After a bloodbath for the bookies on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival, two more good things go for gold this afternoon as the green descends on Prestbury Park for St Patrick’s Thursday.
Un De Sceaux is the heavy favourite to land the Ryanair Chase, while Irish-raider Laurina is a big fancy for Willie Mullins in the Trull House Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 4:50pm.
We’ve given the verdict on both of those, plus the other five races on Day 3 at Cheltenham, below…
1:30 JLT Novices’ Chase – Shattered Love (Lively Longshot)
Willie Mullins has won this race in each of the last three years. But with partner in crime Ruby Walsh missing through a leg-break sustained yesterday, it’s Shattered Love that gets the nod from us.
Gordon Elliott’s charge has looked seriously impressive over in Ireland. She beat Moulin A Vent and Jury Duty in a Grade 1 Chase at Leopardstown in December and is four from five over fences.
The seven-year-old should love the cut in the ground and can keep on winning against opponents with marks against their name.
2:10 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle – Louis’ Vac Pouch
There are chances throughout the field in this one but preference goes to the impressive Louis’ Vac Pouch. Phillip Hobbs’ runner is in excellent nick and beat off Forza Milan at Aintree in November in a qualifier for this race.
Six-year-olds have won the last three renewals and despite a rise in the weights, the son of Oscar undoubtedly has the quality to land this one for connections.
2:50 Ryanair Chase – Un De Sceaux (NAP)
If yesterday’s banker was Altior, today’s should be Un De Sceaux. The veteran is best at home over the straight 2m but showed last year he has what it takes to land this over 2m 5f.
Put simply, he’s the classiest operator in this field, the ground will suit and he’s three from four at Cheltenham – save defeat to the legendary Sprinter Sacre in 2016. Elgin, who is two from two over course and distance, makes most appeal on each-way terms.
3:30 Stayers’ Hurdle – Sam Spinner (NB)
With Yanworth, Supasundae, Unowhatimeanharry and Sam Spinner all in the running, the Stayers’ Hurdle is shaping up to be the race of the Festival.
The latter of those is the selection on the evidence of an excellent victory in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle in December. Jedd O’Keeffe’s super stayer is a real tough customer over this distance and is after the three-timer for connections.
He’s never finished outside of the frame over hurdles and is fancied here.
4:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap – Willie Boy
This race has chucked out some big price winners in recent years. Empire of Dirt returned 16/1 last year, while Darna (33/1) and Ballynagour (12/1) have both tasted success since 2014.
So that means it could pay to look further down the racecard. One we like is Willie Boy. Trained by Venetia Williams, who has won this in three times since 2007, the seven-year-old looked progressive prior to a disappointing run at Newbury in December.
Winners of this race tend to do best off the back of a considerable break. With that rest in the tank and off a favourable mark of 138, he’s taken to prevail at long-odds for connections.
4:50 Trull House Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Maria’s Benefit
Irish-trained raider Laurina is one we’re keen to take on. The Mullins fancy hasn’t come up against much competition across the Irish Sea and could be vulnerable here.
That makes Maria’s Benefit a more than enticing prospect. Stuart Edumunds’ charge comes into the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle off the back five successive victories. She landed a first black-type success at Doncaster last time out and continues to impress over hurdles.
She’s progressive, will love the ground and should be able to lay down a serious challenge to the Irish on St Patrick’s Day.
5:30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Squouateur
All of the trends stack up to suggest Squouateur will land the final race of the day for Gordon Elliott. The Irish trainer has saddler runners to one win and three places in the last decade, including with Cause of Causes in 2016.
Similarly, Jamie Codd could be another deciding factor. The amateur jockey has ridden the winner in two of the last three years and four times overall. He almost made it a hat-trick 12 months ago, but his ride – Squouateur no less – unseated him three out.
Everything points towards the partnership putting the record straight this year, although unfavourable ground remains a concern.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.