By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22) and Luke Keena (@Lukekeena1)
Thursday’s card at Cheltenham looks so exciting with Frodon and Paisley Park looking to defend their crowns in the two big races.
Read Luke and Samantha’s Irish VS English take on the racing….
Marsh Novices Chase
Itchy Feet comes into the race in great form after winning both of his Chase starts. The latter was the grade one Scilly Isles, beating Midnight Shadow. He came third in last year’s Supreme so he has a great chance. I’m going to stay loyal to Reserve Tank. He comes good at this time of year as he won grade ones at Aintree and Punchestown last year. He was beaten on chase debut then won at Wincanton in a grade two. He was beaten last time and didn’t like the tacky ground. I’m worried he won’t like it again but it’s bad luck to change your mind. Mister Fisher won well here in December and then won a grade two at Doncaster. This is the most appropriate race for him. A mare won the Arkle and Annie Mc is no mug. She has won three in a row in lower races and has beaten some nice mares.
Five Irish runners head to post for this intriguing renewal of the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Many eyes will be drawn to the legend that is Faugheen. It’s amazing to think that this twelve year old has gone Novice chasing and proved to be top class. He just held on last time out at Leopardstown, winning the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase. He was out jumped by Battleoverdoyen on that occasion and put in some sketchy jumps. I think he will need to be on his A game to win. It would be a great story if he was to win.
I am torn between Faugheen and Samcro, two of my favourites. Samcro was impressive on chase debut at Down Royal winning by seventeen lengths. Next time out he came down two out when I thought he would have won. Fakir D’oudairies has since boosted the form, finishing a close second in the Arkle. Last time out he was slightly disappointing finishing so far behind Faugheen. The ground was heavy at Limerick. He will enjoy the quicker ground here. He has since had a wind operation which will hopefully see him improve again. If I had to side with one, I would just side with Samcro, this could be the race of the festival after the disappointment of the Champion Chase.
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle
Two leading English horses in this are Welsh Saint and Skandiburg. The latter hasn’t been seen for 71 days, beating Rapper and Kilbricken Storm at Cheltenham. He’s won half of his races from the Olly Murphy Yard. Welsh Saint’s only blip is falling at Huntingdon last May. He came second in a Listed on New Years Day and then won nicely at Haydock to beat Kilbricken Storm, Unowhatimeanharry and Guitar Pete. Kilbricken Storm won the Albert Bartlett under Harry Cobden, who rides again, but the horse has only won once since in a chase. JP McManus did insanely well on day two and the leading English horses of his are Sunset Showdown and Dream Berry. The latter came second last time off a long break but he’s yet to run in 2020. Sunset Showdown has won three races since June and came second in a hot handicap here in October. David Maxwell has a good ride on Jatilwih.
Eight Irish runners head to post for this extremely competitive handicap. The Irish have three of the top four in the market. One of those is last years winner, Sire Du Berlais who has top weight. He carries seven more pounds than last year and I think he may struggle. The Storyteller ran an eye catching race last time out in the qualifying race at Leopardstown. He is nine pounds lower rated over hurdles and has a good chance. I think the best handicapped horse in the race is Relegate. She ran a good reappearance at Punchestown last time out to finish fourth. Back in 2018 she was an impressive winner of the Champion Bumper beating a decent field. She then went Novice hurdling for Willie Mullins and was slightly disappointing. Her problem then was her jumping was very sketchy at times. Last time out she jumped the best I’ve seen her jump before. I think she has lots of talent and can go close.
In this small but select field, we have the first two from last year – Frodon and Aso. Frodon was an emotional winner of this but was, as a shock to some, beaten on seasonal bow. He then came third in the Betfair Chase and had an ideal prep in January for this. He loves it round Cheltenham. Aso came second in this last year and was then third in the Charlie Hall Chase. He underperformed at Huntingdon and was then fourth in the King George VI Chase. He was third as well in this in 2017 and has place claims. Saint Calvados ran well in two handicaps between coming last to Defi Du Seuil. I’m going to side with Riders Onthe Storm. I like this horse because of the bold, willing way he goes about his races. He won at Aintree and Ascot nicely before proving himself, at the latter track once again, in top company. Last time, he got Cyrname in trouble on tacky ground. He jumps superbly and I’m looking forward to see how good he really is!
This is between the Irish trained pair in my opinion, A Plus Tard and Min. I will side with the Henry De Bromhead trained A Plus Tard. He was impressive last time out when getting the better of Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown. While Chacun Pour Soi needed the run, he still showed lots of speed to lead over the last. He was very impressive last year at the festival when winning the Close Brother Novices Handicap over the same distance. While he is rated four pound inferior of Min, A Plus Tard is a six year old on the up. I think he will be hard to beat.
