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Cheltenham worth waiting for


UP AND OVER A Plus Tard, with Rachael Blackmore up, winning the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase last year. The pair can make the step up in class in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday. 
Pic: Sportsfile

Festival survives scare with 28 races to savour over four days

Michael Duffy

Day one
Sublime start for Elliott

THE national hunt racing public have been on tenterhooks for the last number of weeks with strong rumours circulating that the coronavirus would force a postponement of Cheltenham 2020, but thankfully, it’s all systems go this morning in the Cotswolds, for what is sure to be another memorable festival.
And as an added bonus, it does appear temperatures at Prestbury Park are due to rise to double digits during the week so conditions should be decent for all 28 races.
The feature on Day One is the Champion Hurdle. We struck gold last year when tipping up the ultimately ill-fated Espoir D’Allen to win the big race at 16/1 and this looks an even more open race than the 2019 event. Coeur Sublime is the one of real interest for me.
He had excuses when third to Sharjah at Christmas (breathing problem) but he ran a cracker here in the Truimph behind Pentland Hills last year, remains unexposed and should handle the softer conditions.
Our nap on day one comes in the first handicap of the festival, the Ultima, where Kildisart for Ben Pauling looks very well treated on his fourth to Defi Du Seuil in last year’s JLT.
The Irish look like having a good day one as Willie Mullins has two superb chances in Asterion Forlonge (Supreme) and Carefully Selected (NH Chase) but we go for Henry De Bromhead to get one over on Mullins by taking the Mares Hurdle with the unbeaten Honeysuckle. Rouge Vif can take the Arkle for Harry Whittington at a tasty price of 12/1, while England can also take the Northern Trust Handicap Chase with Venetia Williams’s improving Espoir De Guye.

1.30: Asterion Forlonge
2.10: Rouge Vif
2.50: Kildisart (nap)
3.30: Coeur Sublime
4.10: Honeysuckle
4.50: Espoir De Guye
5.30: Carefully Selected

Day Two
Willie can finally land the Champion

The Champion Chase could well be the race of the week with an all-time great, a season’s top performer and a young pretender going toe-to-toe. Both Altior and Defi De Seuil deserve the utmost respect but if Chacan Pour Soi can jump smoothly, we feel he ultimately could have too much gears and give Willie Mullins his first ever win in the famous race.
Many people’s idea of an Irish banker is Envoi Allen in the opening Ballymore Novice Hurdle and he could be a class apart, but Philip Hobbs’s Sporting John has also done nothing wrong, is also unbeaten and crucially may have more scope for improvement on what is only his fourth visit to a racecourse.
I also fancy the English to strike in the RSA Chase with Copperhead, who has really taken to fences for Colin Tizzard and put up an eye-catching performance last time out at Ascot.
I think JP McManus can bring up a treble on the day by defeating the all conquering Tiger Roll with his classy French recruit Easysland in the Cross Country and with favourite Aramax taking the Boodles Juvenile Handicap.
Favourite bankers can also rely on Willie Mullins in the Bumper with Appreciate It while Black Tears can give Gordon Elliott another winner of the festival as he looks well treated in the ultra competitive Coral Cup.

1.30: Sporting John
2.10: Copperhead (nap)
2.50: Black Tears
3.30: Chacan Pour Soi
4.10: Easysland
4.50: Aramax
5.30: Appreciate It

Day Three
Rachel can fly in the Ryanair

I don’t expect too many surprises in the two Grade Ones on Thursday as A Plus Tard and Paisley Park are well worthy of their places at the head of the market. The Stayers has seen horses like Inglis Drever and Big Bucks rack up multiple wins and last year’s winner Paisley Park has looked as good as ever this year, while A Plus Tard was perhaps the most impressive winner of all at last year’s festival. He is stepping up to Grade One company at this year’s festival but his defeat of Chacan Pour Soi confirmed his promise and he can do enough to hold off the considerable challenge of Min and give a high profile Grade One success for Rachel Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead. The rest of Thursday’s car is notoriously difficult and is often more worthy of a Lucky 15 or 31.
Samcro is hard to get a handle on but he is a former festival winner and on a going day he could take all the beating in the opening Marsh Novice Chase, while the other mares race on the card, the novice hurdle, can also go to Ireland with Henry’s De Bromhead’s classy Minella Melody looking the part. Simply the Betts looks to be improving at a rate of knots and is a worthy favourite for the Brown Advisory Plate.
The Pertemps Final can provide another big winner for JP McManus and a first time success for young trainer Denis Cullen with A Great View, while Deise Aba has the right profile to win the Kim Muir, with his owner Trevor Hemmings having won the race three times.

1.30: Samcro
2.10: A Great View
2.50: A Plus Tard  (nap)
3.30: Paisley Park
4.10: Simply The Betts
4.50: Minella Melody
5.30: Deisa Aba

Day Four
Nicholls can strike Gold again

This year’s Gold Cup is definitely one of the most open renewals in recent times. The bookmakers seems to think it’s between seven of them, with the rest of the field 25/1 or bigger but of those, I really think Henry De Bromhead’s pair of Monalee and Chris’s Dream are over priced. However, I’m inclined to give King George winner Clan Des Obeaux another chance. True, he hasn’t won on five attempts at Cheltenham but Paul Nicholls is bullish he has the dual King George winner in the form of his life and he comes here fresh with no prep run since his superb victory at Kempton.
One of my main fancies of the week is Allmankind for the Truimph Hurdle. He has been usurped at the top of the market in recent weeks after eye catching performances from both Goshen and Solo, but for me he still sets the standard after an awesome performance at Chepstow over Christmas. That was on heavy going so the deeper the ground, the better for him.
I also like the look of Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition in the Albert Barlett. It’s a tough looking race but Nolan’s seven-year-old has some fine form in the book this season and should appreciate this step up to three miles.
The other selections on a tough closing day of the festival are Nicky Henderson’s well-backed Adjali in the County Hurdle, the experience Minella Rocco in the Foxhunters, Paloma Blue for Henry De Bromhead in the Grand Annual, and Gordon Elliott to take the last race of the festival, the Martin Pipe, with The Bosses Oscar. Enjoy what should be a memorable four days.

1.30: Allmankind (nap)
2.10: Adjali
2.50: Latest Exhibition
3.30: Clan Des Obeaux
4.10: Minella Rocco
4.50: Paloma Blue
5.30: The Bosses Oscar

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