AFTER a solid Day 1, it's back to the form study for Day 2. The Neptune Novices Hurdle gets things up and running. Chris Graham and The Voice Of Value explore the odds.
Cheltenham 13:30 | Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle | Channel 4
This looks a really competitive betting heat with a clutch of horses separated at the top of the betting by just two or three points. At the time of writing, Nichols Canyon has gone to the head of the market, and I think that's correct.
Once again Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh will team up on this beast, and I think the form he's produced this season merits him to be right in the mix.
A classy performer on the Flat (he was second in the Group 3 St Simon Stakes at Newbury in 2013), his performances this winter deserve respect. He won the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse at the end of November and followed that up with a three and a half length win in the Grade 1 Deloitte in February.
He did unseat in a race at Christmas in between those runs, and that's obviously a concern, but winning key trials like the Royal Bond and Deloitte put you high up in my estimations.
The last two winners of the Deloitte went on to win at the Cheltenham Festival that year and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again.
I'll also have a small each way poke on Ordo Ab Chao. The Alan King horse was making steady progress in the first half of the winter before being thrashed at Sandown in December.
That may have crushed the stables hopes, but he bounced back in sensational fashion in Cheltenham in January. Course form is massive to me so he gets my each-way respect here at a fairly big price.
Best Bets – Chris Graham
Cheltenham 13:30 – Nichols Canyon to win (18/5 BetBright)
Cheltenham 13:30 – Ordo Ab Chao each way (10/1 BetBright)
No suprises for guessing who saddles the favourite in this race – it’s another Willie Mullins runner and Ruby is on board again. Nichols Canyon is the name of the horse and he looked good last time out at Leopardstown.
18/5 with BetBright is a fair price but this is a very competitive race and his trial win wasn’t as visually impressive as the warm-up wins for Mullins’ Tuesday winners Un De Sceaux and Faugheen. What I’m saying is that this one doesn’t look like a superstar so despite the tempting price I am going to pass him by.
Parlour Games is another one that has a chance but the form of the the John Ferguson runners Three Kingdoms and Qewy on Day 1 was far from encouraging, and I am loathe to tip another one of his today when it looks like he might just not have the knack of getting them firing on all cylinders for Cheltenham. Perhaps he should take some advice from the bold Mr Mullins…
My choice is another Irish runner, Windsor Park. Flat racing gurus will know the name of Dermot Weld extremely well – he is a top class Irish flat trainer and has been responsible for multiple Group 1 winners over the years but he can also turn his hand to jumps racing.
Although technically a Flat race, Weld was responsible for Silver Concorde who won the bumper last year at the festival and he looks to have another chance here with Windsor Park.
The horse was given what I will diplomatically call an ‘easy ride’ last time out against Nichols Canyon. Watching the race again I reckon he has plenty more left in the tank and my guess is that Davy Russell the jockey was giving him an easy time of it with this race in mind. I expect him to be more prominently ridden for today and to really challenge coming up the hill.
Best Bet – The Voice Of Value
Cheltenham 13:30 – Windsor Park to win (9/2 BetBright)