THE PUNTER'S EYE: Cheltenham Day 2 Preview

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie

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13:30 - Neptune Novices' Hurdle

NEON WOLF (7/4) is all the rage in this one for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily, having beaten ELGIN by nine lengths recently. ELGIN has form with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle 3rd from yesterday, RIVER WYLDE. That makes NEON WOLF's form look pretty good now but at 7/4, he is still too short for me. It is hard to do, but I'm going to overlook Willie Mullins' BACARDYS in this. His recent form took a knock when the horse he beat last time out, BUNK OFF EARLY, was off the pace in the Supreme. He will be suited by this test, but my each-way vote goes to SHATTERED LOVE (16/1) for the in-form Gordon Elliott yard. His odds look too big considering he slammed the talented FORGE MEADOW by 13 lengths the last time he was on course, and that one is fancied for the Mare's Novices' Hurdle later in the week. SHATTERED LOVE gets a seven-pound mare's allowance in this one and that drop should be enough to see her competitive. MESSIRE DES OBEAUX (10/1) is another with each-way claims, especially on account of his victory over BALLYANDY, who was unlucky in Tuesday's Supreme, in December. He has won three out of four starts since running credibly in defeat in last year's Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. 

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Shattered Love (16/1)

2. Neon Wolf (7/4)

3. Messire Des Obeaux (10/1)

14:10 - RSA Chase 

This is a mightily competitive renewal of a race won last year by the relatively unfancied BLAKLION at odds of 8/1. The favourite here is MIGHT BITE (5/2) who is far too short in the betting based on his form book. On the face of it, a 99+ length win the last time out is exceptional, but his rivals that day were anything but. In truth, his skinny price is based on the fact that he was streets clear when falling at the last in a race won by ROYAL VACATION at Kempton over Christmas. If he had gone on to win that, he would deserve to be favourite here, but he didn't, and before that run, his form was in and out. Elsewhere, ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS (6/1) is interesting for Sandra Hughes having won by a big margin at Navan recently when tipped up by the Punter's Eye. He got a nice cut in the ground that day and the ground continuing to dry at Prestbury Park may not suit him ideally, but he'll still give his running. I am going to take a risk on MARINERO (20/1), who has been reformed since switching to Henry De Bromhead's yard last year. Since that change of yard, he hasn't been out of the front two in six subsequent starts, beating the likes of TAGLIETELLE at his ease last September. However, the pick of his form on paper came last time out, when he was just three lengths behind THISTLECRACK on the same ground, at the same course, over a similar distance to today. THISTLECRACK was the nailed on favourite for the Gold Cup this year before being pulled out due to injury, and MARINERO'S form to be so close to that rival on level weights is eye-catching. BELLSHILL (8/1) is another worth noting on his best form but has fallen recently, including during a piece of work after racing at Leopardstown last week. 

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Marinero (20/1)

2. Acapella Bourgeois (6/1)

3. Might Bite (5/2)

14:50 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle

TOMBSTONE (5/1) won easily when accounting for a former Cheltenham Champion Hurdler JEZKI last month, and Gordon Elliott's horses have arrived at Cheltenham primed and in good heart. TOMBSTONE is a worthy 5/1 favourite in this and I think he will take a lot of stopping. He also has form with Tuesday's Arkle winner, ALTIOR, having been 12 lengths behind that classy rival in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Course form counts for a lot at Cheltenham and TOMBSTONE will deal well with the drying, albeit tacky ground, having been fourth in that race won by ALTIOR here last year on good to soft. Elliott's second string in the race, AUTOMATED (11/1) will also have a good chance carrying seven pounds less than his stablemate. Jack Kennedy, a winner on Tuesday, takes the ride, and although just 17-years-old, is a massive plus for any punter. I also like WAXIES DARGLE (33/1) from a big price as an outside each-way bet. He's had two poor starts since winning a Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, where he had MORGA, MICK JAZZ and AUTOMATED behind him. MODUS (14/1) completes the shortlist, despite carrying a huge weight for trainer Paul Niicholls, who cleverly saddles a five-pound claimer on the horse who also has form at the track.

