shot. He's won it before, too, but Paul Nicholls' three wins - and six further places - from 18 runners is exceptional: 50% placed horses in a ferocious handicap.

Nicholls saddles just one, the 25/1 shot Dogon, whose profile deserves closer inspection. Experienced in France, he actually won a two and a quarter mile 3yo chase at Fontainebleu in November, prior to pulling up in the Triumph Hurdle trial at this track in January. Since then he's run an eye-catching second at Wincanton, pulling hard and giving the impression that this stiffer test of stamina and faster pace will suit better. He's not an obvious contender, but then neither was Veneer Of Charm or Flying Tiger or Qualando or Flaxen Flare or Hawk High or Une Artiste, all of whom won this race at 25/1 or bigger in the last ten years.

Clearly, then, this is a race in which to take a small chance at a big price. Elliott runs three, two of which are single figure prices and they can beat me if they're able; but the other is Coko Beach, available at 20/1 in a place. He won a French hurdle race before running down the field in Grade 2 company at Leopardstown at Christmas and then receiving a tender enough ride in a novice hurdle last month. Ex-French runners have a great record in the race, a note in support of both Dogon and Coko Beach.

Obviously, a score more with chances, including three more ex-French that have yet to race in Britain, one of them - Fox Pro - trained by the Nick/Jane Williams axis, successful in 2017 with Flying Tiger and with 3rd and 5th places as well from just seven runners.

Boodles / Fred Winter Pace Map

[Gaps represent runners yet to race in UK or Ireland]

Boodles / Fred Winter Selection

I could analyse this contest in great detail but I'd likely be unable to add much to the above. It's a race which generally hasn't gone to the head of the market and in which I'll take a little punt on the three named above.

Suggestion: Back any or all of Dogon (25/1 bet365), Coko Beach (16/1 Hills 1/5 12345) and/or Fox Pro (25/1 general)

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5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1, NH Flat, 2m 1/2f)

Really tricky, and I don't have any idea what might win. Gordon Elliott talks about Envoi Allen as a future Gold Cup winner, the unbeaten five year old finding plenty for pressure in a Grade 2 last time. He's top rated on official figures, an angle which has been a good predictor of Champion Bumper winners, and he's also favourite.

The value against him might just be Abracadabras, who almost clipped heels with Envoi Allen inside the final furlong before running through the rail. That incident demonstrates how close to the favourite he'd got, and he looked to still have a bit more to give. With the wide open spaces of Cheltenham sure to preclude a repeat sob story, and perhaps a little less greenness as a result of that run, the Gigginstown-owned stablemate can turn the tables at three times the price.

Most of these are unexposed and can/will step forward markedly on what they've shown so far, most notably perhaps the four-year-olds Blue Sari and Cascova.

Champion Bumper selection

An interesting race to watch rather than wager, though Envoi Allen had little in hand of Meticulous, Abracadabras, and a couple of others last time. In the circumstances, my interest wager will be the unlucky one from Leopardstown and his rider Lisa O'Neill.

Suggestion: Try Abracadabras each way at 10/1 (1/5 1234 Victor)

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And that concludes a somewhat briefer (relatively, at least) spin through Wednesday's Day 2 action. Plenty of races in which it's hard to take a strong view, and where we may have to be both good and lucky to come out in front I feel.

Good luck!

Matt

Cheltenham Festival 2013: Day Two Preview/Tips

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2013: Day Two Preview

Day two (Wednesday) has good news and bad news for us. The good news is that there are still twenty races to go at. The bad news is that Day One is traditionally the easiest on which to find winners. Hmm, hope you had a decent start.

OK, no time for reflection, so let's push on with the first of the septet of Wednesday's fiendish equine sudoku's, the...

1.30 JOHN OAKSEY NATIONAL HUNT CHASE (Amateur Riders´

Novices´ Chase ) (CLASS 2) (5yo+) (4m)

Four miles. Amateur riders. Novice chasers. When deconstructing the ultimate safe wagering conveyance, it's Sprinter Sacre odds that you'd have any of that trio of conditions, let alone all three!

This is a stupid race, let's be clear about that from the outset. Even now they've made it a classier affair, you still see most of them fall over. Stupid. Hard luck punting stories are more abundant here than in a home for retired poker players. It's just stupid.

But... it does form the lead off leg for the placepot. And it has been won by the jolly old favourite for the past two years. So let's give it a lash.

