Day two of the festival at Cheltenham sees the new champion chaser crowned but with another potentially short priced winner in the big Grade One affair, we look to the main contenders in the competitive handicaps to give us some value.
Coral Cup (2.50 Cheltenham) – 2m5f
Improved plenty to take third at Ascot last time out on soft ground and another step forward is not out of the question here. Previous best performance was in last year’s festival so the track holds no fears for him and in Nicky Henderson we can have no qualms with his handler.
Not run since December having been withdrawn from a race at Ascot but there are no reported problems now and he’s been laid out for this race. Arguably his best performance was this time last year on very soft ground in only his second hurdle race and I’d expect the sort of performance now which makes the 6yo look very well handicapped.
Hasn’t run round here before but stays all day and has been running well over up to three miles. The drop back down to this trip on very soft ground could be just what he needs and a big performance from Ruth Jefferson’s entrant is on the cards.
In the category of horses improving going into this race, William Henry sits at the top of the list. His best performance was last time out at Kempton when winning a Listed handicap hurdle, the only sticking point is that we can’t really claim he comes into this particularly well handicapped.
With 26 runners thundering towards the first of ten hurdles anything could happen early in this race to ultimately decide its conclusion, but with the evidence we have to hand it seems the value lies with Ben Pauling’s six-year-old gelding LE BREUIL. Well rested going into this, Aidan Coleman’s mount may just have too much for them when the going gets tough late in the race.
The Nicky Henderson pair Burbank and William Henry each hold solid chances while Mount Mews looks a fair each-way price too in what is a fascinating renewal on very soft ground.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50 Cheltenham) – 2m½f
Act Of Valour
Despite an impressive second in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle last time out, his most important piece of form in the context of this race is his debut hurdling success at Newcastle back in December. He raced on very soft ground that day and had to handle Gosforth Park’s uphill finish and did it all with aplomb meaning he should handle this just fine. Natural improvement from then to now would make him rather well handicapped.
Eragon De Chanay
Took a big step forward last time when eased down to win a decent juvenile handicap hurdle at Sandown and although he’s gone up 8lbs for that he most hold a chance here so long as the race doesn’t come too quickly for him given that his win was achieved only 4 days ago.
Certainly one of the more experienced types in the race, but despite winning easily and his overall consistency he doesn’t seem to have improved a hell of a lot since making his debut over hurdle in October.
Style De Garde
Rather dropped his level at Huntingdon last time when odds-on but was impressive before that at Newbury when winning on soft ground and the ex-French horse will have been prepared beautifully for this. Chances.
The King Of May
Another ex-French horse who seems to have been improved by Brian Ellison, a trait of this particular handler. His good third in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle reads well given that he is 8lbs lower in the handicap than Act Of Valour and I’d say he has an outstanding each-way chance at decent odds.
Style De Garde has a chance and I think Brian Ellison’s The King Of May has been rather overlooked in terms of most betting lists going into this, but they may have to go some to get past a potentially well handicapped ACT OF VALOUR.
The way he won on his hurdling debut in similar conditions to this marked him out as a potential festival winner and if anything the very soft ground this year may go right in his favour. Prices of 7/1 and over would be decent value.