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Thursday 16 March 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2017 - Day 3 (Thursday)

1:30pm JLT Novices Chase (2-miles & 4-furlongs)
The day opens with the 7th running of this championship race for novice chasers. 
· All 6 previous winners have been rated (at one time) at OR142 or better as hurdlers, thus meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners in being above-average hurdlers.. 
- All 6 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival. 
Stick with LTO winners (although last year’s winner Black Hercules was a faller LTO) and as this is a tough 2m4f, the selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative in my opinion. 
Only 8 go to post, and for me there are only 2 in with a winning chance: TOP NOTCH and Yorkhill. Of the others, Disko has been trying trips which are (borderline) too long, and Politologue just does not look good enough. Of the leading pair, TOP NOTCH was the better hurdler, and he has more experience than Yorkhill. At the odds, TOP NOTCH at 4/1 could be the value wager of the Festival.
TOP NOTCH, £10 win @ 4/1 (Paddy Power)

2:10pm Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (3-miles)
With only 1 winning fav since 2003 (Fingal Bay in 2014) this race is one where you can take a punt on an outsider as only 2 horses have won this at odds under 14/1 to win since 2005. This race is a tricky one for punters to solve. 
· 17 of last 24 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb;
· 12 of the last 25 winners won LTO.
A difficult race, however the 6yo SUTTON MANOR has only run 6 times and never finished worse than 4th. He was 2nd in the qualifier in Ireland on 5th Feb, then won LTO on 23rd Feb. Trained by Gordon Elliot, he could have any amount of improvement left in him and early odds of 25/1 look mighty interesting.

2:40pm Ryanair Chase (2-miles & 5-furlongs)
This race is now firmly established as a Festival Championship race, and is producing winners of the highest order. 
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 11 of the 12 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 8 of the last 9 winners (since the Ryanair became a Grade 1 chase) had previously won a Grade 1 chase (Imperial Commander in 2009 was the only exception).
This race hangs on whether Un De Sceaux can stay the trip as he has only raced around this trip in France. The 2nd-fav Empire Of Dirt won over C&D last year in the Novice handicap, but needs to find at least 7lb to match the fav. Uxizandre won this race in 2015 and has been off since then with injury returning to chase home the fav over 2-mile here in January. If he could find another 7lb of improvement then he has a chance. I cannot see Sub Lieutenant winning, and I am more interested in JOSSES HILL who if repeating his latest winning effort (ignore his King George run) may not be far away.  Odds of 9/1 look eachway value for a stable we know will have him fit to run to his best.
JOSSES HILL, £5 eachway @ 9/1

3:30pm World Hurdle (3-miles)
This race is dominated by Unowhatimeaanharry who should win this in authorative manner. 
Likely trends:- 
The age of the winner should be between 6yo and 9yo;
Good recent form is very important and the winner will likely have run 1st, 2nd or 3rd LTO
the betting market is usually good at highlighting the winner and it is unlikely that the winner will not be amongst the 1st-4 in the betting (certainly at odds less than 10/1);
It is very likely that the winner will have run at last year’s Cheltenham Festival;·

4:10pm Festival Plate Handicap Chase (2-mile & 4½-furlongs)
This race has had winners at odds of 25/1 (three times), 33/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1 in past 10 years, so don’t be afraid of backing your own judgement and opposing the market.
· 20 of the last 24 winners carried under 11st;
· 13 of the previous 19 winners came here off a break of no more than 39 days;
· 21 of the last 24 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race twice (Empire Of Dirt won it for Ireland last year) since 1951.
If you look only at those rated at OR141 or below then you omit all those carrying 10st10lb or more, which leaves 11 of the 24. Take out those who last ran more than 39 days ago, and that drops to just 6 horses; Ballykan, Rock Gone, Champagne At Tara, Mad Jack Mytton, Katachenko, and Thomas Crapper. Of those, I prefer CHAMPAGNE AT TARA a LTO winner who is at 25/1.
CHAMPAGNE AT TARA £5 eachway @ 25/1

4:50pm Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2m & 179 yards)
I’m going to give this race a miss.

5:30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge (for Amateurs) Handicap Chase (3-miles, 1-furlong & 110 yards)
Unfortunately, this grand race has been put back 40-mins to accommodate the new Mares’ race.
This is another Festival race suffering from “handicap compression” and there are only 2 entries carrying under 11st. 
· 8 of the last 12 winners have carried 11st 4lb or more
· No winner in over 20 years was younger than 7yo;
· Only 6 of the last 37 winners was a 7yo;
· There has been 2 Irish-trained winners in past 3 years (after a break of 31 years).
As all the riders are amateur you need to consider the talents of the jockeys, the best are Codd, (Katie) Walsh, Biddick, Legg, Waley-Cohen, Harding, and (Gina) Andrews.  I think the market leaders (Squouateur, Mall Dini, and Southfield Royale) look weak in this race and can be opposed. Doctor Harper is an interesting entry for David Pipe, but the best recent form in the race is that of HADRIANS APPROACH @ 18/1 who ran 4th in the Hennessey GC and trainer Nicky Henderson has booked the capable Biddick for the ride. 

Overall, 3 firm selections but I would not put you off having a small eachway wager on both SUTTON MANOR and HADRIANS APPROACH both available at long odds. This could be quite a day for Nicky Henderson - again!

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