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DAY TWO - WEDNESDAY'S KEY OFFERS

Day two of the Festival kicks off and a daunting and formidable task awaits the Neptune Investment Hurdle contenders, formerly known as the Ballymore Novices Hurdle.  It is for hurdlers aged four or above who have bags of staying potential.

Two mile five furlongs long, the race is often used as a stepping stone to World Hurdle or chasing success in years to come and it often goes the way of a less fancied horse with bags of potential.

Expect the winner to enter the winner’s enclosure with next year's World Hurdle on his mind.

The second race of the day is highly competitive Royal Sun Alliance Chase, a Grade One showpiece that is used to put former hurdling superstars firmly on the chasing map. 

Run over a trip of three miles, the race has been responsible for some top quality winners, none more so than Denman in 2007.

Day Two Race-By-Race Tips

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

The final day of the Cheltenham Festival is centred around the Gold Cup, the most prestigious and lucrative contest in all of jumps racing. There are two further Grade Ones on Friday’s card, along with several thrilling handicaps and a fascinating renewal of the Foxhunters.

Our expert has taken a look through the card on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival and provided his tips for every race.

1:30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m1f

Mr Adjudicator brings Grade One winning form into this juvenile contest and deserves his places near the head of the betting. Redicean’s jumping was transformed when winning the Adonis Hurdle and Alan King looks to have a progressive, explosive hurdler on his hands.

Farclas has his supporters and Willie Mullins claimed Stormy Ireland was his best juvenile mid-way through the season. However, the prospect of very soft turf will sound like music to APPLE’S SHAKIRA’S ears and she has strong course form to back up her already sizable claims.

Nicky Henderson threw his French import in with Gumball as she made her stable debut in the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle. Philip Hobbs’ charge was leading the Triumph betting at the time, but Barry Geraghty’s mount hacked up to claim a fantastic 17 length win. 

Two further victories have followed around the New course here at Cheltenham. First, holding off a spirited challenge from Fred Winter fancy Nube Negra, before claiming a comfortable victory in the Grade Two Finesse.

Apple’s Shakira clearly enjoys the challenge presented by Cheltenham and should have the class to deal with the sizable field. Her full sister, Apple’s Jade could only finish second in the 2016 Triumph – Apple’s Shakira looks set to go one better.

2:10pm County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m1f

Flying Tiger hasn’t found another victory since winning last year’s Fred Winter. Nicky Williams has restricted his charge mainly to Graded races since then, where he has performed well on the whole and looks well handicapped on previous achievements. Whisky Sour has a Grade One victory next to his name and his last run, finishing fourth behind Samcro in the Deloitte, makes his handicap mark look extremely appealing.

Spiritofthegames has been in excellent form on the handicap circuit this season, finishing second in the Lanzarote and a creditable thirs in the Betfair Hurdle last time out. Dan Skelton’s charge ticks many of the boxes when searching for a possible County Hurdle contender, but the one who appeals most for me is stablemate MOHAAYED.

After impressing at times during his novice campaign, Mohaayed secured a couple of respectable finishes last spring. He passed the post just three-and-a-half lengths behind Arctic Fire in seventh in this race last year, before claiming a spot in the places in a competitive renewal of the Scottish Champion Hurdle. 

Skelton’s six-year-old really struggled on his reappearance in the Greatwood, but results since then have been good. Mohaayed was narrowly denied victory by Irish Roe in a Class Two Handicap at Doncaster, before crossing the line a six-length third as he locked horns with Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle.

Moyaahed has been laid out for another crack at the County Hurdle - a race Skelton won with Superb Story two years ago. Bridget Andrews could be called upon to make his 10-9 weight burden even more manageable and he offers stacks of each-way value at his current lengthy price.

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

Chris’ Dream won a 24 furlong Grade Three by 63 lengths last time out, but that was a mess of a race and it’s hard to take any genuine form lines out of it. Calett Mad's chasing experience could come in handy, in what will surely turn into a long, hard slog, but he does seem to lack the class to compete in Graded company.

