Day two produced another two winners, with Might Bite winning at 7/2 despite nearly throwing it away and Fayonagh putting in a remarkable display to land our 12/1 bet in the Champion Bumper. Sadly Neon Wolf just failed to deliver the strongest bet of the day but we’re in a good position rolling into day three.
13.30 JLT Novices’ Chase
An intriguing start to the day where Yorkhill is a hot favourite and Willie Mullins will be hoping he can finally get a winner on the board. He hasn’t looked quite that convincing over fences, and with Mullins not firing I’m inclined to look elsewhere. TOP NOTCH has looked good over fences, notching up four wins and a Grade 1 most recently, and looks a solid shout at 4/1 if Yorkhill fails to deliver.
14.10 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
A very tricky affair and it’s hard to be overly confident with any of the runners, but the progressive IMPULSIVE STAR looks worthy of some interest at 9/1. He’s clearly held in high regard, having been pitched in to Grade 2 level on just his second start over fences. He wasn’t good enough that day, but he’s recorded two easy wins since, the latter in handicap company off a mark of 130, and a 10lb rise in the weights is unlikely to stop him progressing further in just his fifth run over hurdles.
14.50 Ryanair Chase
Un De Sceaux is a high class chaser and has to be respected, but for me he’s best over 2miles on soft ground, whereas this 2m4f on good-good to soft ground that only seems to be drying out. Given that Willie Mullins has yet to land a winner (this admittedly could change with Yorkhill in the JLT) Un De Sceaux is overlooked and a chance is taken on UXIZANDRE to land this race again after winning it in 2015. He shaped with plenty of promise behind Un De Sceaux in January when returning to the track for the first time since that festival success (688 day absence) and if he doesn’t bounce he looks set to run a massive race. With a great record at the track he looks worth chancing at 4/1.
15.30 Stayers’ Hurdle
Day two proved there’s no such thing as a banker, however it’s incredibly hard to get away from UNOWHATIMEANHARRY. Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner has made huge progress this season to continue his winning streak and whilst he may be on the short side, he fully deserves to be. He loves the track, goes on any ground and has the brilliant Noel Fehily on board. I’m happy to take the 6/4 and with the bookies doing relatively well so far here’s hoping they decide to take him on and push out his odds.
16.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase
Diamond King, a winner at last year’s festival, looks to have a very strong chance of adding another festival win for the red-hot Gordon Elliott but odds of 5/1 are skinny for a 24-runner handicap chase. Prominent horses have fared well here so far and a chance is taken on the top weight VILLAGE VIC at 16/1. A Cheltenham specialist, he has produced three fine efforts at the track this season and looks to be right on his game. There are likely to be better handicapped horses in the field but with a brilliant Cheltenham record he can go close if Richard Johnson can get him rolling from the front.
16.50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Let’s Dance is understandably popular here but odds of 7/4 are on the short side and it’s no surprise to see her weakening in the betting. She was an easy winner of a Grade 2 last time and the runner-up Kemboy ran creditably in the Neptune, but the form isn’t spectacular by any means. Stablemate Airlie Beach is interesting after a six-length Grade 1 win last time, but the Irish form seems muddling at best. I’ve been a big fan of LA BAGUE AU ROI since her debut and she has looked better this season with three convincing wins from three starts over hurdles. I suspect she’d be better over further than 2m but she doesn’t lack speed and finds lots for pressure, and she has to be backed at odds of 10/1.
17.30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Another race with a leading Gordon Elliott fancy, and there’s no doubting that Squouateur is on a good mark but there is a big question over his stamina, having raced just once beyond 2m4f when racing over 3m at Aintree. An extra 2f and the Cheltenham track will expose any issues with stamina and there’s others that make more appeal. A chance is taken on the lightly raced PREMIER BOND at 16/1. He looks an out and out stayer, needing every last yard on his latest start at Doncaster but ultimately looking to have a bit in hand at the line. The extra distance here will only be a positive and whilst he’s far from a handicap blot there’s a strong chance he’s better than a mark of 137.
14.10 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle — 1pt Impulsive Star 9/1
14.50 Ryanair Chase — 1pt Uxizandre 4/1
15.30 Stayers’ Hurdle — 3pts Unowhatimeanharry 6/4
16.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate — 1pt Village Vic 16/1
16.50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle — 1pt La Bague Au Roi 10/1
17.30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup — 1pt Premier Bond 16/1