Wednesday's Cheltenham Festival tips from Alex Hammond
Pont Alexandre is among Alex Hammond's selections for Wednesday's racing at the Cheltenham Festival.
Last Updated: 14/03/13 11:42am
Here are my picks for day two - and don't forget that I'll be riding Mica Mika in the St Patrick's Day Derby Charity race on Thursday, to raise money for Cancer Research. If you would like to sponsor me you can here: www.justgiving.com/SkySportsAlexH.
NH Chase -Novices' Chase 4m (Amateurs)
It's difficult to be too specific about some of the runners in the day two opening contest as a couple of the market leaders have alternative engagements. Boston Bob is also in the Jewson and the RSA Chase and looks unlikely to run here. That is probably a good thing for my selection, Rival D'Estruval who is trained by former leading point-to-point rider Pauline Robson. She has made a very positive jockey booking too as Derek O'Connor rides, he won this race on Chicago Grey in 2011. Rival D'Estruval hasn't run since December, but goes well fresh and is expected to stay this trip well. Back In Focus, like stablemate Boston Bob, has alternative engagements at the festival. Godsmejudge is a tough stayer and would be one of Alan King's better chances this week. If Goulanes runs for David Pipe I'd be very interested in him. He was a selection on the blog when winning at Wetherby last time on his chase debut and despite his inexperience he can run well. He is a point-to-point winner and has been given an entry in the RSA, I'd like to see him run here. Emperor's Choice represents the inform Venetia Williams and leading amateur Will Biddick rides.
SELECTION: Rival D'Estruval (5/1)
Neptune Novices' Hurdle - 2m 5f
I think this race is Pont Alexandre's for the taking. Willie Mullins (him again) has trained him to win all three starts over hurdles. He is the winner of G1 and G2 races on his last two starts. I take the point that he is yet to show what he can do on better ground since coming over to Ireland, but he had form on better ground in France and Mullins feels he will be suited by a sounder surface. It has to be of concern that the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard has come down with a bug at the worst possible time and three of their leading fancies for the festival have been ruled out. Apparently all is well with The New One, so let's hope he is AOK on raceday. He has had a few issues with his jumping but he is learning with experience. He certainly got into a scrap last time out when just touched off by At Fisher's Cross (runs Friday) who was given a typical ride by AP McCoy at Cheltenham. That was his first defeat over hurdles. He will be suited by better ground at the festival. Taquin Du Seuil has claims for Jonjo O'Neill. He won the Challow Hurdle last time out and appears to have a nice attitude. He is also in the Albert Bartlett. Rule The World is another smart Irish contender. Another for the Gigginstown Stud he is trained by Mouse Morris. He was the comfortable winner of Grade2 Novice Hurdle at Naas last time over 2m4f. Champagne Fever was well beaten when trying to make all. Rule the World is a big, raw horse who will be exciting when he goes chasing. Puffin Billy is a horse to consider at the prices. He is trained by a resurgent Oliver Sherwood, who has a couple of decent chances at the festival this year. The horse suffered poison in his foot which explains his last run. Sherwood is happy with him after that slight setback and he could be one for each-way punters.
SELECTION: Pont Alexandre (7/4) and Puffin Billy each way (12/1)
RSA Chase - 3m ½ f
The stats don't stack up for Dynaste in the RSA and if you follow that sort of thing you won't fancy him for this. David Pipe's grey won the Feltham last time out and all 18 winners of that race have failed in this. It's also a bad race for favourites, the stable's Grands Crus was beaten in this last year. This horse can buck the trend though. He is 3/3 over fences and has all the attributes of a top class racehorse. He is also in the Jewson. Boston Bob won the PJ Moriarty last time at Leopardstown. This trip will bring out the best of him as he's an out and out stayer. Each way punters may fancy Unioniste for Paul Nicholls. He is only a five year old but won a big handicap at Cheltenham in December. However, he only scraped home in a Novice at Newbury on his last start. He will probably be better suited by stronger pace he will get here though. Rocky Creek also represents the champion trainer. He has won his last three including a race that has had a bearing on this race in the past at Ascot (Reynoldstown) and a return to a left handed track will suit.
