It really hasn’t been a bad or that good a week so far. Two places and a 5/1 winner makes it a just below average week.
I completely got the Might Bite race wrong, I really couldn’t have had him – despite trying to lose the race at the end, he was very impressive and is one to take seriously for every top race now. Messire Des Obeaux did us proud in the Neptune however.
We have two days to turn it around and I think day 3 is the day as my best bet of the week run’s on Thursday!
JLT Novices Chase (13.30)
This is not a race I’ll get involved with. I’m keen to take on Yorkhill, and I like Disko but I’d be worried with the ground for him.
A race to watch going forward in all reality and I won’t be placing a bet.
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (14.10)
Another hard handicap to try and take apart. Whilst there are many in this with major chances, I’m happy to take one against the field in Jury Duty.
Jury Duty looks ready made for this race and looks another who could win for the bang in-form Gordon Elliott.
Jury Duty looks the perfect improving type for this. He started his progression last season when he won at Navan, before a fine placed effort at Fairyhouse. The run that really earmarked him as an exciting horse was when he was just touched off at Punchestown, under today’s jockey Jack Kennedy, by Cup Final. By Jack’s own omission, it wasn’t that fine a ride on his part but the way he travelled that day suggested he was a classy horse.
This season he started with aplomb, by hammering a field at Navan winning easily on the bridle. I’d imagine this day has been the aim since that win and this race was firmly kept in mind.
That form looks strong now with the second that day, Scoir Mear, running a blinder to finish fifth in what looked a hot race in this year’s Coral Cup. Scoir Mear did that off 138 and he was beaten so easily by Jury Duty that you’d think a mark of 145 is manageable.
Off a break last time he finished second in Chepstow to qualify for this race and I’d imagine that was the plan to just qualify and not give him a hard race.
Jack Kennedy is riding out of his skin at the moment and he can supply another winner here for Gordon Elliott, who himself, can’t stop training winners.
Selection – Jury Duty 9/1 E/W
This year’s Ryanair looks a cracking renewal, and I really think Uxizandre takes the world of beating.
Firstly, all week we’ve seen how important previous Cheltenham festival form is. Cause of Causes, Un Temps Per Tout and Supasundae are only 3 who have showed this during this festival.
Basically, Uxizandre has been there and done it before. He was AP McCoy’s last ever Cheltenham festival winner when winning that brilliant Ryanair in 2015. That was a great Ryanair, with future Gold Cup star Don Cossack in third.
He’s been there, he’s done it and he’s the one to beat in this contest. Last time he was beaten by Un De Sceaux at Cheltenham over 2 miles. He was given a very quiet ride that day and ran on eye-catchingly at the end. Firstly, the trip was too short and secondly, he will improve a good lot from that as he was only coming back from a spell on the sidelines.
Conditions are perfect, and he should be able to turn that form around with Un De Sceaux now he’ll strip fitter and over a more suitable trip.
Un De Sceaux is a talented horse, but I have serious doubts about him over this longer trip and on genuinely good ground. I’m happy to take him on.
The other market protagonist Empire of Dirt definitely has his chance, but I think he needs further than this and I think he might struggle to live with Uxizandre.
The rest have their place chances, but I can’t look past Uxizandre whatsoever. He’ll take a lot of beating.
Recommendation – Uxizandre Win 10/3
Stayers Hurdle (15.30)
Unowhatimeanharry has been one of the stars of the season, but I’m keen to take him on here with the class horse Jezki.
Unowhatimeanharyy has been an absolute revelation for Harry Fry, he hasn’t been beaten in the best part of two years. He’s been doing everything easy this season. You can only be impressed with him, and he has already proven himself over this trip and at this course.
He holds the English runners easily for me, but he hasn’t met a horse as good as Jezki yet.
Jezki is a brilliant each way price at 7/1. Firstly, he’s the best horse in the race having won a Champion Hurdle, and I think he will at the very least place.
This season he’s beaten Tombstone and then was beaten by that same horse, but that was on soft ground and Jezki hates that ground. Jessica Harrington has been slowly bringing him to the boil after his injuries and he will be peaked today to strike.
