There are some real gems for punters to uncover on day two of the Cheltenham Festival with another seven races of the highest quality scheduled. Bookmakers understand excitement has been building since the turn of the year and haven’t been slow in responding, sending out ante-post markets, giving backers the chance to have their say on which horses will run and which will challenge for the prize money.
Three Grade 1 contests take place on Wednesday 13 March and they are the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, the RSA Chase and the immensely popular Queen Mother Champion Chase, with the last two of the trio going over fences. The final fields are still some way off being confirmed but that hasn’t stopped backers ploughing their money in on the contenders.
Other races on the day are the Coral Cup, Cross Country Chase, Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Handicap Hurdle and the Champion Bumper. Those legs will be completed before day two goes into the books and it’s often an afternoon where players seem confident to up their stakes, having seen how the land lies on Tuesday.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the seven races and check which names bookmakers are throwing their support behind…
Races During Cheltenham Festival Day 2
|13:30||Ballymore Novices Hurdle||Champ, Battleoverdoyen, Honeysuckle|
|14:10||RSA Chase||Santini, Delta Works, Topofthegame|
|14:50||Coral Cup||Dortmund Park, Al Dancer, Wonder Laish|
|15:30||Queen Mother Champion Chase||Altior, Footpad, Min|
|16:10||Cross Country Chase||Ucello Conti, Tiger Roll, Auvergnat, Josies Orders|
|16:50||Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle||Quel Destin, Chief Justice, Friend Or Foe|
|17:30||Champion Bumper||Malone Road, Envoi Allen, Blue Sari|
Baring Bingham Novices Hurdle
A Grade 1 over 2m 5f, we got the first running of this race back in 1971 when Midsprite did the business for jockey Macer Gifford and Harry Thomson Jones. Since then we’ve watched on as Ruby Walsh has shone brightest, winning four times to set the pace in the race to be leading jockey. His successes came on Fiveforthree (2008), Mikael d’Haguenet (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Yorkhill (2016). A pilot that’s always worth keeping on the right side of.
Another who has made this race their own in the past is Willie Mullins who is current leading trainer, enjoying glory with the same four horses entrusted to Ruby each time – a fierce partnership. Mullins has also won two of the last five outings and that’ll ensure plenty of casual money comes from him as we approach the off. Who will be the horse to come out on top this year? The early betting tells us Champ is the one to be on.
Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old gelding is yet to finish outside of the top two in seven previous starts, winning five and taking silver on the other two occasions. He was spotted sticking his head in front at Newbury late last year when bagging the Challow Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 4f at a price of even money favourite. Runner up Getaway Trump was best of the rest but crossed the line 2 ½ lengths behind. 5/1 says Champ will land the knockout blow.
The RSA Chase remains one of the most popular races of the week as a star-studded field battle it out over three miles. Open to entrants aged five years old and above, we’ve had some memorable winners in the past, including Presenting Percy who delighted backers when scooping the prize money under Davy Russell 12 months ago. He was the 10th seven-year-old winner in the last dozen years and that’s worth keeping in mind when targeting this year’s king.
No surprise to see Willie Mullins also has a strong hold over this race with four winners already in the bag, Florida Pearl in 1998 followed by Rule Supreme 2004, Cooldine 2009 and Don Poli four years ago. Pat Taaffe remains the most decorated jockey at this level despite bagging his first winner way back in 1953. He rode five champions and that feat is yet to be matched. It’ll be a while before we see a challenge emerge.
Santini is current favourite to wrestle away the crown wore by Presenting Percy last year and the bay gelding, flying the flag for Nicky Henderson, has won four and placed third twice in six starts. The six-year-old made a winning debut at Newbury last year but got no closer than third in December when finishing behind La Bague Roi and Topofthegame in the Kauto Star Novices Chase over three miles. Topofthegame is 8/1 to win this race, La Bague Roi a whopping 14/1.
Traders appear to be at a loss as to how to price the field up for this year’s Coral Cup and, as a result, backers will find value to be thick on the ground in winter. Dortmund Park may or may not go, that remains to be seen, but he’s 14/1 if he does, Getaway Trump the same price, Al Dancer 16/1 and Wonder Laish also a 16/1 poke.
Bleu Berry came out on top here last year for Willie Mullins and he was the second seven-year-old to win the race in two years, the other being Supasundae in 2017. That may catch the eye of those who like to put their trust in the trends but a 7YO winner is rare and those two are the only names in the last 10 years to represent that age group.
