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DAY THREE - THURSDAY'S KEY OFFERS

Day Three Race By Race Tips

Our expert takes a look through the full card on day three of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his selections for every race.

St Patrick's Day at the Cheltenham Festival is always a wonder occasion to be a part of. The finest equine females will hit the track in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, once the victors in the two feature contests on the card – the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle – have finished parading around the winners’ enclosure.

Our expert has taken a look through all the races being staged on day three of the Cheltenham Festival and provided readers with his tips.

1:30pm JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m5f

Invitation Only finished just a length behind Monalee in the Flogas Novice Chase, on his last outing and deserves his spot at the head of the betting. French imports often act best on heavy turf and Terrefort's victory in the Grade One Scilly Isles is a strong piece of form to bring into this competitive race.

While I’m a huge admirer of Finian’s Oscar and think it’s only a matter of time before he comes good over fences, he was beaten in the Mitie Noel by BENATAR and Gary Moore’s charge could be the one to side with sitting on an appealing price.

Benatar is unbeaten over fences, winning all three of his starts in front of the ITV cameras. Following an excellent weight-carrying victory on his chasing debut, Jamie Moore guided his mount to an emphatic victory over Keeper Hill – who won the Grade Two December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster the following month – around the tricky, left-handed track at Plumpton.

Finian’s Oscar carried the shortest price into that Ascot Grade Two, but Benatar comprehensively outjumped the favourite and stayed strong in the closing stages to deny his Cheltenham rival. This will be his first run around Cheltenham and he has never faced a field greater than eight in a rules race, but Benatar looks a classy sort and has plenty of progression left in the tank.

2:10pm Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m

Glenloe ticks most of the boxes when searching for the Pertemps Final winner. He’s run well on all three of his seasonal starts and finished third in the same qualifier Presenting Percy ran in before claiming victory last year. Louis’ Vac Pouch’s name has been mentioned in many discussions surrounding this race, but the fact that only one of the past 20 Pertemps winners have actually won a qualifier cannot be ignored.

Stamp Your Feet has won several strong handicaps and shouldn’t be ignored at a lengthy price. Arthur’s Gift beat Sykes over course-and-distance earlier in the season and both could be worth an each-way punt. That being said, Jonjo O’Neill has saddled the winner of his handicap on four occasions and FORZA MILAN could be the horse to hand him a fantastic fifth.

This lightly-raced gelding has shown excellent consistency throughout his hurdling career – winning once and finishing second in six starts over obstacles. He booked his spot at the Festival with a strong runner-up finish to Louis’ Vac Pouch and ran another good race in December to pass the post closest to Cheltenham rival, The Organist in a Class Two at Newbury.

Forza Milan outfought 15 other runners when claiming his sole victory over hurdles, so the large field at Cheltenham won’t phase him. Forza Milan looks well-handicapped at the current weights and any extra cut in the ground would be a bonus.

2:50pm Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m5f

Un De Sceaux has looked good on both his starts this season - including that history-making hat-trick in the Clarence House – and it looks like he will get the juicy ground he craves. However, he’s beaten very little in both of those runs and this year’s Ryanair looks deeper than the renewal he won last year.

Balko Des Flos ran a stormer to cross the line just a length behind Road To Respect in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown but his form over shorter trips doesn't warrant his current short price. While the ever consistent Cloudy Dream deserves plenty of respect dropping down in trip, the stage could be set for CUE CARD to ensure his Cheltenham story has a fairy-tale ending.

Colin Tizzard's popular 12-year-old claimed a nine length victory in the 2013 Ryanair, before trying to make the transition to three mile chasing. Cue Card may have claimed several Grade One victories over 24 furlongs, but he’s never looked truly comfortable. 

In-fact, over the past two or three years, his most convincing performances have come in the two-and-a-half mile Ascot Chase. 12 months after destroying the competition to claim his ninth career Grade One, Cue Card battled valiantly in a losing effort behind Waiting Paitently in this year’s renewal.

Tizzard’s charge may have been forced to settle for second on that occasion, but his performance on the day was impressive and he finished a long way ahead of Top Notch and Frodon. Cue Card’s retirement may be imminent, but he’s still capable of ending his stint as a Cheltenham Festival regular on an almighty high and his current odds appeal more than any other.

3:30pm Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

Yanworth’s only hurdling appearance over three miles came when winning the Liverpool Hurdle and he deservedly holds a spot near the head of the betting. I’m a huge Supasundae fan, having tipped him to win the Coral Cup at last year’s Festival and Jessica Harrington’s charge seems to be in the form of his life after beating Faugheen to the Irish Champion Hurdle.

If I had to have a straight win bet, I would go for Sam Spinner, who hasn't put a foot wrong this season and will enjoy the deep ground. However, this looks to be the most open Championship race at the meeting and the most sensible plan is to delve into the each-way market.

Unowhatimeanharry cannot be completely overlooked and The New One deserves a mention, but the one sitting at the most attractive price is L’AMI SERGE.

The eight-year-old has good previous form at the Festival to bolster his claims. He’s finished fourth in a Supreme, third in a JLT and a neck behind Arctic Fire in last year’s County Hurdle. L’Ami Serge brings much stronger form into this year’s Festival than the last, having followed Lil Rockerfeller and Sam Spinner home in prestigious Graded races and finished strong to claim third on his pre-Cheltenham tune-up over fences.

