Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival includes the Champion Chase. Former Talksport presenter Charlie McCann previews the action.
Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival kicks off with the Neptune Novices Hurdle and Windsor Park (1.30) has something to find with both Nichols Canyon and Outlander on form from earlier in the campaign, but there are strong grounds for thinking under today’s conditions he can reverse the form with the Willie Mullins-trained runners. At 9/2 with BetVictor I will be disappointed if he doesn’t reach the frame.
The Dermot Weld trained runner seemed to fall asleep at the back of the field at Leopardstown when behind Nichols Canyon last time but finished with a rare rattle and if his jumping holds up he looks sure to appreciate today’s better ground. He was ridden by Robby McNamara to win on the flat at Galway back in October and his jockey likened him to the stable’s Forgotten Rules who is a leading contender for the Ascot Gold Cup in June.
I am a massive fan of both Kings Palace and Don Poli (2.05) and preference for the latter (7/4 at BetVictor) is marginal. The selection was reported to be on course for yesterday’s four-miler but he had enough pace to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle last year on similar ground over 2m 4f and there are many who consider him a future Gold Cup winner.
Kings Palace has won all three chase starts this term for David Pipe but he had a similar profile coming in to last year’s Festival when he was beaten when coming down at the last in the Albert Bartlett. His fencing has been electric so far this season and he won his first ever race in the second half of a season when scoring at Newbury last month.
The Coral Cup is one of the big betting races of the week and BetVictor are betting five places; there are some who think the lightly-raced French import Aux Ptits Soins is a good thing but my two against the field are Zabana and Baradari (2.40) with marginal preference for the latter who got going far too late when finishing fifth in the Fred Winter over the minimum trip last season and ran a career best when scoring over 2m 4f at Ascot last time. Today’s better ground should suit and at 16/1 he is taken to reward each way support at BetVictor.
Having backed Sprinter Sacre (3.20) for the Champion Chase after his Ascot comeback confidence is on the wane as post time nears but I cannot desert the 2013 Champion who may not be quite as good as he once was but may not have to be to regain his crown. He travelled like he retained much of his old ability when behind Dodging Bullets on his return from over 12 months off the track on that occasion and today’s better ground will suit. Note we have a new customer offer of 10/1 (max £5) for Sprinter Sacre to land the day two feature.
I think connections of Sire De Grugy were not looking to get two quick runs into last year’s Champion before his comeback but their arm was twisted after his fall at Newbury on his belated seasonal reappearance and I just wonder if those runs will take their toll.
Any Currency has been raised 9lbs for landing the Cross Country Chase here back in December and he only went down by a short head in this event last season albeit off a 17lb lower mark. He will love the ground but this is Duke Of Lucca’s (4.00) time of the year and he can reward each way support at 7/1 with BetVictor.
The last three winners of The Fred Winter have been 33/1, 25/1 and 40/1 but the selection is Unanimite (4.40) who has not been seen over timber since finishing 7L fourth to Golden Doyen, reopposes on a stone worse terms, on ground softer than ideal here in November. He looks to have been laid out for the race and 14/1 looks a fair price although the recent past would suggest it is a very difficult race to get a handle on the juvenile form.
Willie Mullins saddles seven in the Bumper but Dermot Weld saddled the winner courtesy of Silver Concorde 12 months ago and can follow up with Vigil (5.15) beaten less than 5l in the race last season and back for more with Pat Smullen, again, taking the mount.