RACING fan Pete Hamill (@RiskForRewards) picks out favourite fancies from Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.
Ryanair Chase | Thursday 18th March 2021, 14:30 | ITV1
Background: The key pieces of form for this race can be found in the reposing Ryanair runners and the Marsh Novice chase runners from last year’s Festival. Both races run over the same course and the 2m4f trip.
Statistics: 10/13 winners come from first two in the market, 2/16 8/1 or bigger. 8/13 made most with 3 of the 8 making all.
The Ryanair last season on the clock was 12 seconds slower than the Marsh. The elders in the Ryanair carried 6lb extra but that is not enough to equate to the significant finishing difference in time over the same trip and conditions. In very rough terminology for each second slower this equates to “4 lengths per second when the going is good to soft or worse”. So that is a very rough 48 lengths slower.
You cannot take official race times on merit however. It is often better to time from taking off at the first fence instead. Despite this I have read a few sectional analysts comments on the race and that if ran along side there would be a significant difference in how far the Marsh runners finish ahead. This would put a negative on market leader Min and those who finished behind him last year.
Taking on the favourites
I have nothing against 169 rated Min, he is the standard setter and correct priced favourite. Min reminds me of Magical on the flat. Such a valiant horse races to the same consistent level but will be the bridesmaid if something special turns up.
I wouldn’t read too much in to the run on last time out however horses who finished pulled up last time out who then went on to contend a Grade 1 at Cheltenham finished 1/78 and only 3/78 placed.
Allaho is under priced and will go off bigger and expect a performance more reflective of last years performance in the RSA but up to debate if he is good enough. I think he is beginning to look a horse with no trip. I am not saying that he won’t win but he is short enough in the betting.
Mister Fisher – was last years fourth in the Marsh chase when finding himself too far back and the ground softer than ideal. Last seen winning over the course and distance in the Peterborough chase in November. He gave 3lb and a beating to Kalashnikov outstaying him up the run with Clondaw Castle third (beaten 7 ¼ lengths).
Kalashnikov went on to finished 3rd in the Denman chase. Clondaw Castle finished second in a grade 2 behind Master Tommytucker before bolting up in a 17-runner grade 2 handicap. Mister Fisher has been freshened up for this race. Connections are adamant that he will be a better horse on better ground with the due forecast this could well be the year he gets that ground.
Melon – is a Cheltenham Festival veteran having finished second four times in a row at the festival. Supreme behind Labaik, Champion hurdle runner up twice and then last year he travelled the best, jumped the best but still beaten a nose in a photo by an on song Samcro.
He has been racing over 3m this year at the highest level in Ireland, placing in two group ones without finishing the trip. It is an exception that he has managed to achieve this when calling out for a drop back in trip.
Of the rest Fakir Doudairies 8/1 finished second in the Cheltenham Arkle last year and continued improvement behind champion chase favourite Chacun Pour Soi over the two mile trip last time out. Imperial Aura 8/1 won the Northern Trust at the Cheltenham Festival last year and has since won a grade 1, he does have a last time out fall to contend with.
Looking at previous winners with 8/13 making most and 3 of those making all this has a potential for a pace collapse with four front-runners in the race.
If the ground continues to dry Mister Fisher 8/1 should be able to sit behind the front-runners and make it count when the others tire. Melon should run another career best as always but may finish second for a 5th time so has to be a bet in the place market.
Stayers Hurdle | Thursday 18th March 2021, 15:05 | ITV1
Background: The chance to be the ultimate staying hurdler over the 3 miles trip. This has a roll of repeat winners with most recently Big Bucks dominating 2009-2012. Since this feat however no horse has managed to repeat victory despite being sent off favourites. The same applies to last years 4/6 favourite Paisley Park.
Statistics: 10/10 – Aged 9 or younger. 8/10 – Won or placed at Cheltenham. Negative – for those beaten in this race previously. Avoid front-runners. Headgear horses 0/71. Irish horses only 3 times since 1995.
Paisley Park – is a serious horse when on song. The quicker the ground the better for him. He jumps, he travels and most importantly he thrives off the bridle. The longer straight on the new course really plays to his strengths. Last time out he won the Long Walk Hurdle a race of which he had previously won in 2019 prior to victory in this race.
Last year he was found to have heart issues post race but since then hasn't looked back. The negative is the record of horses beaten returning to the race but that can be forgiven. Looking at statistics he is aged 9 and finished first last time out for positives.
The only concern is that every race he puts 110% in so there is little longevity with a horse of such nature but he is very lightly raced this year and comes in fresh having been off since December.
Sire Du Berlais is the back-to-back two time Cheltenham Pertemps winner. He remains unbeaten over course and distance at the track. Handles all ground conditions and last year looked the more complete package where he travelled well through the race (Storyteller following) only to take it up two out and win going away from the field.
The time of the Pertemps was 3 seconds faster over the same trip as the Stayers hurdle and he carried 2lb more so if taking that literally, he would have won the Stayers giving the field 2lb.
A key factor to his race is his attitude to find so much off the bridle when asked. Big Bucks was a natural to this and so to was Paisley Park in his 2019 victory. This horse is never going to win by lengths but seems to do enough to get the job done.
He reminds me of Tiger Roll he has been dressed up for the last two years having a slow prep all winter ready for this one explosive run in March. This year is no different with an unexpected win over the shorter trip and then an underwhelming performance when the yard were under a cloud. He goes there fresh and will be primed to run a career best again.
Of the rest Storyteller does look to have improved this year in winning a group 1 and plenty are putting this horse up for the race but he got 3lb from Sire Du Berlais last year. Lisnegar Oscar sprung a surprise when winning this race last year at 50/1.
Last time out looked much more like last seasons horse when finishing second to Third Wind in the Rendlesham and he is respected but would be disappointing if there was not something in here to improve past him.
Selection: Like the Ryanair this is one of the most competitive races of the week but I will stick with the festival form. Paisley Park is a worthy favourite but I will side with Sire Du Berlais to at least be in the frame and hopefully continue his 100% Festival record.
14:30 Ryanair Chase – Mister Fisher (8/1 Bet365)
14:30 Ryanair Chase – Melon to finish first 4 places (11/10 365)
14:30 Ryanair Chase – Melon to finish first three (2/1 William Hill)
15:05 Stayers Hurdle – Sire De Berlais (5/1 each-way BetVictor)