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Cheltenham Festival Tips: 11/03/2020

11/03/2020

Neil Morrice brings us all of his best bets and tips for Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival on 11/03/2020.

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

With just 12 going to post this is all about quality and no horse exudes that more than ENVOI ALLEN whose unblemished record includes the Champion Bumper here in 2019. Gordon Elliott, who pondered a switch to the shorter Supreme before sticking to his original plan, insists Envoi Allen will never do any more than he has to. The 11-8 favourite with Hollywoodbets is many people’s banker of the week but I don’t see him having it all his own way.

Blocking his path are two hugely talented rivals that go by the names of SPORTING JOHN and THE BIG BREAKAWAY.

Sporting John jumped well when stretching his own unbeaten record at Ascot where he had Pipesmoker toiling in his wake. He relished the deep ground and looked better the further he travelled. Owner JP McManus had no hesitation in nominating this race for the Philip Hobbs-trained runner.

The Big Breakaway is the talking horse of the race and could be anything. He cost Colin Tizzard a king’s ransom and does everything in the style of a complete natural. That was evident when he dominated a Newbury novice hurdle and his trainer put the finishing touches on his prep with a visit to the local point-to-point course at Larkhill.

THE BIG GETAWAY is a name to conjure with for Willie Mullins and came home unchallenged at Naas. He made all on that occasion and may well adopt similar enterprising tactics.

EASYWORK ran into the smart Asterion Forlonge at Leopardstown and could get into the money while SHAKEM UP’ARRY is re-routed from the abandoned Imperial Cup and is far from being a no hoper.

Prediction

1st – THE BIG BREAKAWAY
2nd – Envoi Allen
3rd – Sporting John
4th – The Big Getaway
5th – Easywork
6th – Shakem Up’arry

RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

I doubt there are many with the natural ability of CHAMP, who has headed the market for this ever since prices were available. Named after Tony McCoy, he is not always slick over his fences and paid the penalty two out when set to score easily at Newbury. His supporters may have to endure the odd anxious moment, but if his jumping holds up he’ll be hard to beat.

The most improved horse in the field is COPPERHEAD whose Ascot defeat of Two For Gold reads particularly well. He took that three-miler by 17 lengths and showed a liking for the easy ground, while jumping with accuracy throughout. There’s no surprise that he’s been the main mover in market exchanges.

Henry De Bromhead fields MINELLA INDO who was a 50-1 shot when taking the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year. He’s looked good in his brief career over fences but ALLAHO is one to note from the Mullins academy, having been made plenty of use of when landing the odds at Fairyhouse in January. Another Irish raider to factor in is BATTLEOVERDOYEN who needs to regroup after falling when beaten at Leopardstown last month.

If there’s a joker in the pack that could be SLATE HOUSE, whose poor run in the Cotswold Chase here is best forgotten. He would have won the Bet365 Gold Cup but for a last fence fall.

Prediction

1st – CHAMP
2nd – Copperhead
3rd – Allaho
4th – Slate House
5th – Minella Indo
6th – Battleoverdoyen

Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Nicky Henderson delivered with William Henry in this 12 months ago and the trainer has no fewer than three of the leading contenders with BIRCHDALE, BURROWS EDGE and DAME DE COMPAGNIE.

The trio have logical individual claims but the dark one is Birchdale for whom a chasing campaign is on hold until next season. The 6yo was given rave reviews after his first two starts over hurdles only to pull up in the Albert Bartlett over three miles. He debuted over fences in the same Ascot race as stablemate Angel’s Breath but was beaten more than 30 lengths, bringing about a change of plan for the JP McManus-owned gelding.

Burrows Edge fell on his seasonal return over fences but then took advantage of other horses’ falls to run out a slightly lucky winner of the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton. He was actually staying on best when left in front and comes here a fresh horse.

The mare Dame De Compagnie landed some good bets over a slightly shorter trip here in December and has been kept on hold specifically for this. Her four and a half lengths verdict over Indefatigable was not only hugely impressive, but the second mare home has franked the form. If turning up here in the same form she has to be taken very seriously.

No fewer than 17 of the 28-strong field are trained in Ireland with the Mullins stable fielding seven. The best of these could be FRANCO DE PORT who with only four career starts under his belt has the look of a dark improver. There was certainly no disgrace in his defeat by Stormy Island at Naas and he is Paul Townend’s pick.

BLACK TEARS has solid form for Gordon Elliott and might prove the pick of a quarter from that man’s stable. Davy Russell takes the reins on a horse that has been a model of consistency this season.

Gavin Cromwell’s ALFA MIX should form part of the weave in your exotics having chased home a useful foe in Kilcenora at Navan.