Paisley Park looks extremely hard to beat in this. He’s won seven in a row, including last year’s Stayers Hurdle, and won the Cleeve Hurdle, beating Summerville Boy, Lisnagar Oscar and Tobefair. Aidan Coleman is riding high after his Arkle victory and Emma Lavelle had a winner on Wednesday. Killian is a really big fan of Lisnagar Oscar and tipped him up on our Podcast as a placed horse. Emitom needed his seasonal debut but beat Donna’s Diamond eight lengths at Haydock last time with West Approach in behind. Summerville Boy won a Supreme so I’m not convinced he has the stamina for this. Tobefair would be a nice story for Deborah Hamer. This horse loves Cheltenham but was fourth to Paisley Park when last seen. L’Ami Serge hasn’t returned to his old form after an absence and Ask Dillon, Donna’s Diamond and West Approach are all big prices.
It is very hard to see Paisley Park being bet, but two horses I will take a chance on hitting the frame are Apple’s Jade and Ronald Pump. This looks like being Apple’s Jade swan song, as retirement looms. Prior to her win at Leopardstown she didn’t show much signs of a spark, but in first time cheekpieces at Leopardstown she ran them ragged from the front. She was then disappointing last time out at Gowran. First time blinkers are tried which will hopefully see her spark again. Richard Johnson is a perfect jockey booking, he will just let her roll in front and if she is on a going day she will outrun her odds.
Ronald Pump steps into unknown territory, as he runs in his first Grade 1 over hurdles. He has been improving at a rate of knots climbing the handicap of late. He put in a fantastic effort last time out to be bet at Leopardstown, giving the winner two stone and one pound. The winner has since won again. He will enjoy the strong pace to run at and I think he, like Apple’s Jade, will outrun his odds.
Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase
Last year’s winner Siruh Du Lac is number four and notched up a four timer last season but pulled up behind Happy Diva at this track in November. Happy Diva is one of two mares to note as she only went down a head to Lady Buttons and was fourth in a hot race at Ascot when last seen. The other is La Bague Au Roi. She won two grade ones in her novice campaign and didn’t run too badly at Leopardstown in the Irish Gold Cup, making her an interesting contender. Deyrann Du Carjac won at Huntingdon in May but then followed in RSA winner Champ and came third in a grade two. He’s intriguing. Nine year old Oldgrangewood has hit a rich vein of form at the minute. He’s won his last two, one at Newbury and the other in a grade three here at Cheltenham. He last ran off 147 in this race in 2018. Mister Whitaker has won at this festival before. I’m with Simply The Betts as he was very impressive and game last tien out to win here. He was two from three before that and finished third in the 2018 Supreme.
Simply The Betts looks like he will be hard to beat. Ben Dundee is the shortest price of the Irish but I wouldn’t be a fan if his. I will take a chance on Robin Des Foret. He always travels into his race strongly but struggles to get home. Since his last run he had a wind operation which I think will help him see out his races. He ran over course and distance in December, he looked to be traveling best before flattening out. He will travel well into the race and hopefully he can power up the hill in front at a good price.
Daylesford Mares Novice Hurdle
The Irish are very good in this and I’m actually siding with Minella Melody and Ard Abhainn, each way, who is part of my 20 To Watch. Nicky Henderson’s Floressa won a listed race at Newbury in November and then followed in Lady Buttons. Dan Skelton is good with his mares and has Emmas Joy, who won nicely by three lengths, beating Vienna Court, at Warwick. Rosie And Millie could be a bit big at 50/1. She’s a lovely, tenacious little mare and showed that when only going down a neck to a horse who ran in the Mares Hurdle. Vienna Court beat her at Ffos Las and her form is tied quite closely to the aforementioned fillies.
Minella Melody sets the standard here. She was impressive last time out beating some of these, giving away weight all round. She steps down to two miles over hurdles for the first time but I don’t think it will be a problem. She jumps and travels well and I don’t see the step down in trip being an issue. I think she will go very close for Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead.
Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Champagne Platinum has a notable jockey booking of Derek O’connor, who I think is excellent. This horse is yet to win over fences and came third in the Scilly Isles, which, if Itchy Feet wins earlier in the card, will be good form. One Style is right at the bottom of the weights and won a class three under today’s partner last time, as well as his four previous outings. Millie Wonnacott has a good relationship with Fingerontheswitch, who only went down a half length in the Sky Bet Chase and is very consistent. Bob Mahler won over three miles four at Musselburgh last time and The Young Master is a grand old servant but looks up against it at eleven years of age. I like Le Breuil under the talented Jamie Codd who won on day one. They liked this horse for the National and Codd gets on well with him. It doesn’t seem likely he’ll get in but he won the National Hunt Chase last season.
Six Irish runners head to post for this competitive handicap to end the day. At a big price, I will take a chance on Go Another One. He was third last time out at Cheltenham, behind subsequent Grade One winner, Slate House. Prior to that he was disappointing, beaten at odds on at Uttoxeter. Back in July he won his Beginners Chase at Clonmel, beating Plan Of Attack. The slight worry I have is that he hasn’t been seen since October. I think the extreme stamina test will suit and he can go close at a big price.