SELECTION: Dynaste (7/4) Unioniste each way (6/1)
Champion Chase - 2m
Sprinter Sacre has scared off most of the opposition in the Champion Chase and it looks like it will be an uncompetitive renewal. Again this horse looks like a banker for the Henderson camp. He has won 11 of his 13 starts and comes here with an unblemished record over fence (7/7). He won the Arkle last year beating Cue Card and the latter has avoided a clash with his rival by heading for the Ryanair Chase instead. Sizing Europe also has the option of the Ryanair. He won this in 2011 and was second to Finian's Rainbow last year. He has won his last five starts since over 2m - 2m 4f and seems as good as ever at the age of 11. Finian's Rainbow will have the services of AP McCoy and he certainly needs something to help him find his old sparkle. Nicky Henderson (yes, him again) trained the horse to win this last year, but he's not force of old this season. Granted, the heavy ground he has been running on hasn't been suitable, but he has finished last on last two starts. Sanctuaire is the Nicholls hope, but he was well beaten behind Sprinter Sacre in Victor Chandler Chase last time.
SELECTION: Sprinter Sacre (2/9)
Coral Cup - Handicap Hurdle 2m 5f
No decs as yet, but here are some notes on the protagonists. Wonderful Charm could be ahead of the handicapper. Paul Nicholls trains this horse who is having his first start in a handicap here. He won the Persian War at Chepstow last time out and has been given a rating of 149. He is expected to come into his own when he goes chasing next season, but he will have to be smart to win this on his second start over hurdles in the UK. Cotton Mill crashed out in the Neptune here last season when looking like giving Simonsig a race, it's hard to know if he would have beaten him there. He has some decent form this term including finishing second to My Tent or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle on his last start which was his first since April. He is a major player in this. Gevrey Chambertin has been given multiple entries by David Pipe and the stable tend not to show their hand until the last minute so we are unlikely to find out his target until he is declared. He is a brother to Grands Crus and has been progressing through the hurdling ranks, if you fancy him for any race in particular at the festival, you will be thankful of Sky Bet's non runner no bet offer. Pendra is a horse I like in this. Another JP McManus horse, this five-year-old has only had four starts in his life, winning three of them. He was beaten for the first time last time out at Sandown by Melodic Rendezvous in the Grade 1 Tolworth - not much wrong with that form. He looked to be crying out for a step up in trip and I hope he runs well here despite his relative inexperience.
SELECTION: Pendra (10/1)
Fred Winter - Juv. Handicap Hurdle 2m ½ f
The Fred Winter is another ultra competitive handicap and it looks like Paul Nicholls could be the trainer to be with here. He saddles Ptit Zig and Saphir Du Rheu who both have strong claims. The former won a maiden hurdle at Ludlow on his first start since coming over from France. It was a decent debut for the stable as he beat odds on favourite New Year's Eve. His long term future looks to lie over fences, but off a mark of 130 he can run well in this event. Saphir Du Rheu is a horse I like. He had the one run in France before joining Nicholls. He disappointed on his British debut, but made amends at Taunton last time out. Willie Mullins once again is mob handed with Fatcatinthehat, Blood Cotil, Djakadam, Dogora and Kalmann amongst the leading contenders. John Ferguson trains Bordoni who has the advantage of having run on the flat which will have made him more street wise than some of his rivals. He was very impressive at Market Rasen last time out. Vasco Du Ronceray is of interest for the Henderson team and the strong pace he is sure to get here will suit as he can be keen. Megalypos is another that hails from Seven Barrows and he has also just had the one start in the UK having started his career in France. His British start came in the G1 Finale Hurdle and he wasn't helped by being hampered at the last. This better ground may help him too. It's tough at this stage, but I fancy Saphir Du Rheu.
SELECTION: Saphir Du Rheu (7/1)
Champion Bumper - 2m ½ f
Finally on Thursday it's the Champion Bumper which has usually been a happy hunting ground for young Irish horses. Golantilla could continue that trend for trainer Tony Martin. He is the winner of a point and a bumper for Sean O'Brian and has since been bought by Barry Connell. The horse went through the ring unsold at £190,000 at the Cheltenham December sales, so they have obviously had to dig deep to buy him. Empiracle represents Jeremy Scott and he won at Huntingdon. Willie Mullins is usually a safe bet in this race and he has a couple of interesting entries. Clondaw Court has won a point and Punchestown bumper and was impressive last time out. Le Vent D'Antan is the big hope for Liz Doyle. He's a smashing horse who is the winner of a Leopardstown bumper, he apparently works exceptionally well. Willie Mullins also has Union Dues, the winner of a Grade 2 Bumper in December, he hasn't run since. You always have to take notice of horses snapped up by JP McManus. Regal Encore is one such horse. He is trained by Anthony Honeyball and was bought by the owner after winning on debut in a Southwell bumper, he has since won again at Chepstow. Sgt Reckless is trained by Mick Channon who has taken over Hen Knight's jump horses and is doing well with the horses he has run. One of which is this horse who is a winner at Wincanton and Lingfield. I've heard good things about Tony Martin's horse and he's my pick.
SELECTION: Golantilla (13/2)