Michael Dorgan looks ahead to the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of which is the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
After yesterday’s indifferent opening for punters, many will be hoping to get one over on bookmakers today beginning with the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (1:30pm) where Faugheen, the well-regarded mount of Ruby Walsh has been well supported. While much of his price may be down to hype, one cannot get away from comments within the Mullin’s camp where Patrick Mullin’s described him as an aeroplane recently and Emmet Mullins declaring him the best horse he had ever sat on. The unbeaten hurdler will put his reputation on the line but faces stiff competition in the form of the David Pipe-trained Red Sherlock who beat Faugheen’s stablemate Rathvinden over C&D in January, albeit conceding 3lbs to that rival.
The RSA Chase (14:05) looks like a wide-open affair where the Mullins/Walsh partnership again head up the market. Ballycasey, who has already beaten the more experienced pair of Don Cossack and Carlingford Lough in the Dr. PJ Moriarty has doubts surrounding him after his schooling mishap last week in front of the cameras at Leopardstown.
The Coral Cup (2:40pm) is another wide-open affair and best of luck to those trying to pick a winner in this 28 runner affair!
The main event of the day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3:20pm) and unfortunately, last year’s champion Sprinter Sacre misses this year’s event due to his well-publicised heart scare which leaves the race more open. Sire De Grugy justifiably heads the market and is 8-11 in chases but critically two of those defeats have come at Cheltenham where he was beaten by Captain Conan and Kid Cassidy in November. A chance is taken on Barry Geraghty’s mount Captain Conan and for those looking for a bit of value, Henry De Bromhead’s Special Tiara may be worth an each way squeak at 16/1 with the ground turning in his favour.
The Cross Country Race (4:00pm) is always an interesting spectacle and Big Schu returns to defend his crown, albeit carrying a much heavier weight. Bottom weight Star Neuville has a great chance at the weights and at 15/2 Enda Bolger’s horse is definitely worth an each way punt.
Dawalan heads the market for the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle (4:40pm) and Geraghty/Henderson combination should again go close. The other powerhouse stables of Mullins and Nicholls are also represented by Ivan Grozny and Katgary respectively.
The Champion Bumper (5:15pm) concludes the day’s proceedings and as always punters will look to the Mullins stable for answers as he has won the contest no fewer than eight times. Black Hercules and Killultagh Vic have already impressed but critically Ruby Walsh has opted for Shaneshill, who may be more suited to today’s ground. Other Irish challengers include the Dermot Weld flat bred pair of Vigil and Silver Concorde.
Captain Conan each way & Special Tiara each way – Queen Mother Champion Chase @ 3:20pm
Star Neuville each way – Cross Country Race @ 4:00pm
This article first appeared in Pundit Arena on March 13, 2014. To see the original version, click here.