We got off to good start on day one of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, with Buveur D’Air bolting up at 11/2 in the Champion Hurdle and Apple’s Jade battling to victory in the Mares’ Hurdle at 4/1. We’re back on to day two, with six bets to get stuck into.
13.30 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
The first race on day two of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival is the Neptune, and it’s no surprise to see the market headed by NEON RIVER. A deeply impressive winner of a Grade 2 at Haydock on his last start, this extra distance looks perfect for him and he’s going to take a lot of beating. Chief market rival Bacardys won a Grade 1 last time at Leopardstown but the form of that race looks moderate after Bunk Off Early was well beaten in the Supreme. With none of the other contenders looking overly strong, Neon Wolf looks a strong bet at 2/1 to get the day off to a flyer.
14.10 RSA Novices’ Chase
An interesting RSA Chase can go the way of MIGHT BITE. He was about to put up a stunning display in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase before crashing out at the last, and with an easy spin round Doncaster subsequently he appears to be none the worse. This will be a much sterner test of stamina than Kempton but the way he powered through that race suggests stamina won’t be an issue. He’s a worthy favourite at 7/2 and can show his class and gain compensation for Kempton.
14.50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
It’s one of those days when the favourites are making ominous appeal, but it’s simply too hard to ignore the chance of TOMBSTONE here. He’s short enough at 11/2 given it’s a 26-runner handicap, but a mark of 149 is clearly very workable and it’s a significant move that connections go this route having looked set to supplement him for the Champion Hurdle. A good fourth in last year’s red-hot Supreme, this extra distance looks fine and everything is set for a big run.
15.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase
The Champion Chase is all about the brilliant Douvan, who will surely make it 14 wins from 14 with a third successive festival win. The rest of the field will be playing for places, but this one looks best to sit out and just appreciate Douvan.
16.10 Cross Country Chase
JP McManus looks to have a stranglehold on this race, with Cantlow looking very solid under the expert handling of Enda Bolger and dual festival winner Cause Of Causes surely primed for another big run, but we’re going for some value and taking a speculative punt on SAUSALITO SUNRISE at 16/1. Very smart in handicaps at his best, if he takes to this discipline he could run a big race for trainer Philip Hobbs who won this race in 2012 and 2014 with the great Balthazar King.
16.50 Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle
Always a tricky contest, the favourite Divin Bere makes obvious appeal given the form of his success at Huntingdon, where he edged out Master Blueyes who has subsequently bolted up on his next two starts and is prominent in the Triumph betting. That being said, 6/1 is short enough with so many unknown quantities in this race. At bigger odds of 16/1 PROSPECTUS looks interesting, with the significant booking of Ruby Walsh. Based on the Irish form, where he is two from three, a mark of 133 seems workable.
17.30 Champion Bumper
One of the most interesting races of the festival, the Champion Bumper is often a pointer to future stars. Favourite Carter McKay has been heavily backed on both starts, suggesting strong vibes from the Willie Mullins yard, and with stamina assured he will be tough to beat. One I like at a bigger price is FAYONAGH, with a little bit of 12/1 available. She was brilliant when bolting up by 20 lengths in a Fairyhouse listed contest and could be anything.
14.10 RSA Novices’ Chase — 1pt Might Bite 7/2
14.50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle — 1pt Tombstone 11/2
16.10 Cross Country Chase — 1pt Sausalito Sunrise 16/1
16.50 Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle — 1pt Prospectus 16/1
17.30 Champion Bumper — 1pt Fayonagh 12/1