Cheltenham Festival Preview: Day Three

After a slow start on Day 1, it was great to bounce back on Wednesday with 2 Winners (7/2 and 9/4) and 3 Places (22/1, 18/1 and 10/1)! Fingers crossed we can keep the momentum going heading into Day 3…
I will be posting my selections on this website between 17:30 and 18:30 each day, so be sure to come back tomorrow for all my Day 4 thoughts. Best of luck if you’re following, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @JakePriceRacing for live updates throughout the day.

13:20 – Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – 2m4f

Envoi Allen will be the final leg of many multiples in Thursday’s opener, and there is no reason why this unbeaten 7yo can’t continue his impressive streak. So far this campaign Envoi Allen has been flawless over fences, winning by 6 lengths on debut at Down Royal before then winning the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in November. He was set to face his biggest challenge over fences yet when trying to give away 11lbs to Asterion Forlonge at Punchestown in January when dropping back into Grade 3 company, but that rival unfortunately fell at the first and Envoi Allen was just able to coast home for a 3.5 length success. With no penalties or weight concessions in this Cheltenham Grade 1 however, Envoi Allen is by far the best Horse in the race, and as long as he has coped with the stable change to Henry de Bromhead (who uses the same food and hay as they do at Cullentra House) then he should really be winning.

13:55 – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – 3m

The Bosses Oscar contested the 2m4½f Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last year – where he missed the break he got completely mullered by stablemate Escaria Ten. Finding yourself in the rear of a big field Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham when it was unlikely to have ever been the plan always sets you on the back foot from the get go, and the type of issues you face were highlighted at the second Hurdle – when it got kicked down in-front of The Bosses Oscar and he nearly tripped over it. Making a mistake at the second flight down the back straight, The Bosses Oscar found himself in last place at this point – and Sean O’Keeffe was quite visibly unhappy when trying to coax him back into the race from such an early stage. Still near the rear and being ridden along at the second last flight, The Bosses Oscar didn’t really start to make much headway until reaching the foot of the hill – where he then began to motor through the pack. When stablemate Column Of Fire fell at the last however it would cause yet another obstacle for him to overcome, as Flash The Steel had to cut straight across from the right of The Bosses Oscar to avoid being brought down, and somehow directly to his left My Sister Sarah was brought down – so he did remarkably well to stay on his feet. Completing his brutal trip around Prestbury Park in the most pleasing fashion however, The Bosses Oscar displayed bundles of stamina to keep going and take fifth in a pretty decent race – with Indefatigable (151) 1st, Pileon (143) 2nd, subsequent Cesarewitch winner Great White Shark (146) 3rd, and Happygolucky (147) 4th.

You should be able to tell then that this lad is all about stamina, and he’s had his chance to start proving that this season. Making his seasonal re-appearance at Thurles in October, The Bosses Oscar ran in a 2m6½f conditions Hurdle and showcased it straight away – taking on Robin Des Foret (148 Chaser) from quite a long way out before going on to score in game fashion by an eventual 2.25 lengths. Unchanged from an official rating of 137, The Bosses Oscar’s next assignment came in a Grade B Handicap Hurdle over 3m at Navan – where he was sent off a warm 3/1 favourite. On face value being beaten 12 lengths into second place seems like quite a disappointing effort, but the winner that day was none other than Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter (160) – who has of course since gone on to win the Grade 1 Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle by 6 lengths. Considering The Bosses Oscar was trying to give that rival 1lb that day (A now Grade 1 winner who got to race in a Handicap off a mark of just 136!) it suddenly doesn’t seem such a bad effort, and once more he did show guts and determination to take second place by just a neck.

