Cheltenham day three tips: Min and Paisley Park to make star quality count?
We’ve reached the halfway point of the Festival with a day three card that presents punters with a much sterner challenge.
Once the last of the week’s so-called ‘bankers’ Envoi Allen has run in the opening Marsh Chase, it’s all uphill with three 23-runner handicaps and wide open editions of the Stayers’ Hurdle and Ryanair Chase.
The Stayers’ offer 2019 champion Paisley Park a chance to atone for last year’s disappointment at the hands of Lisnagar Oscar while the Ryanair could develop into a private contest among four well matched runners from the Willie Mullins stable.
Of a seven race card, six will be shown live by ITV Racing and we’ve previewed the three most significant races of the day in our Cheltenham tips.
It’s crunch time for Envoi Allen, unbeaten in 11 starts under rules and whose appearance at Cheltenham is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the week.
Already a two-time winner at the Festival, where he captured the Ballymore last year and the Champion Bumper in 2019, he has continued to live up to expectations with three comfortable wins over fences.
He has done everything asked of him but, due to his reputation, few have been prepared to take him on in Ireland. As long as the switch to Henry de Bromhead has not been disruptive, there is little reason to think he can’t continue his streak in this company, just as he did a year ago when he showed undoubted star quality to win the Ballymore.
But if there was to be an upset on the cards it could come from Chatham Street Lad, who ran out an impressive winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over this course and distance in December.
Willie Mullins has won three of the last five runnings of the Ryanair and that domination could continue with the Festival’s leading trainer saddling four runners.
He gave stable jockey Paul Townend a considerable headache over which horse to ride as, despite Min having won the race a year ago, Allaho and Melon have now reached a similar level.
In the end Townend stuck with course form and chose Min who, although pulled up behind Chacun Pour Soi over 2m last time, has won six of his seven starts over this trip. He usually gets it right.
It’s easy to forget that Min has won seven times at Grade 1 level. He is the class act here.
Dashel Drasher attained Grade 1 status for the first time when he was a surprise winner of the Ascot Chase. He has won at Cheltenham, but Ascot is his real home.
The eclipse of Paisley Park last year was one of the upsets of the 2020 Festival. The 2019 winner was sent off the odds-on favourite but trailed in only seventh behind the 50/1 winner Lisnagar Oscar.
Surely something was amiss and so it proved. He was diagnosed with an irregular heart beat.
That has now been treated and he looked back to his best when he defeated Thyme Hill and Roksana to win the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
He doesn’t win easily, he often hits a flat spot in races before powering forward and, despite missing a planned warm-up in the Cleeve Hurdle due to the weather, he should be hard to beat again in this open staying hurdle division.
Keep an eye on Sire Du Berlais. He seems to come alive at the Festival, winning the last two runnings of the Pertemps, and arrives here fresh off a break since taking third in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
ITV Racing Schedule, Thursday 18th March
13:20 Cheltenham – Marsh Chase
13:55 Cheltenham – Pertemps Final
14:30 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase
15:05 Cheltenham – Stayers’ Hurdle
15:40 Cheltenham – Plate Handicap Chase
16:15 Cheltenham – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.