Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Betting Tips – Wednesday 14th March 2018

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival looks set to provide plenty of excitement with several high class races in store. First up is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, formerly known as the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, one of four races boasting Grade 1 status on Wednesday. Willie Mullins has saddled two of the last four winners and he’s got a whole host of entries this time around as he looks to improve his record.

Following this race is the RSA Chase which has proven to be somewhat of a breeding ground for eventual Gold Cup winners. Last to win the Gold Cup after RSA Chase success was Lord Windermere in 2014 but Might Bite could well be the latest addition come Friday. Also designed to aid the progress of future jumpers is the Champion Bumper, the only flat race (under NH rules) to take place during the entire Festival. It’s the most prestigious of its kind to feature all season and has helped kick-start the career of some fine horses such as Florida Peal and Cue Card.

The showpiece of day two is of course the Queen Mother Champion Chase. This year sees the return of Douvan whose fractured pelvis saw him manage just a seventh place finish in this race 12 months ago. He faces a highly anticipated showdown with Altior who has undergone some treatment himself this season. It’s the top minimum distance chase of the season and one you simply do not want to miss.

  • Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – On The Blind Side (6/1 at Coral)
  • RSA Novices’ Chase – Black Cotton (15/2 at Betfair)
  • Queen Mother Champion Chase – Altior (8/11 at Betfair)
  • Champion Bumper – Tornado Flyer (10/1 at Ladbrokes)

1:30pm – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1), 2m 5f 26y

It’ll be interesting to see whether Samcro runs here or in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. It could go either way but if Gordon Elliot fancies him for this test then he looks set to be the race favourite after making a strong start to his hurdles career. He’s won all three of his tests so far with ease including a Grade 3 over two and a half miles. An extra furlong this time won’t be an issue as he didn’t look at all short of energy over the slightly shorter trip.

Next Destination also has another alternative for the Festival in Friday’s Albert Bartlett, but Mullins did say earlier in the year that this race was the aim. The six-year-old has certainly impressed over two and half miles, claiming two graded victories either side of the New Year. With Mullins the leading trainer in this race, he’s one you want to keep a keen eye on especially if the ground is on the boggier side as has been anticipated in some quarters.

If the ground is more towards good to soft, which some other early predictions are saying, then On The Blind Side should be favoured. It’s this race or nothing for Nicky Henderson’s horse who has clearly had this event in mind ever since his bay gelding claimed a course and distance win in November. He’s gone from strength to strength in his three performances so far and even more is expected from the six-year-old this time out.

On The Blind Side to win – 6/1 at Coral

2:10pm – RSA Novices’ Chase (Grade 1), 3m 80y

The finishing post came too soon for Presenting Percy at Gowran Park last month as he was unable to wear out the winner, Our Duke, despite the testing conditions. A step back up to three miles should suit as it’s over this trip where he won the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle so comfortably. Adding to his claim here is that the seven-year-old is a former Festival winner, crowned Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle victor 12 months ago.

Very close behind in the betting is Henry De Bromhead’s Monalee who suffered a surprise fall just before the turn of the New Year. Given another try at Leopardstown just over a month later, the seven-year-old took on the fences without issue to claim victory in the competitive Flogas Novice Chase. With the fences at Cheltenham particularly stiff though, you do wonder if he’ll be able to manage another smooth performance over the obstacles.

Black Cotton’s record at Cheltenham makes him an appealing option given his price. He’s twice won on the Old Course this season and both by comfortable margins despite not being the favourite. Both ground versatile and a sound jumper, Paul Nicholls’ brown gelding certainly catches the eye. With no other entries elsewhere during the week either, it seems wise to get your money on him quick before his odds shorten even more.

Black Cotton to win – 15/2 at Betfair

3:30pm – Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1), 1m 7f 199y

Douvan was originally ruled out for the season due to intermittent lameness but he’s recovered far quicker than expected and is reportedly in great form right now. If he can return to his former greatness then he’ll stand a fantastic chance at winning this race on the second attempt. It wouldn’t be the first time a talented horse has been caught out on their first start after a lengthy break though. He’s certainly not poorly valued at 9/2 (Ladbrokes) but the lack of market confidence suggests he’s unlikely to hit top form.

Altior has had troubles of his own, undergoing wind surgery in November but the procedure was a success and he showed no signs of being hindered by it last month. Given a run out at Newbury, the eight-year-old won comfortably although there were only two other runners involved. While the winning margin of four lengths is the shortest he’s managed since November 2015, Nico de Boinville clearly wasn’t pushing Altior to his limits. He’s now unbeaten in his last 12 starts and last year’s Arkle champion looks set for more Festival success this time around.

Min was seven lengths behind Altior two years ago during the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but Willie Mullins’ horse has improved since then. He wasn’t at his best just after Christmas when losing to Simply Ned at Leopardstown but made amends when beating him by 12 lengths early last month. It was the perfect pre-Festival performance but at odds of 11/4 (Betfred), there’s not enough value having a gamble on the seven-year-old.

Altior to win – 8/11 at Betfair

5:30pm – Champion Bumper (Grade 1), 2m 87y

Following the trends is your best option of finding the winner in this intensely competitive bumper. All but two of the last 25 champions won last time out and 19 of them were Irish bred. Seventeen of them in this time came from the top six in the betting although the favourite has won only one of the last 10. Be wary of backing a horse with more than three NH flat starts but give extra weight to those with a distance win as this had been present among the last six champions.

Ticking all of these boxes is Felix Desjy who is set to make his first start on British soil. He’s impressed in Ireland this season although his two victories were at a low level. It would be a surprise to see him completely caught by the higher standard here but better options are available. One of which is Rhinestone who was close to a Grade 2 victory last month. Had he not given himself so much work to do following the halfway point, the six-year-old could have perhaps pipped Blackbow to the line.

Blackbow is also set to feature here and his Grade 2 success at Leopardstown has made him the early favourite. His trainer, the inimitable Willie Mullins, has an impressive record in this race but the poor recent history of the favourites is a concern. At just 5/1 (Betfair), it’s hard to say he’s worth the gamble. You should be more persuaded by stablemate Tornado Flyer whose price has dropped significantly following the withdrawal of Hollowgraphic. He won well on his debut at Fairyhouse, edging out Gordon Elliot’s Getaway John and further progress is expected from the five-year-old.

Tornado Flyer to win – 10/1 at Ladbrokes