Prediction

1st – DAME DE COMPAGNIE
2nd – Black Tears
3rd – Birchdale
4th – Burrows Edge
5th – Alfa Mix
6th – Franco De Port

Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)

In many ways the ‘Queen Mother’ has taken over the mantle from the Gold Cup of being the blue riband of the Festival, and if reigning champion ALTIOR shows up to engage with DEFI DU SEUIL and CHACON POUR SOI the Wednesday crowd are in for a thriller.

DEFI DU SEUIL seeks a third Festival triumph in different races, having previously landed the Triumph Hurdle and the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Trainer Philip Hobbs believes he’s just as good over two miles and especially when the ground is riding soft, and he hasn’t put a foot wrong this season, greatly impressing in Grade 1 triumphs at Sandown and Ascot.

It’s surprising that CHACON POUR SOI will be racing at Cheltenham for the first time, having looked an outstanding prospect when beating Defi Du Seuil at the Punchestown Festival last May before underlining his current well being with another Grade 1 victory at Leopardstown last month. His trainer Willie Mullins has surprisingly never won the Queen Mother Chase.

Paul Nicholls has been quiet in the early races at the meeting but puts up POLITOLOGUE and DYNAMITE DOLLARS of whom preference is for the latter. He has three and a half lengths to find with Altior on the Game Spirit form, but was returning from a lengthy absence that day and for a few strides looked to have the champ in trouble. If he progresses he can be involved.

Prediction

1st – DEFI DU SEUIL
2nd – Chacon Pour Soi
3rd – Dynamite Dollars
4th – Bun Doran

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Class 2) 11/03/2020

Hailing TIGER ROLL as a three times winner of this specialist race will be the highest hope of every Irishman in the Day 2 crowd and the Gordon Elliott-trained 8yo will start clear favourite and could be odds-on. His ultimate destiny lies three weeks ahead when he attempts to equal Red Rum’s record of becoming a triple Grand National winner. However the tenacious gelding will be looking to get the job done here, having pleased connections with a satisfactory comeback outing over hurdles at Navan where he moved menacingly until blowing up between the final two flights.

If anything beats Tiger Roll then it’s long odds on to be trained in France.

Enter the unbeaten EASYSLAND, who has turned into a winning machine for trainer David Cottin and has recently been purchased by JP McManus. Much of his form is at Pau, where the course and fences do not resemble Cheltenham’s, and there is a nagging fear that his jumping could be put under pressure in a way that hasn’t happened before.

But URGENT DE GREGAINE is another to afford serious consideration to, as he’s shown more than once an affinity for the Glenfarclas course. In fact he jumps and travels like a dream for Felix de Giles, and at around 11-1 with Hollywoodbets represents excellent Each Way value.

Prediction

1st – URGENT DE GREGAINE
2nd – Tiger Roll
3rd – Easysland
4th – Diesel D’Allier
5th – Yanworth

Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 11/03/2020

The relatively young juvenile handicap hurdle doesn’t have stand out contenders and will probably go to the horse that has suddenly taken a step forward. Those that come into that category might include MICK PASTOR, ARAMAX, PALLADIUM and RECENT REVELATIONS.

Gordon Elliott versus Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson is always a mouth-watering match up and Gordon fields the favourite in Aramax who had Recent Revelations eight lengths back at Naas but is now 6lb worse off.

Palladium is a keen goer for whom cut in the ground holds no fears. He was impressive in the way he came clear up the final hill at Sandown, and will encounter a similar situation at the end of this race.

Elliott has another with earning potential in TRONADOR as does Henderson with FRASER ISLAND, and Nicholls with THYME WHITE.

But looking at the way he’s stepped up in recent runs, RECENT REVELATIONS could be the answer.

Prediction

1st – RECENT REVELATIONS
2nd – Aramax
3rd – Palladium
4th – Mick Pastor
5th – Tronador
6th – Thyme White

Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 11/03/2020

THE weight of Irish money will be firmly behind hot favourite APPRECIATE IT and on recent evidence the Willie Mullins-trained gelding is the one to beat, having hacked up at the Leopardstown trials fixture.

Stablemate FERNY HOLLOW also carries a big home reputation and is probably better than his form figures indicate, not that there was anything wrong with the way he delivered at Fairyhouse the other day.

Ireland’s strong hand is cemented by QUEENS BROOK, on a hat-trick for Gordon Elliott with top amateur Jamie Codd in the irons. Heavy or soft ground wouldn’t bother the latter based on the manner of a clear cut Gowan Park win last month.

Of the home contingent David Pipe has a powerful twin spearhead comprising ISRAEL CHAMP and PANIC ATTACK. Israel Champ has a professional way of racing, as shown on his latest win at Ascot, while Panic Attack hosed up at Market Rasen and could be anything.

OCEAN WIND hails from a stable not renowned for its National Hunt horses but the way he won at Newbury suggests he could be a freak.

Prediction

1st – OCEAN WIND
2nd – Appreciate It
3rd – Panic Attack
4th – Ferny Hollow
5th – Queens Brook
6th – Israel Champ

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