Alex Hammond: Tuesday tips
Alex Hammond previews Tuesday's action from the Cheltenham Festival and has a big-priced selection in the 'Getting-out Stakes'.
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Well, the meeting we have all been waiting for, the Cheltenham Festival, is now upon us after months of exciting build-up. Here's is my race-by-race guide to the best four days' jump racing you could wish for. Let's hope for plenty of winners!
William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle - 2m ½ f
There is one horse that AP McCoy will be hoping can get the meeting off to a great start. He rides the JP McManus-owned My Tent Or Yours for Nicky Henderson in the curtain raiser. This horse was also given an entry for the Champion Hurdle after the sad demise of the owner's Darlan, but this is his race. He was a very easy winner of the Betfair Hurdle last time out, making light of his rating of 149.
There will be plenty of long faces in the unsaddling enclosure if he doesn't win and I have to say I think he is my day one banker. McManus also has Jezki, mind you, and this horse is well fancied by trainer Jessica Harrington. It's not misguided hope on her part either. He is four from four over hurdles, his last two coming in Grade One company and he is still improving. The better ground he will get here will suit too.
Davy Russell has some great rides for Gigginstown Stud this week and Un Atout is one of them. Willie Mullins trains and the horse is unbeaten in three. He was the very easy winner of a Novice Hurdle at Naas latest but he has only run on heavy so will appreciate any rain that falls before the meeting.
Dodging Bullets must be a strong each-way contender for Paul Nicholls and I feel he is somewhat the forgotten horse in this and he is certainly flying under the radar thanks to the top two in the market. This horse is two from three at Cheltenham and track form can be important. Nicholls has said that a breathing operation has helped him this season and he certainly seems a stronger horse this term.
River Maigue isn't a bad second-string for Nicky Henderson. He is a point-to-point, bumper and novice hurdle winner.
Selection: My Tent or Yours, but I wouldn't put you off backing Dodging Bullets each way.
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy - 2m
The big question on the first day is can anything beat Simonsig in the Arkle? Nicky Henderson can have a superb start to the meeting given his strong hand in the first and his flying grey is seven from eight in his career with his only defeat coming in a Sandown novices' hurdle to Fingal Bay. He is settling well over fences and has everything that you could wish for in a racehorse. Having said that he isn't my kind of price and one horse I would love to own is Overturn.
What a horse he has been for connections, he was high class on flat, he was very smart over hurdles too (2nd in the Champion last year), and he's three from three over fences. He is a clever, neat jumper and any errors from the favourite would see him capitalise. He could be taken on for the lead by the Willie Mullins-trained Arvika Ligeonniere. However, his jumping worries me in this as he fell in the Irish Arkle on his last start having made a novicey error.
Selection: At the prices I'm with Overturn.
"There is one horse that AP McCoy will be hoping can get the meeting off to a great start. He rides the JP McManus owned My Tent Or Yours for Nicky Henderson in the curtain raiser. I have to say he is my day one banker."
JLT Specialty Handicap Chase - Handicap Chase 3m ½ f
At the time of writing the final declarations have yet to be made but here are my thoughts on some of the entries in the three-mile handicap chase. Our Mick has 'previous' in this race, Donald McCain's horse was third in it last year when still a novice and he has had just the one start since, when unseating his jockey at this track in January. I don't think that will have done him any harm and he was in the process of running a good race at the time of his departure. Katenko won that contest and he is very well regarded by Venetia Williams.
Our Mick is only 1lb higher in the handicap this year he can make his presence felt once again at a track that suits him well.
It would be very dangerous to dismiss Midnight Chase despite the fact he is now 11 years old. Neil Mulholland's horse loves it round Prestbury Park and is looking very well handicapped nowadays. He would be my each-way selection at the prices (he is 20s at the time of writing).
Selection: Our Mick is my pick to give Donald McCain a winner with Midnight Chase the each way shout.
