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Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Preview and Tips for Champion Chase Day

Wednesday sees the second day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival

The second day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival gets underway on Wednesday with another top-quality seven race card, featuring the Queen Mother Champion Chase amidst four Grade One contests on the afternoon.

Race 1 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Baring Bingham)
Race 2 - RSA Insurance Novices' Chase (Grade 1)
Race 3 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Race 4 - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
Race 5 - Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase)
Race 6 - Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Race 7 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Grade 1)

Brian Healy goes through the second day racecard for the ‘greatest show on turf’ where he has race-by-race selections for another cracking afternoon of racing.

Race 1 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Baring Bingham)



Samcro has been all the rage with punters in the lead-up to the second day opener, and Gordon Elliott’s charge is many people’s idea of a Festival banker; however, while he could be the real deal, he might be worth taking on at the odds with NEXT DESTINATION who can give Willie Mullins another winner in this race. The Dubai Destination gelding, like Samcro, is unbeaten over hurdles and he boasts some very smart form in bumpers which include finishing fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper where he finished fourth to Fayonagh. Having impressed on his hurdles debut at Naas, he has twice since beaten another of Gordon Elliott’s stars in Cracking Smart; firstly beating that rival in the Navan Novices’ Hurdle, and then again in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Hurdle. That form on balance looks marginally stronger than the form accrued by Samcro; with trip and ground, and perhaps crucially previous form on the track to call upon, Willie Mullins’ charge could burst the Samcro bubble and preserve his unbeaten record.


Race 2 - RSA Insurance Novices' Chase (Grade 1)



This is always a cracking spectacle, and Monalee will be popular on the back of his Flogas Chase win recently; but a chance is taken that ELEGANT ESCAPE can maintain his excellent start over fences for the Colin Tizzard camp. The Dubai Destination gelding won twice over hurdles last term, and he acquitted himself well in the Albert Bartlett behind Penhill before disappointing at Aintree. However, he has taken really well to chasing, and he is yet to finish outside the first two home in any of his five outings. Having beaten the progressive Black Corton - who reopposes - at Newbury, he never went with any real fluency behind the same rival in the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, where he was possibly unsuited by the sharper track. But he bounced back faced with a stiffer test at Exeter in February, readily brushing aside Ramses De Teillee to score by 13 lengths. That was on heavy ground, so conditions won’t pose an issue to the Tizzard runner who could have significantly more improvement to come. With course form to call upon, he can run a big race at what could prove generous odds.

Race 3 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)



The first of the day’s handicap contests and a typically competitive renewal can go the way of Paul Nicholls’ TOPOFTHEGAME who could have further progress to come over hurdles, and the Flemensfirth gelding remains relatively unexposed. A point-winner for Donnchadh Doyle previously, beating the smart No Hassle Hoff, he made a pleasing hurdling debut to account for Criq Rock at Ascot prior to finishing a good fourth behind Wholestone here last January. Subsequently runner-up to Beyond Conceit at Ascot in February, he was absent until making his return at Newbury back in November over fences where he fell behind Strong Pursuit. Given time, he returned to hurdling to finish a close fourth to William Henry in the Lanzarote Hurdle, and he stepped up on that effort to beat Golan Fortune in a Sandown Grade Three contest when last seen. He travelled well into that race, and he survived a mistake two out. All-out to hold on, he could appreciate the drop back in trip, while the likely strong pace will suit. An 8lbs rise in the weights demands more, and he is worse off on these terms with William Henry; but this stiffer track could suit him better, and he can post a big effort for his yard which won this race in 2015.


Race 4 - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)



Assuming he is over Monday's scare, and even with the presence of Douvan in opposition, it is hard to get away from the claims of Nicky Henderson's 2017 Arkle hero ALTIOR to land the Champion Chase, given he produced a scintillating display on his return at Newbury and he ought to prove much sharper for the run. With Douvan having to prove fitness on his own return from a lay-off, he may find Nicky Henderson’s charge too much to handle on his first start back, with Altior having had the benefit of a run under his belt; the Henderson runner will bid to continue the excellent form tie-in of previous season’s Arkle winners going on to win the Champion Chase, and unbeaten over fences thus far the High Chaparral gelding ought to take all the beating here. Min has the potential to improve, but he’ll need to on the balance of his form, and with Altior having already brushed aside Politologue and defending champion Special Tiara then Nicky Henderson's Arkle hero looks hard to oppose as he bids to stretch his unbeaten record over fences and add this Grade One prize to a glittering CV. There remains a very slight worry with the High Chaparral gelding following his Monday scare; but reports since have suggested he is none the worse, and if pitching up here fully fit and at his best, then he is hard to oppose.

Race 5 - Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase)



This unique test has so often been an Enda Bolger benefit, but Gordon Elliott won the race twelve months ago with Cause Of Causes who returns to defend his crown; but the Dynaformer gelding will need to bounce back from a poor return at Leopardstown in February. All the usual suspects return, but it could be worth siding with cross-country debutant THE LAST SAMURI to adapt to this test, and Kim Bailey’s charge could go close if he takes to the course. The Flemensfirth gelding has shown good form for this trainer, going close in the 2016 Grand National, although he struggled twelve months on in the same race under a huge weight. He has been in better heart in three starts this term, finishing runner-up to Blaklion in the Becher Chase, and then posting a creditable fourth behind Definitely Red here in January. This increased emphasis on stamina could see him turn in an improved effort, and while his ability to handle the banks and other unique obstacles he’ll face in this test, it could prove right up his street and his safe jumping will be an asset around the course.

Race 6 - Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)



A second competitive handicap contest on the day two card, and NUBE NEGRA could continue to progress having won on his debut with a nine lengths’ success over the reopposing Knight Destroyer prior to chasing home the classy Apple’s Shakira here in December, beaten just over three lengths. Dan Skelton’s charge quickly resumed winning ways at Doncaster on his next start, beating Present From Dubai by nine lengths impressively, and there ought to be more to come from the Dink gelding who looks well-suited by the mud. He might have given Apple’s Shakira more of a fright had he jumped the last more cleanly; but he hit the top, losing momentum and he couldn’t recover the lost ground. He still finished eight lengths ahead of third-placed Knight Destroyer who is held by the Skelton runner on those runs, and he looks sure to play a big part in this contest with the potential for better to come.

Race 7 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Grade 1)



ACEY MILAN can close out day two with a win in the Champion Bumper, and Anthony Honeyball’s charge has looked a high-class and exciting prospect with three wins in four starts, including twice at Listed level with wins here and Newbury. The Milan gelding ran out an easy winner of the latter, posting an eleven-lengths success over Woulduadamandeveit, where he was always travelling well and only needed to be pushed out to score. There could be plenty of further improvement to come, and he handles testing ground well as his win here attests when beating Malinas Jack by four lengths. He made the running that day, but he was content to take a lead at Newbury before coming through two furlongs out, and he is well worth his place in the line-up. While no four-year old has won the Champion Bumper since Cue Card in 2010, Anthony Honeyball’s charge can buck that trend, and he can go close.



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Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Preview and Tips for Champion Chase Day

Race-by-race selections for day two of the Cheltenham Festival, Champion Chase Day on Wednesday.

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