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Cheltenham - Day 3 tips from Otis Brankin Frisby

Cheltenham 2024 – Day Three

 

1:30 Turners Novices Chase 2m3f

 

Ginny’s Destiny has a remarkably similar profile to last year’s winner of this, Stage Star: trained by Paul Nicholls, arriving here off a win in the same Timeform Novices handicap and a horse who wins his races from the front. I was all over Stage Star last year but am less convinced this time. Firstly, the price is plenty short enough at 3/1 (Stage Star was 12s). Secondly, I don’t think he will be allowed to dictate the race in nearly the same way, not least by the Skeltons’ Grey Dawning, who looks sure to make this a test dropping back down to 2m5f. The Skeltons looked after him as a novice hurdler and skipped Cheltenham to go to the Sefton, where he fell when fancied to go close. He would have beaten Ginny’s Destiny comfortably at Cheltenham conceding weight had he not made a mess of the second-last and came out best at the weights that day, showing a good attitude to pull back ground and get to within a length. I think he will turn that form around, although his jumping is a slight concern – he tends not to arch his back when he jumps which leaves him vulnerable for win purposes here.

 

My opinion is that FACILE VEGA has been long overdue this step up in trip and now has an opportunity to fulfil his considerable promise. Willie Mullins has always thought that he was the real deal and not just for no reason. After all, he won the Champion Bumper here and was looking like the next best thing for a while before falling slightly below that level. He hasn’t lost his form completely, though, and has been running respectable races over 2m to suggest that the talent is still there. But it has always seemed like he would benefit from going up to 2½m. He often seems a bit one-paced and more than anything, his jumping seems to lose him his position at 2m pace. He should relish soft ground at Cheltenham and I marginally prefer him to Grey Dawning. Iroko is very interesting for Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerreiro. He won the Martin Pipe well last year and jumped impressively on chase debut at Warwick, but it would be some training performance to win this when it looked like he would be out for most of the season.

 

Bet: Facile Vega @ 9/4 1pt Win

 

 

2:10 Pertemps Final 3m

 

The qualifying system makes this race unique and also throws up some notable long term trends. Horses that win the qualifiers generally have a bad record (only 2 of the last 25 winners), which speaks to the fact that there are horses who are aimed to win the qualifiers and horses that are plotting a handicap mark for this race. It seems sensible to seek out the latter group and it is hard to get away from Dan Skelton, who is pound-for-pound the best trainer in handicaps at Cheltenham and won two with plot jobs yesterday. LE MILOS came to the Skeltons from Tim Vaughan last season and won two handicap chases off 142 and 146 in his first two starts. He reached a mark of 150 so is well treated on his chase form and this has clearly been the plan: he managed to qualify in a distant third at Market Rasen in November and was never put into the race at Ascot, subsequently dropping by 4lb. I also like the two Gordon Elliott horses, Cleatus Poolaw and FAROUK D’ALENE. Gordon has a great record in this race and Cleatus Poolaw looks to have a similar profile to Delta Work, who he won with in 2018. Farouk D’Alene qualified a neck second to Gaoth Chuil at Leopardstown, who has gone up 13lb from that win. This horse has gone up 9lb and will have experienced claimer Rob James on board. 6 of the last 7 Irish winners ran in the Leopardstown qualifier without winning and some of his chase form suggests he could be very smart, not least his display in the Brown Advisory before he fell 2 out.

 

Bet: Le Milos @ 13/2 1pt Win

Bet: Farouk D’Alene @ 16/1 0.5pt EW (6 places)

 

 

2:50 Ryanair Chase 2m4½f

 

Being shoehorned in between the Champion Chase and the Gold Cup, the Ryanair tends to attract different types of horses – some pacey sorts stepping up from 2m and others coming down from 3m who will want to make it more of a test. Occasionally, you get a horse like Allaho who is the perfect hybrid. This year there are a lot of horses stepping down from 3m, perhaps to avoid Galopin des Champs or in some cases because they aren’t seeing out 3m well enough. The makeup of the race depends on the pace angle and the ground. There is a lot of potential pace from frontrunners such as Stage Star and Ahoy Senor and others that will want to make it a test. On decent ground frontrunners can dominate more easily (think Allaho, Un de Sceaux) and will be harder to pass, whereas on soft runners from off the pace will be able to catch up, especially on the New Course.

 

Envoi Allen shouldn’t be dismissed lightly seeking his second Ryanair and fourth festival win for an in-form yard, but I think at the age of 10 he might be vulnerable at 5/2. Banbridge and Stage Star would rate his most upwardly mobile rivals. Banbridge was ultra impressive when defeating right-handed specialist Pic D’Orhy at Kempton (form franked in the Ascot Chase) but it is well known that he desperately needs decent ground, which he will not get here. I love Stage Star and have been impressed by his form in strong handicaps, particularly off a mark of 155 in the Paddy Power in November. I expect him to run a big race.

 

The horse that I am with at the prices is PROTEKTORAT, who I think has the class to respond to positively to a step down in trip. He has been campaigned as a three miler at the highest level, but never truly convinced as an out-and-out stayer, especially at this track. The last time he ran over 2½m was in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November 2021 and the Ryanair should be right up his street. He often shapes well for a long way only to fade at the death, as evidenced from his two runs in the Gold Cup. I think part of the reason they have persisted with it is that his owners, Sir Alex Ferguson and Ged Mason, have been desperate for a Gold Cup winner and he has teased them that he might be the one, destroying Native River in the Many Clouds Chase on his first try at 3m then putting in consistently strong performances at G1 level thereafter. Barring his reappearance at Haydock when the Skeltons were bang out of form, he has not posted an RPR lower than 167. This new trip is exactly what he needs to get into the winners enclosure. He will be given a typical prominent Skelton ride on ground he likes and I think he has the class to hold his position and finish his race strongly.