A stronger trend to keep in mind when planning your approach is David Pipe is the race’s most successful trainer on three – Olympian 1993, Big Stand 1997 and Ilnamar back in 2002. Since then, Davy Russell has sat in the saddle of three winners, making him the sharpest shooting jockey in the history books – Naiad de Misselot 2008, Carlito Brigante 2011 and Diamond King 2016.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
One mile and seven furlongs lies ahead of the 2019 field contesting the Queen Mother Champion Chase that offers £400,000 worth of prize money with £227,800 paid to the victor. Altior made good for backers last year when winning under the ride of Nico de Boinville for trainer Nicky Henderson and that was the latter’s fifth career prize at this level, and fourth in the last seven years. His recent champions are Finian’s Rainbow 2012, Sprinter Sacre 2013, Sprinter Sacre 2016 and then Altior.
A fair effort by Sprinter Sacre but it wasn’t enough to get him into the history books with Badsworth Boy achieving three between 1983 and 1985. Barry Geraghty and Pat Taaffe contest leading jockey on five each, Tom Dreaper is out in front to be top trainer on a half dozen and Doug Armitage is leading owner with three. Another trend worth knowing is that not many 10-year-olds win this race but two of the last three have carried that exact age, Sprinter Sacre and Special Tiara.
Footpad has been shown the respect he deserves in the build-up and is currently no bigger than 9/1 to secure the bragging rights. Willie Mullins’ rep fell at Naas when contesting the Poplar Square Chase over 2m in November and was beaten by Simply Ned in the Grade 1 Sugar Paddy Chase at Leopardstown, edged ½ a length by the eventual champion. That may just put a few off supporting him. Altior is odds-on favourite and this point and will be 1/2 if he goes, Min back in third at 12/1.
Cross County Chase
Tiger Roll is the 3/1 favourite to reign supreme in this year’s Cross Country Chase. A 3m 7f slog on the turf of Prestbury Park, the winner is always fully deserving of the prize money and credit that follows the result and there’s plenty of reason to believe Tiger Roll will get the job done. The eight-year-old came out on top here last year and two-in-a-row would come as no major surprise. Trainer Gordon Elliott has won each of the last two, Cause of Causes coming the year before Tiger Roll and he’ll fancy the hat-trick.
Ucello Conti is expected to rank as the main danger to a double for Tiger Roll and the experienced 10-year-old will be popular at 10/1. He comes from the Elliott yard, a big plus in itself, but is yet to win a race in 13 previous attempts, finding one too good on three occasions. That should be remembered but his price makes him a lively option for each-way backers who can get their hands on 1/5 the odds a place 1-2-3. Ucello Conti was second behind Anibale Fly in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown during the festive period but will have to show more of that fight if he’s to feature here.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Lots of value around in the Fred Winter at present and that’s proven by the fact Quel Destin is favourite at 12/1, a price that will catch the attention of those who like to back at double-figure odds. He’s a rather unsteady jolly at present, however, as others appeal but on form alone he can’t be touched. Paul Nicholls’ highly progressive three-year-old has won four of five starts in this country, finishing second in the spare.
The odd one out came when beaten by Montestrel on his British debut, but it didn’t take long for the penny to drop and the three-year-old bounced back to win each of his next four, including victory in the Grade 1 Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on 27 December, a neck better than odds-on SP favourite Adjali. There’s a lot to like about this runner and the fact the first two finished 22 lengths ahead of the others at Chepstow proves just how good he is. Backers will want to see him continue to improve but the feeling is there’s plenty still to come and he’s more than good enough to bag this and catapult himself onto bigger and better things this year.
Malone Road and Envoi Allen share favouritism for the 2019 Champion Bumper with bookmakers unable to separate them going into the year. That’s perfectly understandable at this stage of preparations but they will have to make their mind up in the near future to avoid the betting becoming a two-horse race. The value hunters are already circling and won’t be slow in backing either runner if the price is eased in the coming weeks. It’s a standout and things are about to get tense between now and race day.
Gordon Elliott’s Malone Road won each of his first two starts, making a perfect debut at Down Royal in November when winning a Flat Race over two miles and that was quickly followed with a score around Punchestown in a similar contest when smashing a decent field, runner up Mt Leinster beaten by over eight lengths. Those who watched him perform that day immediately had Malone Road jotted down in their notepads and he’s expected to grow in popularity in the coming months. Connections will be hoping to have him out at least once in a warm up race for the festival. Keep your eye on his progress and if you plan on backing him, we say do it sooner rather than later.