Sportsmail’s racing expert Robin Goodfellow dishes out his tips for day two of the Cheltenham Festival as well as Wednesday’s meetings at Southwell, Wolverhampton and Huntingdon.
BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE
1.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES 5 FURLONGS
Samcro is perceived as the banker of the week for many and it is difficult to knock his claims given he destroyed a Grade 1 field in the Deloitte Hurdle in style at Leopardstown. That was the third of three wide-margin hurdles victories this winter and he boasts a potent combination of speed and stamina allayed with a sound hurdling technique. He will clearly be very difficult to beat, but there look some decent novices in opposition, not least NEXT DESTINATION , who has looked a very useful operator in his own right this winter.
In the face of Samcro’s brilliance, there is a chance Next Destination is in danger of being underestimated despite being unbeaten in all three hurdles, the last victory achieved in Grade 1 company. He too boasts a sharp turn of foot for a stayer, usually travels smoothly and jumps well and represents a stable who have won four of the last 10 renewals.
Black Op could prove the pick of the home contenders as he was unfortunate not to win on Trials Day when flattening the last before being picked up late on by Santini. He boasts plenty of class and possesses the all-important course experience.
ARKLE TROPHY CHASE
2.10: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES
FOOTPAD has looked a natural over fences from the word go and will be very difficult to beat if showing the same aptitude for his obstacles as he has done in all three starts this term. He made all to see off Petit Mouchoir at Leopardstown in Grade One company last month and, although some expect the latter to turn the tables as it was first run in 108 days, he will have to jump more proficiently here.
The selection barely put a foot wrong at Leopardstown and was well on top at the line, which suggests there is a good deal more to come. And it is worth recalling he was fourth in last year’s Champion Hurdle as a five-year-old.
Saint Calvados is the only novice chaser at two miles which can hold a candle to Footpad in the jumping stakes. He has accumulated a swift hat-trick over fences this year and rattled up another exemplary round at Warwick when seeing off another small field from the front. The deep ground will be no issue for him and he is likely to take some pegging back if establishing a good rhythm early on.
RSA NOVICES’ CHASE
2.10: GRADE ONE — 3 MILES
Four of the last nine winners of this event ran in the Flogas Chase won by Monalee at Leopardstown last month and given that runners from the previous year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle have won the RSA five times from 20 attempts, Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old makes plenty of appeal. Monalee jumped and raced with great enthusiasm at Leopardstown, showing no ill-effects of his fall at that venue over the festive period, and he displayed a terrific will to win to fight off a host of challengers. The only slight reservation is his stamina over the trip on really deep ground. DOUNIKO S, fourth to Monalee that day, looks one rival likely to appreciate a war of attrition as he was doing all his best work at the death and appears to be crying out for a test of stamina. He has been re-routed from yesterday’s NH Chase, which suggests connections feel he has a touch of class too. Presenting Percy posted a terrific effort behind Gold Cup aspirant Our Duke in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran. Outspeeded after the last, he wasn’t knocked about and is trained by Pat Kelly, a master of preparing a horse for the big day.
CORAL CUP HANDICAP HURDLE
2.50: GRADE THREE — 2 MILES 5 FURLONGS
Ruth JEFFERSON and her staff have performed with great dignity and no little skill since the death of her father Malcolm this year and the decision to return to hurdles with MOUNT MEWS could prove an inspired decision. Connections have wisely aborted a chasing campaign which was stuttering and stumbling even if the selection was trying to mix it with the likes of Black Corton and Wotzizname at Ascot and Doncaster respectively. There is also a school of thought that Mount Mews may appreciate coming back in trip given he had the pace to finish second to Pingshou in an Aintree Grade 1 Hurdle over two miles last spring. Today’s test on very soft ground should be ideal and he makes plenty of appeal. Topofthegame belied his inexperience to land a competitive Sandown handicap last time and his stamina will be a valuable ally this afternoon. Ben Pauling is another trainer with a strong hand and Le Breuil and Red Indian have been targeted at this handicap, while River Frost, beaten eight lengths in this race 12 months ago, could be a live one at a price.
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
3.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILE S
Rarely can this race have seen so much drama before the tapes have even been released with hot ante-post favourite Altior undergoing an 11th-hour scare and Douvan making the field against all the odds. The former has also suffered with a wind issue this season and in recent history there have been 106 horses which have undergone a similar campaign to him and only one has won — Riverside Theatre, trained by Nicky Henderson. Any breathing issues could well be exploited by the gruelling conditions and, at his price, he is reluctantly overlooked in preference of MIN. The latter’s fitness is seemingly assured and he has looked a smart chaser in waiting this winter, not least at Leopardstown last time when he was imperious. The joker in the pack is undoubtedly Douvan, who was an enormous disappointment in this event last year when sustaining an injury. The fact that Ruby Walsh has remained loyal to him above Min could be construed as a tip in its own right and, although he has undoubtedly been tricky to train, if the fire still burns he remains a huge threat.