National Hunt Chase Key Trends

Last two favourites won

8/11 finished 1-2 last time out

11/11 3+ chase starts

10/11 6-8yo

National Hunt Chase Form Preview

Back In Focus to win NH Chase?

Back In Focus to win NH Chase?

Back In Focus has had a great season so far, winning three novice chases, including a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 last time out. That's extremely strong form in this race. But the ground is a factor with him. He's done all his winning on soft or heavy, and when he came up against decent oppo on good turf at Aintree, he was stuffed senseless by Saint Are and most of the rest of the field. Lucky for him then, that it's on the soft side of good here.

Rival d'Estruval has been well backed for this, but I can't see it myself. He's been beating up mainly inferior rivals in the North and mostly on flat tracks. At the very least, he has to show he can win a Festival race on a seriously testing circuit, and the price doesn't allow for any wriggle room in that regard.

David Pipe's Buddy Bolero is filed firmly in the 'could be anything' dossier, and with all five of his runs to date having been on soft or heavy, his price acknowledges that he must have a great chance. Connections are obviously respected hugely,  and he ought to run very well if standing up, especially as his breeding lends credence to the notion that he's an out and out stayer.

Godsmejudge ran a blinder to be second in the Grade 3 Warwick staying handicap chase, but he was running on fumes at the death, and this is three furlongs further up a big hill in sticky ground. It's hard to crab a horse which has almost won over further than the vast majority of his rivals for being a doubtful stayer... but I do have a stamina niggle with him, after he showed his hand somewhat that day.

With five starts to his name, Godsmejudge is experienced, and he jumps pretty well in the main too. If he's not taken on for the lead early, and he stands up, he should still be involved at least until they turn for home. After that, the 'judge may well run out of juice.

Of the remainder, I'm far from confident that Tofino Bay will stay this far; Highland Lodge looks a really hard horse to catch right and is maybe a bleeder (previously nominated by me for the RSA, alas); and Hawkes Point could plod on into a place.

National Hunt Chase Tips

Not a race to get seriously involved with, unless you're currently very rich and don't mind being only quite rich by day's end. The Mullins runner obviously has the class if he can put in a clear round, and Buddy Bolero may be best of the rest.

Best value for National Hunt Chase: Back In Focus
Other likely contenders: Buddy Bolero
Longshot if on a going day: Highland Lodge

Betfred will give you the place part of your e/w bet back as a free bet if your horse finishes fourth here.

2.05 NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES´ HURDLE (Registered Baring Bingham Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) (2m5f)

A small field this year, with just ten slated to meet the starter, and a warm favourite in Pont Alexadre. He's very well regarded at home, so is it really a one horse race?

Neptune Novices' Hurdle Key Stats

14/15 were aged five or six

12/15 won last time (15/15 1-2-3 last time)

14/15 unrated or rated 138+

14/15 ran 16-60 days ago

Neptune Novices' Hurdle Form Preview

Pont Alexandre bidding to make Willie's day

Pont Alexandre bidding to make Willie's day

Pont Alexandre has a perfect profile for this, and comes from the extremely powerful Willie Mullins yard. He is three from three over hurdles, a hat-trick which includes a Grade 1 and a Grade 2 score. Clearly, there's a bundle of improvement possible.

But... he's a 6/4 shot, and his jumping has looked less than perfect so far. It's for that reason that I'm prepared to take him on at the price, despite his otherwise robust credentials.

The New One has been the apple of his trainer's eye for a while now, and he thinks this fellow might even be better than his Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander. That's as maybe, but it's his credentials for this contest we're interested in, and they look good. He ran a fine race in the Champion bumper here on this day last year, and he again ran well here when just headed by At Fisher's Cross the last day.

Lest you think he's not quite good enough on these slopes, let me assure you that he's won twice here as well, in a Listed bumper and a decent novice hurdle. The ground will be no issue as it's what he's raced on for the most part this season, and his current form level puts him right in the mix.

Moreover, it was widely held that his jockey went too soon that day, and he's likely to be played later here, if he's still pitching with prospects.

Taquin de Seuil is the third musketeer at the top of the market, and he's an ex-flat racer from France. This contest is almost always won by a National Hunt type - that is, a more stoutly bred horse - and that's a negative for TdS. However, a four race hurdle career which has only one - small margin - defeat, and that to My Tent Or Yours, reads well enough.

