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Thursday 14 March 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Day 3 (14th March)

It's the 3rd day of the Festival, and it's fairly obvious now that the quality of horse trained in the UK - Constitution Hill excluded - is at the poorest level in my lifetime. Maybe I'm being over-dramatic, but I don't know where it goes from here, but if horseracing isn't competitive - Willie Mullins saddled the 1st-5 in the Grade 1 Gallagher Novices Hurdle, from 7 starters - then the majority of supporters will lose interest. 
I had no luck on the day, with both selections not finishing in the places. And the remainder of the card didn't provide betting opportunities except for those fortunate with a lucky pin.

Let's try our hand on Day-3 (Thursday)
1:30pm Turners Novices' Chase (2m4f)
We have 11 runners going to post, which should provide some interest. The fav is Facile Vega, and I expect Mullins will be hoping the extra distance (all chase races have been over 2m1f) will bring about some improvement. Given how testing the ground is, Grey Dawning having won over 3-mile LTO should have sufficient stamina to be involved at the finish.  When they met as hurdlers last season, Grey Dawning got the better of Ginny's Destiny, and if the ground wasn't as soft as it is, I might fancy Ginny's Destiny - but on this ground a horse needs stamina. If Iroko - off the track since early November - wins it will be a helluva training performance, but I can't see that happening. Nothing else looks good enough. For me it's Grey Dawning, but the odds are not attractive enough to warrant advising a wager. However, do not ignore the chance of Letsbeclearaboutit, sent by Gavin Cromwell, ignore LTO as he didn't stay 3-mile on heavy ground but this trip will suit him well - and he wasn't far behind Found A Fifty (2nd in the Arkle this week) on 03Dec - he's worth a small ew at 33/1. 

2:10pm Pertemps Hurdle Final H'cap (3 mile)
One of my favourite races of the season. This is not an easy race to fathom, but you do need a horse that is a proven stayer at the trip, and there are not many of those.  And unless you find a bold front-runner (like Buena Vista) and the benefit of good ground, it's best to have a hold-up horse. 
I've narrowed it down to a couple, Emitom who runs off OR137 and won a decent handicap at Newbury last month, and Gabby's Cross who has been running well recently.  What I like about Emitom is he was 4th in the Stayers' Hurdle in 2020 when rated OR153, and Alan King has revitalised the horse since he started training him.  Gabby's Cross is an OR140 chaser running off OR127.  
Both are worth an eachway wager:
Gabbys Cross:  81 available generally - 6-places, 5th odds
Emitom: 28/1 with Paddy Power - 6-places, 5th odds

2:50pm Ryanair Chase (2m5f)
This race is looking one of the most open Grade 1's of the entire Festival. On the one hand, Envoi Allen won a stronger race last year, but hasn't done much in the past 12 months: should he be the fav? Hitman was 3rd last year and hasn't improved in the last 12 months. Banbridge, despite winning well LTO, does not have suitable ground, and may well be withdrawn. Stage Star won the Turners last year, but I'm not sure he's up to winning this race as you have to take his well-being (he pulled-up LTO when the fav) for granted. Capodanno and Conflated don't look good enough to win over this trip.  The horse that jumps out for me is Protektorat: he has been consistently good this season, running some of his best races in defeat as he's been giving away a lot of weight at times. He's a bold front-runner and this could be his day in the sun - there's plenty of 9/1 and 4-places at 5th odds a place.

3:30pm Stayers' Hurdle (3 miles)
Another race worth having a wager in. Teahupoo had his ground last season and couldn't win.  Is he a better, stronger horse this season? Noble Yeats does not lack stamina, but let's be honest, he was getting 6lb off Paisley Park and only just beat him. If I thought Sir Gerhard would stay this 3-mile trip on soft ground, he would be the selection, but he's never shown the required stamina before. I haven't thought Crambo as good enough to win this since his win at Ascot LTO, and nothing has changed that opinion. If Crambo isn't good enough, neither is Paisley Park; and lightning does not strike twice, so I'm putting a line through Sire Du Berlais as a 12yo. There's one horse who is a proven stayer, proven on the ground,  and ran well in this last season of a short preparation - Flooring Porter. He's had no problems this season with fitness, and he is the dark horse in this race, odds of 14/1 Paddypower look generous. I'm on at 25/1 as I never thought he'd make the grade as a chaser, and I've gone in again at 

I'm going to overlook the Plate at 4:10pm and the Mares' Hurdle at 4:50pm (lack of time), and go to the final race of the day:
5:30pm Kim Muir h'cap chase (3m2f)
Amateur riders are usually best avoided, but you can't do that in this race. The best amateurs ride the best horses, so you have to respect Derek O'Connor on Inothewayyurthinkin the 5/2 fav. The 8yo Amirite has McParlan in the saddle, and this decent stayer could go well. However, the one I like the look of is Bowtogreatness, ridden by Jack Andrews who knows his way around Cheltenham. Still a maiden chaser, he's mainly race over 2m4f but he's twice run at 3-mile coming 2nd at Aintree on 15Apr and 3rd LTO at Kempton which was probably his best effort to date - so he's in form.  He looks well handicapped on OR133.  
Bowtogreatness - £2.50 ew @ 16/1 Bet365 , 6-places 5th odds.

Good luck all.

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