We’ve reached half-way in the Cheltenham Festival, two days down and two more to come. The action switches to New Course on Thursday with the Stayers’ Hurdle being the feature contest. Here are our day three picks.
JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30) – Voix De Reve @ 10/1
Given that Ruby Walsh sat out the Arkle on Tuesday (Willie Mullins had the winner), I’m happy to take it as a major positive that he sits on Voix De Reve in this novices’ chase. Mullins is bidding to win this contest for the fifth time in eight years and his stable jockey goes here over Real Steel, impressive winner of his last two starts. Voix De Reve was upside Le Richebourg when he fell at the last in the Irish Arkle and he’s fancied to continue an excellent record for the stable by fending off a strong British challenge made up of Defi Du Seuil, Lostintranslation and Vinndication.
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10) – Coole Cody @ 40/1
Devilishly tough fare to sort out here, Davy Russell has partnered the last three winners and, incredibly, has no ride this time around! Coole Cody will be up on the front end somewhere for most of the journey and comes here on the back of a career-best performance in his Sandown win. He’s up 5lb but was a winner over 2m5f (soft) on his only previous Cheltenham start. He should give value for money.
Ryanair Chase (2.50) – Footpad @ 7/2
This has great prospects of being one of the best races of the meeting. A high-class field sees Cheltenham specialists Frodon and Un De Sceaux, winner and second in this the last two years, join last year’s Gold Cup third Road To Respect and RSA second Monalee, whose stalemate Balko Des Flos is back to defend his crown! They might all struggle if Footpad is back to his best. He is the class act and the judgement of Willie Mullins must be trusted in stepping him up in trip having swerved Altior yesterday. Mullins and Walsh are fair game for a third Ryanair win in four years.
Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30) – Kilbricken Storm @ 12/1
Paisley Park is both the form choice and the emotional one, given the story it would for his owner. This is his big test and the presence of Faugheen is a huge threat, though ‘The Machine’ will have to buck the trends to win aged 11. This race is plenty deeper than the front two in the betting and last year’s Albert Bartlett winner Kilbricken Storm is a decent shout in his attempt to emulate Penhill by graduating from novice to Championship winner in 12 months.
Brown Advisory Handicap Chase (4.10) – Spiritofthegames @ 8/1
The Skelton’s were the fortunate beneficiaries when Benie Des Dieux crashed out on Tuesday. They have a leading contender for a second Festival winner of the week here in Spiritofthegames. He ran a fine race over C&D in January behind Kildisart (runs in the JLT earlier) and is open to more progress on just his third start over fences. Rated just a pound higher, he’s amongst the more likely contenders in this handicap.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (4.50) – Sinoria @ 8/1
Willie Mullins has bossed this, with 3-3 so far, and he fires an array of challengers now. He doesn’t have the favourite though, as the prodigious Nicky Henderson-trained Epatante gets that honour. She’s won her first two for Seven Barrows hard held and could be absolutely anything. Sinoria has also been progressive for Henry De Bromhead and might be up to giving Rachel Blackmore another Cheltenham winner. She beat a next-time-out Grade 1-winning gelding for her last success in Ireland and is a solid each-way player in a race that has plenty depth to it and won’t be straightforward for the jolly.
Kim Muir Handicap Chase (5.30) – It’s All Guesswork @ 11/1
Gordon Elliott has a strong hand in the finale, with two excellent chances. Jamie Codd bids to win the closing race for the third straight day, and Measureofmydreams could see him do it, though the market has identified his chance. Stablemate It’s All Guesswork was going well he fell in the Munster National in the autumn and, with a recent spin over hurdles to boost his fitness, is interesting here.
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