John Doyle talks through his top tips for the next days of Cheltenham

John Doyle talks through his top tips for the next days of Cheltenham

John Doyle gives us his thoughts on the next few days at Cheltenham

THURSDAY AT CHELTENHAM

JLT Novice Chase
The JLT Novice is looking to be a very strong race again this year. This is driven mainly by the number of horses who are keen to avoid the Arkle and it is anticipated that a great race will ensue. Bristol De Mai has been favourite for this race for some time but that confidence is now starting to wain as the strength of the race gets better. Garde La Victoire looks to be heading here for the Philip Hobbs team but he may find the trip stretching his stamina. The Willie Mullins team holds a strong hand with Black Hercules mooted as a runner to join the stables main hope, Outlander. Black Hercules looks more of a staying type, so may be caught for pace if running here. Outlander on the other hand has always been campaigned like a top class prospect and his decisive win in the Flogas Novice at Leopardstown is a stepping stone the Mullins team has taken with plenty of their top horses over the years. Selection: Outlander

Pertemps Final
The Pertemps final is as difficult as ever to solve but increasingly, the horses towards the head of the weights are more involved in the finish. With qualifying requiring a top five finish in the buildup races, it has become that bit easier to identify the plots and none impressed more than Leave at Dawn who qualified in 5th in the Leopardstown qualifier following a win at Cheltenham in November. Trained by Charles Byrnes, you can expect him to be tuned to the minute and will have a big chance. Another string to the JP McManus team is Cup Final for the Nicky Henderson team. He missed last season’s Festival through injury and made his return in the Mussleboro qualifier, where he ran out a good winner, despite looking in need of the run. Another that will be spot on for the big day. The Warren Greatrex trained Missed Approach is another to consider. The form of his win at Newbury in November is strong and he has been saved for this race since. Selection: Leave at Dawn

Ryanair Chase
This race is by far the most confusing race to have an opinion on this season. There are a number of permutations of runners that will make up the field for this year’s Ryanair, so waiting until the day looks the most sensible option. If Vautour turns up in this event, he would be a very short priced favourite but his connections continue to promote the Gold Cup as his preferred option. Al Ferof looks a definite runner and will run a decent race but really is too old to be winning a Grade 1 race at the Festival. Josses Hill has looked improved this season and could have a chance in a low quality field. It looks likely that Gigginstown will run Road to Riches and Valseur Lido and a case can be made for both but bets should be kept to a minimum. Selection: Road to RichesJohn Doyle talks through his top tips for the next days of Cheltenham

World Hurdle
The World Hurdle has a very strong favourite this year with Thistlecrack, an increasingly impressive winner of his three races this season so far. The ease with which he travelled to win in theCleeve Hurdle over the course in January was a powerful performance. The Paul Nicholls team has Saphir Du Rheu who ran second to Cole Harden, for the Greatrex team, last season and they should both be in the mix this season again. For the first time in a few years, the Irish have a strong representative with the Gigginstown owned, Alpha Des Obeaux. Alpha Des Obeaux has shown a strong level of improvement this season and his win at Gowran was very good. Mouse Morris is a master at getting his horses ready for the big day and his charge should be ready to give a big challenge to Thistlecrack. Selection: Thistlecrack

Brown Advisory Handicap Chase
This is another super competitive handicap at the Festival. The Pipe stable have a strong record in this race.Monetairereturns again this year following his unlucky 2nd in last year’s renewal. Slowly away that day, he had a poor trip through the race and done well to finish runner-up. He has been campaigned this season with this race in mind and his handicap mark is the same as last season. The Pipe stable have suddenly come into form too, so he is a strong fancy. John’s Spirit is another contender with a strong chance as he invariably runs well at this course and again his stable have come back to form recently. Village Vic has posted a couple of impressive wins over the winter but he faces a bigger task at the weights now. Selection: MonetaireJohn Doyle talks through his top tips for the next days of Cheltenham

Trull House Stud Mares Novice Hurdle
This is a new race added to the Festival for 2016. The Willie Mullins trained, Limini, has been a strong favourite for this first renewal for some time. The Maiden hurdle she won on debut at Punchestown subsequently produced numerous winners, sparking early support for this race. On her reappearance at Fairyhouse, she didn’t jump that well but really galloped away from her rivals to post a big win. If the vibes are correct, she will be hard to beat. The big danger is Smart Talk for the Brian Ellison stable. She has a progressive profile and her Grade 2 win at Doncaster is the strongest form on offer. It should be noted though that she beat a Mullins trained representative there, suggesting the strong confidence may not be misplaced. Selection: Limini

Kim Muir Handicap Chase
Another competitive 3m handicap chase for Amateur riders where the most important first starting point is scanning the jockey bookings for the race. The top riders usually win this race. There has been a big move for Our Father for the Gordon Elliott team with Nina Carberry booked to take the mount. Equally, there is strong support for last year’s winner, Cause of Causes, again for the Elliott team with Jamie Codd taking the mount again. Broadway Buffalo was runner up last year for Katie Walsh, who has ridden him twice since. Back for another go and Katie getting to know him better, it is easy to see him arriving into contention going to the last and he could be the one. Selection: Broadway Buffalo