Jessica said she was not at all concerned by the result last time as “everyone knows Jezki hates soft ground”.
He’s bred for the trip (his brother Jetson has won a grade one over 3 miles), he has already won once over the trip beating Hurricane Fly at Punchestown and he is a really interesting angle in a tough renewal.
He reminds me of Solwhit who won this race before and he might just have it in him to come out on top.
Unowhatimeanharry could well win and if he does nobody can crib his form anymore, but Jezki is a great each way price to go close on ground he’ll love.
Selection – Jezki 7/1 E/W
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (16.10) NAP
I have fancied Diamond King for this race for quite a while and I really think he takes every inch of the beating tomorrow for Gordon Elliot, who simply can’t stop training winners. This horse is my best bet of the week.
He’s quite lowly raced for his age and he was always highly thought of, but really showed himself to be a very good horse when easily winning last year’s Coral Cup in good style over hurdles. The big thing today is that he races off only 1 pound higher over fences than he was on that occasion. He’s basically a very well handicapped horse.
Chasing has been a mixed bag of sorts thus far. He was an impressive winner at Galway on chasing debut and his jumping hasn’t looked fantastic in two Graded events since.
This is easily explained however, as he simply doesn’t act on anything other than good ground. Everyone connected with the yard has been at pains to say this and they expect his jumping to be a good bit better on a better surface. He gets this today.
His best round of jumping has been at Galway on good ground and thereafter he contested a Grade One and a Grade Two on bad ground. He acquitted himself well enough in those latter events, on ground he detests, to think he’s more than good enough for a handicap of this nature.
He has had a breathing op and will have been freshened up by a break. He’s a well handicapped horse coming from a red-hot yard. Time to get on!
Selection – Diamond King 11/2 Win (NAP)
Mares Novice Hurdle (16.50)
Realistically this race is between the first two in the market Let’s Dance and Airlie Beach who set a crazy standard for the rest to reach. However, it’s very hard to back any short-priced Willie Mullins horse this week and I’m interested in a small play on Montana Belle at massive odds of 66/1.
Montana Belle carries in some decent form of her own into the contest.
Firstly, she ran a blinder in the 2015 Champion Bumper here at Cheltenham, finishing eighth for the Crawford stable behind Moon Racer. Before this she was second, again at Cheltenham, in a really got mares bumper won by the talented Bitofapuzzle.
Injuries have really blighted her progress since, but the switch to the Henry De Bromhead stable has seen her in a new light. She won well at Fairyhouse in a nice looking mares contest and was pitched in too highly next time when struggling in a hot maiden won by County Hurdle fancy Mick Jazz.
Of course, she has an awful lot to do with the two at the top of the market, but she’s talented and the fact that Henry De Bromhead (horses running very well this week) brings her here at all is big for me.
She more than likely won’t win, but at 66/1 she’s a great bet to run into a place as there is not much depth in this contest after the two market principles.
Selection – Montana Belle E/W 66/1
Kim Muir (17.30)
Another hot handicap to finish day three with and whilst Mall Dini and Squouateur are sure to be popular, I think Southfield Royale will be the one to take this.
Southfield Royale has always been very well thought of by trainer Neil Mulholland and this horse is a winner of a Grade 2 novice chase last season and finished runner-up in Grade 1 company at Kempton in December 2015. He’s a class horse
He was a really eye-catching fourth last season at the Cheltenham festival also in that really hot 4 Miler behind Native River and Minella Rocco, who both go for the Gold Cup. He was on course to run a huge race, but the trip caught him out so the return to 3 miles here is a big bonus.
Injury has held him up this season, and he made an awful reappearance last time.
I’m more than willing to forgive that though as he was clearly very badly in need of it and should be a completely different proposition if bouncing back.
He’s now on a brilliant mark of 141, has track experience and is one of the classier sorts in the race if indeed he is back to his best. If he is fit and well, he has a big chance.
Selection – Southfield Royale 9/1 E/W