Cheltenham Festival – Day 2 Preview
Read our latest Cheltenham Festival preview as we take a look at three key races from Day 2, including the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, Brown Advisory Chase, and feature race of the day – the Champion Chase.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Although this is a race that Ireland have dominated of late, there’s plenty to suggest that the Irish contingent might not be as strong as in recent years.
As impressive as Gaelic Warrior has been this season, he has been plying his trade at a lower level than this, and while he could easily prove to be a Grade 1 horse, you’d want to see him prove it at a higher level before getting involved at his current price.
Impaire Et Passe made a taking impression when winning the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer at Punchestown last month, and as a Grade 1 winner at the Dublin Racing Festival, Barry Connell’s Good Land is another who is entitled to plenty of respect. However, the more I look at the race, the more I believe the best horse is on this side of the Irish Sea.
HERMES ALLEN first appeared on people’s radar when winning a novice hurdle at Stratford by a whopping 27 lengths back in October, and he proved there was no fluke about that performance when following up in Graded company at Cheltenham a month later.
Sent off the 11/10 favourite for the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury, Hermes Allen put in a scintillating display once again to pull clear of some classy rivals and register another comfortable success. The form of the race could hardly be working out better, and with the promise of plenty more to come, this £350,000 purchase looks the one to side with in a division looking very thin on quality.
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
The Brown Advisory once again looks one of the more open of the Novice chases at the festival this year, with none of the contenders bringing any real standout form to the table.
Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe shot to the head of this market after staying on strongly to win the Scilly Isles at Sandown earlier this month. The way he went through that race suggested that this longer trip should see him in an even better light, but the balance of his form certainly doesn’t warrant him being 9/4 at this stage.
Thyme Hill is by far the most fancied of the British runners, but while his performance in the Kauto Star on Boxing Day was much more like it, he’s yet to fully convince his jumping is where it needs to be. His hurdles form proves he has the class, but taking into account that no nine-year-old has won this since 1992 makes him opposable.
Seven-year-olds are usually the ones to concentrate on here, and one that fits that profile is the very lightly-raced THE REAL WHACKER. Patrick Neville’s chaser is 2/2 so far over fences with both his wins coming here at Cheltenham, and his slick jumping and bold front running tactics could be a real asset here.
He’s been pretty much trained for this race since making a winning debut over this C&D back in November, and if connections have him primed for this as expected, then he could take some serious stopping. 5/1 about him looks a more than fair price, and I expect he’ll be a lot shorter on the day if arriving there in one piece.
While the Champion Chase is being billed as a head-to-head clash between Energumene and Edwarstone, there are more than enough question marks over both to suggest we should be looking elsewhere at the current prices.
Energumene has been the favourite for this all season, but a below-par effort in the rearranged Clarence House at Cheltenham last month has seen Alan King’s horse join him at the head of the market. Neither appeared to be at the top of their game at Cheltenham, and while they were beaten by a better horse on the day, I suspect at least one of them should be up to reversing the form with the reopposing Editeur Du Gite.
Gary Moore’s improving nine-year-old has certainly taken his form to a new level this season, and while he looks capable of putting up a bold showing once again, Editeur Du Gite makes limited appeal at his current price of 6/1.
The supposed Willie Mullins second-string GENTLEMAN DE DEE wouldn’t be one to hang your hat on, but on his day, he’s proven he’s an extremely talented horse. His hit and miss profile tempers enthusiasm slightly, but his defeat of Blue Lord at Leopardstown last time was arguably a career-best, and if he can back that performance up, then the 10/1 currently available looks a solid each-way bet.
Decent spring ground looks the key for this horse, so providing the dry weather continues, then he could be the dark horse in a race that could be much more open than people realise.
Lewis Knowles, Coral PR Executive