Santini got the better of Chef Des Obeaux when they clashed earlier in the season and beat Black Op to a Grade Two on his only other run this season. Chef Des Obeaux has impressed since, but whether he's improved enough to turn the tables on his stablemate is unlikely.

While Santini looks to be a progressive sort, experience could be vital in this year's Albert Bartlett and the one who appeals most is POETIC RHYTHM.

After failing to secure a victory over hurdles last season, Fergal O'Brien's charge got the ball rolling by winning the Persian War on his seasonal reappearance. The six-year-old impressed in defeat to On The Blind Side in the Hyde and carried a short price into the Challow Hurdle at Newbury. Mulcahys Hill made Paddy Brennan's mount work hard, but Poetic Rhythm eventually got up on heavy ground to claim a maiden Grade One victory.

That race will have taken a lot out of him, but O'Brien has given him a nice break since. We know he can perform at a high level on testing ground and his breeding suggests the step up to three miles shouldn't be a problem. It will be cake all-round in the O'Brien household if Poetic Rhythm can hand Fergal a first Festival crown.


3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m2½f

As the ground gets softer, the chances of Native River going to post as the favourite increase. Colin Tizzard has kept his charge fresh this season to maximise his chances of building on last year’s third and it’s hard to knock Native River’s credentials. Our Duke has got better with every run this season and his victory over Presenting Percy is a strong piece of form to bring into his first Gold Cup.

Might Bite didn’t need to be at his best to win the King George. He might have a small problem with the run-in here at Cheltenham, but it hasn’t stopped him winning on both of his visits and Nicky Henderson’s charge will make his rivals work hard at the head of affairs. While Might Bite and Native River seem like the front-runners, you could argue ROAD TO RESPECT brings the strongest form into the Gold Cup and Noel Meade’s charge looks ripe for a sizeable each-way wager.

Following a superb victory in the Brown Advisory Plate here at Cheltenham, Road To Respect opened his Grade One account with tremendous triumph over Yorkhill at Fairyhouse. Sean Flanagan’s mount secured victory on his reappearance, before falling half-a-length short of a rejuvenated Outlander in the JNWine Champion Chase.

Despite his clear path of progression, Road To Respect carried a rather lengthy price in the Christmas Chase. As Sizing John and Yorkhill fell back through the field, Meade looked on as his charge established his position at the head of the Irish staying chasing ranks by scoring the biggest prize pot of his career.

Road To Respect’s rise to the top shows no signs of stopping and he will relish a return to Cheltenham. The ground is a slight worry, but he won on heavu ground earlier in his career and both his victories this term have come on soft ground. There's no doubting Road To Respect is the best value bet in the 2018 Gold Cup.



4:10pm Foxhunter Challenge Cup (Class 2) 3m2½f

Burning Ambition is the talking horse in this year’s Foxhunters and has been backed into clear favouritism since finishing second to classy stayer Gilgamboa. Paul Nicholls claimed a 1-2 in this race 12 months ago and plays a strong hand in this year’s renewal, with returning winner Pacha Du Polder, Wonderful Charm and Virak all entering with genuine chances.

An each-way punt is the only profitable plan of attack in races of this ilk. While Balnaslow and Sir Jack Yeats catch the eye, BAREL OF LAUGHS snatched a place carrying a price of 100/1 last year and could match, or even better that surprise result.

Since crossing the line half-a-length behind Pacha Du Polder, Philip Rowley’s teenager has won three of his four starts in point-to-points and Hunter Chases. Alex Edwards’ mount had to work very hard to win here at Cheltenham in April, despite starting the race at the 8/13 favourite. He had to settle for second on his 2018 reappearance, but there was no shame in losing out to Saddler’s Encore, who carried 10 pounds less to post.

Barel Of Laughs returned to winning ways just in time for Cheltenham, shouldering 12-4 to a narrow victory in a point-to-point at Bangor in February. He may have reached the ripe old age of 12, but Barel Of Laughs is in a rich vein of form and has a course-and-distance win to bolster his claims.