With that solid effort in the bag and the Handicapper only putting him up 1lb to an Irish Handicap mark of 138, all The Bosses Oscar had to do on his next start at Leopardstown over Christmas was qualify for the Pertemps Final – so he just needed to finish in the top 6 of a 20 runner field. I’m not sure if the late Jockey change of Jack Kennedy to Bryan Cooper caused any communication issues about that, but my eye-brows were certainly raised when The Bosses Oscar flew through the field to lead at the last – but thankfully for his mark’s sake Paul Townend came over the top with Dandy Mag (142) to score by a length, with The Bosses Oscar running a perfectly good race in second. He may have ended up closer to the winner than connections were originally planning at Leopardstown, but the Irish Handicapper was actually quite reasonable in raising him 5lbs to a mark of 143 – but the British Handicapper took a completely different view, and has raised him all the way up to 151. Ordinarily that rise would be enough to temper your enthusiasm about a Horse, but Denise Foster has very wisely opted to book 7lbs claimer Jordan Gainford to take the ride – and this young Jockey has really been impressing in Ireland lately. With 7lbs clawed back The Bosses Oscar’s effective mark of 144 looks very reasonable, and I’d be hopeful he can give Cullentra House a third successive victory in the race.

Advised Ante-Post

14:30 – Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) – 2m4½f

This is an extremely competitive renewal of the Ryanair Chase, with a big field of 14 runners. Like most Championship races you can make a case for a lot of them, but I’m going to stick with last year’s winner in Min – as on his day I think he is still just about a class above these. You can completely put a line through his run at the Dublin Racing Festival as he made a mistake and Patrick Mullins quickly pulled him up thinking he was lame. Thankfully he was absolutely fine however, and although it isn’t an ideal preparation, Min did win the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown in December. With the ground drying out posing no problems to Min, I think he’s worth a small play at 5/1.

15:05 – Stayers Hurdle (Grade 1) – 3m

Paisley Park caused a shock when turned over at a short price in the Stayers Hurdle 12 months ago, but there was a very reasonable explanation for the performance as he was found to have a fibrillating heart. Connections have done an amazing job to get him back to his best this season however, and even before the late defection of Thyme Hill I put up Paisley Park to regain his crown. This 9yo made his seasonal reappearance at in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, and at the time I remember much of the media billing it as a mini-Stayers Hurdle considering the quality that was on offer. Showing signs that he was over that run, Paisley Park ran on strongly inside the closing stages but he was just narrowly denied by Thyme Hill (162) – who was receiving 3lbs at the weights. The pair met for their rematch in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot almost a month later, but this time there were no penalties to potentially skew the results. Both Horses actually ran very similar races to Newbury in that Thyme Hill travelled largely on the bridle until trying to kick clear after the final Hurdle, and Paisley Park hit his usual flat spot before responding to the urgings of Aidan Coleman. The difference this time however was the fact that Paisley Park found himself quite far back turning for home, so he had a lot of ground to make up in order to get to Thyme Hill. In spite of meeting traffic in running however, Paisley Park looked right back to his 2019 best when closing with every stride and powering home to score by a neck.

Considering that Paisley Park found himself in such a bad position, and he even had to switch course around Roksana in running to find a clear path, it was a brilliant performance. There is even evidence to suggest that he will be able to improve again though, as another major factor in that Long Walk Hurdle was the Heavy ground. Paisley Park’s two highest RPRs have been recorded on Good-to-Soft, and the Heavy going certainly doesn’t suit his racing style of hitting a flat spot before staying on strongly as it is much harder to make up ground in testing conditions. With the ground currently Good-to-Soft and drying out all the time however, Paisley Park should this time have his ideal conditions. For anyone who is still doubting Paisley due to the fibrillating heart issue that saw him run so disappointingly 12 months ago then my advice is don’t; as this season he has already put that well behind him with two brilliant runs, recording his highest RPRs since winning the Stayers in 2019. Emma Lavelle will be doing everything in her power to ensure there is no repeat, and the reports coming out of the yard are that he is absolutely flying.