He ought to be fine on the ground too, and ran on very nicely in a Grade 1 last time despite a novice'y leap at the last. He's clearly got a chance, but I just have a niggle about his flat breeding (by a ten furlong horse out of a miler) for such a stiff stamina examination.

Rule The World was something of a shock winner last time, but he was a facile one too and, though the form is suspect with long odds on Champagne Fever (winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle on day one) running a clunker, it's hard to discredit the winner. His form profile looks quite solid too, with progression from race to race, and Minsk - a well beaten second last time - is a decent enough form stick.

With the turf not too distance a relation to the hock-deep quags he's been swimming though, and being that he's by a sire whose progeny have a marked preference for making a mark in the turf, Sulamani, he's sure to cope with the conditions. Whether he's good enough remains to be seen, but he should travel for a long way.

Chatterbox is the sort of 'now' horse which can do well in these type of events. Evidently not highly rated by his trainer when sent to contest a Huntingdon bumper in April last year, he was never in front until the line. Since then, he's won twice more and remains unbeaten.

The first of those two victories was eye-catching, because he beat none other than My Tent Or Yours by nearly five lengths. Now it's highly likely that the bare form flatters Chatterbox - a flatterbox, if you will - but nevertheless, you need to be good to even nick a race off My Tent.

He has since confirmed his upward form curve by beating the highly regarded Lac Fontana in a race which looks like it's going to work out well. Charlie Morlock, assistant trainer at Hendo's yard, reported that Chatterbox has improved a fair bit recently and, allied to a step up in trip - which looks ideal based on the way he's finished his races - this fellow could get on the podium.

Two Rockers is progressive and has been winning easily, including in Grade 2 company at Haydock last time, and he might get into it if not getting outpaced, but I doubt it.

I don't see the rest being quite good enough.

Neptune Novices' Hurdle Tips

Most Likely Winner: Pont Alexandre
Best Alternative: The New One (if not bitten by the bug at Twiston-Davies' yard)
Interesting at a price: Chatterbox

2.40  RSA CHASE (Grade 1) (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (3m 1/2f)

A decent race for me down the years, and I've a couple of strong-ish views again, which I've supported financially, natch! You definitely want a horse that stays here, and a grinder too, as they go at it from a long way out.

RSA Chase Key Stats

Last ten won or placed in a Grade 1 or 2 chase

14 of the last 15 finished first or second last time out

It's fifty years since a horse won this without a run in the same calendar year (!)

Your first 30 days for just £1

All of the last fifteen winners ran between 16 and 60 days prior

Every Feltham winner to run here has been beaten.

RSA Chase Form Preview

So it looks like a recent run and a good one at that, allied to a proven level of class, are pre-requisites here. Despite that sounding obvious, not all of the entries fit that fairly broad bill.

Dynaste, for instance, hasn't run since Boxing Day last year. He won the Feltham there too, which is a completely contrasting race to this, with speed favoured over guts and grinding. He's surely better suited to the Jewson, which is where he's headed.

Boston Bob is next in the betting and this boy is a classy plodder: just the attributes you need to win an RSA Chase. Last year, he was many people's 'banker' (if such a thing even exists), but got beaten by the late Brindisi Breeze. Since he's gone chasing, he's two from two, the latter in a Grade 1 which has been a very good trial for this.

But, despite winning both chase starts, he was all out and seriously laboured each time. The first day, he scrambled home by half a length from an above average (though nothing special) type called You Must Know Me, over two and a half miles.

Entitled to come on a lot for that - indeed, entitled to feel that race afterwards - Bob didn't surface again until 9th February, where he again got home by the skin of his teeth. But this time, the performance should be marked up considerably on the bare winning distances. He was outpaced as the field made a break for the line, and looked set to trail home in fourth place. In fact, he traded as high as 620 in running on Betfair!

But, in an impressive rally, Boston Bob made up five lengths from the last fence to nut Texas Jack on the line. Like I say, the bare form isn't good enough to win an RSA. But I expect him to improve considerably for the extra three furlongs here, perhaps by as much as seven to ten pounds. After all, he's only had the two chase starts to date.

My one concern with Boston Bob is that he does get outpaced in his races but, if he can hang on to the flailing tails of the leaders just before the home turn, he'll quite probably catch them and pass them up the hill.

