Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, looks at Cheltenham Day 3 and gives us five selections. View selections below
ZARKANDAR (3.20) brings rock-solid course form to the Cheltenham party in an open-looking Ladbrokes World Hurdle. After winning the 2011 JCB Triumph Hurdle, Zarkandar ran fifth to Rock On Ruby in the following year’s Champion Hurdle. He returned for another tilt at hurdling’s blue riband 12 months later, this time finishing fourth to Hurricane Fly. Campaigned at shorter trips last season with a third tilt at the Champion Hurdle in mind, Zarkandar was belatedly switched to the World Hurdle as something of an after-thought. He did well to finish fourth to More Of That but, this season, Nicholls has always had the World Hurdle at the top of his agenda. Zarkandar arrives here a fresh horse, having not been seen since capitulating close home at Ascot in December when run down by Reve de Sivola. My selection idled in front and new jockey Noel Fehily will be under instructions not to arrive on the scene too early. Stablemate Saphir Du Rheu staked his claim with success in the Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance in January and should go well, along with Lieutenant Colonel (first-time cheekpieces).
Nicholls has high hopes of kicking off the day with a winner courtesy of Ptit Zig but he may need to play second fiddle to that man Mullins, who saddles VATOUR (1.30) in the JLT Novices’ Chase. Vatour launched himself on to the big stage by running away with last year’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Vatour had looked flawless over fences until a rare blip at Leopardstown on Boxing Day when a blunder put paid to his chance. It was business as usual on a return visit to the Dublin track and Vatour is another Mullins novice possessing huge potential. Ptit Zig blotted his copybook when falling in the Betfair Chase at Ascot won by Balder Succes, forfeiting his unbeaten sequence of four over fences. One of those victories came over course and distance on New Year’s Day and he is normally a safe conveyance.
The Pertemps Network Final is one of the major betting handicaps of the festival and BIG EASY (2.05) can put up a bold show. Stamina is the forte of Philip Hobbs’ 2014 Cesarewitch winner and although creeping up the ratings in defeat, Big Easy runs the track well. Twice runner-up in competitive handicap at Prestbury Park this season, the eight-year-old had earlier posted a course success. He ran a fine race when sixth to Medinas in last year’s Coral Cup and Hobbs has opted for this longer trip. Big Easy reappeared after a 58-day break with an eye-catching run at Exeter last time and is sure to strip cherry-ripe. At bigger odds, Run Ructions Run is a progressive mare and shrewd trainer Tim Easterby has booked vastly experienced Paul Carberry.
DON COSSACK (2.40) is a worthy Ryanair Chase favourite on the back of some sterling efforts in Ireland. His jumping let him down when never sighted in last season’s RSA Chase but he is rated a stone better horse this year. Don Cossack has shown a clean pair of heels to smart types like Boston Bob and Wonderful Charm, before being left clear by the last-fence exit of Champagne Fever. Balder Succes and Ma Filleule finished 1-2 at Ascot and rate a threat, while Foxrot’s form is on an upwards curve. Johns Spirit runs this track exceptionally well.
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