Betting Strategy: 4 Backs
Weather: Overcast, chance of a shower (5mm maximum). Max temperature 10C.
Going: Good to Soft (advance)
Racing on the old course as on Day 1. Reports from those who walked the track today suggests that the going report was accurate for Tuesday but we can expect to ride a degree quicker on the second day after which racing will switch to the new course which follows a similar line but uses virgin turf.
Thursday sees a couple of so-called bankers with Yanworth representing the UK for an Irish owner in the Neptune which kicks the card off, Un de Sceaux is odds on to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase, in which the last three winners of this prestigious prize line up to take him on. One of the most anticipated clashes of the week comes in the RSA Chase in which punters have struggled to choose between More of That and No More Heroes all year.
*All times AEDT
R6 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 2m – 3:50am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
In many ways the toughest race of the week with unexposed juveniles often making handicap debut. The buzz horse is Diego du Charmil who represents the yard who had first and second in this race last year. He has been deliberately unraced since joining Paul Nicholls from France due to the fact his handicap mark is considered lenient. Fixe Le Kap has looked one of the better juveniles this season and is respected despite a big weight, as is Campeador who was fourth in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile at Leopardstown at Christmas.
14. Diego du Charmil: Placed in all three French outings for Arnaud Chaille-Chaille and while that form looks nothing special, has been talked up for this race since joining Paul Nicholls with the trainer seemingly keen to protect what he sees as a lenient mark. Price is based purely on home reputation, so hard to recommend with confidence.
2. Campeador: From a yard which has won this race in the recent past. A solid effort when fourth in Grade 2 event at Leopardstown on his only start for Gordon Elliott. Type to improve further and worthy of respect, although raced very freely at Leopardstown and needs to settle better now.
1. Fixe Le Kap: Should probably be unbeaten for Nicky Henderson but forced to make his own running in a muddling affair at Haydock last time and was outsprinted as a result. Had looked a possible for the Grade 1 Triumph prior to that and brings more robust form to the table than most of his rivals. Owner/trainer have won this before at biggish odds and he deserves to be shorter than 13.0 on form.
9. Le Curieux: Used to be in same stable (Francois Nicolle) as Campeador in France and was generally progressive there. Of more interest is that Campeador’s owner has recently bought him, which suggests that either the former isn’t as good as hoped or that Nicolle considers this a better prospect. Expect him to attract support in the betting ring.
R7 Weatherbys Champion Bumper Grade 1 2m 87y – 4:30am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
The Champion Bumper is another race in which there are few key trials although there are several of listed bumpers in the UK which tend to be a guide. The fact that Ballyandy has won two of those and finished second in the other (won by Coeur Blimey) suggests he’s certainly the one to beat on form. Willie Mullins has won the race eight times in total, but while he often trains the favourite, four of his recent winners have started at 12/1 or bigger. Only one from 14 to have started in single figures has won, so beware the “Mullins selected”.
3. Ballyandy: Form there for all to see, winning twice in listed company and conceding weight to Coeur Blimet when runner-up in that Grade at Ascot. Twiston-Davies stable comes into the Festival in fine form so the only question about him is whether he is too exposed. My response is to consider experience a bonus here rather than the other way around. Deserved favourite.
24. Augusta Kate: Out of a very talented racemare, she has won both starts in scintillating fashion but those were against her own sex and such races can be quite weak. Was due to run at Sandown on Saturday but rerouted here. Respected, but sure to be overbet given connections.
15. New To This Town: Trainer does well in this sphere, but rarely brings one across for this race. Her two representatives providing a winner and one who would go on to win a Champion Hurdle, so it goes without saying that this unbeaten gelding should be respected. Recently bought for an undisclosed sum and will be ridden by Johnny Burke. One for the shortlist.
1. Avenir D’Une Vie: Another from the Willie Mullins team. Has been improving with experience with his latest fourteen-length win at Naas very impressive. Owner doesn’t like running his bumper horses here so fact that Willie has convinced him to send this one over looks significant. Considered, and looks a shade bigger than he should be on form.