Bostons can be country Angel
Man On The Spot previews all the action from the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.
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DYNASTE tackles this shorter race rather than the RSA Chase and can confirm himself among the season's top novice chasers by shrugging off a strong challenge from at home and across the Irish Sea. David Pipe's seven-year-old beat a small-but-select field over track and trip in November before winning at Newbury and easily beating today's rivals Third Intention and Molotof in the Grade 1 Feltham over 3m at Kempton. Colin Tizzard's charge made the unbeaten Captain Conan work hard for victory next time which suggests the selection has the beating of that one while Molotof went on to win a competitive handicap at Warwick before finishing second in a Grade 2 at Kempton. Benefficient is consistent but flattered by his recent win in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown while Sire Collonges hasn't been seen since well beaten by Our Father over 3m1f here in November. Texas Jack has claims on his close second to Boston Bob at Leopardstown and none of the others can be completely ruled out, though the five-year-old Argocat may struggle only receiving a pound from his older rivals.
A typically competitive renewal of this Listed stayers' handicap and past results have shown us that it's folly to discard anything out of hand as the last nine winners have all started at double-digit odds. The Pipes have a decent record in the contest and Close House is lightly-raced and arrives off the back of a win in one of the qualifiers at Wincanton, where American Trilogy was back in fourth. The progressive Shutthefrontdoor beat Ardkilly Witness in another qualifier at Carlisle last month while Sam Winner has come in for significant support after beating Peddlers Cross in a jumpers' bumpers. He has won a Grade 2 over hurdles and was fourth in the 2011 Triumph Hurdle but is very short in the betting considering he's never even raced over this trip before. Top Of The Range is another tackling 3m for the first time after earning his place with a victory over 2m6f at Sandown on Friday but he may still be well handicapped and the luckless Holywell should be thereabouts again in first-time blinkers. He's slightly better off with Ely Brown than when beaten a length-and-a-half in yet another qualifier at Warwick in January. Stonemaster may come out best of the Irish contingent having finished ahead of Jetson at Leopardstown in December but this is normally a race the home team dominate and we're going to take a chance on CAPTAIN SUNSHINE. There is no doubting the seven-year-old's ability but he can cause problems at the start and needs holding up. However, he's certain to get a strong pace in this and we can see him picking off rivals one-by-one from the final turn if he gets the breaks.
This looks a cracking contest with Albertas Run making another attempt to win it for the third time having gone down by half-a-length to Riverside Theatre last year. Jonjo O'Neill's veteran can run well fresh but he would have preferred a faster surface and may find a few of his younger rivals have improved past him while last year's victor has only had one run this term, in the King George, and was well beaten. Menorah appears to have the beating of Ghizao and For Non Stop on his win in the Peterborough Chase at Kempton but his jumping can be suspect when put under pressure and these fences can be very unforgiving. Champion Court was second in the Jewson over course and distance at last year's Festival and ran a cracker in the King George when finishing ahead of CUE CARD and Riverside Theatre. But he then disappointed in his prep race back at Kempton and we expect Colin Tizzard's stable star to reverse placings over this shorter trip. Second in last year's Arkle, the seven-year-old jumped superbly out in front when proving his stamina in last month's Ascot Chase , though he was facing a battle until Captain Chris tried to take the second-last by its roots. First Lieutenant is another former Festival winner and never seems to run a bad race having finished third in the Hennessy in November and second in the Lexus in December. On that form, he'll be a danger to all but does struggle to get his head in front at the highest level.
