2021 Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Tips – Best Bets for Ballymore, Champion Chase, Coral Cup and Cross-Country Chase
2021 Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Tips
There were a host of standout performances on the opening day of the meeting and we can ecpect more of the same on day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival. Daniel Overall has been through every piece of form to bring you his best bets.
Bob Olinger 15/8 (Ballymore Hurdle, 1.20pm)
“Bon Olinger is a God-given certainty”; not my words, but the words of Jamie Codd on a recent Cheltenham preview which saw the horse swiftly cut fron 7/2 to 5/2. And while I wouldn’t be as bold as the Coddfather, he certainly holds a favourites chance in my mind.
His sole defeat to date came at the hands of the Champion Bumper winner, Ferny Hollow over the minimum trip. That rival has plenty of pace and if he hadn’t suffered an injury, he may well have been Willie Mullins’ main hope in the Supreme.
It was not surprising to see Bob Olinger get back to winning ways immediately after that run before taking the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas in fine style. While his three runs this term have all come on heavy ground, good ground shouldn’t pose an issue, with Henry De Bromhead noting that “he’s a good-moving horse and I think he’d handle better ground”.
This race looks set to be an exciting clash between the three that dominate the market. Of Bob’s rivals, Bravemansgame looks a top-class prospect but Paul Nicholls has yet to win the Ballymore while Challow winners are 0/17 in the Ballymore, although six of the last nine have placed; Denman finished second when attempting to do the double and a similar fate may await Bravemansgame. Gaillard Du Mesnil represents Willie Mullins, the winning most trainer of this race but to my mind he beat a group of stayers for speed at the Dublin Racing Festival and the Ballymore will be a different test entirely.
All in all, Bob Olinger has star potential while he also has a very good profile for this race; six-year-olds have won nine of the last ten renewals while horses that won an Irish point-to-point, a bumper and a Grade 1 novice hurdle have a phenomenal record in the Ballymore.
Monkfish 1/2 (Brown Advisory Novice Chase, 1.55pm)
Again, not an original selection but it is extremely hard to pick holes in Monkfish who has improved with each start over fences. He managed to win a strong renewal of the Albert Bartlett despite making a dreadful error at the eight flight while he was always going to make a better chaser.
In another year, Latest Exhibition would be a leading contender for this race but such is the dominance of Monkfish that Paul Nolan has decided to swerve Cheltenham. I would just be repeating what you would’ve heard all throughout the build up if I was to elaborate further and it is clear that Monkfish will be tough to beat.
I am a big fan of Eklat De Rire and I think he can give a bold show from the front. Unlike The Big Breakaway and Sporting John, his jumping is superb and he’s likely to get an easy time of things in front given the small field. Very lightly raced, we still don’t know where his ceiling lies and he’s taken to finish second to Monkfish.
Birchdale (Coral Cup, 2.30pm)
I would encourage those reading to rewatch last year’s renewal of the Coral Cup in which Birchdale finished eighth. Held up throughout, he found himself extremely wide and trapped behind a wall of horses as they made the run to the second last. By the time they swung for home, he was about 14th and over ten lengths adrift of the leaders but he made great progress to trail by little over three lengths upon jumping the last. He tired after that leap, which wasn’t surprising given the effort he made to close the gap while it was also his first run for nearly four months. It was also his first run in a big handicap and the form of that race has worked out well; the front two are Graded-level mares, the fifth is now rated 10lb higher while the likes of Bachasson (sixth) and Coko Beach (ninth) have enjoyed superb seasons. All in all, Birchdale’s run was very encouraging.
Chasing has not worked out this term (it didn’t last season either) but it’s too soon to write him off while he enjoyed a nice spin round in a Jumpers’ Bumper on the 11th February, meaning he will come into this year’s renewal sharper and also more experienced, while he has still only had four starts over hurdles. He’s also 2lb lower this time around; every little helps.
It’s also worth noting that nine of the 20 to finish in the first four in the previous five renewals had been chasing earlier in the season, so switching back to hurdles is seemingly not a negative.
He’s always been a highly regarded type; 6/1 for an Albert Bartlett which he was not ready for, he was engaged in a good duel with Brewin’Upastorm when that rival fell at the last in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle and we know that horse to be a very useful performer. Nicky Henderson has had four winners of this race in the past eleven years; all four of his winners had winning form at Cheltenham, something only 41% of his runners had.
Nicky said in a recent stable tour that “This is what we’ve been aiming for… he’s the prime candidate”. Nico rides having ridden both Whisper and William Henry to success in this race in 2014 and 2019 respectively.
