We move onto Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival after a successful first two days of action – with the Preview articles +38.63pts to this point in time! Unfortunately my Laptop has decided to break on the worst possible weak, but I’ve put together the best article I could below. Good luck!
13:30 – Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f
It’s an extremely competitive field in the Marsh Novices’ Chase this season, and I don’t really have a strong opinion on it (other than Allaho would’ve won easily). It would be brilliant to see Faugheen enhance his legendary status, but there are some tough opponents such as Itchy Feet and Mister Fisher who should run well for team GB. The other intriguing Irish runner is Samcro, who was a hot favourite when winning the Ballymore in 2018. One to sit back and enjoy.
14:10 – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m
Relegate made a very eye-catching return to action in the Punchestown Pertemps Qualifier last month, on her first start for Colm Murphy. This former Champion Bumper winner was a poor jumper during her Novice Hurdle season for Willie Mullins, but she still won a Maiden at Navan over 2m before finishing 5th in the 2m6f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at last year’s Dublin Racing Festival, just 7 lengths behind Commander Of Fleet (149). Relegate jumped much better on her return to action over a year later however, staying on strongly up the home straight to finish fourth. The British Handicapper has allotted Relegate a mark of 137, and I still feel she has plenty of improvement to come. Top jockey Paul Townend takes the ride.
Relegate 1.5pts Each/Way (6 Places) @ 6/1 +0.3pts
My second selection for the Pertemps Final is Kilbricken Storm, who looks a wild price at 33/1. This point-to-point winner joined the Colin Tizzard stable during the Summer of 2017, where he finished second on his Hurdles debut at Exeter before recording a victory at Wincanton. Stepped straight up to three-miles for his next start at Cheltenham, Kilbricken Storm was chucked in the deep end to contest the Grade 2 Bristol Novices’ Hurdle – where he stayed on extremely strongly to win by almost three-lengths. Although only third on his next start at Newbury in the 2m4½f Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, Kilbricken Storm was given a 76-day break until the Cheltenham Festival. Sent off as a 33/1 outsider in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, this Colin Tizzard charge sprung a bit of a surprise when gamely beating Ok Corral and Santini – in a race full of subsequent winners. Proving that fantastic effort to be no fluke, Kilbricken Storm was narrowly denied the chance to follow up at Punchestown a month later in their 3m Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, finishing a half-length third behind Next Destination and Delta Work. Although narrowly defeated, Kilbricken Storm still earnt himself an official rating of 152 over Hurdles.
Despite such a promising start, the career of Kilbricken Storm quickly started to head down-hill when connections asked him to jump fences last season. Sent off an 8/11f for a 3m Novices’ Chase at Ffos Las last November, this Son of Oscar jumped right throughout, and looked in deep trouble when producing a slow jump at the last. Despite putting in a very ordinary round of jumping and being headed, Kilbricken Storm’s class really got him through – toughing it out to beat Cobolobo by a short-head in the final few strides. This shaky debut was followed by a deplorable effort at Newbury when running in the 3m Grade 2 Novices’ Chase on Ladbrokes Trophy Day, but the Vet reported his left-hind to be lame. Either way, he clearly hated jumping the larger obstacles, and was sent back over Hurdles at Cheltenham last year when tenth in the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle behind Paisley Park on his return to action, before once more finishing down the field behind If The Cap Fits at Aintree. Although showing nothing on his return to timber, he was pitched into two very hard Championship level races.
Given wind-surgery over the Summer, Kilbricken Storm made his return to action this season in a Class 2 Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham’s December meeting, where he lugged around top-weight to an eighth placed finish. Although on bare form that seems a poor effort, Kilbricken Storm actually shaped really well after a 251-day break, disputing the lead between the last two flights before weakening out of contention. The promise he showed that day was backed up on New Year’s Day over the same course and distance, where Kilbricken Storm ran his best race in a long time, finishing third behind Skandiburg (139). Similarly to his first start, this nine-year-old lead approaching the last Hurdle that day, but was headed on the run in. The race hasn’t worked out too badly however, with fourth placed The Jam Man (143) giving the form a boost at the Dublin Racing Festival when second to Treacysenniscorthy. Colin Tizzard was keen on taking Kilbricken Storm to a Pertemps Qualifier on his next start, but his owners wanted another crack at Graded glory with this talented staying Hurdler – so connections ran him in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Trials Day. Tracking the leaders, Kilbricken Storm ran well for a long way and finished in sixth place – only eight-and-three-quarter lengths behind winner Paisley Park. He finished ahead of L’Ami Serge (155) and William Henry (156) that day, so the form clearly has substance behind it – even if he’s not quite up to that Graded level anymore.
Kilbricken Storm is another Horse who was due to run at Exeter on Sunday in the cancelled Pertemps Qualifier, but holds options this weekend at both Haydock and Exeter’s rearranged card. Clearly the Tizzard’s are keen on getting this talented Horse qualified for the Pertemps, and it’s easy to see why; he was dropped 1lb to a mark of 142 for that good Cleeve Hurdle effort (now 10lbs below his peak rating), is due to Qualify for the race in February, and will clearly be looking to protect his mark in the process. When you add in that Kilbricken Storm’s official rating is just 1lbs above the average winning mark over the past 10 renewals, and that he is already a Cheltenham Festival winner over course and distance, he must have a massive chance off the back of improved efforts lately. His current price of 33/1 really does underestimate the ability he retains, and this price will collapse if he does Qualify for the Final this weekend – especially if it’s via another eye-catching run.