L’Ami Serge is much more straight-forward over hurdles, but Daryl Jacob will still need to time his late charge until the last possible moment. The Nicky Henderson and Munir & Suoede axis of power have been in tremendous form all season and they will be expecting L’Ami Serge to register another competitive performance.

4:10pm Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 1) 2m5f

Last Goodbye looked superb when winning a big handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival and comes to Cheltenham with serious chances. As does The Storyteller, who has run respectably in two Graded races since beating Sutton Manor on his first start over fences.

Road To Respect was the first novice in a long, long time to win this handicap and Movewiththetimes has been backed to make it two years in a row for first season chasers. While Paul Nicholls' charge fits the bill, previous Cheltenham experience goes a long way in the Festival place and the one who appeals most is last year’s Close Brothers winner, TULLY EAST.

Alan Fleming’s charge hasn’t been in the best of form since claiming Festival glory, but seems to have been improving this every outing this term. The eight-year-old recorded a sixth place finish in the BetVictor Gold Cup, when carrying todays mark of 148 for the first time. He then faced off against 19 top handicapper over in Ireland and produced a strong weight-carrying display to claim a spot in the places.

Tully East is a course-and-distance winner, with and experience jockey in the saddle and experience winning on soft-to-heavy ground. His 9/1 price looks very appealing.


4:50pm Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m1f

Rumours coming from Ireland is that favourite Laurina is working the house down in County Carlow. Willie Mullins’ charge looked mightily impressive when winning a Grade Three by 11 lengths and, when runner-up Alletrix won well at the Dublin Racing Festival, she was pushed into an odds-on price for the Mares’ Novices’.

Stuart Edmunds is confident Maria’s Benefit has fully recovered from a slight knock and many will be expecting her to be the one to give the favourite a run for her money. However, I have a feeling there is much more to come from CAP SOLEIL and she looks worthy of a significant each-way wager.

After ending her bumper days with two Listed victories, Fergal O’Brien’s charge produced a foot-perfect jumping display on debut to see off dangerous French import Countister by seven lengths. She fell to a surprise defeat as the odds-on favourite at Newbury in December, but showed excellent battling qualities to bounce back to winning ways in a 19 furlong Listed contest at Haydock.

O’Brien then put Cap Soleil away for the rest of the winter and it’s evident she works best fresh. Her only previous visit to Cheltenham ended in victory over Daphne De Clos on the level and she’s a talented jumper not to be underestimated.

5:30pm Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Class 2) 3m2f

Missed Approach holds an entry into the Midlands Grand National the Saturday after Cheltenham, but if he is a confirmed Kim Muir entrant, he’s certainly one to watch. As is Dr Newland's Band Of Blood, who secured a 15 length victory on heavy ground earlier in the season.

Squouateur has been backed into favouritism on three of his previous four starts, including in last year’s renewal of this race. He’s still yet to win over fences and generally disappoints, despite market support. Pendra ran a huge race to finish third 12 months ago and warrants a big mention, but the one who looks best placed to build on last year’s result is Pat Kelly’s MALL DINI.

If Katie Walsh had set off for home a little earlier and found a clearer path to the line, she could easily have been celebrating another Cheltenham victory. The 2016 Pertemps winner was charging up the home straight, before being hampered two from home and having to settle for fifth.

Since then, Mall Dini has gone largely under the radar during his second season as a novice chaser. He’s twice finished behind Presenting Percy in races at Galway and Fairyhouse, before being outclassed in a strong renewal of the Grade Three Kildare Novice Chase, where he passed the post fifth of six as Invitation Only claimed an impressive win.

Those results have ensured he enters his third straight Cheltenham Festival carrying the same 145 mark he shouldered during last year’s meeting. Patrick Mullins takes the ride this time and if he gets his tactics right, Mall Dini has every chance of breaking his duck over fences.


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The JLT Novices’ Handicap gets Festival Thursday off to a bang and it is used for horses that find two miles too short and three miles a bit too hot.

The race often goes the way of a horse that would not have looked out of place had he contested the Arkle or RSA Chase and there is almost always a heavily gambled on Irish raider ready to help the Irish make a winning start to day three of the meeting.

Ruby Walsh and Vautour celebrate after winning the JLT Novices' Chase.

After the ultra-competitive Pertemps Handicap Hurdle, the Ryanair Chase is run over two miles five furlongs and it is for five year olds and above whom, have more often than not, sidestepped the Gold Cup in search of a less competitive prize.

Won by Imperial Commander in 2009 and by Our Vic in 2008, the winner of the race is always a classy horse and it should be no different this year.

If the Ryanair Chase is certain to be a thriller, then the Stayers' Hurdle will be a fitting feature on the third day of the meeting.
The Stayers' Hurdle is used to crown the champion of the staying hurdlers division.  After the feature, The Festival Plate Handicap Chase is run over two mile four furlongs and is a handicap for chasers who are five years old and older.

Another punting minefield for festival gamblers, a large field will almost certainly go to post and with so little between the runners, a surprise result is more than possible.

With the Mares Novices' Hurdle and the Kim Muir Challenge Cup also on the card, Thursday's racing is some of the best you'll see all season.

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