Paul Ferguson has three selections for us on Thursday; Dynaste, Ballybough Pat and First Lieutenant.
Having skipped yesterday’s RSA Chase Dynaste (1:30) can justify David Pipe’s decision by landing the opening Jewson Novices’ Chase.
The grey was impressive here on debut in November, before following up at Newbury and completing the hat-trick in the Feltham on Boxing Day, where RSA third Hadrian’s Approach was well held in second.
The seven-year-old has looked the stand out British novice chaser, Simonsig aside, this season and it will be disappointing if he isn’t able to confirm that. The one concern would be if the ground has dried out dramatically overnight, but it reportedly remains ‘dead’ according to most jockeys.
Of the remainder Texas Jack looks a possible each-way alternative, but it looks pretty competitive behind the market leader, who is 9lbs clear on official ratings.
Another horse who runs today when he had another possible (Gold Cup) target is First Lieutenant (2:40) who can land the Ryanair Chase for Mouse Morris, who saddled Baily Green to chase home Simonsig on Tuesday and Rule The World to finish second to The New One yesterday.
Clearly the yard is in fine form and this horse arrives here on the back of the identical preparation as the past two seasons; after running at Leopardstown over Christmas, he is given a break and arrives at Cheltenham a fresh horse.
The winner of the Neptune in 2011 (Rock On Ruby second), he finished second to Bobs Worth in last year’s RSA, so his Festival form is rock solid (as is a few of these to be fair) and his last two runs would give him a squeak in the Gold Cup, while this shorter trip should prove more up his street.
Course specialist Champion Court should go well, especially judged on his King George run, but it was rather disappointing that he was beaten in a three runner race last time.
The handicaps today look extremely tough and, though the Pertemps Final is usually a race that doesn’t interest me too much, I think Ballybough Pat (2:05) looks worth each-way support at 16/1.
Anthony Honeyball has his string in fine form (as highlighted in yesterday’s column and Regal Encore ran a cracker in the Champion Bumper) and his lightly raced novice beat the smart African Gold (won all four since) at Carlisle in October.
Since then he chased home World Hurdle runner Wonderful Charm in the Persian War, before finishing runner-up in a qualifier for this at Newbury in November, when he struggled to get home in the soft ground.
Seen just once since, when third in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, the son of Waky Nao should get home on today’s better ground and, though his hurdles form is all on deep ground, he won his bumper impressively on good at Ffos Las last March.
1:30 Cheltenham Festival: Dynaste (7/4 Paddy Power)
2:05 Cheltenham Festival: Ballybough Pat (each-way 16/1 Bet Victor)
2:40 Cheltenham Festival: First Lieutenant (5/2 William Hill)
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Last Year’s Book Results – Leading Prospects:
- SPRINTER SACRE – Unbeaten – winner at Aintree & Cheltenham
- SIMONSIG – Winner at Aintree & Cheltenham
- CINDERS AND ASHES – 10/1 winner of Supreme Novices Hurdle
- BOBS WORTH – 9/2 winner of the RSA Chase
- MENORAH & SILVINIACO CONTI – Both Aintree Winners
- SIR DES CHAMPS – Unbeaten inc 3/1 Jewson Cheltenham Winner
- FINGAL BAY – Won 4 times inc Challow Hurdle
- RAYA STAR – 10/3 winner at Wetherby, 12/1 Ladbroke Hurdle winner, 15/2 Scottish Champion Hurdle winner
- AMBION WOOD – 14/1 EBF Final Sandown winner
- CHAMPION COURT – 6/1 G2 Dipper Novices Chase winner
- PALACE JESTER – 14/1 winner at FFos Las
- SWINCOMBE FLAME – Hat-trick winner inc Lanzarote Hurdle at 9/2
- TEAFOR THREE – 5/1 NH Cheltenham Chase winner (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)