Cheltenham Festival tips: Simon Holt's Thursday bets including the Stayers' Hurdle

Don't miss Simon Holt's latest preview for the Cheltenham Festival
Don't miss Simon Holt's latest preview for the Cheltenham Festival

Top commentator Simon Holt offers his views on day three of the Cheltenham Festival and he's backing Faugheen to roll back the years in the Stayers' Hurdle.

There's many a good tune played on an old Irish fiddle and two ageing Cheltenham legends are fancied to bring the house down on Thursday when UN DE SCEAUX and FAUGHEEN return to the scene of some of their greatest glories.

Un De Sceaux, winner of the Ryanair Chase in 2017, will have an excellent chance again if reproducing his fine effort against Altior in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December which showed he retains much of his ability.

A past winner of the Arkle at this meeting, and runner-up to Sprinter Sacre in the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase, he has always looked a perfect match for this race notwithstanding his defeat by Balko Des Flos 12 months ago.

Un De Sceaux over-raced more than was sensible that day in the early stages but then returned to Ireland to win at Fairyhouse and Punchestown and the likely ground conditions should be ideal.

I am surprised that Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Footpad, last year's Arkle winner, who hasn't been at his best in two starts this season, though struck into himself when beaten by Simply Ned at Leopardstown last time.

He should stay this trip but is rated a few pounds inferior to the selection who, on ratings, faces the biggest threats from the much improved Frodon, who loves this New Course, and Road To Respect who possibly failed to last home when fourth in last year's Gold Cup.

Frodon and Bryony Frost are a perfect match, and the horse has been thrilling to watch this season not least because of his superb jumping, but I'm not sure he will quite have the speed to win.

Road To Respect, a course and distance winner in handicap company at the 2017 Festival, was a brave second to Bellshill in the Irish Gold Cup last time despite making a few jumping errors.

The former Champion Hurdler FAUGHEEN, also a past Festival novice winner, now looks ideally suited by three miles and could take some beating if at his best in the Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle.

Touched with brilliance at times, the 11-year-old showed he was no back number when slamming last year's winner of this race Penhill at Punchestown last April and he was still in touch when falling two out behind a bang-in-form Apple's Jade in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Faugheen was reportedly very sore after that fall but the recent vibes are positive and it would be fantastic to see him roll back the years.

Only Paisley Park is rated above the selection on official ratings having gone up a massive 12lb when out-staying his rivals (having been under pressure at the top of the hill) in the Cleeve Hurdle over the course and distance at the end of January.

Emma Lavelle's gelding is much improved, having won all four of his starts this season, and this will be the acid test.

Later on, EAMON AN CNOIC is fancied to play a leading role in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase.

The eight-year-old returned from wind surgery to win over two miles at Chepstow last month and is better at this sort of trip, though appeared to find an extended three miles too far when showing up prominently until after three out in the Ultima on the first day of last year's meeting.

The eight-year-old looks handily weighted and trainer David Pipe has won this race in the past with the likes of Great Endeavour, Salut Flo and Ballynagour.

In the National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares Novices' Hurdle, it might be worth taking a chance with the super-game QUEENOHEARTS.

The Stuart Edmunds-trained mare faces her stiffest task to date against the likes of Epatante, Posh Trish and Lust For Glory along with some promising Irish mares, but she is a real trier and a drop back in distance on the long New Course could see her running on strongly up the hill.

Finally, while Measureofmydreams has obvious claims in the closing Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup on his third to Minella Rocco and Native River in the 2016 four-miler, the now 11-year-old has found things tough since.

He shaped well enough on his first run for Gordon Elliott at Fairyhouse last month and could be very well handicapped, but I prefer the promising SKY PIRATE who was running a big race until practically brought down two out in the race won by The Young Master here in November.

Now 7lb better with the winner, Jonjo O'Neill's promising six-year-old should be spot on after a run at Exeter last month.


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