sports gazette

Wednesday at Cheltenham

55,000 stormed the enclosures of Cheltenham yesterday
Published: 14 Mar 2012

Sizing Europe can make amends for the Irish in the Queen Mother but there is also plenty of other value around on an action-packed card.

While the Champion Chase is the day’s feature event and in itself a wonderful spectacle, it is not perhaps overly harsh to suggest that the main focus of attention is elsewhere on the second day of the Festival.

The fact that Sprinter Sacre was quoted as short as 2/1 for this race next season after his romp in the Arkle yesterday perhaps illustrates the lack of strength in this division at present.

Sizing Europe should win. He’s been in terrific order this season, and he seems to light up around Cheltenham, where his jumping and running style is a perfect suit. I can’t have Big Zeb on his previous run where Sizing Europe beat him by 15 lengths at Punchestown. People said that was because Colm Murphy didn’t have him ready but those people are forgetting that he was a half length second in that race the previous season when he went on to win the Champion Chase. He will have to improve massively now to turn the tables with Henry De Bromhead’s horse.

Finian’s Rainbow can’t be ruled out. He’s got the Arkle form and he’s always been highly thought of, while there was significant money for Wishful Thinking this morning. If Philip Hobbs’s horse can regain his form from last season he’d have a big chance.
The RSA Chase though, may well steal the headlines. Grands Crus is 11/8 for this after connections swayed the Gold Cup but I’m taking him on with First Lieutenant, who is value this morning at 11/2.

Mouse Morris’s horse won the Neptune Hurdle last year when he beat Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby. He was always thought to be a chaser in the making and although he’s been a slow burner over fences so far, you know Morris has trained him with this race in mind ever since Christmas. Back at Cheltenham he has a massive chance.

Elsewhere on the card there are ample opportunities to strike with a big-priced winner. The Coral Cup is perhaps the biggest handicap hurdle of the year and looks wide open again. The one I like is Act Of Kalanisi who has run two big races already this season. He hasn’t been able to win on either occasion but his handicap mark hasn’t suffered as a result and if he takes to Cheltenham he can run a big race for Richard Newland.

Get Me Out Of Here has an obvious chance, but I’m not so sure if he will be as good over the longer trip and he also has the burden of carrying top weight. His conqueror in the County Hurdle last season, Final Approach, would seem to have a better chance at this distance and Willie Mullins said you can scrap his previous effort as he had to travel over twice. At 20/1 he is a value bet with proven Festival form.

Another to note is David Pipe’s Star Of Angels, who was fourth in this race a couple of season ago. He is off more or less the same mark and won well previously.

The one horse I heard of coming out of Cheltenham yesterday was the beautifully-named Gorgeous Sixty and although Pricewise has put her up this morning, she is still good value at 8/1. She has high class hurdles form in France and although she has yet to hit those heights since joining Willie Mullins, she has apparently come into her own lately and is the choice of Ruby Walsh for this race.

Willie Mullins also has a good chance of getting off to a flyer in the first, the four mile National Hunt chase. Soll has obvious claims, but he could be a bit inexperienced and I like Mullins’s other runner here, Allee Garde. The choice of Willie’s son Patrick, Allee Garde has arguably the best form in the race from his third to Gigginstown pair First Lieutenant and Last Instalment at Leopardstown. If he stays, which he seems to have every chance of doing, he should win this race.


1pt win Allee Garde, 6/1 generally.
1pt win First Lieutenant, 11/2 generally.
1pt win Act Of Kalanisi, 16/1 generally.
1pt win Final Approach, 20/1 Stan James.
1pt win Gorgeous Sixty, 8/1 Paddy Power.

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