No Big Bucks this year so a new champion will be crowned, albeit temporarily if Paul Nicholls can resurrect his stayer's career in the autumn. Wonderful Charm has attracted some support after winning a Grade 2 novice event on his UK debut but no five-year-old has ever won this. This looks too far for stablemate Celestial Halo and though Oscar Whisky was only beaten a neck over course and distance in January he again gave the impression he doesn't really stay. He'll have to held up until the last possible minute which may not be possible in this grade and he only managed fifth last year, finishing behind Smad Place. REVE DE SIVOLA was the one that overturned Oscar Whisky here last time and he's been a revelation since being switched back to hurdles. He only found Big Bucks too good on his reappearance and left Smad Place for dead in the Long Walk at Ascot in December. That looks the best form on offer. Solwhit beat So Young over 2m3f at Naas in January and the latter went on to beat Zaidpour over 2m at Gowran last month. Bog Warrior also beat Zaidpour last time but the Irish runners appear very closely matched and predicting which one of the quartet will come out on top today isn't easy. Get Me Out Of Here has a tremendous record having been placed three times previously but his stamina will have to be taken on trust today.
Divers, Tartak, Finger Onthe Pulse, Matuhi, Giorgio Quercus and Hector's Choice all ran in this last year and race off lower marks this time around. Ferdy Murphy's grey came out best and has a good record at The Festival but Tartak is best in at the weights today, though has been largely out of sorts this term. Hunt Ball won the novices' handicap over course and distance 12 months ago when Carrickboy, Vino Griego and Bless The Wings were behind and he's been highly tried since. Vino Griego has come of age lately, winning here and at Ascot, while Shoegazer won at Fontwell last month though was beaten by Carrickboy at Chepstow in January and Tom Scudamore prefers easy Warwick winner Ballynagour to the eight-year-old, Matuhi and the once-useful Zaynar of the Pipe quartet. CANTLOW was beaten in his first two starts over fences but those races were over 2m and he was always going to improve once given a stiffer test of stamina. Wins at Plumpton and Taunton were achieved with the minimum of fuss and ensured the handicapper couldn't be too harsh on Paul Webber's novice now he's stepped up in grade and distance. He looks the one to be on in this. Walkon has twice been second in valuable handicaps over track and trip this season and his run over hurdles last time can probably be ignored. It would be no surprise to see him run a big race.
Another maximum field and most look to have some sort of chance. Both of Jonjo O'Neill's runners should go on the short-list as this is always run at a tremendous gallop and Galaxy Rock and Alfie Sherrin stay further. The former was fourth in this two years ago, just behind Deal Done, and has a tremendous record at Cheltenham while the latter won at The Festival last year but is 7lb higher now. CHARTREUX gets the nod having beaten a subsequent winner at Wincanton in January. Rider Jamie Codd has twice ridden the winner of this in recent times and can be relied upon to give his mount every assistance from the saddle. Super Duty came within inches of giving weight to Goulanes in a Grade 2 novices event at Wetherby last month and won here in December, though has been set a stiff task by the handicapper, while Relax should be thereabouts as he's weighted to reverse recent Sandown running with Richard's Sundance. Saint Are has been hinting at a revival while On Trend and Prince Of Pirates both arrive off the back of recent wins, though will find this much more competitive. Frisco Depot hasn't had much luck this season but is another with decent claims and preferred to the Pipe trio, of which Katy Walsh's mount No Secrets may come out best. Nina Carberry and Romanesco look the pick of the Irish runners.
Balthazar King halted Ireland's domination of this cross-country race 12 months ago but the status quo should be restored this year as the home team are significantly outnumbered. Arabella Boy's race at Punchestown early last month may well be the key to this. Enda Bolger's charge beat Big Shu, Uncle Junior, Shakervilz and BOSTONS ANGEL with Sizing Australia, winner of this on much faster ground in 2011, a faller. On better terms with most of his rivals, you'd expect Arabella Boy to come out on top again but he has still to really to prove he stays this far whereas Jessica Harrington's nine-year-old, who gets the nod, was an excellent second over course and distance behind Outlaw Pete earlier and is now 15lb better off with that one. He should confirm that running with third Leac An Scail and fourth Double Dizzy while Shakervilz and A New Story were further back. Uncle Junior and Arabella Boy both failed to complete. Wedger Pardy has run well here in the past but needs faster going and Freneys Well is now a 13-year-old. Any Currency could be interesting if taking to these unique fences, however, as he's fairly handicapped and stays well as he proved when third in last year's Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.