1.30: Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, 2m 5f
Will Champ honour his name? He’s certainly got every chance to do so. He’s top rated, 5lb ahead of his nearest rival. Has achieved the highest RPR of anyone in the field so far and comes only marginally second in TS ratings.
The one thing you can question is the merit of his forms, though: they aren’t worth a lot, despite two graded successes this season. On that basis, at given prices, he’s one to oppose.
The Irish talk is all about Battleoverdoyen. He won the Lawlor’s Of Naas in impressive style. He’ll be an amazing chaser next season, you’d reckon. In my eyes, even now, he seems like crying out for a step up in trip and his jumping isn’t really all that efficient over the smaller obstacles either.
The runner-up from Naas, Sams Profile, is an interesting contender. He didn’t quite get the best of runs that day and should have plenty of improvement left.
Nonetheless, the one I quite fancy, despite not having graded form to his name yet, is City Island. Unbeaten over hurdles, he had enough speed to win a 2 miles national Hunt Flat race last season as well as a Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle this season, dispatching smart Dallas Des Pictons easily.
That form looks a strong piece of form judged through the runner-up. Not as impressive form-wise, more so visually, was City Island’s most recent success at Naas- a good preparation for Cheltenham.
The fact he has had the speed to win over shorter than the Ballymore trip, despite clearly having a future over further, already having shown form with cut in the ground and running to a relatively fast TS rating plus the second highest RPR tells me he is still underappreciated in the market, even though he is shortening.
10pts win – City Island @ 10/1 Coral
2.50: Grade 3 Coral Cup Hurdle, 2m 4f
I’ve been sitting for a long time over this race, much longer than usual. Ultimately, even though shortlisted, I do not trust big weights Vision Des Flos and William Henry to be good enough to overcome their high marks in this ultra competitive renewal.
Ruby Walsh on favourite Uradel is the likeliest winner in my book. His reappearance last month at Leopardstown was eye-catching and he comes here with a nice weight. But he is a skinny price.
Not a skinny price, but also catching my eye was Tully East. A horse I’ll be forever grateful for as I backed him at big odds when he landed the Close Brothers two years ago.
That was over fences. This is over hurdles. Significantly, Tully East’s hurdle handicap mark is eight pounds lower for this race than his current chasing mark. One can make the argument that he is a better chaser than hurdler. In my book it’s marginal and a rating of 138 by the British handicapper gives him a tremendous chance in this race.
As mentioned, Tully East caught the eye on his latest run, which was a second after a 148-day break. He was well beaten in the end, but was buried in the pack for the majority of the race, travelled nicely, made a bit of stylish headway turning for home, when short of room, which eventually ended his race.
Trip and ground are a non-issue. He’s been here before, done it – I’m sure connections had this in mind all season long. He’s a much bigger price than I would have anticipated.
10pts win – Tully East @ 22/1 MB
3.30: Grade 1 Champion Chase, 2 miles
Altior isn’t to beat, so much is for sure. He’s the class act of the festival and baring a disaster he’ll win another Champion Chase.
It’ll be all about the places behind him. Obviously Min has the strongest claims. He’s got the form in the book this season with his latest Leopardstown success. On ratings he’s closely matched with Politologue. A mere pound separates them.
When these two met the last time, albeit at Aintree over 2m 4f, there was only a neck between them as well – Politologue got the better that day.
As I am eyeing the place market here, I struggle to make even a remotely good cases for anyone else in this field, so both Min and Politologue should have excellent chances to fill second and third.
In saying that, I feel Politologue is overpriced in the place market. Yes, it’s not all that long ago he was a leading fancy for the King George, but truth is also his form over 2 miles is quite good as well, particularly with cut in the ground.
Whether Cheltenham is his track is another matter. The jury is still out for me. Fact his, finishing a tired 4th last year in this very race may not quite be a fair measuring stick given he was hampered by a faller four out and found himself suddenly in front – way too early.
I’m sure Politologue will be conservatively ridden for a place this time. Given he’ll find perfect conditions tomorrow I feel he’s worth a bet to fill second or third behind the almighty Altior.
10pts place – Politologue @ 7/2 MB
4.50: Grade 3 Fred Winter Hurdle, 2 miles
Th French grey Coko Beach has shaped much better in his two Irish starts for Gordon Elliott than the bare form suggests. Steadily ran races on good ground is highly unlikely to bring the best out of him – he is related to to horses that all showed their best on soft.
Coko Beach will make a nice chaser over further in the future. But he jumps his hurdles nicely and an opening mark of 134 could underestimate him, given he should improve dramatically from the Leopardstown runs.
On the positive side, he already has won a Hurdle in France on soft ground, albeit over slightly further, dispatching a next time out winner easily with Arverne who, on his UK debut, was pitched right into Grade 1 company.
10pts win – Coko Beach @ 15/1 MB