CROSS COUNTRY CHASE
4.10: 3 MILE S 6 FURLONG S
The redoubtable CAUSE OF CAUSES is an incredible horse, as his Festival record over fences reads 2111, statistics which are virtually unparalleled in the modern day. He has built a terrific association with Jamie Codd who has been onboard for all three successes and the duo routed a decent field which included Bless The Wings and Auvergnat in this event 12 months ago. The 10-year-old boasts a sharp turn of foot for a stayer and that was again in evidence last year as he came readily clear of his rivals, so he could well take all the beating again. Stablemate Tiger Roll is compiling a similar Festival record and is shortlisted once more. Auvergnat didn’t appear to quite get home last year, but he made a series of niggling errors which may have contributed to him fading from the home turn. He still travelled powerfully throughout for a large percentage of the race and confirmed his wellbeing at Punchestown with a creditable defeat of Josies Orders in the traditional prep for today’s race. The Last Samurai is being prepared for another tilt at the Grand National, but if he takes to these fences he is a huge player.
FRED WINTER H’CAP HURDLE
4.50: GRADE THREE — 2 MILE S
The ability to see out the trip in deep ground will be paramount today and, given he has finished strongly under similar conditions on his last two starts, LI SP could prove the answer to one of the toughest races of the week. As a relative of Thomas Campbell and Coeur De Lion, this type of examination should be ideal for a powerful galloper who did everything wrong at Haydock, when he pulled too hard in a small field, yet still ran a blinder behind Turning Gold. The selection should enjoy more cover in this bigger field and looks a big player. Both Nube Negra and Look My Way have tackled Triumph Hurdle favourite Apple’s Shakira at this venue and look huge contenders given they have track experience and have had good preparations. The former tanked through a minor contest at Doncaster and clearly boasts plenty of ability, while Look My Way was a stayer on the flat and any horse that can cope with soft ground at Ffos Las shouldn’t find today’s conditions beyond him. French import The King Of May is another to consider as he too has finished behind Apple’s Shakira and impressed on his British debut at Musselburgh.
5.30: GRADE ONE — 2 MILES
Willie MULLINS has made this race his own since the turn of the century and CAREFULLY SELECTED could surprise one or two of his stablemates who have been installed at shorter prices. From the same family as the talented Lord Sam, the selection has impressed in both of his bumper starts this term, having enjoyed success between the flags in Ireland. He boasted enough stamina to win over two-and-ahalf miles at Leopardstown at Christmas, but didn’t appear to lack any pace when bolting up at Naas over the minimum trip last month and his ability to see out the trip on bad ground will stand him in good stead here. Fellow Mullins contender Blackbow enjoyed the best of a tactical affair with Rhinestone at Leopardstown. But the latter could well reverse the placings as he looked to be short of pace when the winner quickened and yet was closing all the way to the line. He is reported to be in good heart at home and should be on the scene. Acey Milan has impressed this season and is respected but the prices of Crooks Peak, a course and distance winner, and Mercy Mercy Me may offer more juice for the value seeker.
PETER SCUDAMORE – EIGHT TIMES CHAMPION JOCKEY
There has been loads of hype surrounding SAMCRO in the build up to this day — but there is also plenty of evidence from his unbeaten track record that it is probably justified. I am a believer.
He has never started a race odds against in the betting, even on his point-to-point debut, and he has never looked like being extended in any finish he has contested.
PETER SCUDAMORE’S SELECTIONS
2.10 PRESENTING PERCY
2.50 SPRINGTOWN LAKE
4.10 CAUSE OF CAUSES
4.50 LOOK MY WAY
5.30 MERCY MERCY ME
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is obviously the biggest test he has ever faced — but he certainly looks up to it.
ALTIOR has overcome a minor blip with a hoof issue in the last 48 hours and overall his season has been far from what trainer Nicky Henderson would have planned — as he had to have a breathing operation as well.
But the image I cannot get out of my mind when assessing his chance was the effortless way he brushed aside Politologue on his comeback run in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
There were built-in reasons why he could have performed below par that day yet he treated one of his major rivals with contempt.
I have plenty of respect for Monalee in the RSA Chase but I think he may find PRESENTING PERCY is a bit too good for him. Presenting Percy is a horse plenty of people think is a Gold Cup candidate of the future. In fact, on his last run, he was just beaten by Our Duke, one of the leading candidates for this year’s big race on Friday.
CAUSE OF CAUSES could be described as a course and meeting specialist as he has won well at the Festival before. He is hard to oppose in the Cross Country Chase while LOOK MY WAY looks fairly well handicapped in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
CAPTAIN HEATH (MARCUS TOWNEND)
THE KING OF MAY has only run once in Britain, but put in a very promising performance against a couple of useful rivals at Musselburgh. He is expected to improve and can give trainer Brian Ellison a first Festival winner.
