Thursday is St Patrick’s Day, and you know what that means: plenty of the good stuff will be imbibed, and a day of first-class jump racing will be enjoyed by all as well.
It’s a competitive day with three feature races – in two of which it is hard to contest the favourites. Here are some betting tips to help mark your card:
JLT Novices Chase (1:30pm)
A great way to kick off the action on St Patrick’s Day is the JLT Novices Chase, which has been a tremendous yardstick for future Cheltenham endeavours in the past – the likes of Vautour and Sir Des Champs are former winners in this one.
Bristol De Mai (9/2) goes off as the bookmakers’ favourite, and an unconvincing past has given way to a finding of form in recent months, with three wins on the spin over this 2m 4f stretch in the last two months. This will be his first jaunt at Cheltenham however, which could be a factor.
Cases can be made for Outlander (9/2) who has won four of seven after settling to the 19/20f mark (although he was an unconvincing sixth in the Novices’ Hurdle in 2015), Garde La Victoire (5/1), who has Richard Johnson on board but who has enjoyed his best runs over 15/16f, and L’Ami Serge (10/1), whose inconsistent record includes a fine fourth in last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle, a win over 19f in 2016 and yet a loss last time out when 1/5 favourite.
Perhaps the one to watch is Shaneshill (12/1), whose record over this kind of distance reads three wins and a second place, and who has finished runner-up on his two starts at Cheltenham.
Ryanair Chase (2:50pm)
Nine winners of eleven renewals of this race have been found in the top three of the betting, and we need not cast our eye anywhere else but here.
After Willie Mullins and co decided to save Vautour for this renewal rather than supplement him into the Gold Cup, naturally it is this 4/5 favourite that catches the eye. He’s never finished outside the top two, with nine wins and two runners-up spots, and an agonising head loss to Cue Card in the King George VI should be taken as a positive, rather than a negative. With two wins at the festival under his belt, Vautour is very hard to oppose.
Road to Riches (7/1) is a rather unconvincing second-favourite but a third in last year’s Gold Cup showed promise, while Valseur Lido (8/1) is of Mullins stock but has unseated his rider and fell in his last two starts.
World Hurdle (3:30pm)
You’d imagine Thistlecrack (6/5) would be an unpopular winner with the bookmakers. A proven stayer (essential in this 3m slog), Thistlecrack has won both the Cleeve Hurdle and the Long Walk Hurdle; both of which usually identify the World Hurdle winner here. He’s won four of five starts over 24f, including a victory at Cheltenham in January.
Cole Harden (8/1) will be looking to defend his crown, but it is Saphir De Rheu (10/1) who really catches the eye. A former winner of the Welsh Champion Hurdle and a close second in last year’s World Hurdle, this is an appetising prospect in the ‘without Thistlecrack’ market at 5/1.