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Cheltenham Wednesday preview


Here we go again for day two, hopefully with a drying track.


Ballyburn is a machine and wins this in a canter, hence the price. Won his maiden on soft/heavy by 25L, and last time won a G1 at the Dublin Racing Festival ahead of Slade Steel who won the Supreme.

A battle for the minors as they say...

Handstands has been flying for Ben Pauling, winning four from four, but is the British form good enough?

Ile Atlantique bolted in on heavy going back in November, ran second in the G1 Lawlor's in mid-January, beaten just a neck. Has class, obvious second choice. In the top five speed ratings performances of horses in this race, he is the only one that's not the favourite.

Jimmy Du Seuil is another Mullins runner (he supplies five of the octet who accepted), coming straight out of maiden class. Will have talent but doubt it's G1 level, at least at this stage.

Jingko Blue - has started fav at all three starts under Rules, and carried topweight to an easy win in a Cl3 Sandown handicap last time. Has talent but the stable is out of form at the moment, fears of a virus in the ranks.

Mercurey - this one has been tipped as a longshot with a chance from the stable staff. Loves the wet, won his maiden by 22L at Punchestown last month, so far in front they needed the wide shot for the final hurdle. Obviously working well.

Predators Gold - won his bumper, his maiden and then recorded a pair of seconds in Grade 1s. Solid form, a little surprised he didn't go to the Albert Bartlett, but it probably comes down to Mullins spreading his runners out over the three G1s for novice hurdlers.

The Grey Man - so far out of contention he could be lapped. At least it might mean we get three places paid for each-way.

The Mullins trifecta looks very likely:

Ballyburn, Mercurey, Ile Atlantique



American Mike - beat Fact To File at Navan in November, then went backwards at Xmas, 25L behind impressive Arkle winner Gaelic Warrior. Back to Navan last month, he had to work hard to win a G2, looking out on his feet at the end of three miles on heavy going. 

Fact To File - a rare type who went straight to chasing after running second in the Champion Bumper last season. Beaten on chase debut, he then walloped Zanahiyr and Minella Cocooner at Leopardstown in a Beginners' Chase, followed by winning a two-horse G1 at the Dublin Racing Festival after American Mike and two others withdrew on the day. Absolutely cantered home the last half-mile after Gaelic Warrior made an error and later unseated at the last. Obviously has a big engine, but have we seen him tested yet?

Giovinco - has found his level, running in the 147-149 RPR band on four occasions, and that's quite a bit short of most of his rivals.

Monty's Star - beat the useful Three Card Brag at Punchestown on New Year's Eve, soon after running third to Corbetts Cross (and Three Card Brag) at Fairyhouse, both in Beginners Chases. A half-brother to Monalee, there's plenty of talent in him, but the favourite is something special. 

Sandor Clegane - second at his last two runs, he's still learning as a chaser with his handicap mark still 10lbs below his impressive hurdles figure. Ran 1.25L third to Stay Away Fay in the Albery Bartlett last season, doesn't look at that level yet over fences.

Stay Away Fay - a previous Festival winner, he'd won his first two chases before running third in the Cotswold Chase in January when a 3/1 fav. Loves to get in front and make it a proper staying test, and that might be the only way the favourite can be beaten. In that case, whether he falls in a hole at the end as well is the query...


Good little race, are the two favourites mad enough to go too hard too early? Rather than taking the short prices at the top, I'll side with Rachael Blackmore to produce a very intelligent ride.

Monty's Star, Fact To File, Stay Away Fay



Always a mindboggling race to decipher....

My tealeaves landed on

Jigoro, Sa Majeste, De Capo Glory, Built By Ballymore



I can't see El Fabiolo being beaten here, not by Jonbon at least, the Henderson stable is completely off this month.

Boothill won his first two races of the season but fallen at his last two in much weaker contests.

Captain Guinness hasn't won in five races in Britain, loves flattering in small fields in Ireland.

