IT takes something special to win once at the Cheltenham Festival, let alone twice, but Flooring Porter has a Stayers’ Hurdle hat-trick in his sights today.
avin Cromwell has worked the oracle in the past and the Meath trainer will be hoping to do so once again, but dangers are lurking at every turn.
1.30 Grade One Turners Novices’ Chase 2m3f168yds
THE only negative hanging over Mighty Potter is the fact that he blew out here in last year’s Supreme but Gordon Elliott’s exciting novice has been sensational over fences this season, with back-to-back Grade One wins, and he could prove a class apart en route to bigger and better things.
Davy Russell’s mount may throw in the odd mistake but he oozes class – and he could be running in the Gold Cup next year given his scope.
This may be a three-horse race with Appreciate It, a brilliant winner of the 2021 Supreme, expected to excel over this longer trip.
Banbridge is another Festival winner, having taken last year’s Martin Pipe, and he has taken to fences in good style, with Joseph O’Brien’s charge finishing with a flourish to take second in the Irish Arkle over a trip much too short for his liking.
Verdict: The exciting Mighty Potter could be destined for the top.
2.10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle 2m7f213yds
ELLIOTT has been the man to follow in this competitive affair – winning three of the last five renewals – and his quartet of runners include three at the top of the weights.
Top-weight Salvador Ziggy reeled off four successes in a row before his fourth place in a Qualifier, while The Bosses Oscar boasts strong Festival form and was second in this in 2021.
Maxxum has flown up the weights – raised 46lbs – for two comfortable handicap hurdle wins, but his card looks marked. Each-way punters may side with the Meath trainer’s outsider, Level Neverending.
The six-year-old still has time on his side and could be massively overpriced, at lofty odds of 40/1, after a decent qualifier effort when third behind Glimpse Of Gala at Warwick.
That rival also represents each-way value, but Thanksforthehelp could prove tough to catch, with a wind-op paying dividends as he sluiced up in a qualifier at Chepstow last month.
David Pipe’s six-year-old has just seven runs to his name – and the penny seemed to drop last time out, so more improvement is expected with Mark Walsh in the plate.
Verdict: Thanksforthehelp can come to the aid of punters.
2.50 Grade One Ryanair Chase 2m4f127yds
IT was all about Allaho before he was ruled out of a hat-trick bid – and now it revolves around Shishkin.
Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old looked like the best may be behind him after two uncharacteristic displays, but he bounced back in brilliantly to take the Ascot Chase.
A repeat of anything close to that would make him unbeatable against these rivals, but short odds are not advised, given his recent history.
It’s hard to separate the remainder with no standout contenders, as Blue Lord dirtied his bib last time out. Mullins’ eight-year-old had looked like a genuine Champion Chase contender at Christmas before underwhelming at Leopardstown.
He was no match for Gentleman De Mee but the step up in trip may aid his cause, while last year’s runner-up Janidil looked better than ever on his seasonal reappearance at Gowran Park in the Red Mills Chase.
It was assumed that he would shape much fitter for that run, so further improvement is expected – and he may be the one to upset Shishkin if the hot favourite is to be turned over.
As regards each-way value, the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite looks primed for a big run.
Verdict: French Dynamite (e/w) can make the frame under Darragh O’Keeffe.
3.30 Grade One Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle 2m7f213yds
THIS is an open but cracking renewal, as Flooring Porter bids to land a famous hat-trick.
Preparation has been far from ideal, though, with Cromwell’s stable star rated just 50-50 to make it here as recently as a few weeks ago, while the eight-year-old hasn’t been his usual self this season.
It’s hard to completely rule out any of the 11 runners, with Blazing Khal a worthy favourite after making light of a 428-day lay-off to take the Boyne Hurdle in great style.
His preparations have been interrupted, though, while Galmoy Hurdle winner Teahupoo brings strong form to the table, having ended
Honeysuckle’s unbeaten streak.
He edged out Klassical Dream in the Hatton’s Grace – and that rival is also respected, as Mullins’ nine-year-old often produces his best on the back of a break like today.
Preference is for Home By The Lee, though. O’Brien’s eight-year-old was sixth in this race 12 months ago, but his form has gone to another stratosphere this season.
His most recent victory came in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, when much too good for the re-opposing Ashdale Bob – and JJ Slevin’s mount can oblige.
Verdict: Home By The Lee can continue his upward curve.
4.10 Magners Plate Handicap Chase 2m4f127yds
LAST year’s winner Coole Cody is back for more, but Evan Williams’ 12-year-old has even more on his plate this time around in a quality affair.
So Scottish is an improving youngster that has excelled over fences, having been put away for this prize after a narrow defeat to Boothill in a valuable handicap chase at Ascot.
Emmet Mullins won this prize two years ago with The Shunter – and JP McManus was clearly impressed enough with So Scottish to purchase the six-year-old, but this might go the way of another improving type.
Haut En Couleurs is a second-season chaser that has found another level this season – he looked like a winner of the Grade Two Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase before falling at the last – and there is more to come.
Man of the moment Michael O’Sullivan takes a valuable 3lbs off and he is tipped to score on his handicap debut.
Verdict: The classy Haut En Couleurs can score on his handicap bow.
4.50 Grade Two Jack De Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle 2m179yds
THIS could be a tale of the two Zoes, with Magical Zoe and Princess Zoe leading contenders in this 21-runner affair.
The lack of practice over hurdles is a worry for Tony Mullins’ Princess Zoe – she dead-heated on her only start over obstacles in January – but her experience on the track dwarfs her rivals.
De Bromhead won this prize two years ago and the scenes would be extraordinary should he prevail again, given that this race is named in honour of his late son, Jack
The Waterford trainer sends five in pursuit of a poignant success – and Magical Zoe has strong claims, having been put away for this prize since winning a Grade Three in November.
Adrian Heskin takes the mount, with Rachael Blackmore aboard Limerick maiden hurdle winner Foxy Girl, but they all could be playing for second place if Henderson’s Luccia turns out to be as good as expected.
Luccia has been a sensation in her four starts – winning successive Listed prizes (most recently against the boys) – but she trades at skinny odds, given the level of competition.
Mullins landed the first five renewals of this contest and relies on Nikini and Lot Of Joy this time, with the latter also a smart Flat performer, a strong contender after his Fairyhouse maiden hurdle romp.
Henderson’s Under Control is also of intrigue after her recent Newbury romp, but preference is for another UK chance in You Wear It Well.
Jamie Snowden’s six-year-old was next best to Hermes Allen in the Grade One Challow Hurdle before coasting home in a Sandown Grade Two last month – and that represents huge each-way value.
Verdict: You Wear It Well can score under Gavin Sheehan.
5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase 3m2f
IT’S hard to have too much confidence with 24 runners, but there’s so much to like about Stumptown.
It was a shrewd move by Cromwell to run the six-year-old at Sandown the last day – and he has likely been better treated by the handicapper compared to some of his Irish rivals.
He was an impressive winner on that occasion, and Barry O’Neill is as capable an amateur as there is around.
Mullins’ Mr Incredible rates a danger, but Patrick Mullins’ mount must give 8lbs to an improving Stumptown – and that may prove to be too big a gap to bridge.
Verdict: Stumptown can take the finale under O’Neill.