He looks to have outstanding claims for connections that know what it takes to win this race and he’s still an appealing price.
Chacun Pour Soi 10/11 (Champion Chase, 3.05pm)
The second leg of what many will be hoping is a double on the day for Ricci and Mullins, Chacun Pour Soi can make up for his late withdrawal last season.
Talented but fragile, concerns about his soundness have been somewhat alleviated this season as he’s managed to stand three races thus; a marked improvement compared to previous seasons having only raced four times for Willie Mullins since 2017 before this campaign.
Some hasn’t convinced by his finishing efforts but he was impressive in that respect in the Dublin Chase when last seen, while the only doubt about him now is his ability to handle Cheltenham. If the track proves no issues, and there are no glaring reasons to think that it will be, he looks to be a cut above his rivals.
Put The Kettle On holds solid place claims given her Arkle win and the good record of Arkle winners in the Champion Chase while she also has an enviably strong record at Cheltenham.
Defi Des Carres 66/1 (Cross Country Chase, 3.40pm)
Let’s be clear; this is not a good renewal. Easysland will win if he’s anywhere near his best but he’s had an awful preparation for this; unwell a couple of months ago, he missed his prep run while the David Cottin team haven’t been in great form of late. His sole start this term was below par too and so I could not be backing him at such skinny odds. There are significant doubts about others near the head of the market so with that in mind, it appeals as a race to take a stab at something at a big price.
Defi Des Carres ran a superb race on his debut over the banks at Cheltenham in December; he looked the likeliest winner before being pegged back by Some Neck, whose jockey got a hefty ban for overuse of the whip. While he was getting plenty of weight from that rival, he is younger and was having his first run of the season while Some Neck had two prior runs before arriving at Cheltenham. For me, there is too big of a price discrepancy.
You can put a line through his last run, which came in the Sussex National as he is a bonified cross country performer and I have little doubt that this has been the target even since he came to Britain. He attacks his obstacles with enthusiasm and Harry Bannister will know him much better now following their first spin round here. Still only an eight-year-old, a relative baby in the context of this race, he’s likely to find one or two to good but he should give his running which can’t be said of most in the line-up.
On The Slopes 20/1 (Grand Annual Chase, 4.15pm)
Now run on the Old Course as opposed to the New Course, that will favour those that prefer to race prominently.
One such runner is On The Slopes, who was the ante-post favourite for this race last year but his mark of 136 was not high enough for him to make the cut. As a result, he went to Kempton instead where he comfortably dispatched on Return Ticket who has improved a fair bit since then.
Plenty was expected of him this term, with many thinking that we would land a big handicap at some stage of the season but things have not yet gone to plan. He shaped as if in need of the run on his seasonal reappearance behind Rouge Vif which led to him being very well supported next time out. However, he was slightly disappointing but Richard Johnson reported that he heard a noise and he had a wind operation just two days later. Interestingly, four of the last ten Grand Annual winners ran in either of the two Cheltenham handicaps that he contested earlier in the season.
He had a run in a Jumpers’ Bumper back in February to shake off the rust and get a run under his belt while this is his only entry, so it may well have been the target for some time. Off a mark of 140, he should be guaranteed a run and while he is not yet fully exposed.
Given that he’s usually a sound jumper that races prominently, that should hold him in good stead and he stands out at an attractive price.
One I will give a mention to at a massive price is Western Miller; a prominent race who is one pound below his last winning mark and two pounds lower than when chasing home Rouge Vif in a decent Cheltenham handicap at Cheltenham in October; a good run considering he made a bad error at the third last. Having had a prep run in an All-Weather bumper, he’ll enjoy the quicker ground and I’m sure they would’ve had this race in mind for some time.
Sir Gerhard 9/4 (Champion Bumper, 4.50pm)
Cheveley Park are searching for a third successive win in this race and they have a great chance in the form of Sir Gerhard. While he is now with Willie Mullins, he spent much of the season with Gordon Elliott who had an embarrassment of riches in this division, yet Sir Gerhard was always regarded as the standout contender. As Jamie Codd said in a recent Q&A, he “is well built and ready for a Champion Hurdle” where as Three Stripe Life was described as “not at the same level as Sir Gerhard at the moment”.
Kilcruit is respected but I just have concerns about whether he’ll be able to replicate his form from the Dublin Racing Festival. Patrick Mullins noted that he takes less work than all of the other horses in Willie’s yard as they struggle to keep condition on him. That would concern me especially as he’ll have to contend with travelling too, which may affect a horse like him more than the average.
Given that mares have a good record in this race, as do Mullins outsiders, Grangee rates as one of the livelier outsiders and a bold run could not be discounted.