Advised Ante-Post

15:40 – Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – 2m4½f

This looks a very difficult puzzle to solve, but The Shunter does hold strong claims off a mark of 140. He’s far too short to be backing in a race like this however, and it is interesting that connections feel the need to put 7lbs claimer Jordan Gainford on – as good a rider as he obviously is. Farclas is another Horse with strong claims who is too short for a bet in my eyes, but I think that of the two Handicap Chases ran at the Dublin Racing Festival (one over 2m1½f and one over 2m5½f) the 2m1½f is the stronger line of form. The Shunter obviously hails from that line when finishing 4th, and he’s since come out and landed the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso off a mark of 135. The 5th really put those two form lines to the test when Mitchouka (143) beat Livelovelaugh (3rd in the 2m5½f race) in a Grade B Handicap Chase at Leopardstown earlier this month, but perhaps the biggest form boost of all was that the 4th Entoucas ran a belter to finish a short-head 2nd in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

For that reason then, I’m going to give a chance to the winner of that 2m1½f Handicap Chase A Wave Of The Sea, as recently he has shaped like a Horse who needs 2m4½f these days. This 5yo was a good Juvenile Hurdler last season, having won the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in February 2020 before then finishing a staying-on 7th in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at The Festival 12 months ago. After a few runs in competitive races in the Summer however, A Wave Of The Sea went Chasing at the end of August – and again he stayed on over 2m1f when 4th, before then stepping up to 2m4f and bolting up by 11 lengths at Kilbeggan in September. Connections have messed about his trip a little since, but he ran a good race to finish a staying-on 3rd in a 2m2½f Grade 3 Novice Chase at Punchestown, before then being dropped back to 2m for a Grade 2 Novice Chase on Soft-to-Heavy ground which he hates – so you can put a line through that run. Running much better on yielding ground at Leopardstown on Boxing Day however, A Wave Of The Sea ran a promising 5th on Handicap debut over 2m1f off a mark of 133 – before he was then given a peach by Simon Torrens to arrive late in the day and win at the Dublin Racing Festival last month over 2m1½f. With that form looking strong and the step up in trip on nice ground sure to suit, I think this Joseph O’Brien 5yo is worth a play despite his new mark of 142 making life a little tougher.

6 Places

16:15 – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) – 2m1f

I’ve had two long term Ante-Post bets on the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, and if you want to read my article from back in November you can find it here.

I’ll quickly touch on what both Mares have done since however, as a few months have passed since I originally wrote that piece! Gauloise went on to win a Listed Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Thurles on her next start, beating Mighty Blue by 3 lengths in quite comfortable style. After a break of 50 days then, Gauloise then went to Fairyhouse in February for the re-arranged 2m2f Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle – where she ran a decent enough race, but couldn’t find anything extra in the closing stages when taking third on Heavy ground. It was no surprise then to see two stronger stayers in Roseys Hollow (142) and Royal Kahala (143) finish ahead of her, but a return to 2m1f on what promises to be pretty quick ground should really see her in much better light. One disadvantage is the fact that she has to carry the 5lbs penalty for winning that Listed race, but the fact that Paul Townend has chosen to ride her should be seen as positive.

Advised Ante-Post, lower to 1pt EW if backing on the day

Hook Up is the Mare I’ve warmed to more for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle however, as she ran an absolute cracker at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out. This Rich Ricci Mare was another to step up to 2m2½f on Heavy ground at Fairyhouse on her next start, and she looked the likely winner at the 2m1f point – but she made a mistake at the last and way just out-stayed by Royal Kahala, a Mare who I think will be seen to much better effect over 2m4f. Dropping back in trip to 2m½f in that aforementioned Leopardstown race last time out however, Hook Up really didn’t jump very well – but she stayed on extremely strongly from the back of the field to only be beaten 7.5 lengths at the finish. That form looks red hot considering Appreciate It bolted up in the Supreme on Tuesday, Ballyadam finished 2nd in the same race, and the Horse just ahead of Hook Up in stablemate Blue Lord would’ve finished a much closer 2nd in that Supreme too. Considering there is only 2 Hurdles in the final 6 furlongs on the New Course Hook Up should have a great chance without any penalties to carry, and I think the quicker ground will be fine for her. Another crucial factor with Hook Up is the fact that she has ran at Cheltenham before, albeit when out of her depth in the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago.

