Cheltenham 2018: Day 2 Preview, Ladies Day

Day two of the festival succeeds Champion’s Day, and is often referred to as Ladies Day. In the last ten years Cheltenham Festival has grown in popularity, with people from all over Europe attending. The Wednesday sees many corporate events and women in the grandstand for a packed day of racing. There’s more action tomorrow, for St Patrick’s Day, ahead of the final day on Friday.

Cheltenham Festival Ladies Day 2018:  Betting Offers & Specials

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13.30 The Novices’ Hurdle

This 2m5f race can be a stepping stone for future Champion Hurdle winners with Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen all claiming victory before earning the ultimate hurdling prize. Last year’s winner Willoughby Court will not be following that path as he has embarked on a chasing career.

2018 Race Preview

The Ballymore Properties Novices Hurdle which opens proceedings on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival promises to be a battle between three of the heavyweights among the trainers. Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Nick Henderson are likely to be represented by Samcro, Next Destination and On The Blind Side respectively with the former horse already installed as clear favourite.

Samcro has emerged as one of the Irish bankers of the meeting as he seeks to remain unbeaten under National Hunt rules. The versatile 6-year-old gelding won both of his first two hurdle races last year in effortless style before claiming another comfortable victory in the Grade 1 Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown back in February. The manner of his victory that day suggested that there was plenty more energy remaining in the tank should he be challenged at Cheltenham.

Mullins will hope that Next Destination can be one of those challengers. The Irish gelding is unbeaten in three hurdle races culminating in winning a Grade 1 race at Naas in his previous outing. There was only one length separating Next Destination from the useful Cracking Smart that day, but it was a slowly run race with Mullins claiming that his horse will be more suited to the stronger gallop expected at Cheltenham.

Trying to beat the two Irish horses will be Henderson’s On The Blind Side who is also unbeaten in all three hurdle races to date. Two narrow victories at Aintree and Cheltenham were followed by a much more impressive performance at Sandown back in December. Although he has yet to face Grade 1 company, he can claim winning form over course and distance.

Anybody looking for each-way value in the race could consider Vision Des Flos from the Colin Tizzard stable. Currently priced at between 16/1 and 25/1, he underwent a wind operation before sauntering home by 30+ lengths at Exeter last month. That form is difficult to assess but he could do no more than win easily.

14.10 The RSA Steeple Chase

Previous winners of this top staying Novice chase include Lord Windermere and Bob’s Worth and in later years, they secured victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Last year’s winner Might Bite is the current ante-post for this season’s Gold Cup, although his victory in the RSA was one of the more dramatic events of the festival as he swerved on meeting the final hill.

2018 Race Preview

Might Bite was the winner of last season’s RSA Chase and he has progressed from that success into being installed as ante-post favourite for the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup. There are several viable contenders bidding to emulate the performance of the Nicky Henderson trained horse in this year’s renewal of the RSA.

Irish raider Presenting Percy narrowly leads the current market at about 5/2 in an open looking contest. Trainer Patrick Kelly’s horse won the Pertemps Network Hurdle final at the Festival last season before embarking upon a chasing career this term. Three wins from five starts does not represent conclusive proof of his ability to win this race, but he has proved his stamina by winning over 3m 5f at Fairyhouse back in December. He also suffered a narrow loss when beaten over 2m4f by Gold Cup hopeful Our Duke in his previous outing, and he will be a difficult horse to beat.

Among the horses intending to deny the favourite is another Irish contender Monalee. The Henry de Bromhead gelding has won both of his completed races over fences but fell on the second circuit when travelling comfortably at Leopardstown during the Christmas period. Normally a sound jumper, Monalee prevailed in his next Grade 1 race over 2m5f without any real mishaps, and in a manner which suggests he will be a better horse over three miles.

Of the other competitors, the Paul Nicholls trained Black Corton is expected to provide strong opposition. A relentless galloper and often adopting front-running tactics, the horse won impressively at Ascot in his previous appearance and with eight chasing victories already registered, he is the most experienced of the contestants over the larger obstacles.

It may also be worth noting Ballyoptic as an each-way candidate as he was beaten just four lengths by Black Corton at Cheltenham back in November despite a last fence blunder. The Nigel Twiston-Davies horse has since won at Wetherby and appears comfortable running on a left-handed track. He could represent good value at 16/1.

14.50 The Stayers Hurdle

Staged over 2m5f, this is another of those competitive handicaps featuring at the Festival with several horses normally involved at the finish. Last seasons’ winner Supasundae has progressed into being installed as one of the favourites for the 2018 Stayers Hurdle. He was priced at 16/1 last March for this race.

15.30 The Queen Mother Champion Chase

In one of the more memorable renewals of this two-miles chase, Sprinter Sacre recovered from various health and injury problems to reclaim the title back in 2016. Last season, Douvan incurred an injury when odds-on favourite to win the race with Special Tiara emerging as the surprise winner. All eyes with be on the performance of favourite Altior in the 2018 edition.

2018 Race Preview

Throughout the Winter, there has been great uncertainty regarding the outcome of the 2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase. Ante-post favourite and last season’s Arkle winner Altior has been recovering from a wind operation, and injury has prevented last season’s favourite Douvan from appearing on a racecourse. The situation is now becoming clearer with Altior now installed as odds-on favourite at about 4/6.

The Nicky Henderson trained horse has yet to be beaten over obstacles and there had been suggestions that he would arrive at Cheltenham without a preparatory race. However, Altior appeared in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury last month where has was opposed by the Paul Nicholls horse Politologue, who had won the Tingle Creek and Desert Orchid Chases earlier in the season.

Altior duly won the race without being asked a serious question although there was a moment during the closing stages of the race when he appeared to lack his usual acceleration. Henderson later claimed that his horse would improve for that performance and it is difficult to find any weakness in his form ahead of the champion two-mile chase.

Politologue is still a worthy opponent having won all three races this term before his four lengths defeat by Altior, but he has lost in three previous attempts at Cheltenham. Of the other challengers, Min from the Willie Mullins stable may prove to be the most viable option.

Min was beaten by Altior in the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle and then was subsequently unbeaten in the three chases before losing a race in the steward’s room during the Christmas period. Several of the Mullins horses were running below par during that period, but Min has since responded by claiming an easy win at Leopardstown last month. The lightly raced gelding could be worth watching at Cheltenham.

As for stable mate Douvan, his fitness must be taken on trust after he was previously diagnosed with a season-ending injury. It would be some achievement if he could win this race on his seasonal debut, twelve months after finishing injured in the same contest.

Last year’s race was eventually won by Special Tiara who has not won in four subsequent contests, and the best days may already be behind this 11-year-old gelding.

16.10 The Glenfarclas Cross Country

This race features several laps of varying distance including a number of challenging but different fences, and it staged around the centre of the course before finishing in front of the packed grandstands. Irish trainer Enda Bolger particularly likes this event having won it on five separate occasions since its inception in 2005.

16.50 The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Named after one of racing’s finest jockeys and trainers, this two-miles contest has been introduced for juvenile hurdlers of a lower grade than running in the JCB Triumph Hurdle later in the meeting. 22 runners competed last season with Flying Tiger emerging as 33/1 winner.

17.30 The Weatherbys Champion Bumper (a Standard Open NH Flat Race)

Willie Mullins normally saddles several horses in this race and has won the contest eight times, but without success since 2014. Many other Irish trainers also send a representative while fan’s favourite Cue Card was a former winner back in 2010.