Cheltenham Day 3 Digest

The JLT Novice Chase

The key to this race is what to make of Yorkhill over fences. He was an outstanding winner of the Neptune over hurdles, but has looked far from fluent over fences both in racing and in his recent schooling session.

Better ground can help the act of jumping, but the faster pace of the races can be more challenging in judging take-off. At short odds it probably pays to be a sceptic.

Disko has been a fancy for this for a while as his free-wheeling bold-jumping style should suit. However, the rapidly-drying ground is no favour to his chances.

Top Notch is ironically named being about 10lbs below top class, but he is superbly reliable and will act well on both course and going. His stable is in flying form and he looks sure to go close.

Politologue has been well supported, but on form has a bit to find with his main market rivals.

Recommendation: Top Notch, 4/1, generally available.

The Pertemps Handicap Hurdle

One of our festival favourites, we have had this race earmarked for the very impressive Presenting Percy for some time.

From last year’s winning stable he looks tailor-made for the race. His chance has been done no favours by a stiff-looking handicap rating, but we still expect him to go well.

For Good Measure has sneaked in off a low weight, and the best of his Autumn form could see him in the mix for his trainer who does very well in this race.

That brings the trainer’s Golden Doyen into the mix as well, and he looks generously priced having course and distance winning form on ground similar to today’s.

Another over-priced runner is Sutton Manor for man of the moment Gordon Elliott. He has form that ties in closely with Presenting Percy and is similarly open to improvement.

This looks between Presenting Percy and Golden Doyen, and there are sound reasons for backing both. So we will.

Recommendation: Presenting Percy, 9/1, generally available & Golden Doyen, 20/1, generally available

The Ryanair Chase

Un de Sceaux has long been the favourite for this race, but that has changed as the ground has dried out. He was hot favourite for last year’s Champion Chase, but didn’t produce his best on the ground that day and this looks like being a faster surface.

He is the best horse in the race, but not necessarily today.

Empire of Dirt won a handicap at the meeting last year, and has progressed as far as a close third in the Irish Gold Cup last time. He has a good blend of speed and stamina and looks ideal for this race.

Uxizandre made all over this trip two years ago, and could well be ridden prominently which could cause a duel with Un de Sceaux.

Vaniteux has run some good races here and looked booked for second behind Douvan in the Arkle until unseating two out. The ground is very much in his favour and 25/1 looks far too big.

Recommendation:  Empire of Dirt, 5/2, generally available

The Stayers Hurdle

For many punters, Unowhatimeanharry is one of the bankers of the meeting in the Stayers Hurdle. He is on a long unbeaten run, which includes a win at last year’s festival and all the major trials for this race. He looks bomb-proof and is sure to run a big race for in-form Noel Fehily.

The Irish challenge is led by former Champion Hurdler Jezki, and the ground should suit him given his proven speed. Shaneshill is another Irish challenger with a consistent festival record and suitable conditions.

Cole Harden loves this faster ground and won this from the front two years ago.  He looked back to his best when behind Unowhatimeanharry here in January. The case for that being reversed lies solely in the drying ground.

West Approach is interesting as he has chosen to run here when the novice event of Friday looked much more winnable. He was also in the January race and may also be suited by conditions.

This could be a case of trying to be too clever, all the form and all the figures say the favourite wins here, and any case for the alternative requires a leap of faith.

Recommendation: Unowhatimeanharry, 6/4, generally available

The Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase

All the talk here is for the Gordon Elliott-trained Diamond King. A tidy winner of last year’s Coral Cup, he gets to run here off a very similar rating and has an obvious chance. That said, this is no secret to the bookies who have him fairly short.

Starchitect has chosen this event rather than the two mile Grand Annual. He is another classic well-weighted novice and the Pipe yard has already chalked a success this week. It’s questionable if he jumps quite well enough, but he must have a chance.

It has been two years waiting to back the wonderfully named Thomas Crapper and he manages to sneak in as the bottom weight here. He trotted up at Newbury last time and has a clear chance if able to repeat that form off a 10-day break.

The choice though is Bouvreuil, twice a runner-up at the Festival he has shown a clear liking for conditions and has run well in major handicaps this season when the ground may have been a touch slow.

Tango De Juilley ran second in this last year after a year off and returns after another year off – it would be some training feat from a trainer with a great record in the race.

Recommendation: Bouvreuil, 14/1, generally available

The Mares Novices Hurdle

If Willie Mullins reaches this race without a festival winner (unthinkable coming in to the week) then he should be able to rely on his two mares, Airlee Beach and Lets Dance to put him on the scoreboard.

Ruby rides Lets Dance, and she looks like the stronger candidate. She has looked very good throughout the season, albeit that has been over 2m4f on softer ground. This will be more of a speed test, but she should have the quality to come through it.

Airlee Beach is likely to set the race up from the front, and will be a big danger if given too much of a lead, expect Ruby to sit close by.

Toe The Line is an accomplished flat racer and a strong travelling hurdler who finds it a little hard to win. The speed of this race however, and the quicker ground, may help and she could certainly travel well to the last.

Dusky Legend was placed in this last year. Whilst she has been a little disappointing since, we are getting daily reminders of the value of festival form (Un Temps Pour Tout, Tiger Roll, Cause of Causes, Special Tiara) and she could leave that form behind.

Recommendation: Lets Dance, 7/4, generally available

The Kim Muir Handicap Chase

The closing race is one that has been a true friend to us at Lap Of The Odds over the years, and we are strong advocates of having four Kim Muirs, one every day. We would happily forsake the variety for the profits !!

This year sees a classic well weighted novice at the head of the market in Squouateur, for in-form pair Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd. Those are almost irresistible credentials, but resist them we must.

Squouateur was a well-backed beaten favourite at last year’s festival and will need to jump more fluently than in his novice runs to date. But there is no doubt this is the plan for the canny connections who have got him in here 8lbs lower than last year.

Mall Dini won the Pertemps last year and looks off a workable weight here. He is another novice than needs to jump better, but his big handicap experience and these conditions should suit.

For our main pick though, we are going to chance Potters Legend, a novice with plenty of experience who ran a fine race over too short a trip here in January and looks just the type to out-run his odds in this race.

Recommendation: Potters Legend, 16/1, generally available

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