Unioniste is also well fancied in the market, but he's not well fancied by me. Firstly, he's a five year old, and the allowances have long since stopped being dolled out from the days when Star de Mohaison won for that age group back in 2006. That day, Star got ten pounds from his rivals. Here, Unioniste will get just two pounds.

More telling than that, though, is that I'm just not sure he'll stay. Yes, he won the December Gold Cup well enough over two miles five here at Cheltenham, becoming the first four year old to win a handicap chase at Cheltenham in the process. But it's an extra half mile, give or take 100 yards here, and he was flat-out-all-out to hold the bungling Hadrian's Approach at Newbury. For me, he's far too short and I can see him possibly missing the frame here.

That rival, Hadrian's Approach, has a really tasty profile for the RSA. He's had four goes at chasing: a winner from the useful The Druids Nephew on debut, he then fell four out when going well behind the useful Harry Topper in a Grade 2.

After that, he went to the Feltham where he was no match for Dynaste, but he was the clear second best that day. If the Feltham winner struggles in the RSA, it's interesting that those who laboured behind the trailblazer there have gone on to win SIX RSA Chases, and three in the last eight years. Bobs Worth last year was the latest to achieve that.

And on his most recent start, Hadrian's Approach was beaten just a short head by Unioniste over Newbury's three miles. He absolutely horlicksed the second last and, but for that shuddering mistake, would surely have won by three lengths and been close to favouritism for this subsequently. I feel strongly that Hadrian's will finish his RSA race better than Unioniste, and I think he's the biggest danger to Boston Bob.

I really like this horse and, if his jumping holds up, he's got to go close.

RSA Chase Tips

Most Likely Winner: Boston Bob
Best Each Way: Hadrian's Approach

3.20 SPORTINGBET QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (2m)

Likely to be a coronation procession this year, Sprinter Sacre looks unopposable. He's still only a second season chaser so has yet to claim a Champion Chase. Surely that will no longer be the case by 3.30pm on Wednesday.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Key Stats

13/15 had previously won at Cheltenham

13/15 finished 1-2-3 last time out

Queen Mother Champion Chase Form Preview

Sprinter Sacre has strong Champion Chase claims

Sprinter Sacre looks a lock

There's little point going into too much detail here. Sprinter Sacre will win and some other horses will finish second and third, presumably at a very respectful distance. Actually, there's only seven runners and therefore two places, so that rather buggers up things for place players... unless some very generous bookie type offers three places in an act of benevolence bordering on business suicide.

In truth, it's bar a fall stuff, and if Coral are still offering their £20 at evens on Sprinter Sacre, you should gladly accept. It's not money in the bank, but if he jumps round, the 100% interest rate is as close to that as you get in equine investment terms.

For the places,it's quite tricky to envisage Sizing Europe being more competitive this time aged eleven than he was last year aged ten, and against a far better horse.

We're then into the realms of 16/1 Mail de Bievre, a French import who looks capable on his best form, and might well make the frame if he doesn't bounce (only one starts since September 2011).

It's 20/1 the rest, and perhaps 25/1 Somersby is the place answer. This chap has good form at Cheltenham: he was third in the 2009 Supreme; second in the 2010 Arkle; fifth in the 2011 Champion Chase; and a non-staying seventh in the 2012 Ryanair Chase.

I'd rather cheer my even twenty quid on Sprinter Sacre than bet anything else, but Somersby could nick the place payout at a price which rewards taking the chance.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips

Most Likely Winner: Erm... Sprinter Sacre
Best Each Way: Somersby

Best Queen Mother Champion Chase Bookie Offer

Sprinter Sacre at even money? Really?! Yes! (£20 max stake)

 

4.00 Coral Cup Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) (2m5f)

A trappy but not impossible handicap hurdle over an intermediate distance, and the market has generally had at least some view on the race with nine of the last ten winners being 16/1 or shorter.

Coral Cup Key Stats

11/12 Carried 11-02 or less

7/15 won last time out (12/15 top six last time)

14/15 aged five to eight years

14/15 Rated 127-142

Only two horses from 180 to try won this within 30 days of their last race.

Thirteen horses from 202 to try won this off a break of between 31 and 120 days.

Coral Cup Form Preview

The two I like are Barbatos and Meister Eckhart, both as big priced speculatives in a wide open race where they bet 7/1 the field.

Meister Eckhart is my first choice, and Alan King’s five year old was a smart novice last year that is well regarded by his handler.

A winner of only one of his quartet of hurdles runs, he been second and third in Grade 2 races, and a respectable fifth in the Albert Bartlett here last March.

