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Cheltenham - Day 2 tips from Otis Brankin Frisby

Cheltenham 2024 – Day Two

 

1:30 Gallagher Novices Hurdle 2m5f

 

BALLYBURN has shown himself to be the best novice hurdler around and I fully expect him to win this. He’d be my banker of the meeting in a race that otherwise lacks depth, partly because his rivals have been scared off. Slade Steel’s victory in the Supreme yesterday confirmed the strength of the Leopardstown form and I will be very surprised if he doesn’t win. If you’d rather not back him at odds-on, stick him into your multiples. Bet365 are also offering a generous even money bet boost, depending on how much your account is allowed to put on.

 

2:10 Brown Advisory Novices Chase 3m½f

 

I’ve put up FACT TO FILE in this column at 5/1 antepost, but I’d be more hesitant to get stuck in at the current price. Second in last year’s Champion Bumper, the decision to send him straight over fences seems to have been vindicated and he has been all the rage in the build up to this week. He was mightily impressive at Leopardstown over Christmas, recording an RPR of 160 which was the second highest ever in that race (first being achieved by Galopin des Champs). Although he didn’t seem to achieve much in a match race with Gaelic Warrior at the DRF, they set monster fractions and the fact that he was able to jump so easily and travel within himself is testament to his raw ability. The Champion Bumper form is quite extraordinary: 20 of the 21 runners have won over hurdles already. The form of his point win from Asian Master is strong too. He is bred to stay and a few people close to the horse have said they are surprised by the speed he has shown. He looks a machine by all accounts.

 

Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay looks a solid proposition, though he wins his races by outstaying his rivals and I fear the Old Course might be a bit sharp for him. He wants a proper test and the ground will suit but looks more like a Welsh National type to me. Broadway Boy pulling out won’t have helped his chances from a pace angle. I’d be marginally against Monty’s Star as I’m not quite sure what he’s achieved yet, though he’s an intriguing contender alongside the mercurial American Mike and Sandor Clegane.

 

Bet: Fact To File @ 5/1 1pt Win antepost (now 8/11 general)*

 

2:50 Coral Cup 2m5f

 

This always attracts a classy field as there’s no open G1 over hurdles at this trip at the festival. Often you’ll get horses outclassing the lower weights en route to graded races. In the last 11 renewals horses rated 154+ have come in at 54% profit. The top three in the market look a bit short to me, not least Built By Ballymore who has come for money after being tipped up by Tom Segal and Paul Kealy for connections who won the Boodles yesterday. Last year’s winner and Cheltenham favourite Langer Dan will be typically well prepped for this off the same mark but winning going back-to-back will take some doing and it’s a worry that he has bled this season. Sa Majeste would appeal most of the three as he’s difficult to assess on the back just two hurdle runs.

 

Although Seven Barrows have come down with a bug in the yard, Nicky Henderson has cited DODDIETHEGREAT as his trump card and he is impossible to ignore off a mark of 132 after shaping well in strong handicaps this season. He has drifted to a reasonable price and Luccia’s run in the Champion Hurdle yesterday suggested that Nicky is running horses with a chance. He appeals as a win-only play. The other horse that appeals at the prices is the highly unexposed WESTERN FOLD for Gordon Elliott. He is only a 5yo but Aux Ptits Soins won this in 2015 and he has had five runs over hurdles, most recently showing huge improvement to win by 15 lengths in a novice where he recorded an RPR of 146. He won a 17-runner maiden and has proven he acts on heavy going.

 

Bet: Doddiethegreat @ 9/1 0.5pt Win

Bet: Western Fold @ 33/1 0.5pt EW (6 places)

 

3:30 Champion Chase 2m

 

El Fabiolo deserves to be the odds-on favourite, but as with others this year whether he should be backed at that price is another question. He is a horse who doesn’t show much respect for his fences and tends to bulldoze at least one each time he runs. In a way, running at speed over 2m probably helps him get away with it – he is a big, physical type and his forward momentum takes him through fences. This is a championship race like any other and at 2/5 I wouldn’t want to run the risk of him absolutely nailing one. I backed Defi du Seuil at a similar price in 2020 and that went horribly wrong.

