The Cheltenham Festival moves into its third day and punters will be looking for a bit more luck after the bookies left Prestbury Park jumping for joy on Wednesday.
After a hugely profitable opening day, Cheltenhampro followers were given a 6/1 winner on Wednesday and Nick Wilby will be looking for more success on Thursday. Sign up for our newsletter and get all the latest news and tips ahead of the meeting now.
Heavily backed favourites So Young, Master Minded and Time For Rupert all fluffed their lines on day two and the nation’s layers will be full of confidence moving into the second half of the meeting.
Punters who think Ruby Walsh will add to his tally of winners on Thursday can bet with Paddy Power
and the Irish firm are promising to refund losing stakes if your selection finishes second to the legendary jockey.
1.30 – Jewson Novices’ Chase
The Jewson Novices’ Chase looks a typically competitive renewal and the winner of the race is sure to have a very bright future in the chasing division.
The current market leader for the race is Philip Hobbs’ Wishfull Thinking who leaped to the head of the market with an impressive success in the Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham in January. That was a good performance and it will be some of the best form on offer when the tape goes up in the Jewson.
However, go back two runs and watch Wishfull Thinking’s victory in the Rising Stars at Wincanton and his followers will be left wondering how he managed to get away with a victory after Paul Nicholls’ Robinson Collonges seemed to throw the race away when falling three from home.
Galloping all over Wishfull Thinking and giving him 6lbs in the process, Robinson Collonges slipped on the landing side of the fence and it wasn’t a jumping error that seemed to cost him, but more a highly misfortunate stumble. In fact, his jumping had been sure-footed for a novice and jockey Nick Scholfield will tell you that he jumped the fence well before losing his legs.
While it can be foolish to say that a horse would have won if he hadn’t have fallen, it seemed for all the world that Robinson Collonges was set to cruise to a facile success and he looks a seriously talented chaser in the making.
After winning as easily as he liked at Hereford at 1/10 on his next start, he was sent to tackle an incredibly competitive looking Vote A.P. Gold Cup. Running off a lofty mark of 148 against his elders, Robinson Collonges travelled into contention down the hill before he made a mistake and met with trouble. After that, Noel Fehily nurtured him home without ever giving him a hard time and he has been off the track since.
Nicholls does not seem worried by the fact Robinson Collonges hasn’t had a recent run and explained earlier in the week: “He is very much a forgotten horse. I see Wishfull Thinking is one of the favourites for the Jewson but don't forget that Robinson Collonges would have probably beaten him in the Rising Stars at Wincanton in February and we were giving him 6lb that day; we go for the Jewson and he has come back well.”
With the likes of Noble Prince and Mr Gardner also in contention for the race it is sure to be a thoroughly intriguing contest, however, we certainly haven’t seen the best of Robinson Collonges and he remains a truly exciting prospect. Odds of 12/1 did not do the horse justice in the ante post market and if he’d have won the Rising Stars giving Wishfull Thinking 6lbs he would have been an even shorter price than he is now. With better ground certain to suit the selection and with a return to novice company on the cards, Robinson Collonges is a very attractive bet indeed.
Nick Wilby's selection - Robinson Collonges 6/1 (NAP), Stan James (already advised ante post at 12/1)
2.05 - Pertemps Final Hurdle
The Pertemps Final has always been one of the more competitive races at the Cheltenham Festival and many of the horses involved have had their handicap mark protected with this day in mind.
The race is likely to go the way of an improving horse that has been plotted up for the contest and David Pipe’s Chartreux leaps off the page in that respect. With only three starts over hurdles to his name, he has a cracking weight and it is no surprise to see him at the head of the betting.
However, it could be worth giving Lush Life another go after he was given no chance of launching an effort in the Heroes Handicap at Sandown last time out.
Nicky Henderson’s hurdler was left at the back of the field after the tapes came up and he heads to Cheltenham unexposed over the trip and having already won once at the course this season.
That victory came in December and it was a massively impressive performance in a competitive handicap hurdle with the star travelling well for a long way before battling to victory over the final flight under the hands of Barry Geraghty.
He has a defeat of Menorah to his name from his novice season, can boast a very high win-to-run ratio and remains unexposed and fairly weighted for his return to Prestbury Park.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Lush Life each-way 14/1 (Paddy Power)
2.40 - Ryanair Chase
The 2010 Ryanair Chase saw Albertas Run, Poquelin and J’y Vole all scrap it out in an exhilarating climax and all three return for a second bite of the cherry.
