Contributing Tennis, Golf, and Soccer Editor
Contributing Tennis, Golf, and Soccer Editor
This is our Cheltenham day two preview, featuring the Ladies Day races from the Cheltenham Festival in the UK. As the top National Hunt meet on Planet Earth, this event is hugely prestigious. Read expert analysis and picks for all seven races on Ladies Day in our Cheltenham Wednesday preview.
A cracking way to kick off Ladies Day as three at the head of the betting have all won at the highest level before. Bob Olinger has come in for support since winning the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle in Ireland for Henry De Bromhead and commands respect.
Fellow Emerald Isle raider Gaillard Du Mesnil impressed when landing the odds at the Dublin Racing Festival. This Willie Mullins trained improver also has claims. Paul Nicholls is bullish about BRAVEMANSGAME, however, comparing him to the mighty Denman. Although that one was beaten in this race, Bravemansgame could well go one better.
He absolutely bolted up at Newbury in the Challow, beating previous Grade 2 winners hands down. Even the form of his bow in this sphere when beaten by Soaring Glory looks good, with the winner going on to land the Betfair Hurdle. Outside the top three in the betting, Bear Ghylls is unbeaten for trainer Nicky Martin.
Although he has only won minor events, there is some substance to his form. Bear Ghylls defeated subsequent Cheltenham winner Make Me A Believer at Lingfield, then followed-up when beating Gowel Road, who has scored twice since, at Ffos Las. All he needs to do is brush up on his jumping really.
As any Cheltenham preview of day 2 action will tell you, MONKFISH looks impossible to oppose. This Mullins mount has been foot perfect over fences since switching to the larger obstacles after toughing things out in the Albert Bartlett at this meeting last year. Monkfish isn’t much of a price, however, which is a shame.
There is each-way value or place betting options, though. Sporting John landed the Scilly Isles at Sandown by outstaying his rivals from an unpromising position, so is of obvious interest for trainer Philip Hobbs and owner JP McManus. The price about his chances is attractive each-way.
Eklat De Rire is another potential improver. A lightly-raced and unexposed sort in this company, he could help De Bromhead have a good Ladies Day at Cheltenham. Eklat De Rire could end up being the biggest danger to Monkfish, but it remains his race to lose.
The handicapper has taken very few chances with the Irish raiders here, so any Cheltenham preview day 2 piece you read shouldn’t tell you otherwise. Those from the Emerald Isle may defy their harsh treatment, but the home team is in with god chances here too.
Nicky Henderson has a fabulous record in this race, so both Birchdale and Craigneiche are of interest. The latter is particularly unexposed and progressive. Craigneiche does have a 12lb rise in his rating from winning in this grade at Ascot, but may still defy the handicapper and go well here.
GUARD YOUR DREAMS, meanwhile, is locally trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and really caught the eye when running on down the field in the Betfair Hurdle. He finished sixth that day, but stayed on from nowhere turning for home, so this longer trip may suit him off a nice racing weight of 10st 6lb.
Of those at bigger odds, another local handler Martin Keighley has Witness Protection at the foot of the weights. He wanted to run this horse on Festival Trials Day, but the meeting was a washout due to wet, wintry weather. With some bookmakers paying up to seven places, Witness Protection could outrun his odds and into the frame.
Altior versus Chacun Pour Soi doesn’t happen again! Our Cheltenham day two preview suggests there may be value in looking past the favourite in the betting on this two-mile championship contest. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Chacun Pour Soi represents a trainer in Mullins who has amazingly never won the Champion Chase. He also has no Cheltenham experience and that is a negative for a horse at so short a price. This is a much deeper race than last year too, so defending champ Politologue looks up against it.
Backing NUBE NEGRA, who shocked everyone when defeating Altior in the Desert Orchid over Christmas, and PUT THE KETTLE ON both each-way looks the smart play here. The latter gets weight all-round via a 7lb mares allowance, and is unbeaten in three starts over the course and distance.
Again, there are two big names that regular followers of National Hunt horse racing know plenty about at the head of the betting. Easysland is a short-price favourite to win the Cross Country again, but we haven’t seen so much of him as last year and what little there is to go suggests he’s not in that form.
Tiger Roll is a four-time Cheltenham Festival winner, so commands respect. Like Altior, he’s 11 though, and on the decline according to his owners. Thinking outside the box is the advice in this Cheltenham preview day 2 here. Potters Corner has a clear round of the course, but this is a stepping stone to the Grand National.
That leaves a couple of horses at bigger odds to consider each-way. SOME NECK showed superb stamina to get up and win a handicap on the Cross Country course in the autumn. This does demand more, but he has taken to this discipline well. ALPHA DES OBEAUX is an intriguing debutant in this sphere for the Tiger Roll connections too.
A very open renewal of a historic handicap with many in with chances. Entoucas remains a novice over fences for Joseph O’Brien and is towards the foot of the weights, so it’s easy to see why he has supporters. Sky Pirate contests this rather than trying his luck in the Arkle the day before.
The formed post by this Jonjo O’Neill horse ties in with others. Ibleo is now 1lb better off at the weights with Sky Pirate from their December encounter at this venue. He has won both of his last two starts since for Venetia Williams. Amoola Gold was a short-head better than Ibleo at Ascot, however, then chased home subsequent Clarence House hero First Flow at that venue.
He is also better off at the weights with Sky Pirate to the tune of 4lb from their Warwick meeting. MOONLIGHTER has a huge 14lb swing with Ibleo from their Sandown clash, however, and has won since. David Bass again takes the ride on him for trainer Nick Williams. Hedging your bets among these names looks the safest course of action.
As Mullins has such a superb record in this final race of Ladies Day, the last selection in our Cheltenham Wednesday preview has to come from his stable. KILCRUIT demolished a quality field in the Grade 2 equivalent of this at the Dublin Racing Festival and has leading form claims as a result.
The complication is the addition of main market rival Sir Gerhard to the yard. A late change of stable before Cheltenham could have blown his chances, but he’s unbeaten and looked potentially top-class when in the care of Gordon Elliott. There is also the each-way angles to consider here.
Mullins mare Grangee has since made clear progress from her Listed third at Market Rasen on a first foray over to the UK from Ireland. She won a graded bumper against her own sex at the Dublin Racing Festival, while Cool Jet is no forlorn hope despite outsider odds.