 

Ahoy Senor is interesting for the same reasons but his jumping is erratic and I’m not sure he has the tactical speed to hold his position. Fugitif will surely be ridden out the back and could work his way into the place money if they were to cut each other’s throats out in front.

 

Bet: Protektorat @ 9/1 1pt EW (4 places)

 

 

3:30 Stayers Hurdle 3m

 

This division has been dominated by seasoned campaigners for a while now but I am confident that this is the year there will be a changing of the guard. I backed Crambo at 9/1 in February (15/2 this column), partly because he was always going to run here at a time when his market rivals were in doubt. He impressed in the Long Walk when beating Paisley Park and you’d have to take note of how strong he was in the market before that race given he had little form of Grade 1 substance to bring to the table (his best being a handicap hurdle win off 133).  His connections give me confidence that this bid has been fully mapped out. He was bred by Jared Sullivan and Noel Fehily (who has become one of the best race strategists since quitting the saddle) and then sent to Fergal O’Brien, who is slowly coming into possession of some top-class horses. The fact that part-owner Chris Giles backed Crambo for this at 33/1 before his run at Haydock suggests this has been a long-term plan.

 

I was lukewarm on TEAHUPOO for a while but am now converted. The noises were hard to ignore with connections bullish he was their no.1 throughout the season and Gordon Elliott stating that he’d be very surprised if Jack Kennedy didn’t choose to ride him, even with Irish Point in the race. I was sceptical of the fact he didn’t win last year in what seemed a weak race but it is easy to forget that he was only a 6yo. He will undoubtedly be a stronger horse this year and better equipped to cope with this trip. They have worked backwards from this race and he has been kept fresh for this, while he has a phenomenal record of 8/8 when coming off a break of 50+ days.

 

Two-time winner Flooring Porter comes back to this race and will likely go out from the front. There are a few horses down the field that will likely be staying on at the finish if this turns into a slog, not least three-time festival winner Sire du Berlais and the likes of Noble Yeats, Home By The Lee and Dashel Drasher. Fingers crossed that Paisley Park runs a big race on what will likely be his Cheltenham swansong. He is one of my all-time favourite horses and would be a popular winner for Andrew Gemmell at the age of 12.

 

Bet: Crambo @ 15/2 1.5pt Win antepost*

Bet: Teahupoo @ 13/8 2pt Win

 

 

4:10 Plate Handicap Chase 2m4½f

 

This race is changing – it used to be a race for old handicappers but now four of the last seven winners have been novices and there are two horses that look incredibly well handicapped even though they are at the top of the market. CREBILLY looks very nicely treated and has to be taken seriously on the basis of his form this season. I always pay attention to horses that run well in strong Cheltenham handicaps and he was 6 lengths behind a 141 rated Ginny’s Destiny off just 1lb lower than his mark here. On that evidence he would look to have a fair amount in hand here and he gave more reason to think so when beating Tahmuras and Trelawne in a novice chase at Exeter. THEATRE MAN also has form tied in with Ginny’s Destiny, only being raised 3lb from his second to that rival in the Timeform Novices Handicap. That race has a habit of producing strong festival form. The record of recent winners running at the festival in the same year reads: Stage Star (won Turners 2023) Imperial Alcazar (2nd in Plate 2022), no race 2021, Simply the Betts (won Plate 2020), Kildisart (4th in JLT 2019), Mister Whitaker (won Close Brothers 2018). Considering that he probably didn’t stay 3m in either run at Newbury, he is highly progressive and it makes sense to go with the obviously well-handicapped horses here.

 

Bet: Crebilly @ 7/2 1pt Win

Bet: Theatre Man @ 5/1 1pt Win

 

 

4:50 Mares Novices Hurdle 2m1f

 

Earmarked as one of the races of the festival, this seems between the top three in the market. The noises from Cullentra suggest that BRIGHTERDAYSAHEAD is the next best thing, but Jade de Grugy and Dysart Enos could also be elite mares. You have to listen when a trainer like Gordon Elliott gets this excited about a horse and Brighterdaysahead will be my bet in the race to follow in the other hype horses of the meeting so far. She is beautifully bred, from possibly the smartest jumps family around, and her visually striking performances have been backed up by the clock. Both her hurdle wins were run in strong times, she copes with testing ground and she has won at Down Royal, which is always a good sign for the undulations of Cheltenham. Jade de Grugy has to be respected for Willie Mullins and could still be anything, but a better bet might be an each-way to nothing on Dysart Enos who receives 5lb allowance after careful campaigning by Fergal O’Brien. While you could knock the form of some of her hurdles wins, she has beaten what was in front of her and the form of her wide-margin Aintree bumper win is looking good.

 

Bet: Brighterdaysahead @ 10/11 3pt Win

 

 

5:30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup 3m2f

 

Henry de Bromhead has had a great festival so far and it has only strengthened my belief in AMIRITE, who I earmarked as a potentially well-handicapped horse before final declarations. He has had a fair bit of bad luck in handicap company. He caught the eye in a Cheltenham handicap in October off a mark of 142, travelling as well as anything before his saddle slipped at the third last and put an end to his challenge. Twig has since gone on to run a stormer in the Ultima to frank the form. Last time out at Leopardstown he was also getting himself into contention when finding himself short of room, only to stay on towards the finish. He was kept in good company as a novice and remains lightly raced.

 

Bet: Amirite @ 12/1 0.5pt EW (6 places)

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