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2016 Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Tips – best bets for the Wednesday action at Prestbury Park

There are seven thrilling races on Ladies' Day including the Queen Mother Champion Chase


What are the best bets for Ladies' Day at the Cheltenham Festival?

Our racing guru has run the rule over the seven races that comprise Ladies’ Day on the Wednesday of the Cheltenham Festival.

13:30 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, 2m5f

Last year’s 1-2-3: Windsor Park (9/2), Parlour Games (13/2), Nichols Canyon (7/2) – 10 ran.

Who’s favourite?
This race houses the shortest-priced favourite of the entire meeting (with most firms) and many people’s idea of a banker bet in the shape of the Alan King-trained Yanworth, who arrives here unbeaten in four hurdle starts. A smart bumper performer who was good enough to finish fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper, giving him that all-important festival form, and he was most impressive when dismissing some smart rivals out of sight on Trials Day here over 2m41/2f. The seven-length second Shantou Village was previously unbeaten and is favourite for the Albert Bartlett and the fourth, Chef D’Ouevre, has won since, so the form is rock-solid, albeit the winning time was very slow. There were question marks over his stamina before the race but he was strong up the hill on testing ground and he seems to stay well. It will take a good one to lower his colours. Top price: 5/4 Paddy Power (NRNB).

Who else is fancied?
It was 7/1 bar the favourite a couple of days ago but an 11th hour change of heart from Willie Mullins has seen his Yorkhill switch to this contest from the shorter Supreme, and he’s now no bigger than 9/4. Unbeaten in four starts under Rules, the six-year-old has shown plenty of gears over the minimum trip, including when winning a strong Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle when last seen, but he showed he stayed further when winning his maiden hurdle over 2m4f. The fact connections have opted to take on the ‘supposed’ banker Yanworth indicates he must have been working like a dream in the run-up.

Mullins is leaving nothing to chance, though, as he is also represented by A Toi Phil and he clearly has an engine too judged on his impressive success in a 2m4f Leopardstown Grade 2 last time. He was given a very positive ride by Bryaan Cooper on that occasion and, with stamina beyond question (he’d probably get 3m) I’d expect something similar here.

And the rest?
Willie Mullins Bleu Et Rouge, and Thomas Hobson, but of more interest is Nicky Henderson’s O O Seven, who was no match for Yorkhill in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown but has since won over 3m at Musselburgh. He looks an each-way player.

Trainer quote: “He’s a very exciting horse. I’m convinced he’ll be better still on quicker ground and would be one of the value bets among our team. You certainly haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Best bookie offer?
Sky Bet are refunding all losing bets on this race as a free bet up to £25, so you can bet with some confidence, and Paddy Power are refunding losing stakes on the second horse home in the same way.

What’s the verdict?
The race surrounds the fate of Yanworth and he is the most likely winner, though I’m taking him on and not just because he’s a very short price (a good enough reason). For one he will be racing on faster ground than he’s used to – he was beaten on good ground at last year’s festival – and the way this race is run may not suit. It’s conventionally a slow-early/fast-late race and he looks ripe for getting done for a turn of foot up the hill. Well, that’s the theory. I was all set to take him on (each-way) with A Toi Phil but Mullins has thrown the cat among the pigeons by declaring YORKHILL and, while his price has since crashed (understandably) he can justify the strong market confidence and give his unstoppable trainer another festival winner.

SELECTION: Yorkhill @ 9/4 Sky Bet (money back if he loses)

14:10 RSA Steeple Chase, 3m1/2f

Last year’s 1-2-3: Don Poli (13/8f), Southfield Theatre (13/2), Wounded Warrior (12/1) – 8 ran.

Who’s favourite?
The ante post betting has long revolved around the Gordon Elliott-trained No More Heroes, who has done nothing wrong this season in winning his three chase starts and his easy nine-length beating of Rule The World at Leopardstown in December is arguably the best piece of form on offer. Prior to that, he’d accounted for Monksland in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse and, while he’s done all his winning on very soft ground, he is bred to be even better on a sound surface. Top price: 5/2 Betway (9/4 bet365 NRNB).

Who else is fancied?
The horse for money in the last week or so has been Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That and he is now disputing favouritism with some firms. He couldn’t have been more impressive when beating Annie Power in the World Hurdle two seasons ago and promises to be just as good over fences judged on his two novice wins at Cheltenham this term. The form is nothing special but his canny trainer has a knack of getting horses to peak at the festival and the best is – as they say – to come.

And the rest?
Since coming to grief at the Open meeting here (going best at the time), Blaklion has really got his act together over fences, making amends for his previous fall when winning over 3m11/2f at the track in December and producing a career-best effort to land a Grade 2 at Wetherby last time. That tuned out to be a real slog in the mud, though, and it remains to be seen how much it has taken out of him. He loves the mud so drying ground would be a negative.