His stamina ran out over those three miles, so this drop back might be ideal. Being lightly raced, he has scope to improve and this is a race which has favoured unexposed second season hurdlers in recent times (six of the last eight winners). A general 16/1 looks good.

Barbatos is worth a second glance. He's only run once this season, behind Mr Watson, on ground he would have hated and after a year off. Last season, he was a very nice novice, finishing second and third in Grade 2 races at around this trip behind Fingal Bay. He finished that season with a course and distance win on good to soft, and I'd expect him to be spot on for this, though he may not want it super-sticky underfoot.

Dangers are everywhere. Trying to name all of them is a fool's task, but key amongst them may be Pendra, and Mr Watson.

Pendra is very lightly raced, and highly regarded by the Charlie Longsdon team. In four starts, he's won three and was second to the very good Melodic Rendezvous in a Grade 1 at Sandown most recently. Although unlikely to have beaten much (or indeed anything) in two Plumpton novices, the Grade 1 form looks rock solid with all three of the horses to have come out of the race (winner, fifth and seventh) winning their subsequent starts.

Pendra quickened up smartly there and just got outspeeded by the winner. The pair pulled seven lengths clear of the rest, and the way Pendra jumped the last - quick and athletic - suggests he'll stay at least some of the extra trip of the Coral Cup.

Mr Watson absolutely bolted up at Cheltenham last time, and I for one was surprised with the facile nature of that win. He'd been allotted a mark of 127 there, and now has 139. He'll probably need to improve another seven pounds to win here, and that's certainly possible. Before his two race winning run (which has coincided with the application of a hood - he wears it again here), he was beaten by Melodic Rendezvous, and the margin of defeat there was similar to Pendra's, which implies Mr Watson might have a similar chance to the favourite at a slightly bigger price.

Coral Cup Tips

Clearly, luck in running as well as being favoured by race conditions and having a workable handicap mark are all required to get to the jamstick in front here. That's an unfathomable combination to crack, so it makes sense to side - small stakes - with horses at a price.

Decent Each Way play: Meister Eckhart
Other possible each way plays: Barbatos, Mr Watson

Most firms are going five places here. Click here to check who is and who isn't.

4.40 FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo) (2m 1/2f)

One of the new races, the Fred Winter is growing in class but remains a very trappy puzzle, largely because of the ability lights being hidden under handicap mark bushels. Or, to put it another way, trainers trying to get their horses well handicapped!

Fred Winter Key Trends

7/8 winners had run twice since January 1st

5/8 winners won last time out (+29.50 to level stakes)

7/8 winners had run within 30 days

8/8 winners made British/Irish debut after 30th November

7/8 winners failed to win until at least their third run

Fred Winter Form Preview

This, like the novices handicap chase on the first day, is a plotters' race. Those who show their ability to the handicapper too early get whacked with an uncompetitive weight, and the winner of this race usually improves about ten pounds on what they've previously achieved (publicly). There's also a really interesting trend towards the best flat rated horse running very well.

Only one winner was rated higher than 130, and I'll use that as a ceiling here, with those capable of that (and more) but rated much lower my focus.

Last time out winners have also performed extremely well, and using the key trends above my shortlist is Saphir Du Rheu, Ptit Zig, Another Sensation, Habesh, and Ibsen.

Let's start with the Nicholls pair. Saphir Du Rheu and Ptit Zig have similar profiles, both having been acquired from France, and both having had just the one run this year. Saphir Du Rheu was impressive when slamming God Of The Kop, while Ptit Zig put the useful bumper horse, New Years Eve in his place.

The form of neither race has worked out so far however, with Ptit Zig's contest seeing twelve horses race since, none win and only two place. Saphir's race can at least boast one winner from the ten subsequent runners.

Another Sensation is a really interesting one. Apparently working very well, his form is nothing to speak of. But... he was only about four lengths down and closing when unseating at the last at Sandown last time, having been a good ten lengths back at the second last. That burst of speed marks him up as a contender here, if his jumping holds up.

Habesh would have been seriously interesting on decent ground. A winner of a heavy ground juvenile hurdle on his third start last September, he's not been seen since in National Hunt circles. But he has had two runs on the flat at Dundalk and improved nicely from the first to the second of those. His trainer is adamant that he's way better on good ground and it looks like the plot might have come unstuck with the rain. Nevertheless, he's a better chance than his price implies.

