Cheltenham Day Three Preview

We are halfway through but the Cheltenham Festival is a marathon, not a sprint! That will start to become evident today. We leave behind the two-mile Championship heats and focus on the Stayers’ Hurdle over three-miles as the feature on the card.

Faugheen is tipped by many for one last Cotswolds hurrah but a horse with more recent C&D Festival-winning form might trump ‘The Machine’.

Old and New – Faugheen v Paisley Park

The Stayers’ Hurdle has to some degree been billed as a near two-horse race as the countdown to this meeting intensified. An Anglo-Irish battled between the old and the new.

Britain has the rising star in Paisley Park, winner of the Grade 1 Long Walk at Ascot in December and uber-impressive when taking the Cleeve Hurdle over the C&D on Cheltenham Trials Day in January.

He’s the up-and-coming stayer and looks purpose-built for this sort of test, of that there’s no doubt. But he’s never met Faugheen before.

The former Champion Hurdler has an impressive record at this meeting and will vow to buck the trend in winning this race both as a former two-mile kingpin and as an 11-year-old. The only Stayers’ Hurdle winner to be aged in double figures was Crimson Embers when successful at the age of 11 all the way back in 1986.

Faugheen blitzed last year’s winner Penhill over this trip at Punchestown but he’s disappointed in two runs this term, including a fall at Christmas when last spotted. Can he deliver one last hurrah? He’s 5.00 to win, with Paisley Park the hot favourite at 2.88.

Brewing up a Storm

Against the top pair in the betting, it could be well worth siding with Kilbricken Storm at 14.00 for trainer Colin Tizzard.

He was widely overlooked last year going into the Albert Bartlett, despite having C&D winning form in the book. He went off at a massive price but travelled powerfully had plenty to spare over the likes of Santini coming up the hill.

He went novice chasing in the autumn, winning once from his two starts, but didn’t really take to jumping the larger obstacles. He comes here without a prep run, which is something of a concern, but it didn’t hinder Penhill last year when he added Stayers’ success to his previous Albert Bartlett win.

Sam Spinner was favourite for this last year but is now 41.00 having completely lost his way since, with Aintree winner Black Op another lively contender with Cheltenham Festival form in his book.

Reve It Up in the JLT

Thursday’s action begins with the JLT Novices’ Chase where Defi Du Seuil is the market leader at 3.75 for trainer Philip Hobbs. He’s a Festival winner already and has been progressing nicely this term, including a win last time out at Sandown in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

On form this season there’s little to separate the likes of Defi Du Seuil, Lostintranslation and Vinndication. The trio are all capable of running well but this contest has routinely proved a benefit for the Irish, with seven of the eight winners since it was added to the programme in 2011 hailing from the Emerald Isle.

Ruby Walsh partnered three of those winners – Vautour, Black Hercules and Yorkhill – with the last-named pairing both running in the colours of Graham Wylie.

This year, Willie Mullins has played three of the 10 cards in this line-up, so Walsh had his choice from 30 per-cent of the field and he selected Voix De Reve.

Real Steel has been excellent in his two recent wins over fences and is 8.00 in the betting for the JLT, while Walsh’s mount is much bigger at 15.00. More intriguing still is that Voix De Reve was a faller in the Irish Arkle last month when challenging Le Richebourg at the final fence.

He goes up in distance now and will have no worries based on his hurdles form at 2m4f. He beat the likes of Hardline earlier this season and can run a big race for Walsh in those famous Wylie colours.

Respect the Ryanair class

The Ryanair Chase is the place where horses tend to end up having fallen between stools. Footpad diverts here having started the season as a Queen Mother horse, something stablemate Un De Sceaux has already done successfully in this race and will attempt again aged 11.

For the likes of Monalee, Road To Respect and Frodon, this race is the ‘softer’ alternative to the stamina-sapping Gold Cup on Friday. With the various defections and detours, it means a strong renewal of the Ryanair is in store.

Footpad, currently favourite at 4.50, is nigh-on impossible to support given his problems this season. His jumping has let him down while he was collared late on by Simply Ned on his last run having seemingly banked the race jumping the last.

Monalee is the form horse over this sort of trip and at 5.00 represents a big chance for Henry De Bromhead, whose defending champion Balko Des Flos is out of sorts. The teak-tough Frodon should run well under Bryony Frost but they might all give best to Road To Respect.

Noel Meade’s charge is already a Festival winner over this trip and has been plying his trade in top-level races over extended contests more recently. He was the nearest pursuer of Native River and Might Bite in the Gold Cup last season and it looks the right call to drop away from the Blue Ribband now.

Having waited so long for the first, Gigginstown can win their own race two years running with the 5.50 chance.

If the rain continues to batter the Cotswolds countryside, then it would be perilous to discount former winner Un De Sceaux. He ran a mighty race behind Altior in the Tingle Creek earlier in the season and the prospect of testing ground here will have his connections very excited that he might bag Cheltenham Festival win number three. He has never finished outside of the first two at this venue.