It was Albertas Run that came out on top last year but the horse hasn’t looked as good this season and things haven’t been going the way of the multiple Grade One winner. Last seen running well below his best in the King George, he had previously taken a heavy tumble at Ascot and it is strange to think that he is such a short price.
The same can be said of Kalahari King and Voy Por Usetedes and none of the horses look like they will be able to live with Poquelin if Paul Nicholls’ chaser is in the form that saw him bolt up in the Vote AP Gold Cup in December.
That race came after he had finished second to Monet’s Garden at Aintree earlier in the season and this has been his target ever since.
The favourite has enjoyed great success at Cheltenham in his career and he is sure to be spot on and ready to roar under the hands of Ruby Walsh who will be keen to gain compensation after their defeat in the race last year.
3.20 – Ladbrokes World Hurdle
In the past when the subject of the World Hurdle came up in conversation racing fanatics were longing for a year they could discuss a number of horse’s chances and indulge in a endless debate, similar to the argument that would ensue if we were to talk about the Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle.
The World Hurdle has been dominated by the marvellous Big Buck’s for the last two years but in 2011 punters could have their wish granted and there might be a serious challenge to his crown.
While Master Minded, Dunguib and Kauto Star all fluffed their lines as Cheltenham ‘bankers’ at last year’s Festival, Big Buck’s made no mistake with his script, putting up another jaw-dropping performance to defend his title in the race. Since he ditched a career over fences and found his fortune over hurdles, Paul Nicholls superstar is ten races unbeaten and he has never looked like he could be turned over. Sent off at 2/13 in the Long Walk Hurdle at Newbury in December, he laughed at his rivals all the way to the line and anybody watching that will realise that it is virtually impossible to see Big Buck’s being beaten.
That being said, that was before Grand Crus put up an absolutely stunning performance to land the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out and David Pipe’s stable star looks like he could lay down a serious challenge to the favourite. A strong travelling type, he has now registered three runaway victories and he can give Big Buck’s his first test for some time.
It must also be remembered that isn’t just a two-horse race and with the Irish in such good form, Fiveforthree and Mourad are respected.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Big Buck’s, 5/4 (Ladbrokes)
4.00 – Byrne Group Plate Handicap Chase
Yet another daunting puzzle for punters to solve and the bookies will be wary about laying Nicky Henderson’s Aigle D’Or who has been half the price of his rivals for some time.
That could have something to do with the fact that he has been aimed at this race for quite a while now and he looks far better than he did when finishing well beaten in this contest last year. It looks as though the handicapper may have underestimated his abilities and there could be plenty of money arriving for AP McCoy’s mount on Thursday.
However, it makes sense to look elsewhere for a bit of value and there is no horse that makes more appeal than Richard Rowe’s Tatenen.
The selection has discovered plenty of his old ability (sent off favourite for the Arkle two years ago) since joining his new yard and he seems to have slipped under the radar off top weight.
The former Paul Nicholls inmate hinted at ability on his first runs for Rowe last year but the penny finally dropped at Ascot in December when he jumped fantastically and grabbed a competitive looking race by the scruff of the neck for jockey Andrew Thornton. Racing off a mark of 137, it was clear that he was very well handicapped and he was punished for his victory with a 13lb hike in the weights.
That didn’t put his trainer off running him in the Racing Post Chase last time out and he was bidding to defy his penalty over a trip that looked certain to stretch his stamina. That proved to be the case and he travelled supremely well before getting very tired in the straight.
It didn’t seem to be his mark that found him out there, but more the step up in trip and not only does he return to two miles five furlongs here, but he has also been eased 3lbs by the handicapper. A very bold show looks on the cards and he could make a mockery of his very generous price.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Tatenen, each-way (nb) 25/1 (Ladbrokes)
4.40 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase
Just 11lbs separating the whole Kim Muir field means that it is sure to be a hugely competitive affair and Junior would be a very popular winner in his bid to complete the Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival double.
Dermot Weld’s Rite Of Passage almost managed to complete the double last season and David Pipe’s charge deserves to be favourite running with both the trip and ground in his favour.
However, the tentative vote goes to Willie Mullins’ Pomme Tiepy who should still have a race of this nature in her after shaping well so far this season.
Mullins believes that there is still good days to be had with the eight-year-old and though her losing run stretches back almost three years, she has run with great credit in the Paddy Power and the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park over the last few months.
As long as she is not too inconvenienced by the drop in trip, she has more than enough class to take a hand in the finish of a seriously difficult race to call.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Pomme Tiepy, each-way 14/1 (William Hill)