Action returns to Prestbury Park this afternoon after a fine opening day of the Festival yesterday.
Bacardys looks like an interesting contender for the Mullins/Walsh combo in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on Day Two of the festival.
The six-year-old was well on top of yesterday’s Supreme contender Bunk Off Early at Punchestown last time and there’s no doubt he will relish the extra distance.
He’s a strong traveller who looks like he will jump a fence given time but he may have too much class for these rivals.
There’s no better man than Ruby Walsh at delivering a horse late and he’s taken to record his first winner of the Festival after an unusually quiet first day.
Neon Wolf is likely to go off favourite for the race but he gives the impression he’s relished the cut in the ground on his recent starts and he may need some rain to be seen to best effect. Keeper Hill is one at a bigger price who catches the eye in a bid for a four-timer.
Nicky Henderson sends three to the RSA Novices’ Chase and he got the Festival off to a fine start yesterday with Altior winning the Arkle and his JP McManus runners recording a 1-2 in the Champion Hurdle.
The Sevenoaks trainer won this with Bobs Worth in 2012 and Might Bite is likely to be of warm order here. However, he hasn’t been put in a competitive race for some time and there’s more interesting contenders at bigger prices.
His stablemate, O O Seven, has already won at Cheltenham but may struggle with the step back up in trip while Whisper has won four-times here and is well-suited by faster ground. However, Marinero is a fine jumper of a fence and while he was no match for Thistlecrack last time, there’s nothing of that level in here.
The Gigginstown team had two winners yesterday and they may be able to get their third on the board with this eight-year-old. Any market support for Royal Vacation would be significant and he’s a product of his stables purple patch this year, progressing with each run.
Scoir Mear has the right profile for a Handicap Hurdle and he could well be lurking near the bottom of the handicap on a very lenient mark.
He’s been put away since finishing runner-up at the start of January and this may have been a long-term target.
He gets the services of last year’s Grand National winning jockey David Mullins who is an underused, underrated jockey and there’s every chance his mount will improve for better ground. Gordon Elliot won this last year with Diamond King and he made a flying start to the Festival yesterday with three winners.
He has mentioned several times in the lead up to the Festival how well-handicapped he thinks Tombstone is, but that would appear to be built into his short price. Modus still looks on a fair mark and he will be finishing off well at the end of the race.
The likely strong pace is likely to be right up his street and his conditional jockey takes 5lb off his back. He’s well worth that claim and his mount could go well again at a track that he’s proven himself at.
Remarkably, Willie Mullins is yet to have a winner in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but that all looks set to change come tea-time on Wednesday afternoon.
Un De Sceaux came close last year before being overhauled by Sprintre Sacre turning for home but it’s the Mullins superstar, Douvan who is currently a deserving 1/4fav.
With only one career defeat to his name, which came when trained in France, he has gone thirteen starts undefeated on these shores and will take all the beating in what must be considered a below par renewal of the contest.
Fox Norton looks a smart prospect for the future and is still improving for the Colin Tizzard yard. He proved no match for Altior last time though and Douvan will prove no easier if he’s at his best so he can only be considered for each-way purposes.
At a big price, Traffic Fluide is better than he showed on his previous start when bouncing at Ascot and he may be able to get into the first three with the return to quicker ground likely to suit. His trainer Gary Moore has previously tasted success in the race with Sire De Grugy and his charge may be worth chancing at big odds.
The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase is always one of the more interesting races of the Festival and it can throw up some strange results.
Last year’s winner (before being disqualified for a failed drug test sometime after the race) Any Currency, will no doubt have his supporters but it would be a surprise if the winner didn’t come from a horse wearing the famous green and gold colours of JP McManus.
An interesting outsider of his is Colour Squadron whose best form has come with good in the going description but it’s hard to get away from the claims of Cantlow who was only narrowly defied a hat-trick here last time out when conceding over a stone to the French raider who won.
His trainer Enda Bolger has a fine record in these races and he trains the fascinating contenders for McManus.
Auvegnat is the one who looks like the value play at around the 7/1 mark. He’s done very little wrong this season and was going arguably the best before unseating around this course in January.
He made amends at Punchestown a week later and the seven-year-old is still unexposed in this sphere.
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