Thursday 16th March 2023
Author: Jordan Yates (EvRacing_)
Welcome aboard to my Day Three blog for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, where kicking things off on Thursday is the 1:30 which is the Grade 1 Turners Novices’ Chase that’s contested over two miles and furlongs. Mighty Potter sets a very high standard at the top of the betting here and will be very tough to beat on the form he’s shown from this season, however, I’ve taken him on here and I’ve done that with Banbridge at 4/1 for J J Slevin and Joseph O’Brien. I was very impressed with him when he won the Grade 2 Arkle Trial here back in November, and despite being beaten in two starts since, he’s still posted solid efforts by placing on each occasion within Grade 1 company. Most recently he stayed on behind El Fabiolo in the Irish Arkle, which gave the impression that this sort of trip is what he wants. Despite having a considerable gap to make up with Mighty Potter from the start of the season, I think Cheltenham is more of his track and I think he arrives here with a great chance.
It’s handicap action up next at 2:10 with the Pertemps Network Final, a handicap hurdle that’s contested over three miles on the new course. We’ve got twenty-four runners currently set to go to post here, so I’ve tried my hand with two selections. The first of which comes in the form of Walking On Air at 15/2 for Nico de Boinville and Nicky Henderson. He’s always been well thought of by connections and won his first handicap in smart style on his most recent outing at Exeter last month, it’s likely that there is considerable progression left to come from him and a five-pound rise for that success last time might not be enough to stop him. The other one I like here is An Tailliur at 11/1 for Jonjo O’Neil and Jonjo Jr, he became a winning machine a couple of seasons ago and returned to the track this campaign in October when posting a fine effort here when finishing third of fifteen in a competitive handicap behind Shoot First and Botox Has. He’s been off the track since that run, but the form from that day is very solid and this race has clearly been the plan. He goes well fresh and has every chance of putting in a bold bid here.
The 2:50 is where the attention turns next and it’s the Ryanair that takes centre stage, a Grade 1 chase that’s ridden over two miles and four and a half furlongs. This is all about Shishkin for me at 5/6 who’s my Day 3 NAP for Nico de Boinville and Nicky Henderson. He was very disappointing at last year’s festival when pulling up in the Champion Chase when billed to have another showdown with Energumene, as before that the nine-year-old had taken all before him. He returned to the track this term with another below-par effort when finishing fifteen lengths behind Edwardstone in the Tingle Creek where he finished third. On his most recent outing though he was upped in trip for the Betfair Ascot Chase and he bounced back to his best form with a devastating sixteen-length victory, having smart horses like Pic D’orhy and Fakir D’oudaries in behind. I think that this longer trip is what he wants know, and if turning up in the same form as he did last time he’ll be incredibly hard to beat.
The feature race of the day once again comes up at 3:30 and on Day Three it’s the Stayers Hurdle that’s the main event. The Grade 1 event is ridden over three miles and is the pinnacle event of the staying division, this year’s renewal has thrown up a very competitive affair where pretty much all of the field have a chance on their best form. I’m sticking with the horse I put up in my ante-post blog here an that’s a tentative alliance with Klassical Dream at 9/1 for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins. He’s a very smart animal on his day, and signed off his season with Grade 1 success at the Punchestown Festival when winning the Champion Stayers again. On his most recent outing he finished a neck behind Teahupoo in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse in December, and a repeat of that level of form here would give him every chance.
It’s more handicap action at 4:10 now which is the Magners Plate Handicap Chase, a Premier Handicap that’s contested over two miles and four and a half furlongs. I’ve tried my hand with one at a big price here, as this race is fiercely competitive and there will be numerous places on offer, and this horse comes in the form of Frero Banbou at 14/1 for Charlie Deutsch and Venetia Williams. He was third in the Grand Annual at last year’s festival and will contest this particular race off a six-pound lower mark than he did that day. I think he’s looking very well handicapped, as he’s also just a pound higher than his last winning mark. The yard form is a bit of a concern, but the soft ground will be very much up his street and if getting some luck he could go well at a decent price.
My final selection of the day comes up at 4:50 in the Mares Novice Hurdle which is a Grade 2 event over two miles and a furlong. I was all about Luccia for this race, and I still think she has a fantastic chance of winning, however, my allegiance has changed as I’ve sided with one at a bigger price and that’s Lot Of Joy at 6/1 for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins. She posted some smart efforts on the flat over the summer, most notably when she finished third in the Irish Cesarewitch which left her with a rating of 93. Since being tried over obstacles she got her head in-front on the third time of asking with a bloodless twelve-length success at Fairyhouse last month, the favourite has to give her five-pounds here which could prove crucial. I think she’s smart and should go well.
Image credit: horseracingphoto.co.uk