Cheltenham Races, Wednesday March 11th, day two of the Festival
Previews by Will Reilly
It is Queen Mother Champion Chase day (3:30pm) and the big race will sadly be missing Altior, winner of this race for the last two years, following injury. This leaves rising two-mile star Defi Du Seuil, already a dual Festival winner, and Willie Mullins’ exciting Chacun Pour Soi to lock horns in what promises to be a race to savour. Tingle Creek Chase winners have a very good record in this race. Defi Du Seuil won this season’s Tingle Creek.
The card opens at 1:30pm with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, in which Irish hotpot, Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten Envoi Allen, has been all the rage in the betting. He is considered to be one of the Irish ‘bankers’ of the week. Ireland has won the race five times in the last six years.
2:10pm, the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase
Run over three miles, this presents a real test of stamina for relatively inexperienced horses. Last season’s Cheltenham Festival ‘Ballymore’ runner-up, Champ, and ‘Albert Bartlett’ winner and third, Minella Indo and Allaho, plus Battleoverdoyen and Easy Game form a big part of a strong Irish team. Copperhead is a strong British fancy, while his stablemate Slate House could also go well for the home side.
2:50pm, the Coral Cup
Ireland has won three of the last four renewals of what is one of the key handicaps of the week and are responsible for 14 of the 26 runners to have made the cut. Willie Mullins has seven of them; Gordon Elliott has three. Seven of the last eleven winners have been returned at 16/1 or bigger. Trainer Nicky Henderson has won it three times in the last ten years. He runs Birchdale, Dame De Compagnie and Burrows Edge (who will race in first-time cheek-pieces) this year.
4:10pm, the Cross-Country Chase
Dual-Aintree Grand National winner Tiger Roll is back to defend his crown and to try and gain a fifth Cheltenham Festival win in total, including a third-successive win in this race. He’s a legend of the sport. Ireland has won 13 of the 15 stagings of this race. The betting suggests it is a match between Tiger Roll and French challenger Easysland, who won a similar at Cheltenham in December, although 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite could be rejuvenated by the unusual challenge presented by this type of race and Grade 1-winning hurdler Yanworth is likely to have plenty of supporters.
4:50pm, the Boodles/Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Paul Nicholls has won two of the last five ‘Fred Winters’, three of the last ten, and he sent out the first two home in in 2015 and 2016 (in total, he has had four seconds in the race in the last nine years). He runs Mick Pastor (who’ll be running for the first time since a wind op and for the first time in a hood) and Thyme White this year. Ireland was responsible for the first three home in last year’s race and also provided the winner in 2018. Six of the last eight winners have been priced at 25/1 or bigger. Gordon Elliott’s Aramax has been the big ante-post mover. Gordon has five runners in the race; Ireland has eight.
5:30pm, the Champion Bumper
This race has been run 26 times, with Ireland winning on 19 occasions. Willie Mullins has won the race nine times, although just once in the last six years (three in the last eight). Six of the last ten winners have been returned at 14/1 or bigger. Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It has been all the rage for the race since his Leopardstown win in February, a race that last year’s winner Envoi Allen also won before triumphing at the Festival.
1:30pm – Envoi Allen: he’s a real star in the making
2:10pm – Champ: a stayer with a big engine and a turn of foot, he has good credentials for this; he could well be back for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup
2:50pm – A fiercely tough race. Good luck! At least extra places will be available on the contest with Bar One Racing
3:30pm – With Altior out, Defi Du Seuil, who was beaten by Chacun Pour Soi at Punchestown last season, can gain revenge at Cheltenham, a track that Chacun Pour Soi has never experienced
4:10pm – Easysland: the French raider could upset the Tiger Roll party
4:50pm – My two against the field are Saint d’Oroux – it looked like the penny had dropped for him last time – and Thyme White – from a stable with a very good record in the race
5:30pm – It is foolhardy to ignore Willie Mullins’ runners in this race and maybe Ferny Hollow, who looked more relaxed in first-time headgear last time, can give Envoi Allen’s owners quite a day to remember