Edwardstone won the Game Spirit at Newbury last month but don't get too excited, he won a four-horse G2 by 40L where two of them failed to finish.Won the Arkle here two years ago, place chance.

El Fabiolo - unbeaten in six chases, only defeat since leaving France was a hurdles defeat to Jonbon nearly two years ago. Won this comfortably last year.

Elixir De Nutz - now a 10yo, he's going as well as ever, winning three of five this season, including the scalp of Jonbon last time in the rescheduled Clarence House. Still prone to the odd error, reasons for his two defeats this season, every chance of making the first three.

Funambule Sivola - ran second in this race two years when two of the leading chances failed to finish. Recent form not even that good, he was beaten 40L by Edwardstone last time. 20pts off his RPR peak this season, there are much easier races.

Gentleman De Mee - only two runs back from an eight-month break, needs to find a lot more to be competitive. Seems to have his best for flat tracks.

Jonbon - hasn't stepped forward this season, merely sticking around his peak from last season, bar his defeat at Cheltenham behind Elixir De Nutz. Has he saved something for his target race, or is he likely to be suffering like the rest of the Henderson stable?

El Fabiolo, Elixir De Nutz, Edwardstone



So many runners in this with virtually no chance, we can focus on the four very good ones.

Coko Beach - classy Irish staying chaser who won the Troytown in November, ran second in the Becher then switched over to banks and won easily at Punchestown at his first attempt. Have always had a soft spot for this one, should be right in the finish. 

Delta Work - going for three in a row in this race, defeating Tiger Roll in 2022 and Galvin in 2023. Hasn't done a lot this season, beaten 15-17L in each of three starts, but these are his terms - level weights at the FEstival. Slight leap of faith but this is his turf.

Galvin - much like Delta Work, hasn't done a lot this season but it's always this race and the Grand National for him. Back to level weights a big plus, the heavy going mightn't be as suitable for him as it is for some of his rivals.

Minella Indo - a recent convert to the corss-country ranks, he's been running in higher class races more recently (Gold Cup last season, Champion Chase at Down Royal in October) before his XC debut here in December, when finishing fifth, conceding 22lbs to the winner, 3.5L ahead of Galvin. I'm not sure how often Rachael Blackmore has ridden cross-country courses before, it can't be many, but she's obviously very fond of this horse. Big chance.

Stattler - next best after the main quartet. Rushed into a banks debut in Feb just after a G2 when beaten by Allaho, the jockey reported he was very 'novicey' on that occasion, making plenty of mistakes. He might have needed that run to qualify for this? Not sure on the terms. Anyway, he'll have had several weeks since to tighten that up. Stays all day.

Coko Beach, Minella Indo, Delta Work.



Dancing On My Own - gives away a lot of weight to some decent rivals. Won here first-up back in October (good track) but form dropped away in December and January. A look back through previous year shows he tends to perform better at either end of the season, not the depths of winter. Not sure if that is ground-related (won on softer ground early in his career, not recently) or just when he blooms. Older horses carrying plenty of weight have done well over the years in this.

Saint Roi has run in seven Grade 1s, a Grade 2 and a Grade 3 since switching to fences, the only outlier was chasing debut back in Nov 22. Consequently, he's found this caper pretty hard. There's no El Fabiolo or Banbridge in this field. Will no doubt be heavily supported, looks like this raid has been planned for a while.

Maskada won this race last year at 22/1, Daragh O'Keefe has kept the ride ever since. 7lbs higher this year, might not want the ground to be heavy. 

Solness - won a Listed chase ar Fairyhouse in December, then was beaten 6.5L by Madara at the Dublin Racing Festival, but carrying 16lbs more (only 6lbs difference here). Went up 9lb for the win at his previous start but might not be done yet. Trainer and jockey won the Boodles on Tuesday.

