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Cheltenham Festival Tips: 10/03/2020

10/03/2020

Neil Morrice brings us all of his best bets and tips for Day 1 of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival on 10/03/2020.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Shishkin has always been earmarked for this and contracted to outright favourite when comfortably landed the Sydney Banks over a longer trip at Huntingdon.

At that stage CHANTRY HOUSE wasn’t a definite starter but his owner JP McManus is more than happy to keep the progressive gelding to two miles and if this is a proper test, as it almost certainly will turn out to be, it is him and FIDDLERONTHEROOF that make most appeal to me. The latter revelled in the heavy conditions when landing the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown and his overall game plan is all about stamina. This relentless galloper will surely stay on strongly up the final hill.

Of the impressive Irish assault on the Grade 1 its ASTERION FORLONGE that really takes the eye. His is arguably the best form in the race. Ireland also has a squeak with Elliott’s ABACADABRAS who doesn’t have his Fairyhouse conqueror Envoi Allen to worry about.

Prediction

1st – FIDDLERONTHEROOF
2nd – Chantry House
3rd – Abacadabras
4th – Asterion Forlonge
5th – Shishkin

The Arkle Novices’ Chase

The combined odds of an Irish winner in a fascinating Race 2 are very short. NOTEBOOK, FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES and CASH BACK are closely matched. Henry De Bromhead has every right to think Notebook can make this a nap hand of successes under Rachael Blackmore.

The 7yo was too good for Fakir D’Oudairies at Leopardstown in December and then dealt a similar blow to Cash Back over the same course and distance last month. He’s a keen goer and his jockey will be mindful of keeping him calm, but being in contention early is not necessarily a handicap in this race where there is never any quarter taken or given.

Connections of Fakir D’Oudairies might point to the fact that their 5yo didn’t get the best passage last time, and that his rider lost an iron, while those of Cash Back are fully entitled to believe he’ll improve.

BREWIN’UPASTORM is coming back off a three month absence and showed his prowess for fences at a minor track, which helps to put my pen through his name, while the mare MAIRE BANRIGH makes a considerable jump up the class ladder.

If the Irish are to be prevented from complete domination ROUGE VIF is the most likely to get in their way. Harry Whittington’s charge has mixed it with the best of them at home, and showed a very professional attitude in landing Warwick’s Kingmaker Chase by a wide margin. He should not be underestimated.

Prediction

1st – ROUGE VIF
2nd – Notebook
3rd – Cash Back
4th – Fakir D’Oudairies
5th – Brewin’ Upastorm
6th – Maire Banrigh

Ultima Handicap Chase

This wickedly competitive staying chase features an old friend in KILDISART who without question has a big prize in him off his current mark of 150 (down from 156). He’s not shown anything quite like the best of his novice chase form in four starts this season but his trainer Ben Pauling might have been on a mission, and will have been encouraged by a better showing in his latest race.

Top weight VINNDICATION is the apple of trainer Kim Bailey’s eye and ran well in the JLT Chase here last year, finishing just behind Kildisart. He made the perfect comeback when scoring at Ascot but that was in November, casting aspersions as to the reason for his subsequent long absence.

MISTER MALARKY came out of the wilderness to run out a convincing winner at Kempton (with Kildisart back in fourth) and if in similar mood makes some appeal, but it’s worrying that his profile resonates inconsistency.

The novice WHO DARES WINS is interesting, even though he was a lucky winner at Kempton over shorter, and if handling the hurly-burly could put in an earning run.

Stablemates COGRY and TOWNSHEND go off as roughies with the latter one that could ruffle a few feathers. There seemed to be no fluke about his triumph in a warm heat at Ascot in January and as that was his first outing of the season he can improve.

There are only three Irish-trainer runners in the 24-strong field but DISCORAMA stands out. He’s already gone close to winning a big pot at this meeting, both over hurdles and fences, and has been laid out for the race by his shrewd trainer. I will forgive him his disappointing run when last seen at Limerick, and he can bounce back.

Prediction

1st – DISCORAMA
2nd – Kildisart
3rd – Townshend
4th – Who Dares Wins
5th – Vinndication
6th – Mister Malarky

Champion Hurdle

Since Buveur D’Air went onto the injury list the mare EPATANTE has emerged as a somewhat surprising ante-post favourite. Her undoubted talent showcased itself in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton but two factors have been subsequently added. First, the fact that she threw a few coughs and second the realisation that as the Henderson banker here in 2019 she completely blew a gasket in the mares’ race.

In contrast, PENTLAND HILLS likes the track as shown when he landed the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago. He’s going in off a narrow defeat by BALLYANDY in the Haydock Trial, while he’s undergone wind surgery since that race. He travels like a dream, and if picking up more resolutely than was the case at Haydock he has a huge chance.

