Cheltenham Festival 2022 Preview
It’s the Turners Novices’ Chase that kick things off on Day 3 of The Festival at 1:30. A Grade 1 affair that’s contested over two miles and three furlongs and see’s one of the most highly anticpated match-ups of the week. The race has attracted a staggeringly small field, but I think Galopin Des Champs could just edge it for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend at 11/10. Winner of the Martin Pipe at last year’s meeting before claiming Grade 1 honours at Punchestown, he’s looked outstanding so far over fences this season and could well prove to be another top-drawer horse for Closutton. He’ll have to be every part the superstar that they people think he could be though if he is to get the better of Bob Olinger, who showcased his serious ability at last year’s festival when bolting up in the Ballymore.
Next up we move into handicap company at 2:10 with the Pertemps Network Final taking centre-stage at Prestbury Park. The handicap hurdle is a Grade 3 contest that’s ridden over a distance of three miles and there’s two that stand out for me in the line-up. The first of these comes in the form of Winter Fog for Emmet Mullins at 13/2, who’s quite notably the mount of Paul Townend. Connections had success with The Shunter at The Festival last year, and I think they could do similar with this recruit. He finished second on his stable debut in a Leopardstown handicap last time out, and there could well be a lot more to come from him which he could show here. The second one I quite like here is the Fergal O’Brien trained Alaphillipe who’s a 6/1 chance under Paddy Brennan. He was an impressive winner of a Grade 2 Novice event at Haydock last season, and made a satisfactory return to the track at Warwick last month. This race has clearly been the target though, and he’s every chance of running a big race for one of my favourite yards.
The Ryanair is up next at 2:50, a Grade 1 chase over two miles and four and a half furlongs that has been won by some top-class chasers over the years. I think this year’s renewal can to the defending champion Allaho at 4/6 for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. He posted the most impressive performance by any horse at last year’s Festival in this race, and he’s returned this season looking better than ever having claimed the John Durkan on his seasonal reappearance, before bolting up by 12 lengths next time withing Grade 2 company. It will take a big performance to stop him here. If you’re looking for an each-way alternative however, Janidil could still have more improvement in him at 14/1. A stablemate of Allaho, he’s posted some solid efforts in top company and could run well again here at a nice price.
The feature race of the day once again comes up at 3:30 and this time it’s the Stayers’ Hurdle over three miles. A muddling division which a case could be made for most of the market principles, I’ve come down on Thyme Hill though at 9/2 for Phillip Hobbs and Tom O’Brien. He signed off last season with Grade 1 success at Aintree and looked to have the division at his mercy. However, things didn’t go to plan on his reappearance this term when he finished fifth in a French Grade 1, that was quite a strange race to target though in my opinion, so I’d be willing to put a line through the effort. He was much more like his old self when he was last seen in December at Ascot, when he finished second to Champ in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle. I still believe that there is more to come from him and I think he can put in a bold showing in the Day 3 feature.
We move onto the 4:10 now which is the Grade 3 Plate Handicap Chase over two miles and four and a half furlongs. This is another extremely comptetive race of which you’d struggle to find anyone that has a massively strong opinion on it. I’ve decided to keep it simple though and go for the last time out course and distance winner Imperial Alcazar at 6/1 for Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan. I’ve been a fan of this horse for some time, since seeing him in his younger days winning a midweek meeting at Leicester. He’s progressed considerably since then and has proven himself a very able performer at a solid level, he bolted up by 10 lengths on his most recent outing which came here on Trials Day back in January. If turning up in that kind of form again for this assignment he should be bang there at the business end of things.
It’s the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 4:50 which is a Grade 2 that’s contested over two miles and a furlong. Willie Mullins has had a considerable amount of success in this race over the years and I think he can add to said success here and take the race with Brandy Love who’s an 11/2 chance under Paul Townend. She threw away her chance of winning last time out in a Fairyhouse Grade 2 with some very wayward jumping. However, on her penultimate outing at Naas she bolted up by 10 lengths on hurdling debut, and I think going back left-handed here will bring out the best in here. She’s clearly a talented mare and if turning up on a going day she’s got to be considered as a serious player.
Concluding the day’s action is the 5:30 which is the Kim Muir Challenge Cup for Amateur Jockeys’. A handicap chase that’s ridden over three miles and two furlongs it’s another a hugeley competitive affair. I’ve taken a chance on a Gordon Elliott runner though here in the form of Frontal Assault at 13/2 under Rob James. He was last seen when finishing a close second at Fairyhouse back in January and looks to have had this race in his sites all campaign. The Ellliott yard have been synonymous with success in these kind of races at The Festival for many years now and I believe that back up in trip this seven-year-old could have a serious say. He sports the famous Gigginstown silks that were in the winners enclosure on two occasions on Day Two.