4:50pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m4½f

Harry Fry's Melrose Boy secured a course-and-distance victory earlier in the season and offer plenty of each-way value. As does Philip Hobbs Springtown Lake, who finished second to On The Blind Side in a Grade Two and performed well enough in a Listed race here at Cheltenham to suggest he has potential. However, the Martin Pipe is usualy won by a horse from - no disrespect intended - a top yard, so it's hard to look past some of the leading candidates at the top of the market.

A victory in the Martin Pipe was what Gordon Elliott wanted most out of last year’s Festival and Champagne Classic delivered. Last year's Top Trainer would dearly love to lift the trophy bearing the name of his former mentor once again and FLAWLESS ESCAPE could be the one to seal victory in 2018.

After claiming a strong victory on his stable debut in a flat race, the five-year-old won one of his two starts in two-and-a-half mile maidens. Flawless Escape carried a narrow victory over some strong competition into the Dublin Racing Festival, where he came up againt Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall. Willie Mullins’ Gold Cup contender was too strong over that three mile trip, but Flawless Escape performed well to hold on to third.
 
Elliott’s charge has been pushed into favouritism for the Martin Pipe and it’s very hard to ignore Flawless Escape's sizeable claims. He ticks every box.



Gordon Elliot (left) and Martin Pipe (centre) pose for a picture with Champagne Classic after last year's renewal.

5:30pm Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m½f

While Henry De Bromhead's Some Plan and Foxtail Hill hold appeal, I picked out THEINVAL as one of the best handicappers to back leading into the Festival and I’m not about to abandon my ante-post selection.

Horses often return to the Grand Annual 12 months after featuring in the race and register improved performances. Five of the first seven runners to pass the post last year all featured in the 2016 renewal, with only fourth-placed Dandridge failing to improve on the runner-up finish he recorded the previous year.

Theinval had every chance jumping the last, but he hung slightly left during the run in and had to settle for third. He then claimed second in a Grade Three at Aintree, and twice featured at Ayr’s season-ending Festival, finishing as the runner-up to Two Taffs and Cloudy Dream respectively.

Things didn’t go to plan for Theinval during the first half of this season, but Nicky Henderson knows his charge comes alive in the Spring and has resigned him to the side-lines since New Years’ Day. He will go to post in Friday’s final race with the same 141 mark as last year and could even carry three pounds less on his back, if the top-rated entrants remain in the running.

Theinval’s odds have plummeted in the last few weeks, as punters have cottoned onto his chances. I’m not usually one for backing favourites in handicaps, but you can still find each-way value with some bookmakers and I think he’s the ideal candidate to claim victory in the final race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips

We have expert selections for all Wednesday's races at the Festival, including the day's feature - the Champion Chase.

See All Festival Tips

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The feature race of the second day at the Cheltenham Festival is the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the race determines who the best chaser in the two mile division is.

The Champion Chase follows a highly competitive handicap race that sees a large field go to post and the Coral Cup is one of the most difficult festival puzzles to solve.

Raced over 2 miles 5 furlongs, the pace is frantic and with so many runners battling it out, it is difficult to envisage anything other than a thrilling race in store.

A poor race for trends, it is the sort of contest that sees form go out of the window.  That won't be the case in the Cross Country Chase and the Irish will be looking to continue their domination in the competitive contest.

Meanwhile, the Fred Winter Hurdle is a handicap for juveniles aged four years and above and it is often used for inexperienced hurdlers with a limited amount of knowledge of jumping obstacles.

Over twenty runners almost always go to post and with so little separating one runner from another, it often pays to follow the direction of the market.

The final race of the day is essentially just a flat race but with National Hunt racing rules in place and the Champion Bumper is contested over a distance over two miles.

The Champion Bumper often represents a trial for the following year’s Supreme Novices’ hurdle.

Wednesday's race schedule

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