This race looks like a matchup between two of the leading Novice Chasers from Ireland, with last year’s Ballymore winner Bob Olinger coming up against the Martin Pipe winner Galopin Des Champs. Although Galopin Des Champs looks a fantastic prospect going forward and I’m a huge fan of his, it looks like 3 miles will suit him better further down the line, therefore this is Bob Olinger’s race for the taking here. His career record currently sits at 6 wins in just 7 starts (plus one point-to-point win) including the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices Hurdle last festival, beating some good horses in behind him that day. He has made a smooth transition to the novice chasing this season, winning his first two starts over the larger obstacles with relative ease, but the classy looking prospect will face his toughest test to date when he lines up in this race. A six-and-a-half length victory on debut in a beginner’s chase, Bob Olinger then outclassed Capodanno in a Grade 3 Novice chase at Punchestown in January to cement his place as the market leader for the 2m 4f contest, which is set to be a thriller. What a race we have in store, and it could be the race of the day for Thursday.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 1 👇🏼
This race is always notoriously very difficult to pick the winner in, as most of the trainers like to plot the handicap mark for their horse, giving them the best chance of winning this race and more importantly winning at the Cheltenham Festival for their horse’s connections, so it makes it difficult to gauge who is below their handicap mark. Emmet Mullins knows how to get a horse ready for this sort of race and I’m siding with his horse in this, Winter Fog is lightly raced who was seen doing point-to-points early in his career, before going to Emmet Mullins yard and winning on his third hurdle start for new connections. He was a winner at Limerick last April, winning in splendid style for just under 4 lengths, beating an odds-on favourite in the process so there is talent in there somewhere. He was second last time out in a Pertemps hurdle qualifier at Leopardstown, beaten by a well handicapped horse on the day. He will be primed ready for this and the rating of 138 is certainly winnable, carrying a nice weight in the race.
Alaphilippe showed enough on return at Warwick behind Sporting John to think there is more to come from him, and the handicapper has dropped him two pounds to a mark of 138 for that effort. He was trounced in the Albert Bartlett last season in a field below par on the average year (140-145 would have won it), so he needs to improve. Still, he caught the eye running well and is open to vast improvement after just three starts over this 3m trip. He could be a big player but looks a likely drifter in the market, with those with sexier profiles likely to see some backing, especially the ones coming over from Ireland. Which makes it difficult to gauge as the British Handicapper will assess their Irish mark and give them a British one, which can cause some horses to run out easier runners than expected.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 2 👇🏼
Last year’s winner Allaho arrives at this race in fantastic form, winning his previous two starts at Punchestown and Thurles respectively, earning him the right to be one of the highest rated horses in training. The form in his career is excellent and deserves a lot more respect, winning 6 races out of his 15 career runs, with 7 of the other runs being placed efforts, so he has only been out of the placings 2 times in his career. His performance in the Ryanair last year was absolutely electric, jumping like a stag and not touching a twig all the way around when jumping, staying up with the pace before surging away around the final bend to win going away by just a cool 13 lengths. The race last season lacked depth, and it looks to be the same this season with many of the top ones declared in the market look to be going to other races in the week, but the saying he can only beat what’s put in front of him rings true with Allaho. He is by far the most superior horse in the race making him very hard to beat, in a race with conditions that really suit him. He should be making it back-to-back Ryanair Chases for Ireland.
Venetia Williams stated in an interview recently that she took a bit of a chance runner this horse in the Ryanair last season, where he finished a very well beaten 5th that day, saying he probably wasn’t mature enough yet, but she is very confident he has come on a lot over the summer, saying he is a much stronger horse than previously. Fanion D’Estruval was a pretty impressive winner on seasonal debut when winning by just under 5 lengths at Newbury back in November, before running very well in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase last month, being beaten by just under 4 lengths. His jumping was to be desired, which is something he will need to brush up on when contesting in the Ryanair, but he was staying on all the way to the line nicely and those mistakes didn’t take anything out of him. He has some pretty decent form at Cheltenham without winning, and the rain forecasted for the early stages of the week will play to this horse’s favour, as he is a typical Venetia Williams horse who relishes the softer conditions but has won previously on slightly better conditions. He will need to step his form up to another level, but he could stay on into the places late on.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 3 👇🏼
The Nicky Henderson horse was well supported when going for a tilt at the Gold Cup last season after a brilliant staying on display in the RSA Chase the year before (2020) but that unfortunately didn’t go to plan as he did not look himself at all being pulled up with a circuit to go. It was very undecided on what race he would be aimed at this season, Gold Cup or maybe a season over hurdles again, that indecisiveness was put to bed when he lined up in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December of last year, showing the decision made by connections was right and that he looks to be a better horse over hurdles. He kept on superbly in the Long Walk at Ascot, really stamping his authority on this wide-open stayer’s hurdle division. Champ did slightly disappoint last time out though, when sent off odds on favourite in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he was beaten by resurgent Paisley Park (who has a fantastic record in the staying decision at Cheltenham). Champ didn’t help his cause by hanging left up the Cheltenham Hill which doesn’t work out well at all normally, but with more runners and a faster pace to aim at in this year’s stayers’ hurdle, he could go one better than last time out and win.
