As expected, the going was changed to soft on the opening day of the Festival after rain arrived at Cheltenham. Strong winds from Storm Gareth are the chief concern for Wednesday with a precautionary inspection called for 8am. Provisional plans have been put in place for an extra day on Saturday in the event of Wednesday’s card falling to the weather.
1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle ITV
The action on day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival begins with Champ carrying British hopes against a strong Irish challenge. Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old has won all four starts this season, most recently beating Getaway Trump in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury. That form does not look quite so impressive after the runner-up was beaten at Kelso.
Battleoverdoyen beat Sams Profile at Naas in January, although the third and fourth were well beaten in a Grade 1 next time. City Island has won at Leopardstown and Naas in good style for Martin Brassil and Mark Walsh. Easy Game looks over priced from the Mullins stable at around 20-1 and Bright Forecast is another outsider with each-way claims.
Tip: CITY ISLAND looks a progressive gelding and could represent the value bet in a race that looks every bit as tricky as Tuesday’s Supreme Hurdle.
2.10 RSA Novices’ Chase ITV
The build-up to this race has not gone smoothly for Santini with his participation being in doubt during the past week. He made a pleasing chasing debut with a victory at Newbury before finishing third to La Bague Au Roi at Kempton on Boxing Day. Topofthegame finished runner-up that day for Paul Nicholls and is seeking his first win over the larger obstacles.
Delta Work is the favourite, an impressive Grade 1 winner at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse. He beat Le Richebourg in December and that horse would have been a leading Festival fancy but for picking up an injury.
Tip: DELTA WORK is given the vote in a year when the British-trained novices do not look exceptional.
2.50 Coral Cup ITV
Uradel is the ante-post favourite, a horse that has often features in these big staying handicaps. He was second in the Cesarewitch in October and a close fifth in the Ladbrokes Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.
Brio Conti sprang a 25-1 shock at Ascot last time with subsequent Imperial Cup winner Malaya back in fourth place. He cut through the pack in the style of a good horse that day and a 5lbs rise in the weights may not be enough to prevent a follow up. Erick Le Rouge is as game as they come and twice a winner at Kempton in recent weeks. He has only gone up 3lbs but he will need all his battling qualities on this course.
Tip: BRIO CONTI is tipped to show that his Ascot victory was no fluke. Uradel is feared most but there may not a great deal of value left in his current odds.
3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase ITV
Altior bids for a fourth consecutive Festival victory and defends a perfect 12/12 record over fences. Official ratings put him 8lbs clear of Min and 9lbs ahead of Politologue here. Willie Mullins had several options and Min appears to have drawn the short straw. He would have been among the favourites in the Ryanair. Ruby Walsh will not want to get into a battle with Altior until late in the race and an interesting tactical battle could develop.
Tip: ALTIOR cannot be opposed with Min expected to chase him home.
4.10 Glenfarclas Chase ITV
All eyes will be on Grand National winner Tiger Roll as he bids to chalk up yet another famous victory. His is a remarkable story, winning the 2014 Triumph Hurdle and proving that he is still sharp enough to win a Grade 2 over hurdles at Navan last month.
Auvergnat and Josies Orders will make sure he does not have things all his own way. Josie’s Orders is a four times course and distance winner and is fresh from a win at Punchestown. He was only sixth to Tiger Roll 12 months’ ago and has also been beaten twice by Fact Of The Matter here. The latter has had wind surgery since his latest victory here in December.
Auvergnat was transformed by blinkers at Leopardstown when winning the Paddy Power Chase at 28-1. He has nearly 20 lengths to make up on last year’s form.
Tip: TIGER ROLL surprised connections with his impressive win over hurdles. He is preferred to Auvergnat who rates the main danger.