Day two of the Cheltenham Festival is set to feature Altior’s attempt to win a second successive Queen Mother Champion Chase. His hopes of achieving that target plus the remaining six races of the day are discussed below.
For this 2m5f novices hurdle event, Champ has been a firm favourite following his two triumphs over similar distances this term, the latter of which was a Grade 1 contest. Yet both victories were earned at the flat Newbury course and Champ could be troubled by Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen who is unbeaten under NH rules and also won a Grade 1 event last time. The Irish trainer saddled Samcro to win this race last season and could score again with his latest novice while City Island is also unbeaten in Ireland this term and could be placed.
Ballymore Tip: Battleoverdoyen to Win (4/1 with Paddy Power).
A minor foot injury has hampered preparations for the Nicky Henderson trained Santini as he bids to tackle this three-miles novice chase, but the 7-year-old gelding could only finish third behind La Bague Au Roi at Kempton over the Christmas period. The winner received the mare’s weight allowance that day from both Santini and second-placed horse Topofthegame with the latter also likely to feature in this contest. However, Irish raider Delta Work is considered a real threat to the English challenge. The 2018 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle winner is now unbeaten in three races over the larger obstacles which includes two Grade 1 successes, and he has proven stamina over this distance.
RSA Chase Tip: Delta Work to Win (11/4 with bet365).
It is notoriously difficult to select the winner of this 2m 5f handicap hurdle but Cracking Smart is an interesting contender. Unable to race in the 2018 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle due to injury when ante-post favourite, the 7-year-old gelding should improve considerably for his third placed effort behind Tiger Roll at Navan. One outsider worth watching could be Monbeg Theatre was has raced creditably in graded company this season after winning at Wetherby, and jockey Page Fuller will be claiming a 3lb allowance from his allocated 11 stone weight.
It appeared that Altior was struggling at one stage during last season’s Champion Chase but he soon reasserted his authority to win by seven lengths from Irish raider Min. The Nicky Henderson trained horse has won all four subsequent races to retain his unbeaten sequence over obstacles. Min may again challenge Altior but having already been beaten twice at Cheltenham by the current champion, it is difficult to envisage him reversing placings on this occasion. The remainder of the runners are expected to compete for minor honours.
Champion Chase Tip: Altior to win – no bet at the prices.
Tiger Roll won the National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Festival and then proceeded to win both this cross country contest and the Grand National last season. Trainer Gordon Elliott has earmarked the same targets for the current campaign and the horse finished a creditable fourth in his seasonal opener at Cheltenham despite carrying top weight. A recent hurdle win at Navan over 2m5f will have sharpened Tiger Roll for this event. Enda Bolger should be competitive again with both Auvergnat and Josies Orders but it will be difficult to oppose the favourite.
Cross Country Chase Tip: Tiger Roll to Win (5/4 with Bet Victor).
Two miles is the distance for juveniles slightly below the level of the Triumph Hurdle later in the week, and Beat the Judge should be in contention at the finish. He was a strong finishing second behind the impressive Fusil Raffles at Kempton but has tackled only right-handed courses this term. Of more interest as a potential winner is Star Max who is one of three potential runners for Joseph O’Brien. He has improved with each of his three races this term culminating with a narrow victory in a 20-runner field at Gowran Park last month.
Evnvoi Allen from the Gordon Elliott stable has been the long-term ante-post favourite for this two-miles flat contest, and he has won all three races to date this season at restricted short odds. Most of his victories have been more workmanlike but there has been evidence of the battling qualities sometimes needed at Cheltenham. However, he will be opposed by the Willie Mullins trained Blue Sari who created a favourable impression when winning at Gowran Park back in January. He could improve from that solitary appearance.
Champion Bumper Tip: Blue Sari to Win (10/3 with Betfair).
Get a huge 36/1 for superstar ALTIOR to win the Champion Chase on day 2 when you open a new Paddy Power accoutnt – this horse is the banker of the week for most punters!