Blaklion finished behind Seeyouatmidnight in the Dipper Novices’ Chase over 2m5f here on New Year’s Day and that horse went on to land a hat-trick over fences with a penalty kick (1/8 favourite) at Kelso in February. He’s another who has done all his winning on soft ground but his trainer Sandy Thomson is adamant he’ll cope with a faster surface. A real natural over fences, he won’t be far away.

This is a deep contest and several others are worthy of a mention, most notably Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc, who would surely have finished an honourable second in last season’s Neptune had he not made a complete mess of the last, before going on to chase home Thistlecrack at Aintree. That’s seriously good form and he showed what he could do over fences when stepped up to 3m in the Reynoldstown (a key trial) at Ascot. The form of that Grade 2 needs treating with some caution, though, as the two market leaders took each other on early and the winner was left to pick up the pieces.

Black Hercules could be Willie Mullins’ main representative, having been switched from the 4m National Hunt Chase (for which he was favourite), and he needs respecting, though he finished a well beaten seventh in last season’s Albert Bartlett and made an unforced error when falling at the last in his prep race – last-time fallers rarely win the RSA.

Trainer quote: “ I just like the way he jumps and tackles the whole thing. He always has a flat spot in the middle of a race, he used to over hurdles and he was a good hurdler too. He was fourth in the Neptune where he landed on all fours at the last. He is getting it together now.” – Nicky Henderson after Vyta Du Roc’s Reynoldstown win.

Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing stakes on the second horse home as a free bet up to £25.

What’s the verdict?
Clearly, the front two are the ones to beat but I simply can’t get involved at current odds and I’ll be amazed if they don’t drift to around 3/1 on the day given the strength of the opposition. I’d just be favouring No More Heroes over More Of That, whose fencing has not exactly been snappy, but faster ground is a worry for the Elliott horse and he looked quite slow when third in last season’s Albert Bartlett. Let’s take them both on with VYTA DU ROC, who should be suited to the way this race is run and will be staying on better than most (he’s still in the four-miler). Drying ground is another positive. I can forgive Paddy Power going one fifth the odds on this race (several are 1/4) given their free bet offer and ‘non-runner no-bet’ concession.

SELECTION: Vyta Du Roc each-way @ 12/1 Paddy Power NRNB & money back if 2nd

15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase, 2m

Last year’s 1-2-3: Dodging Bullets (9/2), Somersby (33/1), Special Tiara (18/1) – 9 ran.

Who’s favourite?
Last year’s Arkle Trophy winner Un De Sceaux is set to go off as the shortest-priced jolly over the four days and deservedly so. Willie Mullins’ star two-miler barely touched a twig when winning here 12 months ago, making most for a six-length victory over God’s Own, and he’s looked just as good if not better this term, with his defeat of Sire De Grugy in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January by far the most persuasive piece of two-mile form on offer. That took his career record to 14 wins from 16 starts (5-7 over fences) and his only defeats have come as a result of falls when in command on very testing ground and on his seasonal reappearance. With a clear round here, he is surely going to be hard to catch from the front. Top price: 8/11 William Hill (NRNB).

Who can stop him?
The last three winners of this race – Dodging Bullets, Sire De Grugy (2014) and Sprinter Sacre (2013) – are all back for another crack and they pretty much fill the next three places in the betting. But the question for punters is: are they as good now as when they won it? Probably not, although it’s expecting a lot of Sprinter Sacre to reach the same dizzy heights of his 2012-13 season when he won four other Grade 1s in addition to this race. He’s not been quite the same horse since but his 14-length defeat of Somersby at Cheltenham in November was more like it and sparked emotional scenes, and his renaissance continued with a narrow defeat of a rejuvenated Sire De Grugy at Kempton when last in action over Christmas. Should he come down to the last travelling well and upsides Un De Sceaux, we are all in for a treat in what is traditionally one of the most exciting races at the festival.

Sire De Grugy is only marginally less popular and few would begrudge his trainer Gary Moore a festival winner after some terrible luck with his injured stars, but even the ten-year-old’s most ardent fans would agree he’s up against it, having seen the backside of Sprinter Sacre and Un De Sceaux on his last two starts. He will be run his race, nonetheless, and he has less questions to answer than the defending champion, who was soundly thrashed in his prep at Newbury and needs to find at least a stone on that showing.

And the rest?
The competition for the places looks strong but last year’s third Special Tiara, Felix Younger, a stablemate of the favourite and seemingly still on the upgrade at the age of ten, and Sizing Granite, who had Arkle runner-up God’s Own behind when landing a Grade 1 novice at Aintree last April, could all have a say. Realistically, though, they need career-best efforts to stand any chance of being called champion chaser.

Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing bets on the second as a free bet up to £25, which is useful to know if you intend taking on the red-hot favourite. Read on…

Jockey quote: “He’s done all his work and he schooled fantastic last week, so we’re now just keeping a lid on him and hoping he gets there in one piece. It’s very hard to gauge him unless he’s on the track, but he looks fantastic in his coat and seems to have that presence back. He’s also got that fantastic top line again, which he seemed to lose last year.” – Nico de Boinville on Sprinter Sacre.

What’s the verdict?
It’s easy to say Un De Sceaux will win and move on – there are better bets elsewhere over the four days. However, the more I think about it the more I’m inclined to take him on for the simple reason he has very little in hand over his rivals on what he’s actually achieved. Yes, he was impressive in last year’s Arkle but the form is nothing special and I’m sure the winner of this will be more than six lengths ahead of God’s Own. That he travels with so much zest has already seen him hit the deck twice and if he does hit one in this race it could be curtains. Besides, even if does get round I can see SPRINTER SACRE giving him a race and, while there may be a smidgeon of sentimentality involved in making him my selection, we are nicely covered by Paddy Power’s ‘money back’ offer should he come up just short. Felix Younger (16/1 Sky Bet) makes most appeal of those at each-way prices.

SELECTION: Sprinter Sacre @ 9/2 Paddy Power NRNB & money back if 2nd

16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase, 3m6f (Cross-Country Course)

Last year’s 1-2-3: Rivage D’or, Any Currency (7/1), Uncle Junior (20/1) – 16 ran.

Who’s favourite?
Enda Bolger landed four of the first five runnings of this race after its inception in 2005 and he has a favourite’s chance of ending his six-year drought with Josies Orders, who has won both his starts over this unique track this season. The eight-year-old beat last year’s second Any Currency at the November meeting and followed up the following month when getting the better of Sire Collonges by two lengths, despite being carried left by that horse at the last. He was well beaten on his next start over hurdles at Navan but that result is almost irrelevant in the context of this race and, still unexposed in these type of races, he’s a worthy market leader. Top price: 5/2 general.

Who else is fancied?
The aforementioned Any Currency and Sire Collonges should again run their races but the biggest challenge to the favourite may come from
Balthazar King. A dual winner of this contest (2012 & 2014), he has not been seen out since crashing out in last season’s Grand National, when sustaining a life-threatening injury, but the now 12-year-old goes well fresh and will appreciate the drying ground.

And the rest?
Quantativeeasing is a course regular and did best in this race when finishing runner-up (albeit a distant one) in 2014, though he would surely have gone close to winning 12 months ago had he not been carried out when poised to challenge and going strongly after two out. He gives Enda Bolger a solid second-string. Ballyboker Bridge finished third behind Josies Orders in November and has since won over the banks at Punchestown, so he should again be on the premises on his favoured ground.

Trainer quote: “He will be a completely different horse on good ground, so Im hoping for a nice surface at Cheltenham. If it turns up like that, I think 12/1 is a big price.” – Peter Maher on Ballyboker Bridge.

Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing bets on the second horse home as a free bet up to £25.

What’s the verdict?
This a real Marmite race for punters and I’m no fan of it as a betting medium. However, the opportunity to say you’ve backed a festival winner (any winner will do!) is a strong lure and, while Josies Orders is the most likely winner barring any mishaps, a small each-way punt on BALLYBOKER BRIDGE could pay dividends.

SELECTION: Ballyboker Bridge each-way @ 14/1 Boylesports (1/4 odds, 1.2.3) Best Odds Guaranteed & money back if 2nd or 3rd to SP favourite

16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, 2m1/2f

Last year’s 1-2-3-4: Qualando (25/1), Bouvreuil (14/1), The Saint James (33/1), Starchitect (16/1) – 22 ran.

Who’s favourite?
Paul Nicholls won last year’s Coral Cup with a French import on his stable / British debut and he’s attempting to repeat the trick in this contest with Diego Du Charmil, who had three runs on native soil and produced his best effort when second in a conditions hurdle at Enghien when last seen in November. He’s no doubt been well schooled by the champion trainer, who has won this twice in the last decade, but any value has surely now gone. Top price: 5/1 bet365.

Who else is fancied?
Gordon Elliott’s Campeador is another interesting French import and he was a fair fourth in a Leopardstown Grade 2 on his Irish debut back in December, despite running far too keen. He’s not been seen out since due a ‘little hold-up’ after Christmas but he’s reportedly working well at home and has attracted some shrewd money in recent weeks.