Advised Ante-Post

16:50 – Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Class 2) – 3m2f

We look to be in a great Ante-Post position thanks to Time To Get Up becoming the latest significant withdrawal from the race, and it’s a very poor renewal of the Kim Muir – but perhaps that’s understandable with no Amateur Jockeys, and only a measly £52,500 pot on offer. One Horse who does have a lovely profile for the race however is Hold The Note, and he really does remind me of Any Second Now – who won this race in 2019 off a mark of 143, 2lbs lower than when I was all over him in the Novices’ Handicap Chase the prior year. Last season I was very keen on the chances of Hold The Note in that Novices’ Handicap, and in fairness he ran a perfectly respectable race when finishing 3rd behind Imperial Aura (163) and Tuesday’s National Hunt Chase winner Galvin (151*) – especially as he had to give weight away! What I have learnt since however is the fact that he needs 3m these days, as even his best performance last season came when finishing 0.5 lengths 2nd behind Two For Gold (154) in the Grade 2 Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

Just like Any Second Now however, Hold The Note has failed to win the following season – and admittedly at one point he looked almost gone at the game. Some disappointing efforts behind exciting Novices’ such as Shan Blue (152) and Next Destination (153) were then followed by what I thought was quite an encouraging run at Cheltenham in December – where he looked booked for a close 2nd behind Ultima favourite Happygolucky (147) before fading very tamely after the last. Another poor effort then followed at Kempton back to 2m4f, but connections sent him straight off for a wind operation afterwards. Following a break of 57 days, that procedure really seemed to do the trick in a 3m Novices’ Handicap Chase at Newbury last month, where he stayed on all the way to the line to only be beaten 0.5 lengths by Paul Nicholls’ talented Enrilo (143) – and the 3rd Ballymoy (138) has since hacked up at Catterick by 18 lengths. With a very encouraging performance behind him then, his new mark of 140 means he is an attractive 5lbs lower than when contesting the Novice Handicap last season – and the fact that professionals are riding will ensure there is no advantage to his rivals in terms of Jockey bookings. He will clearly need to prove his stamina again here over this extended 3m2f trip, but the wind-op definitely seemed to work on his latest start. Hold The Note also matches quite a few trends; as he is a 7yo, a second season novice, he wears headgear, and his rating of 140 is just 1lb above the average winning mark since 2011. It’s also interesting that the past two Kim Muir winners were also winning their first Chase when landing the Kim Muir.

Advised Ante-Post, 5 Places

I will give a small shout to another Horse in the Kim Muir however, as Storm Control was the Horse I came down on earlier in the week for the Ultima, but connections have decided to aim him here instead. This Kerry Lee charge won twice at Cheltenham in the Autumn – winning a 3m1f Handicap Chase on the Old Course off 131 in November, before then winning the 3m2f Grade 3 Handicap Chase on the New Course in December. In both victories he made all the running to win, but on that second victory off a mark of 137 he idled late in the day – before running on again to win by a length. That form looks decent with the hot-favourite and Porterstown Handicap Chase winner Court Maid (152) back in third place, and he’s deserving of his rise to a mark of 142. One of the reasons why I was so keen on Storm Control for the Ultima however was the fact that he has a remarkably similar profile to that of The Conditional, who also won a Cheltenham Handicap off 131 before then running a big race in the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy when finishing 2nd. His next start then came in the 3m5f Grade 3 Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick, which is exactly where Storm Control went next – but both Horses clearly didn’t stay the trip, with our selection here pulling up at the top of the home straight. Back down to 3m2f on Good-to-Soft ground should suit this Kerry Lee charge much better however, and this doesn’t look like a very good race – which will help him off a mark of 142. I’d give a small chance to Storm Control bouncing back to form at a track he loves here, so hopefully he can repeat the trick of The Conditional 12 months ago.

6 Places

Good luck! – Jake Price

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