The 2020 Stayers Hurdle heroine hasn’t won a race since causing a shock upset in this race two years ago with the SP price of 50/1, but he has been running very consistently since, placing on four occasions in some nice staying hurdle races. He has yet to confirm the form since winning the Stayers Hurdle back in 2020, but he is a consistent sort who will stay for days up that Cheltenham Hill, and should the race start to fall apart he will be staying on again up the Cheltenham Hill. Should there be much rain before the race making the conditions slightly softer, he could be worth chancing, but the race has a lot more class in it than when he won it two years ago, so he needs to step the form up to another level to land a blow in this, but we have seen before that can be possible.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 4 👇🏼
The Philip Hobbs trained horse has come on leaps and bounds this season winning over both Hurdles and Fences, starting off at a rating of 120 before the winning sequence started, he is now rated 141 and looks to be improving with each race he runs in. His performance last time out was arguably a best career run to date, tackling a Class 2 Chase at Warwick over the trip of the plate at the festival. The winning margin did not do him any justice last time out as he won by just under a length, he jumped well and travelled nicely into the race and looked to have won with a fair bit in hand, his jockey eased him down towards the finish, and it look after that performance there is still more to come from him and the current mark of 141 looks to be a winnable mark for him. He was also challenged all the way to the line by a thorough stayer who has been running over 3 miles and winning, so he was always going to run on and serve it up to Celebre D’Allen.
Fusil Raffles at 10/1 is the other each way selection, an admirable little horse who won a Grade 1 in Ireland as a juvenile. Since going chasing, this horse has rather relished his trips to Cheltenham, winning on 2 occasions and placing in last year’s Grade 1 Marsh Novices Chase. Nicky Henderson has not won this race since 2006 but has got 4 wins in it in his career and has saddled a horse to finish in the top 3 in 2 of the last 3 renewals. Rather fittingly, both of those were owned by the same owner as Fusil Raffles. He was sent off favourite for a handicap here in December when he finished 4th and following a disappointing run over 3 miles afterwards, a trip he probably does not need at this stage in his career, the handicapper has lowered his rating to the lowest it has ever been. He’s got a lot more positives than negatives and I suspect he will be bang in contention near the end of the race.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 5 👇🏼
This race is always quite a wide-open affair, as the mares normally come into the race off a previous win and not many runs to their name, this year is no different as the main protagonists come into the race in fantastic form with little experience. Dinoblue is the only horse in the race with just the one run to her name, which was a winning one at Clonmel back in January. Usually in a graded race at the Festival that wouldn’t be such a good thing, but the manner she won on her debut run looked like she could be something quite special. She was just kept in behind the pace before mounting a challenge just before the home turn, before powering away with ease to win by 15 lengths, which could have been more if they wanted it to be. She jumped nicely, and showed she clearly has a few gears, gliding across the heavy Clonmel ground with ease. The fact that trainer Willie Mullins has put her straight into this race with no other prep run speaks wonders, and he is the master with mares, so that in itself gives Dinoblue a very good chance in this race. It looks like the softer conditions might suit her more, but it’s hard to tell given we have only seen her on a racecourse the nice, a very exciting prospect for the Cheltenham Festival’s leading trainer who has to step up from just a maiden win last time out, but she was certainly a class above the rest that day.
Trainer Harry Fry hasn’t got many runners at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, but he sends a very much in-form mare to this race, who although the prices may not reflect it, must have a good chance in this race. She is currently on a brilliant winning streak since going over hurdles this season, winning her last four runs over obstacles, and one bumper in Ireland for previous trainer Sean Thomas Doyle. She has been campaigned brilliantly and with patience by her trainer, slowly progressing up the grades as she started off in a Class 4 Mares’ hurdle at Leicester last December, then going on to have two more runs before heading to a Grade 2 race at Sandown last month, where she put in a brilliant performance to win by just over 2 lengths. The slight step down in trip might be a cause for concern as she has been running at 2m3f recently, but she has the stamina in the locker which we have seen by her winning on heavy going with each of her last three runs, so the stiff Cheltenham Hill will play in her favour.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 6 👇🏼
Gordon Elliott has a strong recent record in this race, and he might just improve on it in 2022, because Frontal Assault looked a proper staying chaser in the making in a beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse. His best hurdles form came in trips of around three miles and the step up in trip for the Kim Muir Chase could unlock more improvement from a horse that has had just three starts over fences and may have plenty more to offer. He hasn’t got much experience to his name over fences, just contesting in the three beginners chases this season without winning, but he has been running over slightly inadequate trips of around 2 miles and 5 furlongs, and with the step up to 3 miles and 1 furlong in this race, he will be the one staying up the hill and seen to best effect for a yard who have a very good record in this race.
No match for the L’Homme Presse in a Grade 1 novice event at Sandown last time out, the unexposed chaser saw his race out strongly suggesting the step up to this sort of trip at a stiffer track might be winnable for him. That suggests he’ll benefit from going up in trip and gets a stiffer stamina test in this handicap. He will meet nothing of the calibre of the Sandown scorer from his last run and it seems significant that the Kim Muir has been the only Cheltenham Festival race under consideration for Mister Coffey. Suggesting Nicky Henderson has had it in mind for some time, as he stated racing fans should keep an eye on whilst contesting in these sorts of top handicaps over the larger obstacles. So, this will be a good opportunity to show us the talent the trainer thinks of him.
Jake has picked out the following bets for final Race 👇🏼
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