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 14th March
JLT Novices Chase 1:30pm
This has become a strong race at the Festival and this year’s renewal is no exception. Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil have been building a rivalry this season with a win each at Cheltenham and Sandown.
This race looks to be the showdown and you must favour Lostintranslation as his superior stamina will be a big asset. Willie Mullins sends over Real Steal and this front runner will set the race up.
Alternative: Defi Du Seuil
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle 2:10pm
The last few runnings of this race have gone to Ireland and they have a dominant team this year again. Gordon Elliott had a 1-2 last year and he has followed a similar path with Sire Du Berlais this year, who very much looks like he has been plotted up.
Elliott also has A Toi Phil entered, coming back to Hurdles from fences on a decent mark. For the home team, First Assignment looks to have a good chance and has won over the course too.
Selection: Sire Du Berlais
Alternative: A Toi Phil
Ryanair Chase 2:50pm
The Ryanair Chase this year looks to be one of the races of the week. Frodon and Road to Respect have been rerouted from the Gold Cup and both look to be ideally suited to the trip.
Willie Mullins looks sure to up Footpad in trip for a go here and it may be that he improves for the step up, but his stamina will be tested to the full.
Last year’s RSA Chase is the key form, though, and Monalee was a clear second best in that race of quality and will be well suited by this race distance. This superb jumper should finally get his Cheltenham Festival win.
Alternative: Road to Respect
Stayers Hurdle 3:30pm
Another race with a strong favourite in Paisley Park. Since a dismal effort at last year’s Festival, Paisley Park is unbeaten and leads the home team well.
The big rivals come from the Ireland team, with Faugheen and last year’s runner up, Supasundae. This will be a strong renewal and a big step up for the favourite.
The Harrington team have brought Supasundae along slowly this year and could be in a position to go one better. Faugheen is coming on the back of a bad fall at Christmas and has the age factor to overcome.
Alternative: Paisley Park
Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase 4:10pm
Another super competitive renewal of this Handicap Chase. The main protagonists this year have strong form from the Festival Trials day at the end of January at the course.
Janika looked unlucky not to win the Handicap Chase with Siruh Du Lac holding on grimly. With the weight turnaround and the likelihood that this is the main target, he should be cherry ripe now, despite the big weight.
On the same day, Spiritofthegames wasn’t suited by the lack of pace in a small field race. He should improve for the fast pace here and be involved.
Dawn Run Mares Novice Hurdle 4:50pm
Willie Mullins has dominated this race since it was introduced, but this year he doesn’t have a strong contender.
Epatante has only had a couple of runs since arriving from France but has been dominant and looks a serious prospect. Posh Trish has been winning some Mares races easily, but again the competition hasn’t been strong.
For Ireland, Sinoria looks the strongest contender and has been improving over the season.
Alternative: Posh Trish
Kim Muir Handicap Chase 5:30pm
The Handicap Chase for Amateur riders has turned into an Irish benefit in recent years. The JP McManus team look to be targeting this race with No Comment.
This horse has been well supported for races at the last two Festivals and this could be his year to collect. He is lightly raced but will be ready.
Gordon Elliott has Measureofmydreams in this race with Jamie Codd taking the ride. The ante post support could be significant. Sky Pirate is the Jonjo O’Neill contender and he could easily step up.
Selection: No Comment
Alternative: Sky Pirate
Friday 15th March
Triumph Hurdle 1:30pm
Yet again, JP McManus has a strong contender for the race. Sir Erec was high class on the Flat and has made an impressive transition to jumping, looking a bit like Istabraq when he first appeared over Hurdles.
With Sir Erec so hyped, you will get value on other runners. Quel Destin has looked an exceptionally tough horse winning his races and he will be in the mix. Tiger Tap Tap was only just a touch off by Sir Erec on debut and could run him close again.
Selection: Quel Destin
Alternative: Sir Erec
County Hurdle 2:10pm
Another difficult handicap to decipher. Western Ryder looks to have been laid out for this race and Richard Johnson is booked to take the ride. He looks a likely type to win one of these big Handicaps.
Willie Mullins has a strong record too and last year’s third, Whiskey Sour, looks like he will be back for more. The Imperial Cup winner, Malaya, could run too but she had a hard race at Sandown.
Selection: Western Ryder
Alternative: Whiskey Sour
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 2:50pm
The Staying Novice Hurdle is a real slog for these young horses. The race has attracted a big field too, so stamina must be at a premium.
Lisnagar Oscar was an impressive winner at Haydock in heavy ground and looks a strong contender.
Commander of Fleet looks to have class and if he has the stamina to match, he will be hard to beat for the Gordon Elliott team. Downtown Getaway and Dickie Diver are promising horses too.
Selection: Commander of Fleet
Alternative: Lisnagar Oscar
Gold Cup 3:30pm
The anticipation for the 2019 Gold Cup started as soon as Presenting Percy ran away with the 2018 RSA Chase at the Festival.
Only seen once since on a racecourse, winning the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park, this exciting horse looks every inch a Gold Cup winner.
The fact that he has had such an unusual preparation only serves to make his price attractive. The secrecy of his trainer (Patrick Kelly) and Galway racecourse switching fences round to assist a racecourse gallop all add to the story.
For dangers, last year’s winner, Native River, will be back for more and this lightly raced horse can be competitive again.
Clan Des Obeaux looks a non-stayer and will find this race too attractional, while Might Bite has to show he can come back from some poor runs.
Selection: Presenting Percy
Alternative: Native River
Foxhunters Chase 4:10pm
The 2019 Foxhunters is looking like a hot race with lots of angles to consider. Pacha Du Polder is back to look for a hat-trick of wins in the race, but he looks to be up against it.
Stand Up and Fight looked like a new star when winning at Down Royal before losing a Point to Point, where he may not have been fully fit.
Shantou Flyer brings strong Festival Handicap form to the table but although he has been winning, he has not been impressive. Ucello Conti is another horse with top form who looks to have been prepared for the race.
Selection: Stand Up and Fight
Alternative: Ucello Conti
Grand Annual Handicap Chase 4:50pm
This race is a superfast Handicap Chase that is a real spectacle. The maximum field has been reduced to 20 this year, but nonetheless it will be helter skelter.
Magic Saint has looked an ideal type for this since winning at Wincanton. Well supported that day, he jumped with accuracy at real speed and afterwards the Nicholls team expressed opinion that he could progress to Grade 1 level.
That being accurate, he is a good thing here. Nicky Henderson fields Whatswrongwithu and this is a strong travelling, sound jumper too but it is hard to see him putting it all in if a battle ensues. Last year’s winner, Le Prezien, and Ballywood are others to consider.
Selection: Magic Saint
Alternative: Le Prezien
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 5:30pm
Another race that has become very popular over the last few years. The big stables with lots of unexposed horses have done well with Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls providing recent winners.
The Gordon Elliott team provide the favourite this year, Dallas Des Pictons, who looks to be the sort of progressive novice that will do well here.
Last year’s third, Early Doors, hasn’t run much since and is back for another go. Interestingly, Willie Mullins looks to be targeting Livelovelaugh at the race.
Selection: Dallas Des Pictons