Andy Stephens tipped Ultima Handicap winner Coo Star Sivola at 6-1 on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and fancies a French import on day two.
By Andy Stephens
There are four Grade One races on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday but, for all their quality, they make limited appeal as betting mediums.
The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase has all the ingredients of being a vintage but there are far too many ifs and buts about it from a punting perspective.
Altior is exceptional; Douvan was exceptional and hopefully still will be; Min is inferior but a class act in his own right and, unlike the other pair, had a trouble-free season.
Throw in front-running defending champion Special Tiara and the slick grey, Politologue, and it could be race of the week - but that doesn’t mean we have to risk money on it.
Samcro’s chance in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is reflected by quotes of 8-11, while the Weatherbys Champion Bumper is something of an annual guessing game.
But there’s still opportunities to have a flutter. Starting with:
This is hardly the most original of punts - favourite to beat the second favourite - but it looks the way to go because the Irish staying novice chasers look well ahead of their British counterparts.
Presenting Percy was a fluent winner of the Pertemps Hurdle at last year’s Festival and this stout stayer has continued to thrive this term.
He bustled up Gold Cup candidate Our Duke over an inadequate trip at Gowran Park last time, albeit in receipt of 7lb, and all ground seems to come alike to him.
Monalee was runner-up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago and there was plenty to like about the way he repelled Al Boum Photo (rejected here on account of his tendency to make mistakes) at Leopardstown last time.
It was a game effort by Monalee to repel a string of challengers that day but whether he will be able to keep Presenting Percy at bay is another matter.
Topofthegame is every inch a chaser but was switched back to hurdling for this term after a tumble at Newbury in November and that decision has been vindicated.
Topofthegame ran a cracker next time out when a staying-on fourth to William Henry in a red-hot running of the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in January and stepped up on that when landing the Heroes Handicap Hurdle over an extended 2m7f on testing ground at Sandown last time.
He defied a burden of more than 11st that day, becoming the first to do so in that contest since the mighty Barcaouda in 2004.
Topofthegame has to cope with an 8lb higher mark and a drop down in trip, but he’s getting better all the time and his stamina is sure to come into play.
He meets William Henry on the same terms but he is open to the greater improvement and this track might also suit him better.
I was initially going to give the cross-country a swerve but I’ve been lured in because Cause Of Causes looks a falsely-priced favourite.
Plenty will back him blind because he has won at the meeting for the past three years but he has peaked for those successes on much better ground, and in the past has been withdrawn from races on account of testing going.
I’d much rather back The Last Samuri at more than twice his price.
Kim Bailey’s charge will be running over this course for the first time but any horse who jumps the Grand National fences as well as he does should be able to cope and he may even be invigorated by the challenge.
He’s the best horse in the race, by at least 3lb on official ratings, and has considerably less on his plate than on his past two starts when running with great credit behind Blaklion and Definitly Red.
Banking on a horse who makes his British debut under top weight in a 22-runner juvenile handicap hurdle will not be for all but, at 33-1, this French recruit is worth risking.
I don’t profess to being able to completely evaluate his efforts in winning his past two starts in France, but the form of that second success - over two and a quarter miles on heavy ground - has been franked with the runner-up subsequently rattling off a hat-trick of victories, included in Listed company.
The assessor is also guessing, to a degree, and the easy win of Soul Emotion in a handicap at Sandown only on Friday (having his first run in Britain having previously been trained in France) shows he can get his sums badly wrong.
Terrefort winning off 137 at Huntingdon in January was another example. He’s swiftly risen to 152.
Casa Tall, who apparently measures 16.1 hands, has been with Tom George since January and it is interesting the trainer has resisted running him before Cheltenham - thus protecting his mark of 139.
The booking of James Bowen also speaks for itself. I imagine he was not short of offers in the race.
How To Bet £20 on the second day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival:
2.10: Presenting Percy to beat Monalee; £3 Exacta
2.50: Topofthegame £2 each-way at a general 14-1
4.10: The Last Samuri £3 win at a general 6-1
4.50: Casa Tall £5 each-way at a general 33-1
£1 Each-Way Patent
4.10 The Last Samuri
4.50 Casa Tall
Plus £3 each-way on Casa Tall at a general 33-1