Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
There is quiet often a Cheltenham festival novice hurdler, whom is all rage and goes to post a very warm order in the market. Sometimes they vindicate the hype, such as Mikael D’Haguenet, Black Jack Ketchum, At Fishers Cross, Samcro, Faugheen and Douvan, but such as Dunguib, Pont Alexander, Yanworth and So Young, they can be found out on the biggest stage of them all. Personally, I think Envoi Allen will fall in the former category. Dunguib as an exception, the hot pots don’t usually have the festival winning form of Envoi Allen and though Dunguib did win the Champion Bumper also – annihilating the 2009 field – he was never the soundest jumping novice and Envoi Allen is probably the best jumper of a hurdle in this field. It’s clear to see that the deep girthed son if Muhtathir is a chaser in the making but unlike some of the future chasers of which I alluded to in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle section, this one jumps quick and slick. He’s never been beaten and looks very hard to oppose in this also. The biggest danger to Envoi Allen is in the form of the big Getaway, The Big Getaway. Willie Mullins’ runner blew his chance to win a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas, when he blundered the last flight and ended up finishing fourth, but he redeemed himself at Naas when beating subsequent winner, Foxy Jacks by seventeen lengths. He is highly thought of in Willie’s and travels easy in his races and stays well. Two of the horses that finished ahead of him at Leopardstown have both won since. The Big Breakaway is a beautiful loose moving horse that stays very well. This race needs pace however, and he looks to be a three miler to me. Sporting John has been best so far at two miles and three furlongs, winning at Ascot in February, which came with an impressive advert of his stamina. The horse he beat that day was only two lengths behind Chantry House at Cheltenham in December and Sporting John put 6 1/2 lengths and eight pounds to the runner up.
Envoi Allen to win
Connections of Allaho are favoring a tilt at the RSA Chase rather than the Marsh Novices’ Chase over the shorter trip, of which they had felt that the keen going sort would have been more suited to. However, the RSA Chase can be strongly run and I’d expect him to settle better than in his trial races. If he gets an easy lead it could be hard to get him beaten. He stays the trip as advertised in last season’s Spa Hurdle and seems to have strengthened up since that run at the 2019 festival but he will have to turn the tables on Minella Indo, who won that Spa Hurdle and has strong chasing form lines through the subsequent winner, Captain CJ. He is a bit of a guess jumper so he’ll have to tidy himself up to win this but Henry de Bromhead could nearly train them to jump bail and I’d expect him to be solid on the day. The trend of weak favorites continues into this race and I can’t get my head around why Champ is the market leader for this. He isn’t the greatest jumper in the world and has come down on his course fencing run – albeit it when in command – in the Dipper. Add in the dramatic improvement in his performance at Aintree to last year’s Cheltenham Festival run and the question even has to be asked if Champ is a better horse away from Cheltenham. The fact that they’ve entered him in the Stayers Hurdle also, suggests that all wasn’t rosy in the garden when the entries deadline arrived and he has missed an intended engagement since. I wouldn’t be filled with confidence with the thought that Champ will beat Allaho and Minella Indo, whom were better novice hurdlers, for me. Copperhead is a possible runner here, particularly if this comes up soft. He stays and gallops and is a quality jumper. If he lines up, he has to be respected for the Tizzard team but the National Hunt Chase appears to be preference with top amateurs Derek O’Conner and Jamie Codd already enquiring about the ride for the Qualified Riders event. The Tizzard team are an ambitious people, however, and with a run, I’d really be tempted to back Copperhead. Slate House won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day from Black Op. He is a second season novice who finished eight in last years Arkle. He has regularly ran at Cheltenham, winning three times. However, his course form this season reads 1FP, pulling up on his latest start. He has beaten Black Op by the same distance as Champ and Tom George’s horse wouldn’t be out of place winning this either. However, he is another one whose jumping needs to improve against the top two Irish horses. I think Easy Game will see out this trip and he looks to be wanting it, advertised by his winover Allaho and his all the way battle to the line behind Faugheen. Castlebawn West is a horse I think plenty of and at 100/1, I think he is the interesting value in this race. He is a sound jumper and his form through School Boy Hours – who he beat by thirteen lengths, a further distance than when Minella Indo beat the same rival – gives him a intriguing chance of making the places. He was well beaten by Faugheen at Leopardstown but the step up in trip will help him and with so many horses with clouds over them, he could be one to cause a shock. Having said that, the rider of the runner up to Allaho at Fairyhouse was the brilliant Davy Russell and he has said how he couldn’t get near the winner such was the strong pace he travelled on the day. With that in mind, I wonder will he continue to gallop all the way out to the line or would he have been more suited to the Marsh Chase on the Thursday.
