Our expert takes a look at all seven races being run on Champion Chase Day on Wednesday at the Cheltenham Festival and picks out his top selection in each race.
Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
Before Finian’s Oscar was ruled out with injury, this was looking like one of the most exciting showdowns of the week. Bacardys has been backed to the hilt since his excellent victory in the Deloitte Hurdle, but there are question marks surrounding his jumping and if the horses he defeated in the Deloitte, like Bunk Off Early don’t perform well in the Supreme, watch his price start to drift.
Messire Des Obeaux looks like a high-quality customer and could be the best each-way bet of the race, but the likelihood of anyone getting close enough to challenge NEON WOLF is extremely unlikely. Harry Fry’s charge has looked unbeatable in his previous outings this season and a win in the Neptune will be the first step on his path towards becoming a fearsome staying chaser.
RSA Novices' Chase (Grade 1)
Might Bite has been talked up by many experts after his performance at Kempton, but the fact remains he is yet to win a race above a Class 2. Accapella Bourgeois was extremely impressive in the Ten Up Chase, but he does all his best work on deep ground and whether he will take to the Cheltenham turf is debateable. Alpha Des Obeaux is well-fancied despite failing to impress as a chaser and former ante-post favourite, Bellshill will have to recover from a dreadful showing on his last outing.
With clear negatives against his rivals at the head of the betting, ROYAL VACATION has to be in with an excellent shout. He got lucky in the Kauto Star Chase, but he was still the best placed in a very good field when Might Bite fell. There was nothing lucky about his follow up victory in the 21 furlong Timeform Novices’ Handicap, where he carried 11-9 to victory here at Cheltenham. That course form will stand him in excellent stead in the RSA and he has to be considered the best bet of the contest.
Tombstone brings an excellent win over Jezki with him to Cheltenham and he has been heavily-backed since he was confirmed in this handicap. Consul De Thaix looks like a definite title contender and it would be a tumultuous roar if Peregrine Run could continue his fairy-tale season at the Festival.
The Coral Cup is always incredibly tight, so an each-way punt is usually the best course of action. Runfordave and Modus have to be respected, but SUPASUNDAE represents excellent value for money. Jessica Harrington’s charge beat the capable Monksland over this trip at Punchestown in December, when carrying four pounds less on his back than the 11-4 mark he will take to post today. He has plenty of experience in large field handicaps and he came home under two lengths behind Tombstone when finishing seventh in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival. He looks like a strong each-way contender.
Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
Fox Norton has been in excellent form this season and God’s Own is placed nicely for an each-way punt, but DOUVAN winning this year’s Champion Chase is practically a foregone conclusion. Just like Altior on day one, if he clears every fence, he will win, there is no doubt about it. Willie Mullins’ superstar will add a third Festival title to his trophy cabinet and extend his unbeaten run into a fifteenth race.
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Cause Of Cause is a looming presence in the betting and despite his inexperience in this unique style of race, he has been heavily-backed to claim his third Festival title in a row. However, this is a different kind of test to anything he has faced at the Festival so far and Cross Country experience is vital when looking for potential champion.
Auvergnant was challenging for the win on Trial’s Day before a heavy fall and Any Currency effectively won this race last year before the title was taken away from him. That being said, it’s hard to come away from CANTLOW at the head of the betting, who has dominated the Cross Country scene while his stablemate, Jossies Orders has been sidelined with injury. Enda Bolger is by far the best Cross Country trainer and Cantlow has a Cross Country win around Cheltenham already this season to back-up his strong claims.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Divin Bere has been backed off the boards since this became his confirmed Festival path and he has rightly been talked up as a potential Fred Winter champion. DOMPERIGNON DU LYS was disappointing earlier in the season behind Defi Du Seuil, but he bounced back with a strong win in his last outing and he will be gaining weight from nearly all his main rivals in the betting, so he has to be respected.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1)
Carter McKay's price at the head of the Champion Bumper betting may have drifted over the last week, but he has looked good when beating several of his Festival rivals over in Ireland during the season and deserves his spot at the top of the market. Someday has been the most-backed entrant over recent weeks and Jessica Harrington’s charge has looked in great form this season, losing out narrowly to Cilaos Emery before battling for victory on his next outing.
The most appealing runner in the Bumper looks to be WESTERN RYDER, who won a big Listed Bumper at Ascot during the winter. His next appearance came in a runner-up finish behind the impressive Daphne Du Clos in another Listed flat race at Newbury, where he came home just under four lengths behind Nicky Henderson’s filly, despite giving her a stone-and-a-half at the weights. The weights won’t be a concern today and Warren Greatrex’s charge has an excellent chance of ending day two at Cheltenham with a fantastic Festival victory.