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Tombstone (5/1)

2. Waxies Dargle (33/1)

3. Automated (11/1)

15:30 - Queen Mother Champion Chase

DOUVAN (1/4) is unbackable and unbeatable (barring a fall) in another festival hotpot following ALTIOR'S justification of an odds-on price in Tuesday's Arkle. He hasn't put a foot wrong yet, winning 13 times from 13 starts, including three simple victories since December. He is a class above all of these but we will look behind him to find the horse who can chase him home. Bookies will offer odds for the race with the favourite taken out, and in that market, or an each-way market, I would side with FOX NORTON (9/1). Colin Tizzard's charge is the model of consistency and has been third behind DOUVAN on two occasions, including in last year's Arkle. He found just 2017 Arkle hero ALTIOR too good on his last start at Newbury when he was 13 lengths in arrears to Nicky Henderson's star, but FOX NORTON did carry five pounds more than his rival that day. Behind them, there is a host of horses with chances of running into the money, including GOD'S OWN (14/1), who will finish better than most, SPECIAL TIARA (16/1) who loves Cheltenham, and TOP GAMBLE (33/1) who was within eight lengths of UN DE SCEAUX last time out.

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Douvan (1/4)

2. Fox Norton (9/1)

3. Special Tiara (16/1)

16:10 - Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase

This is a race the Irish love to have a bet in and one we do quite well in. Enda Bolger won it last year with JOSIES ORDERS and he could have the winner again this year with a few strong runners, namely CANTLOW (3/1) and QUANTITATIVEEASING (14/1). He actually has three of the front four in the betting if you add AUVERGNAT (7/1) to the mix. I think Enda Bolger will have the winner and I hope it is QUANTITATIVEEASING (14/1) at a good price. He ran poorly at Galway last October but beat today's favourite CANTLOW in the cross country race at Punchestown last year and would have been prepped with this in mind again. Given the form of Gordon Elliott yesterday on Day 1, CAUSE OF CAUSES (4/1) has to be considered, especially when you look at the fact he has won at the Cheltenham festival for the last two years running. 

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Quantitativeeasing (14/1)

2. Cause of Causes (4/1)

3. Cantlow (3/1)

16:50 - Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

This is a competitive renewal of the Fred Winter, a race won last year by Paul Nicholls, and he sends the consistent DOLOS (11/1) this year. He's been consistent and ran a decent race last time to be second to AIR HORSE ONE, but he may find one or two too good here. Ireland's challenge seems to be led by LONG CALL (15/2) but I think he'll be running for minors behind Nicky Henderson's DIVIN BERE (6/1) and DOMPERIGNON DU LYS (10/1). LONG CALL was 18 lengths behind MASTER BLUEEYES last time out at Ludlow, but one of the Henderson horses has better form against the same rival. DIVIN BERE beat him by a length in his latest start, while DOMPERIGNON DU LYS's win over I SEE YOU WELL at Market Rasen was also a pleasing effort. I think Ireland could get into the frame in the shape of PROSPECTUS, ridden by Ruby Walsh, because he will appreciate the drying ground and ran well to beat the re-opposing DAKOTA MOIRETTE at Fairyhouse in January.

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Divin Bere (6/1)

2. Domperignon Du Lys (10/1)

3. Prospectus (16/1)

17:30 - Champion Bumper (Flat Race)

The last race on Wednesday is the highly competitive Champion Bumper run over two miles. It is highly probable that Ireland will land the last winner on Wednesday as a host of Irish challengers head the betting. FAYONAGH (12/1) for Gordon Elliott is highly thought of and slammed rivals by 20 lengths in a two-mile contest at Fairyhouse last month. CARTER MCKAY (3/1) is Willie Mullins' perceived first string but the 3/1 about him is very skinny for a Champion Bumper. Looking for value, we need not look further than another Willie Mullins trained runner. NEXT DESTINATION is around a 12/1 shot and heads into the race on the back of a pleasing debut at Fairyhouse in January. In the bumper, a lot of it comes down to faith and we know that Willie Mullins likes this horse, and he could be anything in time. At the prices, an each-way punt is advised. Another one to consider is SOMEDAY (12/1) for Jessica Harrington who also won his latest start at Leopardstown in February.

PUNTER'S 1-2-3

1. Next Destination (12/1)

2. Carter McKay (3/1)

3. Someday (12/1)

SELECTION SNAPSHOT:

13:30 - Shattered Love (EW) - 16/1

14:10 - Marinero (EW) - 20/1

14:50 - Tombstone (WIN) - 5/1

15:30 - Fox Norton (W/O Douvan) - Approx. 3/1

16:10 - Quantitativeeasing (EW) - 14/1

16:50 - Divin Bere (WIN) - 6/1

17:30 - Next Destination (EW) - 12/1