13.30 TURNER - A piss-poor turnout of just four runners here for a Grade 1 race at the Festival. Yes the top two are bloody good but it's disappointing few others are prepared to take them on. And yet they want to dilute the programme even further and look at a fifth day... Bob Olinger has been beaten only once, on a heavy track, by Ferny Hollow, who is high class, so I'm not too concerned about that. He has also won a G1 in the heavy and other races in soft and soft/heavy so there's no issue there. Galopin Des champs ran on heavy or soft/heavy three times early in his career and been beaten each time, although he won on debut on 'very soft' in France. Has he matured enough to overcome that? El Barra doesn't mind swimming but is a long way behind on the ratings. A no bet race for me.
BOB OLINGER (11/10)
14.10 PERTEMPS FINAL - In difficult territory here with a nightmare of a handicap to unravel and the weather. It appears as though the rain will have ended overnight and then the sun comes out, but how much drying of the ground there'll be is another matter. Expecting the soft-heavy range however if it becomes tacky, that becomes more concerning than the deep ground.
Sire Du Berlais is a dual winner of this race (19/20) and then last year decided to have a crack at the Stayers Hurdle, running second to Flooring Porter. Oh and back in 2018, he ran fourth in the Martin Pipe - he simply loves Cheltenham at this time of year and soft/heavy does not bothering. The amateur jockey is more than handy - Gordon Elliott has kept him under wraps recently so he didn't blow his 7lb claim. Ben Pauling had a handicap winner with Global Citizen on Wednesday and has one at decent odds in this race - The Cob. This 8yo gelding revels in wet ground (form of 231131 on soft/heavy ground in 20/21) and put a bad run behind him with a fourth in a G3 hurdle at Sandown recently. He was a bit keen that day the first time wearing cheekpieces, if he can settle a bit better and gets his ground, he'll give use a good run for our money at 40 or 50/1. Dunboyne looks a curious one down the bottom, being well supported early, but he has been quite unlucky at his last two starts, decent handicaps at the Leopardstown festivals over Xmas and in early Feb. Jack Kennedy on a bottomweight in a handicap suggests a plot. Of the others, Alaphilippe and Winter Fog have to be given a solid chance but watch the betting for any flyers.
SIRE DU BERLAIS (win 5/1), The Cob (EW at 40/1), Dunboyne (8/1), Winter Fog (6/1), Alaphilippe (6/1)
14.50 RYANAIR CHASE - Allaho won this race by 12L last year when rated 162, now he's rated 174 and beat the same horse (Fakir D'Oudaires) by a dozen lengths recently in a Grade 2 at Thurles. As long as the ground isn't bottomless, I can understand why many have declared him the banker of the week. Conflated was a surprise winner of the Irish Gold Cup last month and I'm not sure why they didn't push ahead to the Gold Cup on Friday. He has to take on a winning machine here, I doubt he can keep up. Janidil ran a close second to Allaho back in early December but he has a habit of running much better fresh. Shan Blue was miles clear in the Charlie Hall Chase last October before falling three out, he's had plenty of time off since. If he's ready to go, he can take one of the placings. A No Bet race for me but feel free to put Allaho in a pile of accas if that's your thing.
ALLAHO (4/6), Conflated (13/2), Shan Blue (10/1).
15.30 STAYERS HURDLE - full preview here
16.10 CRAFT WHISKEY PLATE - Yay, another 20+ runner handicap! The Glancing Queen is a quality mare in waiting for the perfect race for her. Alan King and Tom Cannon have already hit the board this week, and this girl last time finished second to yesterday's Brown Advisory Chase winner L'Homme Presse in the Dippers on New Year's Day. That was her third start over fences, stepping up after Listed victories at Bangor and Warwick. Over hurdles, she was competitive with the likes of Telmesomethinggirl, Wilde About Oscar and Bravesmansgame, she is up to this class. Adrimel for Tom Lacey has a stunning record in the mud, seven from eight on soft-heavy (only defeat in the Champion Bumper 2020) and has also won both his starts since the addition of blinkers. Jockey Stan Sheppard is in incredible form of late, winning eight of his last 21 rides. Imperial Alcazar is the class horse of the field, he got his act together in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase here in January and bolted in, carrying topweight. He rises 8lbs but still has room behind his best RPR.
THE GLANCING QUEEN (win 4/1), Adrimel (11/1), Imperial Alcazar (9/2)
16.50 MARES NOVICE HURDLE - Dinoblue has run just once and recorded a RPR above any of her rivals here, hence dominating the betting at 2/1. Almost any improvement from that debut run and she wins, but there's always a risk on a big day and that makes 2/1 in a 22-runner race rather problematic. Nurse Susan for Dan Skelton looks a great prospect. In just three starts gone through the grades and recently finished just behind mud specialist Love Envoi at level weights. She receives 5lbs from the same horse here. I think she has more scope for improvement, enough to go close here. Statuaire won the G1 Royal Bond in Ireland in November, beating My Mate Mozzie and Mighty Potter. She was disappointing last time against Sir Gerhard but drops sharply in class here.
NURSE SUSAN (EW 20/1), Statuaire (25/1), Dinoblue (2/1)
17.30 KIM MUIR - A swathe of chances here and a couple of runners just into double figures caught my eye. Come On Teddy ran third last year in the Pertemps Final, and since stepping over the bigger obstacles, has form through L'Homme Presse and The Glancing Queen in the Dippers Chase on New Year's Day. Last time out he made a couple of mistakes on the slow pace and couldn't overcome the 8lb weight difference against Omar Maretti but meets that rival on equal terms today. Two months off has hopefully meant plenty of time to tighten up that jumping. Mister Coffey hasn't set the world on fire over fences, he is still 1lb below his hurdle mark but there's reason to believe a sharp improvement is in the offing. Nicky Henderson has said 'he blatantly needs to go left-handed' and should love the 3m2f trip. Fakir D'Alene was in a fine run of form until last start when he blundered midway through a rich Leopardstown handicap, losing all momentum, and his race was pretty much up straight away. He has a great record under amateurs or conditionals, the mud and trip should suit him as well. The attention will go on the other Elliott runners but this one is right in it. Rightplacerightime has run favourite in all seven runs for Emmet Mullins, this time he'll go around at 20/1. Don't be surprised if he suddenly finds an extra gear.
COME ON TEDDY (EW 10/1), Mister Coffey (EW 12/1), Fakir D'Alene (28/1), Rightplacerightime (16/1)
Best - The Glancing Queen win 4/1
Sire Du Berlais win 5/1
The Cob EW 40/1
Nurse Susan EW 20/1
Come On Teddy EW 10/1
Mister Coffey EW 12/1
Acca - Bob Olinger/Allaho/The Glancing Queen ~16/1