Expert Cheltenham 2014 tips for Thursday 13th March and race preview for every race shown live on Channel 4 for day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival starting from 1.30pm.
Into the second half of the week and it's the turn of the staying hurdlers to take centre stage in the World Hurdle as Big Bucks takes on Annie Power in one of the most anticipated clashes of the week. Plenty of other great races are live on Channel 4 as well so here are my tips for each contest.
1.30pm JLT Novices’ Chase Betting Tip
Thursday's coverage begins with an open novices contest over two and a half miles.
Double Ross (12/1 bet365) is interesting coming back to novice company having been so progressive in handicaps all winter. He has struck up a real love affair with Cheltenham and isn't far off the top rated here. Despite that, he probably isn't open to quite so much improvement as some.
Felix Yonger (4/1 Betfred) will appreciate returning to better ground, having struggled of late on a heavy surface. He was beaten comfortably by Trifolium on his most recent outing but smashed that rival on good ground earlier in the season and represents Ireland's best chance. Oscar Whisky (6/1 Coral) will also appreciate the better surface than the one he struggled on at Sandown last time. It's to the credit of his battling qualities that he was able to win that a return to a left handed track should suit him as well.
Taquin Du Seuil (8/1 Ladbrokes) has a couple of form lines that tie in closely with Oscar Whiskey over C&D and as such has got to be considered in a wide open contest. WONDERFUL CHARM (5/1 William Hill) also has form with Oscar Whisky, failing by just half a length to give that rival 8lbs. He has been off for three months waiting for this better ground and can repay connections with the win here.
Vukovar (7/1 bet365) had strong form in France and despite disappointing on his UK debut, he more than made up for that when slamming Open Hearted at Newbury. He was in receipt of almost a stone that day but would still have won off levels which makes him a player here.
1.30 Betting Tip – WONDERFUL CHARM (WIN) (5/1 William Hill)
2.05 Pertemps Final Betting Tip
Another of the massively competitive handicaps this week and often the most difficult to assess with runners only needing to make the top eight in a qualifier to get in.
Fingal Bay (6/1 Coral) heads the weights having made a successful comeback at Exeter. Previously a very smart novice he still has the potential to be better than this mark though giving weight away all round won't be easy.
Southfield Theatre (20/1 Betfred) looked progressive earlier in the season with victory at Wincanton and a close third here. He was disappointing on soft ground last time but back on a sounder surface might continue his progression. IF IN DOUBT (7/1 Ladbrokes) finished as the runner-up to Fingal Bay at Exeter having filled the same position behind Saphir Du Rheu at Kempton. Lightly raced and open to further improvement he should be right in the mix.
Josies Orders (14/1 BetVictor) has form on good to soft but probably wouldn't want the ground too quick. He has improved out of all recognition in the headgear and despite a stone rise in the weights he may not be done yet. SO FINE (25/1 Stan James) has already run a pair of fine placed efforts this season over C&D and has been waiting for this ground. He would have to find something to win but coming here fresh against rivals who have been slogging it out on heavy ground recently might get him into a place again.
2.05 Betting Tip – IF IN DOUBT (WIN) (7/1 Ladbrokes)
– SO FINE (E/W) (25/1 Stan James)
2.40 Ryanair Chase Betting Tip
Still a relatively new contest to the meeting, the Ryanair Chase has proved an excellent addition, the sponsors rewarded with another top class field here.
Al Ferof (4/1 Stan James) sensibly has been handed this target at the Festival having failed to get home over 3m in recent starts. He has a solid record at the track and this looks much more to his liking.
Benefficient (7/2 Betfred) beat Dynaste in the Jewson last March and they reoppose here. Tony Martin's raider won stepped down in trip over Christmas having failed to get home over further at Wetherby. This looks his optimum trip and this tough front runner could prove hard to pass. Dynaste (7/2 Coral) has arguably been a little disappointing this season campaigned over further. Undoubtedly talented he has a little to prove on this season's form but connections seem happy with his preparation and he should be in the shake up.
RATHLIN (20/1 BetVictor) is of huge interest at a big price having received favourable mentions recently. He smashed the talented Hidden Cyclone at Galway in the summer before two lesser efforts on soft ground. Unproven at this level but a lover of quick ground he is worth a chance at a working mans price with some minor question marks over the principals.
2.40 Betting Tip – RATHLIN (E/W) (20/1 BetVictor)
3.20 World Hurdle Betting Tip
A mouthwatering clash comes next with one of the most anticipated fights of the week as the new guard take on the old for stayers glory.
At Fishers Cross (7/1 Ladbrokes) carried all before him as a novice last season but has been well below par this year. His jumping has been his downfall and if that has been rectified he would be a threat. Big Buck's (10/3 Stan James) finally got beaten last time on his return from a long absence. He fairly tanked through the race looking very much like his old self. He probably did too much too early in that contest and looks as if the ability remains despite the advancing years.
More Of That (10/1 bet365) steps up in trip to put his unbeaten record on the line. He has improved with each outing culminating in an impressive win here in December. He hasn't been seen since but comes here as a huge player with further progression certain.
Zarkandar (14/1 Stan James) has been racking up the runner-up efforts this season. We know he stays two and a half but this step up in trip is an unknown. The return to good ground should help and if the distance is within his compass he is no forlorn hope. ANNIE POWER (7/4 Betfred) has already beaten Zarkandar twice this season over shorter and is another unproven over this trip. She has the speed to win over 2m but the stamina for 2m5f on heavy here at Cheltenham and looks as if this trip will be no problem either. She looks the real deal and in receipt of half a stone from her main rivals has to get the support.
3.20 Betting Tip – ANNIE POWER (WIN) (7/4 Betfred)
4.00 Byrne Group Plate Betting Tip
Another tricky, wide open handicap likely to be run at a good clip to finish off the coverage.
Solid course form is always a plus here and at the head of the weights Champion Court (14/1 BetVictor) and Johns Spirit (12/1 BetVictor) are both C&D winners within the past year while Colour Squadron (8/1 bet365) has solid place form so deserve respect from an E/W point of view.
THIRD INTENTION (16/1 Ladbrokes) has already won at Cheltenham this season and is a far better horse on good ground. He isn't one for maximum faith but with conditions in his favour could be a spot of value. Tony Martin has chosen this target for Sraid Padraig (9/1 Betfred) who won a competitive Fairyhouse contest when last seen. He has two ways of running but boasts an excellent record fresh so it's no surprise he comes here off a hundred plus day absence. His price though more reflects bookmakers fear of connections rather than form in the book.
GIORGIO QUERCUS (33/1 Coral) is another to show his best form on good ground. He goes very well fresh so it's understandable that he's another who we haven't see since November. Despite the Kempton win (2nd has won big handicap since) he is 17lbs lower than his highest handicap mark and is a massive price.
4.00 Betting Tips – THIRD INTENTION (E/W) (16/1 Ladbrokes)
– GIORGIO QUERCUS (E/W) (33/1 Coral)
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