Risk reward on day two
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt picks out his best bets from day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
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There can be little doubt that Sprinter Sacre is the star turn at this year's Cheltenham Festival after a string of spectacular victories over fences which suggest he could be one of the greatest jumpers in recent memory.
Awesome in last year's Arkle, he has demolished the opposition in all subsequent races and seems to have gears and jumping ability unmatched by other horses. Not surprisingly, he will start at prohibitive odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and it will be the shock of the season if he is beaten.
This is not a betting race but what can be said is that Sprinter Sacre faces his stiffest task to date against past champion Sizing Europe who was narrowly beaten by Finians Rainbow in a rough and tumble finish 12 months ago. Although reaching the veteran stage, Sizing Europe retains a great deal of ability and is always a horse to watch out for at Cheltenham where he has an admirable record.
With the bold-jumping Mail De Bievre supplemented by trainer Tom George, this is a spectacle not to be missed but few will be brave enough to oppose the favourite to any great financial degree.
The second day begins with the four-mile John Oaksey National Hunt Chase in which ground conditions have come right for the Willie Mullins-trained Back In Focus, a horse who can't have it soft enough.
He boasts solid graded form but may not represent great value and a horse I have warmed to this season is HAWKES POINT, a good second to subsequent Racing Plus Chase winner Opening Batsman at Plumpton first time out, a gutsy winner at Exeter next time and then no match for the potentially smart Harry Topper.
A full brother to Alfie Sherrin, a winner at this meeting last year, he has a good attitude and Steven Clements - who won the Grand Annual aboard Oiseau De Nuit a couple of years ago when riding as a conditional - will be one of the better riders in the race.
That out-and-out stayer Our Island wasn't disgraced in the Welsh National last time and could well improve on his midfield position in this race 12 months ago when the race was run on faster ground.
Pont Alexandre has been the subject of race reviews by jockey Ruby Walsh in the run up to the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and, if living up to the hype, will be hard to beat.
However, the giant gelding's form - consisting of odds-on successes in heavy ground - is difficult to assess whereas the home-trained pair The New One and Chatterbox boast solid form.
Another Irish runner which catches the eye is Rule The World who has done little wrong and whose half brother Venalmar finished second to Fiveforthree in this corresponding race in 2008.
There's no Dynaste in the RSA Chase, he runs in the Jewson on Thursday and that's left it a little more open.
There isn't much between Unioniste and Hadrian's Approach on their running at Newbury last time but I do think the former is a potential winner of this race. He's a progressive horse, a very sound jumper and any cut in the ground will suit him.
His jumping is better than Hadrian's Approach and for that reason I take him to confirm that form.
Boston Bob goes for Ireland and is sure to be staying on but doesn't represent great value while Goulanes is another dour stayer but this looks one for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh.
In the Coral Cup it's wide open as ever. I'm a little disappointed the weights have gone up but I still like Philip Hobbs' SADLERS RISK. He finished sixth in the Triumph here last season and ran a cracker under a big weight at Ascot last time.
He showed he's coming back to form that day and two miles five furlongs is his optimum trip. He should reward each-way support.
Hawkes Point 1.30 Cheltenham 1pt win
Sadlers Risk 4.00 Cheltenham 1pt each-way