 

Edwardstone’s return to form has injected some interest into this race. Having been a typical Alan King hold-up horse for most of his career, he was allowed to go out in front in the Game Spirit which proved a revelation. They have said they will employ the same tactics again and although I think making all is the best chance he has of winning this, doing so will probably help El Fabiolo and Jonbon by giving them a pace to aim at. Jonbon is a quirky horse who can be buzzy and I think that the fact the Clarence House was rearranged had something to do with his disappointing second last time out. He didn’t jump well at all and did well to get as close as he did to the winner. He also had James Bowen on that day and might benefit from Nico de Boinville returning to the saddle. They are very different types of riders – James rides with a loop in the rein, whereas Nico keeps more contact, which I think helps the horse. He could bounce back here but with doubts over yard form and his jumping (previously his best asset), I wouldn’t be having a bet on him. Captain Guinness seems to struggle over the extended 2m at Leopardstown and should be there or thereabouts for Henry de Bromhead, whose horses ran really well on Day 1, while don’t discount the tough Elixir de Nutz staying on at the death under the promising Freddie Gingell.

 

4:10 Cross Country 3m5½f

 

Cancelled

 

4:50 Grand Annual 2m

 

I’ve had some luck in this race in the last few years with the likes of Sky Pirate and Maskada. It tends to be a smaller field than other Cheltenham handicaps and suits a particular kind of horse just shy of graded company over 2m. It also moved from the New Course to the tighter Old Course in 2021 and each of the three winners since have either been ridden prominently or led. Saint Roi is clearly on a nice mark and looks every inch a McManus plot but his jumping leaves a lot to be desired. LIBBERTY HUNTER has been backed into favourite but I have liked him for a while and will not desert him despite the price. He is highly unexposed with just three chase starts and has won each of his completed starts impressively, most recently beating a then 143-rated Matata who ran a fine race in the Arkle yesterday. He jumps well and the ground should suit.

 

The other horse I really like here is SOLNESS, who might be quietly well-handicapped on his ninth chase start. He is clearly smart – last season he was beaten 2¼ lengths by 155-rated hurdler Saldier on chase debut before winning his next two chase starts then finishing second twice to Hercule du Seuil. He ran a quiet reappearance over 2m4f then bolted up at Fairyhouse off 138, tanking through the race like a graded horse against handicappers. His third last time out at Leopardstown was eyecatching. He raced wide throughout before finishing strongly and benefits from 8lb and 4lb swings with the winner and runner up. He’s a good jumper, acts on the ground and, as evidenced by Lark In The Mornin yesterday, if there is anyone to plot a horse’s route to a Cheltenham handicap it is the double-handed team of Joseph O’Brien and Kevin Blake. The main danger could come from the Sophie Leach-trained Madara, who beat him at Leopardstown and looks progressive.

 

Bet: Libberty Hunter @ 9/2 2pt Win

Bet: Solness @ 16/1 1pt EW (5 places)

 

5:30 Champion Bumper 2m½f

 

Bumpers are always hard to assess as there is so little form to go off and this looks particularly open. Prices are often built on reputation, and it is best to focus on the deeper form lines. The Leopardstown bumper is always informative for this and on that evidence, THE YELLOW CLAY would look to have a massive chance. Though finishing fourth he got caught short of room when travelling into the race beautifully, losing his position quickly before staying on to close at the finish. He went off 40/1 that day after 10 months off and apparently wasn’t fully wound up. He was the moral second that day and the winner, Jeroboam Machin, probably would have gone off a strong favourite for this.

 

My other selection, SIXMILEBRIDGE, made a more visual impression at Sandown but I was really taken with how comfortably he pulled clear as Juby Ball came upside him. Juby Ball is a fair animal – on his rules debut in a Ffos Las bumper he beat a horse called Phantomofthepoints, part-owned by Kenny Alexander but trained by David Pipe, who was then a neck second on hurdle debut behind the Aintree G2 bumper winner Florida Dreams. Sixmilebridge was strong in the market at Sandown and they must think highly of him as their sole hope from a handful of smart bumper horses in the yard.

 

Bet: The Yellow Clay @ 13/2 0.5pt EW (5 places)

Bet: Sixmilebridge @ 18/1 0.5pt EW (5 places)

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