Day two of the Cheltenham Festival kicks off with the National Hunt Chase at 1-30 and in this gruelling stamina test it could be worth siding with Dessie Hughes’ Tofino Bay. Top amateur jockey Nina Carberry is on board and the step up to 4m should suit. He is very lightly raced for his age and was a very good hurdler plus has won a Grade Two chase in Ireland. He looks well worth an each way interest at 16/1.
The Neptune Novices Hurdle is a very interesting race with Willie Mullins’ Pont Alexandre looking the one to beat on his two graded hurdle wins. At the odds I am happy to take him on. Jonjo O’Neill’s Taquin Du Seuil was very impressive when winning the Challow Novices Hurdle last time out and he is progressing nicely. It was a difficult choice between him and the promising Rule The World, but marginal preference is just for the English challenger.
The first of my ante-post tips runs tomorrow when Unioniste lines up for the RSA chase. He was 10/1 when I first tipped him up and is now as short as 3/1. A very exciting 5 year old trained by Paul Nicholls who has made a big impact since landing on British shores. He was an impressive winner of a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and he backed that victory up with his second win in Novice company. The RSA trip around Cheltenham appears ideal judged on his previous win and its likely there’s plenty more to come from a horse with a likeable attitude. Boston Bob heads the list of dangers but I think Unioniste could be the real deal.
Sprinter Sacre is impossible to oppose in the Champion Chase, one of the greatest chasers of my lifetime he is an absolute superstar and it will be a huge surprise if he doesn’t blitz this high class field. For those looking for some each way value or the favourite to falter, Sizing Europe could be the one. The 2011 winner and runner up a year ago has been in tremendous form this year.
Pendra has been purchased by the mighty JP McManus and looks to hold outstanding claims in the Coral Cup at 4-00. Three facile victories were followed by a very promising second behind the well regarded Melodic Rendezvous in the Tolworth Hurdle. He still looks well treated on that form and is likely to go well in a race that will be run to suit.
Cheltenham Selections: Tofino Bay 1-30, Taquin De Seuil 2-05, Unioniste 2-40, Sizing Europe (E/W) 3-20, Pendra 4-00, Kalmann 4-40 and Sgt Reckless 5-20