Sa Fureur - a charmed winner of a Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse by 40L when the leader, Hunters Yarn, fell at the last when 5L clear. Still a pretty good effort to street the rest of the field. Took that form to Naas in January, running second to Quilixios. Was favourite for the Coral Cup last year but pulled up after being squeezed for room twice. Trainer Gordon Elliott hit the bar a couple of times on Tuesday, will be expecting to win a couple on Wednesday.

Madara - former French handicapper who has won two in a row at Cheltenham and Leopardstown, rising 13lbs in the process. It's hard to have much left in hand coming into a competitve Cheltenham handicap. Talented and proven here.

Calico - beaten 17L by Madara here in December but now meets that horse 22lbs better off after the jockey claim. Ran below par that day as well, probably due to the going (although he used to be OK in it a few years ago). I suppose we'll find out whether he stil handles it if he lines up. Not hopeless but big query on the going.

Path D'Oroux - second to Madara, second to Hunter's Yarn at most recent starts, in his previous five chase starts, he was no better than 15L behind. Perhaps they've sorted him out now. Has a great record in big fields - 1,1,8,3 in fields with 15 runners or more. Always watch out for Gavin Cromwell.

Harper's Brook - an entry in the rare category of twice beaten after hitting 1.01 in-running., a horse who can't be trusted until they've passed the finish post. More of a stayer last season (ran in the 3m Ultima), he won a decent Saturday race at Sandown over two miles last month and now stays at that trip. Gets a visor first time here to keep his mind on the job, and hopefully forget his previous record here - fell, last of 5, pulled up, and beaten 55L. Nope.

Libberty Hunter - jockey is flying (13-37 in last 14 days), trainer is stone cold (0 from last 21 runners). This horse with the annoying spelling has had three chase starts so far, falling in his first and then winning his next two on slow and heavy ground. One of those victories was here on New Year's Day, stretching out up the hill to beat the talented Matata so there's another box ticked. Hasn't won by too much in those handicap wins, might still have more scope to improve.

Unexpected Party - heard this one tipped by a couple of knowledgeable folk on a podcast last week but I can't fathom why. After winning his first race of the season, a Listed chase at Chepstow, he's raced in higher grade - G3,G1,G2 and a classy Cl2 chase, but his figures have been ropey at best. He has dropped 8lbs in the process, perhaps creating an easier avenue but he's still only one from 11 over fences.

Triple Trade - in form this season with only a single unplaced run out of five starts, when the jockey was concerned the gelding may have been injured. Classwise, I think he's a few lengths off the top rung here.

Gemirande - returned from 318 days off in the Greatwood Gold Cup a fortnight ago, running 21L fifth in the same race he was a narrow second in last year. He ran too keenly and the heavy track wouldn't have helped either. Last season after a long layoff, he improved sharply at his second run back. Venetia Williams has had a great season, don't rule this one out.

The Folkes Tiara - won a Leopardstown handicap over Xmas but it was one of the cheap ones, then got put in his place behind Madara at the DRF.

Frere D'Armes - a nice day out for the racing club owners but not likely to be competitive.

Hardy Du Seuil - a French-bred who has mixed his campaigns between hurdles and fences. Recently returned from a 293 day break with a third in a Class 3 chase at Sandown, and now drops down to the bottom of the weights. Has a proper chance in this.

The King Of Prs - a Cromwell raider never to be underestimated but has work to do. Loves the wet, winning on heavy or soft to heavy three times, including twice this season. Last time out at Thurles, he didn't perform but gave the winner 23lbs and drops to the very bottom of the weights here. Gavin throws on the cheekpieces first time here just to keep him focused. The trainer is winning at a very strong 24% on his British raids this season. And don't read too much into the stable jockey bookings, Keith Donoghue can't get anywhere near this weight.

Saint Roi, Hardy Du Seuil, Solness, Gemirande, Libberty Hunter



Yeah, good luck solving this one. I backed Teeshan a few weeks ago so will stick with him.

Teeshan, Jasmin De Vaux, Cantico


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