Kilbricken Storm 1pt Each/Way (6 Places) @ 16/1 [33/1 Ante-Post]
14:50 – Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m4½f
Among the ‘big three’ is last year’s well acclaimed winner Frodon. This gutsy Horse is still only an eight-year-old despite having been on the scene for a long time, and his performance last year was admittedly fantastic to watch. As you can probably already tell from my tone however, he’s not a Horse who would interest me this time around. His lackluster third on debut in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase in October was infamously blamed on the low-sun forcing Fences to be omitted, but he didn’t exactly come on for the run as you would expect when beaten a massive twenty-seven lengths by Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase. All things equal, Frodon did run much better at Kempton in January when making all in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase, but beating Keeper Hill by one-and-a-quarter lengths is miles below the form which will be required to record back-to-back victories. Although the 2019 Ryanair was a fair enough race, two top-class Irish raiders bring much stronger form to the table this time around.
The first of those competitors is Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, who bolted up for my Ante-Post article at last year’s Festival in the Listed Novices’ Handicap Chase. You do have to take that win with a pinch of salt considering connections managed to engineer a mark of 144 for this Horse that day, but visually he was extremely impressive. After that performance A Plus Tard can be forgiven for not staying three-miles at the Punchestown Festival, before going on his Summer Holidays. Returning to the track at Navan in November, A Plus Tard was dropped right back in trip to two-miles in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase. Taking a lead from Ballyoisin, A Plus Tard looked outpaced jumping the third-last but picked up well when asked for an effort by Rachael Blackmore. He never looked like getting to the winner that day however, and was ultimately beaten two-and-a-quarter lengths. Despite defeat, this run gave A Plus Tard a huge advantage when heading to Leopardstown over Christmas, where he beat an under-cooked Chacun Pour Soi over 2m1f (more of that in a moment!). Connections were aiming to return to that track for the Dublin Racing Festival in February, but the drying ground curtailed those plans – meaning he will come to Cheltenham having had a 76-day break. Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that A Plus Tard is a good Horse, I do think that he is up against a superstar in Min.
One crucial piece of information you must consider when looking at Willie Mullins runners this year is that his big guns have all come on massively for their first run of the season. Take Chacun Pour Soi for example. He clearly badly needed the run at Leopardstown over Christmas when behind A Plus Tard, but put in a savage performance on his next start when winning at the Dublin Racing Festival. The same logic applies to Min, which is testament to his ability considering he won a Grade 1 on his first start of the season in the John Durkan Memorial – beating Hardline by an unimpressive two-and-a-quarter lengths. Although he still won the race, Min was very buzzy in the preliminaries and his jumping was a bit rusty in parts. Although clearly not at his brilliant best, it was pleasing to see Min battle when headed by a race-fit rival after the second last. This Horse stayed on very strongly to the line when shaken up by Paul Townend, so anyone who says that Min doesn’t properly stay two-and-a-half miles is talking nonsense, and his record over the trip reads an impressive 12111. Among those performances four of them were in Grade 1 company, with yielding ground the fastest surface he’s encountered. By far the best of those performances came at Aintree last season, when Min once more showed his star quality to batter Politologue by a massive 20 lengths – earning his official rating of 171 over fences.
Already a five-times Grade 1 Chase winner, Min was last seen on the track when running in the aforementioned Grade 1 Dublin Chase at Leopardstown, a race which he had won the previous two renewals in succession. Disputing with Ornua for the lead early on, Min had enough by the time they got to the fifth flight and pressed on under Robbie Power, keeping up a proper gallop. Jumping much more professionally than on his previous start, Rich Ricci’s other star Chaser Chacun Pour Soi (172) went upsides at the third last and the pair quickly powered away from the rest of the field. Although Min ultimately didn’t have the pace to go on with his stablemate, he stayed on strongly after the last and put up a massive performance in defeat to a Champion Chase hopeful. Stepping back up in trip to 2m4½f at Cheltenham should really suit, and it is high time that he recorded a Festival success having finished second behind Altior in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and 2018 Champion Chase. I absolutely adore this classy Horse, and I am confident he will prove any doubters wrong now finally given his chance in the Ryanair.
Min 3pts Win @ 5/2 [3/1 Ante-Post] +7.5pts
15:30 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Reigning Stayers Hurdle Champion Paisley Park has done nothing this season to suggest he cannot retain his title, having been an impressive winner at Cheltenham in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day. This Emma Lavelle charge should be more than capable of making it back-to-back victories in the Stayers – a division he currently dominates.
Paisley Park 5pts Win @ 4/6
16:10 – Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m4½f
Simply The Betts 2pts @ 7/2 +9pts
La Bague Au Roi 1pt Each/Way (5 Places) @ 14/1
16:50 – Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m1f
Colreevy 2pts Each/Way (4 Places) @ 7/1
17:30 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (Class 2) 3m2f
Champagne Platinum 2pts Win @ 9/2
Plan Of Attack 1pt Each/Way (6 Places) @ 9/1 +0.8pts
+41.23pts (Day 1, 2 & 3)
Good luck! – Jake Price