After a thrilling opening day at the Cheltenham Festival, today offers another feast of racing to look forward to.
With two wins under their belts yesterday, it again falls to Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins to deliver a winner with the favourite in the first race of the day, the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
Elsewhere, the three-mile RSA Chase is likely to be a hotly contested affair as is the feature race the Queen Mother Champion Chase shorn of its star Sprinter Sacre.
- As mentioned, the opening race again sees a Willy Mullins-trained favourite with Ruby Walsh on-board in the shape of six-year-old Faugheen in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle. Given his unbeaten record, it’s hard to look passed Ruby’s mount to land a third win in this race for Mullins. Stable-mate Rathvinden is also highly-rated but was beaten by second-favourite Red Sherlock who represents the best of the British, in January.
- The 2.05 RSA Chase looks like a wide-open contest with about half the field in with a real shout of claiming victory. Leading the betting is Irish-trained Ballycasey with JP McManus’ Carlingford Lough ridden by AP McCoy who will be looking to make amends for being pipped by Jezki in yesterday’s Champion Hurdle.
There’s potential value to be had by getting behind plenty other runners too though with Smad Place, Morning Assembly, Corrin Wood and Don Cossack all featuring prominently in many a tipster’s thoughts. Smad Place looks especially dangerous and may enjoy the drying ground more than some of his competitors.
Morning Assembly, however, will have the benefit of being ridden by Davy Russell who guided Lord Windermere to victory in this race last year.
- The big race of the day is the Champion Chase at 3.20. With superstar Sprinter Sacre having been withdrawn by trainer Nicky Henderson after failing to recover sufficiently from a heart problem at Christmas, it looks a wide open race – if perhaps a little low on star quality.
Sire De Grugy leads the betting at 3/1 but Captain Conan may well be the horse to beat. Also trained by Henderson, Captain Conan will be looking to make it three wins in a row in the Champion Chase for his famed trainer. Kid Cassidy, a stablemate of Conan’s, has already beaten Sire De Grugy this season and is a good each-way prospect at least.
Elsewhere, Ruby Walsh will be on Arvika Ligeonnaire who cannot be discounted and for perhaps the more romantically-inclined punters, old-favourite Sizing Europe will look to reclaim the crown he won in 2011. As a two-time Festival winner and runner-up in the last two renewals of the two-mile championship he might just prove to be more than a hopeful punt too.
- The Cross Country Handicap Chase follows at 4.00 and looks like a shoot-out between the winners of the previous two years Balthazar King and Big Shu. The latter, ridden by Paul Carberry, convincingly claimed victory a year ago and will most likely go off as favourite with Balthazar King next in the betting stakes.
Sire Collonges is another contender that has to be respected as do Enda Bolger’s two runners Star Neuville and Love Rory, given the success of that particular yard in this race through the years with Garde Champetre a double-winner in 2008 and 2009.