 

FRIDAY AT CHELTENHAM

Triumph Hurdle
This year’s race has no standout performer so it is possible to make a case for many of the contenders. The Aidan O’Brien trained Ivanovich Gorbatov made a really smart winning debut at Leopardstown at Christmas before disappointing in his next run there. The amazing thing about this horse is the consistent strong support in the market both after his initial win and since his poor defeat. The vibe has been that this horse will be seen in better light with a firmer surface but it takes a leap of faith to see that. Zubayr is the big hope for the Paul Nicholls team following an impressive win at Kempton on debut. To this eye he has plenty to learn. Sceau Royal has looked very professional in all his starts for the Alan King stable but the times would not be that good. Footpad won the best race, when Ivanovich Gorbatov disappointed and ultimately has the best form but the continued strong support for the O’Brien individual is enough to sway opinion. Selection: Ivanovich Gorbatov

County Hurdle
This is a race usually run at a furious pace and is again a race that contains many plots. It is noticeable this year how many contenders have been saved for this event following strong runs earlier in the season. Blue Hell for the Alan Fleming team has been off the course since a November win at Fairyhouse that has worked out well, with those in behind him winning numerous races. John Constable has also been held back for this after finishing 2nd in a super strong race won by Sternrubbin at Newbury in November, again a well handicapped individual. Desoto County for the Gordon Elliott team is the one that stands out the most. After a good win at Thurles, he met trouble in running in the big Coral hurdle at Leopardstown before staying on strongly to take 3rd place. With exciting prospect, Jack Kennedy, claiming his allowance, this horse looks extremely well treated and should go close. Selection: Desoto County

Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle
This is atough test for staying Novice Hurdlers. This year’s race has Barters Hill as a relatively strong favourite. This horse is unbeaten 7 career starts including an impressive 4 Bumper wins last season. This is horse takes plenty of riding from his Jockey and has looked to be struggling at times during his races, giving the impression that the Cheltenham Hill will be one mountain too far for him to climb. Shantou Village lost his unbeaten record to the impressive Yanworth over the course but could be the one to improve plenty for the step up in trip. It is also likely that Willie Mullins will have a plethora of runners, any of which could be strong enough to win this renewal. Selection: Shantou Village

Gold Cup
The big race of the week has a huge number of strong contenders this year with the Irish in particular looking to have a strong chance. Cue Card is chasing a £1m bonus following his wins in the Betfair Chase and King George. He has built a great rapport with his Jockey, Paddy Brennan, but the doubt remains about his stamina. The Willie Mullins team has a strong chance too with Vautour, Djakadam and Don Poli all prominent in the market. Vautour has stamina doubts while Djakadam needs to recover from a fall in his prep race but did run a super race to finish 2nd last season. Don Poli has won at the last two Festivals and only does enough. His limitless stamina makes him a very strong contender. His owners, Gigginstown, have another super contender in Don Cossack, for the Gordon Elliott team. Despite not traveling well in the King George, it is highly likely he would have won the race if he hadn’t fallen two out. This should be the race of the week. Selection: Don Poli

Foxhunters
The Foxhunters is the Gold Cup for Amateur riders and this year it will be the centre of attention as the wonderful Victoria Pendleton completes her task of switching saddles and riding in the race on the Paul Nicholls trained, Pacha Du Polder. It would be lovely to see her get round but there are stamina concerns about the horse, so it is hard to see her being involved at the business end of the race. On the Fringe is a strong favourite to win back to back runnings but he was very poor in his prep race and is hard to fancy. Paint the Clouds returned with a good win at Doncaster and this horse is much better suited by a firmer surface. He could make amends for being a disappointing favourite last season. Marito and Aupcharlie are other to consider. Selection: Paint the Clouds

Martin Pipe Handicap hurdle
This race is a handicap restricted to Conditional Jockeys. Again a competitive field will line up but concentrating on big stables with unexposed Novices should help narrow the field down. The obvious place to start is with the Gordon Elliott team who can engage Jack Kennedy to ride Squouateur for JP McManus. This horse has been progressive and will benefit from having a good rider. Last year’s Fred Winter winner, Qualando, was a good 2nd recently and will have the assistance of Harry Cobden, another very good Conditional. Willie Mullins has Blazer and Clondaw Warrior engaged and if they run, you could expect a decent run too. Selection: Squouateur

Grand Annual Handicap Chase
The getting out stakes has been kind to punters in recent years with some well fancied runners obliging. Next Sensation made all last year following a place the previous year. He has followed the exact same build up this season and runs off only a 1lb higher mark, so a repeat could be on the cards, especially with the better ground more likely to suit this year. Stilletto for the Paul Nicholls team gave an exhibition of jumping around Leicester recently and if in the same form could be competitive. Blood Cotil for the Willie Mullins team is also interesting. Following a failed gamble in this race last season, he won at Punchestown. On his reappearance, he looked a stronger animal and ran a race full of promise to finish 5th. He should be spot on for this event now Selection: Next Sensation

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