"It would be very dangerous to dismiss Midnight Chase despite the fact he is now 11 years old. Neil Mulholland's horse loves it round Prestbury Park and is looking very well handicapped nowadays. He would be my each way selection at the prices."
Stan James Champion Hurdle - 2m ½ f
Now to the Champion Hurdle and what a race this looks like being. I am definitely keen to take Hurricane Fly on. He is plenty short enough in the market. I know he won this in 2011 and was third in 2012 and also looks to be back to his best this term. But, the fact remains he has had things all his own way in Ireland and this is a very different test. Taking nothing away from him, he has won 18 races and 14 of them have come at Grade One level, but I'll be opposing him here. Zarkandar represents Paul Nicholls and although he didn't set world alight at Wincanton latest, if he gets better ground it will aid his cause.
Rock On Ruby is the reigning champ and now runs for Harry Fry, who was assistant for Paul Nicholls when he won this race last year. He will have come on for his latest win Doncaster where he was a fortunate winner due to the fatal fall of Darlan.
Now to the horse I think can win the race, Grandouet. Nicky Henderson has another chance of top flight success with this horse who missed his prep due to testing ground. He galloped at Kempton recently which will have knocked the rusty spots off him. He made a very promising comeback in the International Hurdle where he was second to Zarkandar and I was impressed with how he ran there.
Henderson also saddles Binocular, who was third to Hurricane Fly in Irish Champion last time out. That was first run since his fourth in last year's Champion Hurdle. Cinders And Ashes is expected to improve for better ground so Donald McCain will be hoping the track doesn't get too much rain before the start of the festival. Countrywide Flame represents John Quinn. He won the Fighting Fifth on testing ground and was second to Rock on Ruby Doncaster. He goes well at Cheltenham and won the Triumph last year.
"He galloped at Kempton recently which will have knocked the rusty spots off him. He made a very promising comeback in the International Hurdle where he was 2nd to Zarkandar and I was impressed with how he ran there."
Glenfarclas Handicap Chase - 3m 7f
One horse who will appreciate all the rain that may fall is Arabella Boy, who is my strong fancy in this race. His trainer Enda Bolger is a master of training horses to win these types of races and Nina Carberry is class too. This horse has won two of his last three starts in cross-country races, although he unseated rider on his penultimate start at Cheltenham when making some progress. He looks one of the best horses in this division and won well at Punchestown latest.
Of his rivals, Outlaw Pete, who is trained by John Halley in Ireland, won the Cheltenham cross-country race that Arabella Boy and Uncle Junior unseated in but has been beaten in two chases since. Uncle Junior is trained by Willie Mullins and the 12-year-old has top weight in this. He is incredibly smart in these races but lacks consistency.
Selection: Arabella Boy
"I like Oliver Sherwood's Rouge Et Blanc. He has been likened to Hunt Ball by his trainer and it's certainly the case that he is improving. He has been raised 16lbs for his latest exploits but he could improve beyond that."
OLBG Mares' Hurdle - 2m 4f
The Mares' Hurdle can go to the Willie Mullins trained Quevega for the fifth time. She has won this race for the last four years and had the option of World Hurdle. She looks on course for a five-timer but isn't any sort of price. The best bet may be Kentford Grey Lady each-way. Emma Lavelle's runner was second in this race last year and is fancied to run well again.
Nicky Henderson will be hoping last year's Fred Winter winner Une Artiste can run a big race too. She comes here having won two Listed mares' races and is playing for minor honours here.
Racing4Rewards Novices' Handicap Chase - 2m 4 ½ f
Now onto Tuesday's 'Getting-out Stakes' and it doesn't look easy so I've highlighted a couple of each way selections for you. Firstly, The Druids Nephew, who is an improving six-year-old for Andy Turnell. He got off the mark over fences at the third time of asking at Wincanton in January and it's expected he will improve for some spring ground. This will be his first run in a handicap over fences and he races off a mark of 135.
Selection: The Druid's Nephew each-way