Our racing expert John Doyle previews days 3 and 4 of the Cheltenham Festival and gives his tips for the Stayers Hurdle and the coveted Gold Cup
Thursday 12th March
JLT Novices Chase 1:30pm
This has become a strong race at the Festival and this year’s renewal is no exception. Samcro was the talking horse at the start of the year, but has met with setbacks.
The vibe from the Gordon Elliott team is strong again, so he could be a player. Itchy feet, for the Olly Murphy team, is the best of the ‘home team’ and has an impressive profile.
Mister Fisher for Nicky Henderson has a decent turn of foot, but this trip may be stretching his stamina.
Alternative: Itchy Feet
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle 2:10pm
The last two editions of this big final have gone to the Gordon Elliott team and he is back again with a strong team of contenders, headed by last year’s winner, Sire de Berlais, and previous Festival winner, The Storyteller.
Olly Murphy has Skandiburg; an improving young horse who has won over the course and will be suited by the strong pace.
Jonjo O’Neill sends Dream Berry, a big outsider who travels well and could be just suited by how this race unfolds.
Selection: Dream Berry
Ryanair Chase 2:50pm
The Ryanair Chase this year looks to be one of the races of the week again. Frodon is back to defend his title but faces tough opposition.
A Plus Tard is a big improver and will be well suit by the distance of the race.
Ridersonthestorm is another with super progressive form but did have a hard race at Ascot, so needs to overcome that. Min will run here and has plenty of class.
Alternative: A Plus Tard
Stayers Hurdle 3:30pm
Another race with a strong favourite in Paisley Park, the defending champion. Paisley Park, for trainer Emma Lavelle, has looked stronger and stronger in his races this year and will be hard to beat.
Last year, the field went full pace from the start, so expect a more tactical approach this time around.
Summerville Boy has improved for step up in trip but hard to see him winning. Penhill should be in the mix too.
Selection: Paisley Park
Alternative: Summerville Boy
Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase 4:10pm
Another super competitive renewal of this Handicap Chase. Simply the Betts, for the Harry Whittingham team, stands out as a rapidly improving Chaser who will be suited to this race.
This progressive Chaser has only lost at Kempton this season, and is clearly not suited to going righthanded. He jumps and travels well.
Spiritofthegames and Cepage are regulars at Cheltenham and always run their race.
Selection: Simply the Betts
Dawn Run Mares Novice Hurdle 4:50pm
Willie Mullins has dominated this race since it was introduced, and this year he runs a handful with Dolcita looking to be the best of his contenders.
Minella Melody is unbeaten for the Henry de Bromhead team and has form beating the best of the Mullins battalion. She looks most likely to be suited by Cheltenham too.
Floressa has looked good at times and is another to consider for Nicky Henderson.
Selection: Minella Melody
Kim Muir Handicap Chase 5:30pm
The Handicap Chase for Amateur riders has turned into an Irish benefit in recent years, but this year the home team look stronger.
The Philip Hobbs trained Deise Alba runs here and this progressive chaser will have a big chance. He won well at Sandown, jumping soundly, and will be hard to beat.
Jamie Codd, one of Ireland’s top Amateurs, renews his association with Le Breuil, last year’s National Hunt Chase winner, and that is a strong pointer.
Selection: Deise Alba
Alternative: Le Breuil
Friday 13th March
Triumph Hurdle 1:30pm
The Triumph is an eagerly anticipated race at this year’s Festival. Aspire Tower is the leading Irish contender but must recover from falling on his last start.
All the forms lines suggest that he has a big chance. Allmankind is a freak, running out of control but still winning races.
This will be hard to do at Cheltenham. Goshen has talent but jumps to his right, which is not a good trait for Cheltenham.
Solo was visually impressive at Kempton, but the time doesn’t stack up. Nevertheless he could improve.
Selection: Aspire Tower
County Hurdle 2:10pm
Another difficult handicap to decipher. Strangely, Willie Mullins has entered Buildmeupbuttercup for just the County Hurdle.
This is a seriously good mare, who despite having some jumping issues, could be ideally suited by the hurly burly of this race.
Nicky Henderson has mentioned Adjali as a contender in dispatches.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 2:50pm
The Staying Novice Hurdle is a real slog for these young horses. Thyme Hill is unbeaten over Hurdles, looks to have a good attitude and will like the trip. His class can see him through.
Latest Exhibition has improved from run to run and his form in Ireland stacks up with the best novices.
Selection: Thyme Hill
Alternative: Latest Exhibition
Gold Cup 3:30pm
The 2020 Gold Cup is very open, and it is easy to make a case for many of the contenders.
Al Boum Photo has followed the same rout as last season, winning at Tramore on New Year’s Day and straight to Cheltenham.
Last year’s RSA Chase contenders, Delta Work and Santina, have continued to improve and will be there at the finish.
Lostintranslation is also a big improver, but did have a blip in the King George. This horse looks like a Gold Cup winner waiting to happen.
Presenting Percy, Kemboy and Clan des Obeaux will all have their supporters too.
Foxhunters Chase 4:10pm
Hazel Hill returns to defend his crown but has not been as impressive in the build up this year.
Minella Rocco beat him decisively at Wetherby and it is hard to see a different result here.
Billaway won a strong Hunter Chase at Naas and you can be sure there is plenty of improvement to come.
Shantou Flyer is a good horse, but his chance is hindered by his owner/rider not being as good as some of these other riders.
Selection: Minella Rocco
Grand Annual Handicap Chase 4:50pm
Another spectacle of a Chase. Croco Bay is back to defend his title and is not much higher in rating from last season. He could be in the mix again.
Paloma Blue looks a likely type for the Henry De Bromhead and Davy Russell team. He was hampered when he came with a run at Dublin Racing Festival, but his owner has won this race before.
Lisp is a novice who could improve for the pace element and has been set up for a bonus by winning at Plumpton. Breslan Das, third last year, is another to consider.
Selection: Paloma Blue
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 5:30pm
The last race of the Festival and another super competitive heat. Gordon Elliott is mob handed with The Bosses Oscar looking a likely type for the stable.
Joseph O’Brien has Front View in the mix with Jonjo O’Neill Jnr booked early for the ride – a good pointer to intentions. The Dan Skelton team have Flash of Steel laid out for this one.
Selection: The Bosses Oscar
Alternative: Flash of Steel