Cheltenham Festival 2020: Day 3 Preview – Thursday

With just two days remaining of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, Stefan Fellows gives his picks ahead of Thursday's action at Prestbury Park which features the Ryanair Chase And the Stayers Hurdle.

Stefan Fellows

We’re now at the halfway stage of the Cheltenham Festival and our top tipster is here with all the information you need ahead of day three at Prestbury Park.

Stefan Fellows has cast his eye over all the runners and riders taking to the track on the third day of the most famous race meeting in the National Hunt calendar, including the feature races; the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers Hurdle, featuring A Plus Tard, Min, Paisley Park and Summerville Boy.

13.30 Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Golden Miller)

Mister Fisher Horse

Key Profile

  • 6 or 7 years old
  • Won at least 1 of last 3 starts and preferably been successful in a graded chase
  • Has previous Cheltenham Festival form

Key Races

  • Ran in the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown 2020 Winner Itchy Feet

Key Trainers

  • Willie Mullins has won 4 of the 9 renewals of this race with Irish based trainers winning 7 in total.

Leading Fancies

Unbeaten in his three starts over fences Faugheen the former hurdling star will have the support of many.

Switching to fences so late in his career was always going to carry a level of risk but the popular 12-year-old defied his age to the Grade 1 Flogas Chase at Leopardstown on his latest start.

That form puts him right in the mix here and we know this previous festival winner has no issues with the undulations of Cheltenham.

Samcro finished behind Faugheen at Limerick when last seen some 71 days ago but reportedly was not 100% at the time.

He comes here a fresh horse and also has received a wind op since that last run and there is no doubt this high-class horse on his day has more ability than most of these, but his overall profile comes with too many risks at his current price.

Mister Fisher has won his last two starts over fences, including a victory here in December and should run his race, but I just think he may need better ground to be competitive at this level.

Itchy Feet is a confident selection and I expect him to give trainer Olly Murphy his first festival winner. He showed high-class form last season over hurdles including staying on strongly to finish third in the Supreme.

He made easy work of a straight forward task on chase debut before winning the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown last month, looks a sound jumper and his profile is similar to many previous winners of the race.

Midnight Shadow was behind the selection last time out and it would be a surprise if he reversed that form. That said he did win well over this CD back in January and makes most appeal of the bigger priced runners.

Selection: Itchy Feet

14.10 Pertemps  Final Handicap Hurdle Extra Place Race 1-2-3-4-5

Sire Du Berlais Horse

Key Profile

  • Aged 7 or younger and not raced more than 10 times over hurdles
  • Last 9 winners all rated between 138 and 148
  • At worst placed last time out

Key Races

  • Irish winners normally have run in the Christmas Leopardstown Qualifier

Key Jockeys

  • Davy Russell has won 3 of the last 4 renewals

Leading Fancies

With 28 runners set to head to post again, we will be using a few trends to give us a shortlist of those to focus on and just going by the stats above takes out plenty towards the front of the market including The Storyteller.

This previous festival winner has to be of interest though, purely based on the record of Gordon Elliot and Davy Russell in this race recently, running a promising race in the Leopardstown qualifier and making late headway, but he’s well found in the market and if this was to become a real test, could just find a couple staying better than him.

Skandiburg stayed on strongly to win last time over CD despite looking in trouble on more than one occasion and, if within striking distance turning for home, he should be involved.

Rapper finished second that day but looked to find himself on the front end to early. He looks to be going the right way still and is another who has an interesting profile.

Jatiluwih was beaten by Third Wind last time out at Wincanton and while you would expect little between them again today. I do, however, think the former is better suited to a track like Cheltenham and could have more improvement to come over this trip.

JP Mc Manus has horses with more obvious claims in the race but Sunset Showdown could be the type to go well at price.

The Rebecca Curtis runner has had a wind operation since his last run which will need to be ignored but that was over a trip too short for him and travelled well in a qualifier here in October on testing ground to finish second and is worth chancing at a price.

Selections: Skandiburg , Jatiluwih, Sunset Showdown

14.50 Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy)

A Plus Tard Horse

Key Profile

  • Previous Festival form with a preference to a previous course victory
  • Top 2 finish last time preferably in a grade 1
  • 2nd season chasers who have had no more than 11 runs over fences

Key Races

  • Had raced in that seasons King George

Key Breeding

  • Last 6 winners all French-bred

Leading Fancies

Last year’s winner Frodon looks the obvious place to start, a real racing fans favourite mainly down to the connection he and jockey Bryony Frost have created, who many hope will be be successful again this year.

His season this year got off to a slow start beating just three rivals home in his first two races, but no doubt it’s always been a case of working back to the big day for trainer Paul Nicholls and he showed more of his old spark when winning the Silviano Conti Chase at Kempton last time out.

The switch back to Cheltenham will suit this bold jumping tough front runner and whoever beats him will certainly know they have been in a race.

A Plus Tard was also successful at last seasons when absolutely trouncing his 19 rivals in last seasons Close Brothers Chase, he looks to have taken the step into graded company well in his second season including having the measure of Chacun Pour Soi over 2 miles at Leopardstown.

He’s been kept fresh for this race since and returns to optimum conditions today. With only the seven chase starts to date more improvement could still be to come and he fits the profile well of many past winners being an unexposed second season chaser with a grade 1 victory to his name.

With Min and Frodon most likely to force the early pace, expect Rachel Blackmore to get a nice lead into the race and track just behind her main rivals before surging clear once again up that famous Cheltenham hill.