And the rest?
This race has become a bookies’ benefit – winners at 25/1 (twice), 33/1 and 40/1 in the last four runnings – so it’s easy to look past the front two for some value. As five of the last 10 winners were French-bred, that is perhaps the best place to look and both Messire Des Obeaux and Voix Du Reve have shown promise on their solitary starts for Alan King and Willie Mullins respectively since leaving Gallic waters.

One French bred who has yet to cross the English Channel is Le Curieux who will provide Francois Nicolle with his first Cheltenham runner. The trainer is not just coming over for the craic either as his four-year-old has shown some smart form at Auteuil, most recently finishing fourth in a Listed contest, and has been schooling over some Brtitish-style hurdles at Maisons-Laffitte. Leading owner JP McManus (who already has Campeador running in his colours) must have seen something in him as he bought him up recently and that saw his 33/1 price tag halve.

Others worthy of some respect are Ardamir, Missy Tata and Jaleo, but don’t be too surprised if the winner hasn’t been mentioned here.

Trainer quote: “He jumped well at Maisons-Laffitte and wasn’t hesitant. He’s a big horse with a long stride and my sole worry would be if he were to be caught for a little speed, but he’s tough and experienced.” – Francois Nicolle on Le Curieux.

Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing stakes on the second horse home as a free bet, while Boylesports are refunding stakes in the same way if your horse finishes second to the SP favourite.

What’s the verdict?
Having flagged up the chances LE CURIEUX on these pages a while back and had a little on each-way at 33/1, I’m, not going to desert him now. He’s still value at 16/1 and especially when you consider he has the beating of the current favourite Diego Du Charmil on collateral French form – it pays to do your homework!

SELECTION: Le Curieux each-way @ 16/1 bet365 NRNB & Best Odds Guaranteed

17:15 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A Standard Open NH Flat Race), 2m1/2f

Last year’s 1-2-3: Moon Racer (9/2), Modus (33/1), Wait For Me (9/1) – 23 ran.

Who’s favourite?
Moon Racer stopped the rot for punters when obliging as favourite (9/2) 12 months ago, following a run of five consecutive double-figure priced winners, with the Pipe horse leading a British clean sweep of the first four places. That also made it three winners apiece for Britain and Ireland in the last six years in a race the Irish have traditionally dominated and the home team looks strong this time around. Ballyandy leads the way and he’s also one of the most experience in the field, having run in four bumpers, winning three of them, and he was very impressive when defying a penalty at Newbury last time. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies considers him “very special and he looks a worthy favourite. Top price: 6/1 bet365 NRNB Best Odds Guaranteed.

Who else is fancied?
The list of challengers with legitimate claims is a lengthy one but the Willie Mullins-trained Augusta Kate is a good place to start. One of two mares in the race (so in receipt of the 7lb allowance) , she has won both her bumper starts by an aggregate margin of 30 lengths, with the second of them coming in a Listed event at Navan where she thrashed Cashelard Lady, who has advertised the form since. Mullins isn’t prone to hyperbole and on the odd occasion he does talk one up – as with Douvan last season – he’s normally proved right, so the fact he describes this daughter of Featherd Lady as an “extraordinary mare” is praise indeed.

And the rest?
Mullins can also call upon Avenir D’Une Vie, who could be a rare Champion Bumper runner for Gigginstown House Stud, Bacardys, Battleford, Castello Sforza, Turcagua and Very Much So in his bid to break his own record of eight previous winners. They all have winning bumper form and the trainer has won this previously with second, third and fourth-strings, so I’m not ruling any out here.

But the Irish challenge is not all about Mullins and the unbeaten New To This Town looks a big player and is third favourite in most lists. His trainer Jessica Harrington, who won the 2007 version of this race with Cork All Star, has won six bumpers in Ireland this season and this fellow has won two of them. The form couldn’t have worked out better with the vanquished horses Articulum and Avenir D’Une Vie winning three races between them subsequently, and there should be more to come from the strapping son of Milan, who was recently sold to Alan and Ann Potts.

Trainer quote: “He’s a very exciting young horse and has been brought to run in the bumper, so that’s where he will go unless something happens between now and then. He’s in great form and I couldn’t be more happier with him.” – Jessica Harrington on New To This Town.

Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing bets on the second horse home as a free bet (up to £25); it’s just a shame they are offering place terms of one fifth the odds.

What’s the verdict?
Apart from last year, the winner is getting harder to find and you wouldn’t rule out another big-priced winner. That said, the front three in the market look particularly strong and, while it’s tough to choose between them, I’m coming down on the side of NEW TO THIS TOWN. Everything he has done so far suggests the best is yet to come and it’s hard to find another runner whose form has worked out better than his. He shouldn’t be adverse to some better ground either.

SELECTION: New To This Town each way @ 10/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 1.2.3) NRNB, Best Odds Guaranteed & Channel 4/1 Offer

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