FUSIL RAFFLES needs to bounce back from a heavy defeat when last seen while CALL ME LORD fluffed his lines at Sandown, finding little up the final hill. However, he had won well here on his previous start and should be suited by the strong place and big field.

SILVER STREAK has earned in this very race, but will do well to match last year’s third placing.

Of the Irish hopefuls SHARJAH remains an enigma. He’s the highest-rated but ran a shocker in the Irish version of this behind Honeysuckle at Leopardstown.

It seems the Mullins number one is stablemate CILAOS EMERY who has the beating of DARASSO. He’s been supplemented into the field and is a lightly-raced rapid improver.

Value seekers could do well,out of SUPASUNDAE for whom there’s been sustained support. Jessie Harrington’s charge was keeping on at the end of the Irish Champion and after two readying starts this season should now be spot on.

Prediction

1st – PENTLAND HILLS
2nd – Supasundae
3rd – Call Me Lord
4th – Ballyandy
5th – Epatante
6th – Cilaos Emery

Mares’ Hurdle 10/03/2020

This should have been a hat-trick mission in the race for BENIE DES DIEUX who delivered on her first outing for Willie Mullins in 2018 and would have followed up last year but for taking off a stride too soon jumping the last. The 9yo is carded to go off a shade of odds-on after impressing in her trial at Gowran Park where she comfortably disposed of the smart Penhill.

Connections of HONEYSUCKLE considered a tilt at the Champion Hurdle, but with the likelihood that Benie Des Dieux is the only one to worry about this was surely the right way to go. Henry De Bromhead’s charge is unbeaten and boasts three Grade 1s in that tally, latterly proving the gamest of winners in the Irish Champion.

Spirting the same colours but from the Mullins stable, ELFILE has a better shot than her 20-1 odds indicate while STORMY ISLAND should also serve the yard well as she looked the part when hacking up at Naas in January.

But the minor placings are more likely to go to ROKSANA and LADY BUTTONS. Roksana cashed in on Benie Des Dieux’s uncharacteristic spill in 2019 and looked like a mare returning to form when chasing home Summerville Boy here last time. She ran respectably to finish fourth in this last year and may be looking for similar returns, with connections in a position to consider a second run at the meeting in the Grand Annual Chase later in the week.

Prediction

1st – BENIE DES DIEUX
2nd – Honeysuckle
3rd – Roksana
4th – Lady Buttons
5th – Stormy Island
6th – Elfile

Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) 10/03/2020

HOLD THE NOTE is the one with the most potential and appears bound to go well on only his fourth outing this season. Mick Channon’s charge was only just run out of it by the useful Two For Gold over three miles at Warwick and will enjoy a drop back in distance. He is all quality.

I have a sneaking suspicion that PRECIOUS CARGO will give it a good shot as this is less competitive than the Kingmaker Chase in which he finished third to Rouge Vif, who will give us a line onto Nicky Henderson’s joint top weight when running in the Arkle.

Henderson also saddles CHAMPAGNE MYSTERY who himself can give a lead onto his recent Fakenham conqueror Greaneteen who is favourite for the Grand Annual on Friday.

IMPERIAL AURA has a great chance of turning the tables on ESPOIR DE GUYE and has subsequently followed home Simply The Betts here. That form is very strong, and Kim Bailey’s charge will love the ground.

GALVIN and KNIGHT IN DUBAI are others that could get into the money. The former looks like he’s been laid out for the race, while Knight In Dubai could bounce back from his Haydock defeat by Sam Brown.

Prediction

1st – IMPERIAL AURA
2nd – Hold The Note
3rd – Precious Cargo
4th – Espoir De Guye
5th – Galvin
6th – Champagne Mystery

National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase 10/03/2020

The distance has been reduced from four miles to three and threequarters but on this ground it remains a race for a doughty stayer. Of that ilk is LORD DU MESNIL who only succumbed to Smooth Stepper in the Haydock Grand National Trial near the finish, and has good claims.

The market leader is CAREFULLY SELECTED who is on a roll for Willie Mullins and son Paddy. He beat FORZA MILAN in cosy fashion at Naas and can confirm his superiority despite a 7lb in favour of the latter.

SPRINGFIELD FOX has looked a different horse since switching to fences and was hugely impressive at both Chepstow and Exeter. He might try to lead throughout which is a tall order, but his sound jumping makes him one not to allow to much rope to.

NEWTIDE was a lucky winner of the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby but is nevertheless a serious player under a competent pilot, while RAVENHILL finished second in the Kerry National and has top Corinthian Jamie Codd in the irons.

Will Biddick is another leading rider from the unpair ranks and could get LAMANVER PIPPIN into the money.

Prediction

1st – SPRINGFIELD FOX
2nd – Newtide
3rd – Carefully Selected
4th – Forza Milan
5th – Lord Du Mesnil
6th – Ravenhill

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