And lastly, my eye is drawn to a horse rated in the 50's on the flat, Ibsen. Yes, I appreciate that might sound daft, but Mysilv was only rated 63 on the flat and she was able to win a Triumph, so it is possible. Anyway, this fellow was a late developer, not winning until his seventh flat start, and that in a field of sixteen. He proved that was no fluke by doubling up next time in higher class, and a field of nine.

But I suspect he needs a strong pace to go at, as his previous best performance had been when fifth of 23. In three runs over hurdles, he's yet to win. But he's also yet to be lower than second, and I'm pretty sure he'll be sticking on up the hill like a good'un, especially if they go fast early.

Obviously, not many of these picks are sexy top stables, which means the prices should hold. And of course, there's a chance they all run clunkers and my plot theory unravels. But, in a wide open race, I'd rather take a punt on a price than row in with a shortie, whichever beast history may record as the winner.

Fred Winter Tips

Clearly, not a straightforward race to handicap. I've elected to ignore the top ones, as history has shown that they have a heck of a lot to do here. And, in any case, if they were that good, they'd be running in the Triumph Hurdle, and not the consolation race.

Thereafter, it's a plotplotplot for me please.

Most interesting towards the top of the market: Another Sensation
Possible Irish jobs, and worthy of each way tickling: Habesh, Ibsen

5.15 WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4-6yo) (2m 1/2f)

Always a good test of raw horses, and very tricky to find a winner from so many unexposed 'could be anything' beasts generally.

Weatherbys Champion Bumper Key Stats

Big field experience seems crucial. Champagne Fever became the first horse not to have previously won a bumper with at least thirteen runners. And he was second in one!

The last nine winners all won last time out, and thirteen of the last fifteen did too.

11/15 won by five year olds, with three won by six year olds and the 4yo Cue Card completing the last fifteen years.

11/15 won by the Irish (six for Willie Mullins)

Weatherbys Champion Bumper Form Preview

Sheesh, where do we start here? It's a race where every horse could be nice in future, and it's not a race in which I'll be betting, truth be told. If you must have a bet, then here are some thoughts, for what they're worth.

The obvious place to start is with Willie Mullins, given that he's won six of the last fifteen runnings. Of his trio of entries, Union Dues might be the pick, but all of them have been running in small fields and this is a different story.

Golantilla is the highest rated on official figures, and he has won both a point-to-point and his bumper in easy fashion. He was 'expected' when winning at Cork the last day, and has since changed hands for a bundle of cash. Sure to be a lovely chaser in due course, the form of the bumper hasn't worked out yet, though it's not the fault of the thirteen length victor.

Regal Encore is trained by Anthony Honeyball, who trains a horse for the geegeez syndicate, and I'd absolutely love it (in Kevin Keegan parlance) if this fellow - snapped up by JP McManus - could give Anthony a maiden Festival winner. Certainly, he's murdered all-comers in his two runs to date, the latter an eight length battering of Be Bop Boru at Chepstow.

That win was every bit as impressive as Golantilla's, and that's why he's second top rated, a pound behind the Irish horse. It's a race which has worked out well too, with the second and sixth winning three races between them, and the third, fourth and fifth all making the frame since.

Le Vent d'Antan ran green as grass on debut, but was still six lengths too good for the rest, and he's another lovely big chaser-in-the-making (apologies for the cliche, I've used hyphens to accentuate the point!). But he took his time to pick up there, and the five horses to come out of the race have managed just one place between them.

Yes, it seems the pick of the form might be with Mr Honeyball's beast, and I'll be screaming the place down if that's clambering the hill with McCoy in full drive. Good luck, Anthony!

Weatherbys Champion Bumper Tips

Not a race to go mad in, but Regal Encore sets a good standard, and a layoff is no bad thing in this contest. Golantilla and Union Dues head the 'respected' category, but it's one of those races where whatever wins will make sense after the event, so don't go too mad here.

Best (and most wanted) each way selection: Regal Encore
Others with obvious chances: Golantilla, Union Dues

Plenty of firms offering four places on this race, so click here to check your bookie is!

And that brings us to half way. It will have been a challenging run so far, and very well done if you get to the half time oranges level or, heaven help you, in front. But there will be many more battles to come over the final two days, and geegeez will be right there with you. So stay tuned. And the very best of luck for your day two Wednesday wagers.

Matt