Castlebawn West – each way 40/1
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Defi du Seuil has been the two mile chaser of the season thus far, winning all three starts including two Grade one’s and a course and distance Shloer Chase victory. When he won the Tingle Creek Chase and the Clarence House Chase, he beat the admirable old warrior, Un de Sceaux. However, while there is plenty to like about Defi du Seuil, there is equally holes to pick in him. For one, he jumps his fences too big for a two mile chaser. Two milers need to be quick and slick at their fences but Defi du Seuil has a tendency to spend a lot of time in the air. That is a big negative against the class of this field. He also seems to doss in front and pulls himself up. This may explain why he only beat Politologue by a length and quarter in receipt of three pounds or why the 143 rated Marracudja was only seven lengths behind him at Ascot. There is no fear of that class of animal getting so close in this contest and for the style of him dossing at the end of a race, there is the equalizer of Altior dossing mid-race and finishing strongly. The Amlin 1965 Chase, in which Altior tasted his one and only defeat over fences – to the best chaser in training, Cyrname – was ironically a race which showed Altior as honestly as we have seen him for some time. He had his training issues since then and judging how badly Cyrname has run since I think is testimony to what a grueling race it was at Ascot which left its mark on both runners. There’s little doubt that the two time Champion Chaser is the one to beat again this year but for some reason he seems beatable and maybe it’s because we have now seen him beaten or perhaps it is that he hasn’t looked superb in winning at Newbury in the Game Spirit Chase, which would make it dangerous to oppose him as he hit his customary flat spot. Regardless, it seems a lot of people are opposing him this year and it wouldn’t be surprising if Defi lines up as favorite. At Punchestown, last April, I opposed Defi du Seuil with Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi for the simple reason that he would likely be a fresher horse at the end of the season and that is what I thought the race produced up until this year’s Dublin Racing Festival. I must admit, I felt he was over rated on that Punchestown win but when he beat Min at Leopardstown, I started to see him beating Defi on merit. There’s no doubt that Min is better over two and a half miles these days but he is still a quality two miler and Chacun Pour Soi beat him snug on the day. Chacun Pour Soi beat Portmore Lough by thirty one lengths in his Beginners Chase, and that is a horse who won his next two starts before finishing third in the Troytown Chase off of 131 to a lively Gold Cup contender in Chris’s Dream. Fitzhenry was second in that race and he was raised three pounds to 137 to get nabbed close home by Roaring Bull in the Paddy Power. The third and fifth horses in that Beginners Chase have also both won since which makes his form rock solid and arguably the most impressive in this race. He has a beautiful temperament and jumps very slick. In what looks a quality Champion Chase three-way battle, I think Chacun Pour Soi has the credentials to win this for Mullins’. In the unlikely event of A Plus Tard running in this over the Ryanair Chase, he would have to get a huge mention. He beat Chacun Pour Soi at Christmas and bolted up in the Novices Handicap at last year’s festival. With the way Mullins’ horses have seemingly needed their first runs of the season, one would have to consider Chacun to turn the tables but A Plus Tard is a quick jumper who would definitely be involved in the finish. Dynamite Dollars is another superb jumper who ran with great credit behind Altior last time, after a long absence. On his best form, he would need to improve in this field and while he will almost certainly improve from that Game Spirit run, one feels it would need significantly more on his very best to get involved. The old favorite, Un de Sceaux will be sadly missed after his recent retirement after a glittering career. Following his retirement through injury, the much adored horse had his allegiance of fans waxing lyrical and ignorant to one major question his Champion Chase absence poses. What will make the running now? Dynamite Dollars perhaps, but without an obvious front runner, it could turn into a quick finish of which would suit Defi du Seuil’s turn of foot but if it is truly ran – and it’s hard to not see something keenly going on – then I think Chacun Pour Soi’s form against Min and Defi, put him in with a great chance.
Chacun Pour Soi to win
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Handicaps and the Champion Bumper
Last year’s CORAL CUP fifth, Canardier, has moved to Willie Mullins and franks the William Henry form of last year. It is form that looks to be above originally rated through William Henry and the second, Wicklow Brave – This is explained in detail on the full book version available on lulu.com – While some will look at last year’s run off of 141 and see him well held on a pound higher this year, the major significance of the run comes through the advantage that the horses had at the finish. The figure that keeps showing up is nine pounds and that means that if the others get snookered, that Canardier has a huge chance to win.
The second handicap hurdle of the day is the BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE. The favorite is Aramax has form with Wolf Prince from earlier in the season. He was seven lengths behind the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) Wolf Prince. On that form, he would be eight pounds well in.
In the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper, Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It is all the rage. The yard seem to rate his chances highly and they are well placed to know what it takes to win the race – Mullins has won it nine times. At a price, I like Darling Daughter. She gets the seven pounds mares allowance from the geldings and beat a subsequent winners, in Politesse, Castro Vetera and The West Awaits, as well as six other previous Bumper winners. The form is seriously impressive and she represents last year’s winning trainer, Gordon Elliott.
Selections for Day Two at the Cheltenham Festival :
Ballymore Hurdle – Envoi Allen
RSA Chase – Castlebawn West
Coral Cup – Canardier
Queen Mother Champion Chase – Chacun Pour Soi
X Country Chase – Tiger Roll
Fred Winter – Aramax
Bumper – Darling Daughter