Cheltenham Festival Day Two Betting Tips – Wednesday 14th March 2018

Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival comes here on Day Two. A dose of added glamour in the stands to add to the high-class action on the track only enhances the spectacle for racegoers on the day. Overall, we think the Irish gents in attendance may have more reason than most to smile, as this looks a strong day for the raiders.

Should all the big guns turn up for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the second day’s feature event truly will be a race to savour. Barely a day seems to go by without doubts being cast on the participation of one or more of the contenders though, in what has been the most fraught of the week’s championship contests. Whilst the big race is one to tread carefully with, there looks to be a few excellent bets elsewhere on the card.

1:30 – Ballymore Novices´ Hurdle – Grade 1, 2m5f

Samcro to win at 8/11 with Ladbrokes

The Irish had taken this contest three times in succession between 2014 and 2016, but Ben Pauling’s Willoughby Court broke that trend in good style last year. If the home team are to go back to back, it is Tom George’s Black Op who seems most likely to get the job done. Looking in need of a longer run on his hurdling debut, he promptly bolted in by 17 lengths when stepped up to around this trip for his second outing. Beaten just three quarters of a length by Santini last time out, time may show that there is no shame in that. There was a yawning 28 length gap back to the third that day and this one looks solid to go well.

However, this race may very well be all about just the one horse. Gordon Elliott’s son of Germany, Samcro, has looked an absolute machine in his career to date, winning all six career starts in devastating style. A 15 length winner of his maiden hurdle, that distance was reduced to 12 lengths in a Grade 3 at Navan on his second outing over obstacles. They did get closer to him in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time, but Samcro still won as he liked coming home five and half lengths clear of his nearest pursuer. Proven on soft/heavy and spoken of in glowing terms by his handler - who knows a thing or two about a good horse - we don’t see him being beaten.

2:10 – RSA Insurance Chase – Grade 1, 3m110y

Presenting Percy to win at 5/2 with Coral

This looks set to be a cracker. Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton has been a revelation this season since being sent over a fence, winning eight of his 10 chase starts to date. A three time winner on soft and unbeaten in two over course and distance, he warmed up for this with an eight length front running romp at Ascot and looks sure to make a bold bid under Bryony Frost. Those looking for an each way bet could certainly do worse than taking the 7/1 on offer with Ladbrokes.

Overall though we suspect that Cheltenham specialist Patrick Kelly may strike again here with his talented seven year old, Presenting Percy. This one already has a Festival success to his name having powered clear in the Pertemps Final last season, and if anywhere near the leaders when coming to the hill, it will take a good one to repel him on the run in. A staying on second to Gold Cup contender Our Duke over a trip too short last time out will have set him up ideally for this and he can notch another Cheltenham success for Davy Russell.

2:50 – Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) – Grade 3, 2m5f

Voix Du Reve each way at 20/1 with Ladbrokes

Handicapping action up next with a maximum field of 26 set to go to post in this year’s Coral Cup. This tends to go to a younger unexposed performer, with eight of the past 10 editions falling to a runner aged seven or younger. This stat speaks against the current market leader for the race, Willie Mullins’ admirable globetrotting dual purpose performer, Max Dynamite. Last sighted finishing a close sixth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin, he undoubtedly possesses more than enough class to get involved here, although the heavy ground seems far from certain to suit.

The one to take a chance on here is another of the Mullins runners, Voix Du Reve. We do admittedly need to forgive him two poor runs this season, but he hasn’t been given a hard time once the bird had flown in those handicap contests at Leopardstown. If we go back to his only previous run here at Cheltenham, he would look to hold every chance. Arriving hard on the bridle in the closing stages of the 2016 Fred Winter, he looked all over the winner only to take a crashing fall at the final flight. That effort came off a mark of 139, and off just three pounds higher here, it is worth chancing that Mullins has him back to his best.

3:30 – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1, 2m

Min to win at 3/1 with BetVictor

Even at this late stage we still don’t know if the on again off again clash of Altior vs Douvan in this year’s Champion Chase will take place. The latest twists in this tale have seen the Ryanair touted as the more likely assignment for Douvan – although he has not been officially withdrawn from this yet – and Altior being reported as being lame in the morning just two days before the race.

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the reports of Altior’s ailments, and whilst he will be withdrawn if connections deem anything to be seriously amiss, it is nevertheless a far from ideal situation so close to the race. If he runs, this brilliant performer will be much the most likely winner, but its hard to recommend getting on at a short price as things stand.

Douvan’s possible defection to the Ryanair makes sense from the point of view of owner Rich Ricci. Already having Min lined up for this, Ricci will no doubt be keen to avoid seeing two of his star performers clashing if at all possible.

The one with the fewest questions to answer is Min. Two from two on heavy ground, he has work to do with Altior on their 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle clash, but does look a better animal over fences, and warmed up nicely for this with a 12 length win in the Coral Dublin Chase last time. Not a race for maximum stakes, but this Mullins runner looks the best option at the current prices.

4:10 – Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country Chase) – 3m6f

Josies Orders each way at 6/1 with Ladbrokes

Gordon Elliott’s Cause Of Cause’s is a tough horse to oppose at the Festival having come home in front in three different races here in the past three years. Each of those wins have however come on good to soft or better ground. His record at Cheltenham on soft or worse going stands at 0 from 2, albeit over a trip too short on each occasion. Whilst we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win, he looks short enough at the prices.

We prefer an each way bet on the 2016 winner of the race, Josies Orders. This one’s wellbeing looks assured following a fine short head second to stablemate Auvergnat over three miles on heavy ground last time out. He gets a two pound pull in the weights with that rival here – seven pounds when factoring in the claim of Auvergnat’s jockey that day – and the step back up to this trip seems sure to be in his favour.

4:50 – Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3, 2m110y

Embole each way at 20/1 with Betfair

This has proven to be one of the toughest festival events to predict in recent times, with five of the past six winners returning an SP of 25/1 or greater. Bearing that in mind it seems sensible to go for an each way punt in a contest full to the brim with unexposed four year olds.

Wind surgeries and their declarations have been some of the big running stories this season, with many in the know keen to point out that they don’t always work. More information rather than less is always a good thing in our book though, and sometimes the various wind procedures do produce a marked improvement in a horse’s performance.

One who certainly does seem to have felt the benefit is Dan Skelton’s Embole. Stuffed by 36 lengths two outings ago, he went under the knife prior to his latest start at Wincanton and went on to win by seven lengths in a hack canter. Skelton won that Wincanton race with Zarib in 2015 who went on to finish sixth in this. We will be backing Embole to go at least a couple of places better than that this year.

5:30 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper – Grade 1, 2m110y

Rhinestone each way at 9/1 with Bet365

Willie Mullins’ Blackbow and Joseph O’Brien’s Rhinestone ran first and second in what looked a good bumper at Leopardstown last time out, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the pair involved in the finish again here. Hailing from such a powerful operation, it is no surprise that it is Blackbow who heads the betting. Whilst the jolly is greatly respected, an each way punt on Rhinestone looks the slightly better option.

Prior to that soft ground defeat to Blackbow, Rhinestone had trotted up by 19 lengths in a heavy ground contest at Thurles, so he at least seems likely to cope well should conditions remain as they are. Gaining ground on Blackbow approaching the line last time, in what will likely be a stiff test at the trip we can see this JP McManus runner turning the tables.