A first Cheltenham win is something that still eludes Min although he does have two solid second-place finishes to his name and whilst the Ryanair looks the right move, though I can’t help think that he will be battling for minor honours again.

Unbeaten since joining the Nigel Twiston Davies yard the other main contender looks to be Ridersonthestorm, he did, however, have a tough race when a fortunate winner of the Ascot Chase and I just feel he could end up being more ideally suited to flatter tracks and more testing ground than he is likely to face.

Selection: A Plus Tard

15.30 Stayers’ Hurdle

Paisley Park Horse

Key Profile

  • Aged between 6 and 8
  • Not finished out the first 2 that season
  • Previous Grade 1 form preferably over this trip

Key Races

  • Cleeve Hurdle, 2019 & 2020 winner Paisley Park

Key Trainers

  • A race normally dominated by the English who have won 13 of the last 16 renewals

Leading Fancies

There looks to be no reason to think that last year’s winner Paisley Park will not add his name to the list of many other previous dual winners of the race.

Unbeaten in his last seven starts his run style can give you the odd anxious moment but he’s the type of horse who will only ever do enough and is always comfortably on top when it matters.

He won the Cleeve Hurdle last year on the way to victory and with the same preparation this season he looks banker material to follow up.

I expect the rest to be fighting out for minor honours but the most interesting horse at bigger prices looks to be City Island.

The winner of last season’s Ballymore, he has been switched back to hurdles after a couple of poor showings over fences this winter.

His trainer brings him here fresh and with him just having the five hurdle starts further improvement could still be expected, especially over this new trip of 3 miles. Versatile when it comes to ground conditions he looks an interesting alternative to the favourite.

Selections: Paisley Park, City Island (Betting without Paisley Park)

16.10 Stable Plate Handicap Chase Extra Palce Race 1-2-3-4-5

Ben Dundee Horse

Key Profile

  • Carries 11 stone or less, only 3 in last 22 winners carried more
  • No more than 12 starts over fences
  • Winner of a class 3 or above chase over a similar distance

Leading Fancies

Simply The Betts looks likely to go off favourite after his victory here in a CD handicap at the January meeting.

That form has been franked already this week with Imperial Aura’s winning on Tuesday. He’s a straight forward prominent racer who is adaptable under a variety of conditions so should run his race again but he’s plenty short enough now for a race of this nature.

It would be some training performance from Gary Moore to take this with Not Another Muddle after being off the track for nearly a year.

He’s only had the one run since last season’s festival but he was not beaten far in the Grand Annual. Lightly raced for a 9-year-old with just the six chase starts he should have more to come over this trip.

Ben Dundee was another to run at last seasons festival when finishing a distance 3rd behind A Plus Tard but, as we know, he faced no easy task that day against the winner and has since posted a couple more solid runs in decent handicaps.

Just 6lbs higher than last year he was last seen over hurdles just after Christmas which may have been to protect his current rating, he looks sure to go well for the Elliot / Russell partnership.

The Willie Mullins trained Blazer ran well in a large field handicap at the Dublin Festival. He has a festival placed finished to his name over hurdles in 2016 and if the ground does dry up a little it would be no surprise to see him also involved.

Selections: Ben Dundee Not Another Muddle, Blazer

16.50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle 

Floressa Horse

Key Profile

  • A French-bred horse has won all 4 renewals
  • Top 3 finish last time out preferably in a graded race
  • 5 years of age

Key Races

  • Fairyhouse Grade 3 Mares, 2020 winner Minella Melody

Key Trainer

  • Willie Mullins has won this race on all 4 occasions

Leading Fancies

Three of the first four in the market faced each other at Fairyhouse in January with the Henry De Bromhead trained Minella Melody coming out on top that day and is deservedly favourite here after that effort and is held in some regard.

The Willie Mullins pair Colreevy and Dolcita were only just behind that day and I expect Dolcita to reverse the form on this occasion having looked to be most inconvenienced of the trio on that occasion and was just caught for speed at a crucial time before staying on again late.

This step-up in trip on a stiffer task will suit and looks a fair price to maintain her trainer’s unbeaten record in the race.

Of the English runners, Floressa looks the obvious one for the Nicky Henderson yard, she’s expected to improve on her third-place finish to Lady Buttons last time out and her chances would increase as the ground dried up.

Selection: Dolcita

17.30  Kim Muir Challenge Cup Extra Place Race 1-2-3-4-5

Le Breuil Horse

Key Profile

  • Last 8 winners all officially rated between 137 and 143
  • Aged between 7 & 9
  • Will have shown recent form over this trip

Key Jockeys

  • A none claiming jockey is normally the way to go with Jamie Codd winning 2 of the last 5.

Leading Fancies

It’s a wide-open looking handicap for the Amateur riders. Le Breuil won the NH Chase last year with Jamie Codd back on board and is down to the same winning mark as last year while Plan Of Attack represents the inform Henry De Bromhead yard.

He looks to hold solid claims based on his run last time out at Leopardstown and should go close. Go Another One has form that ties in with Plan Of Attack and also had some decent form at graded level over hurdles. Not seen since running here in October he looks interesting at a price having gone well fresh in the past.

Ardlethen has run some decent races this season in graded company, he lacks experience in large field handicaps like this but some of his form suggests he could be on a fair mark.

Selections: Plan Of Attack, Go Another One, Ardlethen

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