FORMCAST (NIGEL TAYLOR)
AGON DE CHANAY improved by at least a stone when winning a Sandown hurdle very easily last Saturday. He has a 5lb penalty to carry for that success, but will be difficult to beat off what is still a light weight today.
CAPTAIN HEATH’S SELECTIONS
1.30 NEXT DESTINATION
2.10 PRESENTING PERCY
4.10 CAUSE OF CAUSES
4.50 THE KING OF MAY
2.10 BLACK CORTON
2.50 WILLIAM HENRY
4.10 THE LAST SAMURI
4.50 ERAGON DE CHANAY
5.30 NO SELECTION
BEAT THE FAVOURITE
Our football experts like to go against the grain with their tips. Here are their picks to trounce today’s fancied runners…
JAMIE REDKNAPP: 5.30 ACEY MILAN
CHRIS SUTTON: 2.50 TOPOFTHEGAME
GRAHAM POLL: 4.10 JOSIES ORDERS
WINNERS ENCLOSURE – BEST BETS, BEST ODDS WITH LADBROKES’ NICOLA McGEADY
Cheltenham bankers Footpad and Buveur D’Air gave the bookmakers a bloody nose on the opening day of the Festival. And it could have been worse, about £4million worse for Ladbrokes alone, if Apple’s Jade had won the Mares’ Hurdle! Punters began the day on a sour note as Ruby Walsh and hot-favourite Getabird failed to land the curtain-raiser. However, their fortunes soon changed for the better. Willie Mullins-trained Footpad was the first massive result to go in favour of the punters. Here at Ladbrokes the 5-6 favourite was the best-backed horse of the day. That was quickly followed up with another winning favourite in the form of Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Handicap Chase. The final nail in the coffin for bookmakers, was a win for Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle ‘good thing’ Buveur D’Air.
Punters will pile money on these hot picks…
SAMCRO, PRESENTING PERCY, CAUSE OF CAUSES and MIN
The biggest talking horse of the entire week runs today — the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro. However, we think he could be a hype horse and is a hype price too at 8-11. Don’t get me wrong, he is a very good horse, but we have seen lots of odds-on good things getting beat in novice races over the years, including Elliott’s Death Duty in last year’s Albert Bartlett. In the RSA, we are very sweet on Patrick Kelly-trained seven-year-old Presenting Percy. He will be very hard to beat. He won the Pertemps last year and his run in the Red Mills Chase behind Our Duke on heavy ground was very impressive. The feature race is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, one of the most eagerly awaited clashes of the Festival. The market has been shaken up with news that all is not well with Altior. Henderson’s superstar was lame on Monday and although he has been declared fit we have our doubts and will take him on. The one we do like here is Willie Mullins’s Min. He may have lost a Grade One at Christmas, but that feels like a distant memory after he looked so impressive in the Coral Dublin Chase in February.
… but keep an eye on these outsiders
FELIX DESJY AND ACEY MILAN
We WILL be keeping Cause Of Causes on side in the Cross Country Chase. He has won the four-miler and the Kim Muir and we think he will etch his name into the history books. Our ambassador Dan Skelton has said Nube Negra is his best chance of a festival winner in the Fred Winter. The ground won’t be a problem, he has been around the track before, and he keeps on improving. Willie Mullins’s BlackBow looked very good at Leopardstown last time but there are others that take our fancy more in the Champion Bumper. I think the likes of Felix Desjy and Acey Milan could out-run their odds so we will be adding them to the list of ones to keep onside.
Work whisper: COOLANLY (Cheltenham, 1.30)
Weighting game: Gin And Tonic (Huntingdon, 3.45)
Down 19lb from last winning mark.
Burnt fingers: Monks Stand (Southwell, 5.15)
Captain Heath trio
The King Of May (nap) (Cheltenham, 4.50)
Presenting Percy (nb) (Cheltenham, 2.10)
Next Destination (Cheltenham, 1.30)
Formcast special bet
Eragon De Chanay (Cheltenham, 4.50)
1.20 Warrior’s Valley
2.35 Line House
3.55 Captain Lars
4.35 The Resdev Way
5.15 Coiste Bodhar
1.20 Warrior’s Valley
1.55 Medici Moon
2.35 The Jungle Vip
3.55 Captain Lars
4.35 Cousin Khee
5.15 Teardrop Island
5.45 Bernie’s Boy
6.15 Dream Magic
7.45 Peggy’s Angel
8.15 Spring Romance
5.45 Dream Farr
6.15 King Kevin
8.15 Spring Romance
8.45 Surrey Blaze
1.45 Lungarno Palace
2.25 Vote Of Confidence
3.05 Your Wan
3.45 Prince Kup
4.25 Alberto’s Dream
5.05 Oakley Hall
5.40 That’s A Given
1.45 Pirate Look
3.05 Chandos Belle
3.45 Chilli Romance
4.25 Isle Road
5.05 As I See It
5.40 Guiding Stars