Our Father looks heaven sent
Our Man On The Spot previews all the action on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.
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Irish runners have won all three previous renewals and hold a strong hand again. Willie Mullins saddles three with Ruby Walsh partnering Felix Yonger, who should appreciate the longer trip after failing to match the pace of Arkle Trophy third Trifolium at Leopardstown in January. Mozoltov overcame jumping errors to easily win a Grade 2 at Naas last month but will need to jump better here. Djakadam also won a Grade 2 last time but there might be a doubt about him handling this quicker surface. Oscar Whisky was a classy hurdler and beat Taquin Du Seuil over a slightly longer trip here in January but the result may have been different had the runner-up not pecked on landing after jumping the last. Wonderful Charm's connections will also fancy their charge's chances of reversing recent course form with the Henderson runner on much better terms. Double Ross has won a couple of big handicaps here this season and was placed over hurdles at The Festival last year but we might take a chance on the five-year-old VUKOVAR. Harry Fry's French import was very impressive when stepped up in distance at Newbury last time and has plenty of scope for further improvement.
A typically competitive renewal of one of The Festival's toughest handicaps. It's proved a graveyard for punters recently with the last 10 winners all starting at double-figure odds which doesn't bode well for the well-backed Philip Hobbs' pair Fingal Bay and If In Doubt, first and second in a qualifier at Exeter last month ahead of Quartz de Thaix and Broadway Buffalo. Southfield Theatre has proved difficult to place since winning at Wincanton in October but last year's third Jetson arrives off the back of a victory at Punchestown, though Irish winners of this have become less common lately. Josies Orders is turning into a decent stayer and has won three of his last four starts but Warwick scorer Uncle Jimmy may struggle to confirm running with GRAND VISION on today's revised terms. Colin Tizzard's grey has been placed subsequently over an inadequate trip and, lightly-raced for his age, gets a tentative vote as Top Wood was put up 10lb for his victory at Haydock. Cross Kennon is a Festival regular and could run well at decent odds and there are also each-way possibilities about the mare Utopie Des Bordes, even though Geraghty prefers stablemate Mister Dillon.
Benefficient beat Dynaste fair and square in a Grade 2 novices' contest over track and trip at last year's Festival and came right back to form in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas when beating Hidden Cyclone. He's a tough campaigner and Tony Martin will have him ready for this. Dynaste was very disappointing in the King George last time and finished a long way behind AL FEROF. The latter clearly didn't get home over 3m at Newbury next time so it's no surprise to see him dropped in distance here and, as a former Festival winner, he gets the nod to come out on top today. Rathlin beat Hidden Cyclone at Galway last summer but was beaten out of sight last time but a fully-fit Menorah would be a threat to all and he makes more appeal than Boston Bob, Hunt Ball and Rajdhani Express, who simply don't look good enough.
Quevega has been declared again after Tuesday's record-breaking heroics. She is a Grade 1 winner over this trip so couldn't be ignored in the unlikely event of lining up but Ruby Walsh has committed to the equally prolific ANNIE POWER. The trip is a step into the unknown for Willie Mullins' unbeaten mare but she certainly wasn't stopping over 2m5f here in January when quickening clear of the luckless Zarkandar. It's significant that she's been aimed at this rather than shorter options and she can end Big Buck's hopes of a fifth stayers' crown. Paul Nicholls' 11-year-old made a perfectly respectable return from injury here in January, however, and won't go down without a fight though he'll have to rewrite the history books again if he is to get back to winning ways today. His stable have four entries with tough front-runner Celestial Halo also respected but the ground has turned against At Fishers Cross, who hinted at a revival last time, while Reve de Sivola also needs the mud. More Of That is improving and beat Salubrious over 2m5f here in December but this is his toughest task to date and Mala Beach, Medinas and Rule The World are unlikely to be good enough.
Johns Spirit won a couple of big handicaps here in the autumn, beating Colour Squadron in the second of them. But his latest run in December suggests he's in the handicapper's grip now. Carrickboy was a shock winner of this last year and showed a glimmer of his old form when third to stablemate Bennys Mist at Wincanton last time. He's still 4lb higher but can't be ruled out and Venetia Williams also runs Newbury scorer Shangani under a penalty. King Edmund is better over this sort of trip nowadays while the lightly-raced Sraid Padraig could be interesting and Giorgio Quercus' win at Kempton in November has worked out well, though he never figured in this last season when the veteran Tartak finished third. Third Intention is proving difficult to place but Tap Night has ability, though McCoy has decided to keep faith with Colour Squadron. TATENEN would be a popular winner for weighing room veteran Andy Thornton and the 10-year-old is enjoying something of a revival. Richard Rowe's charge went close again at Sandown last month off his new mark and he's run well at the Festival in the past so gets the nod.
Indian Castle looks a useful novice and showed he handles the course when successful over 2m5f here in January. The return to a longer trip isn't a problem and Derek O'Connor is among the best amateur riders around. Tranquil Sea won a veterans' handicap at Doncaster last month with the minimum of fuss and also warrants respect while Nina Carberry partners Cause Of Causes, looking to end a frustrating run, for Gordon Elliott. There's No Panic should give Will Biddick a good ride as he won over a marathon trip at Sandown before Christmas, though had finished behind Night Alliance at Ascot earlier. Buddy Bolero was fourth in the National Hunt Chase at last year's Festival and got back to winning ways over hurdles last time but might be a tricky ride for an amateur. David Pipe tries a pair of blinkers on OUR FATHER and we fancy the talented grey to put recent disappointments behind him and come good. The fact that he was sent off joint favourite for the Hennessy in November off a 5lb higher mark suggests he could be well treated today and he's handled these fences well in earlier visits.