Top tipster Simon Rowlands has three selections for day three of the Cheltenham Festival, including an outsider in the Ryanair Chase and a strong fancy in the Turners Novices’ Chase.
You may have got the (generally correct) impression by now that I tend to like taking on short-priced horses if I see them as even remotely vulnerable. All you have to do is watch enough races to realise that plenty can go wrong, such as with pace or jumping, to cause a horse to dip below its best.
On Thursday at Cheltenham, we have a horse at odds-on that managed to beat one at double-figure odds by just two lengths the last time they met, which was the last time the latter ran at its best trip, and the last time it ran on soft going.
The odds-on shot is Allaho, who bids to repeat his win in the Ryanair Chase at 2.50, and the outsider is JANIDIL, who has prospects of running him close again even if he fails to get by.
When they ran against each other in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in December, Allaho came out on top but was all out to do so as Janidil turned in a new personal best. The selection has been beaten twice since, both times at Leopardstown at three miles, which seems to be just beyond him, and both times shaping as if still very much in form.
Janidil was fifth to Cheltenham Gold Cup joint-favourite Galvin in the Savills Chase at Christmas then third to Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup last month. The latter race was a messy one in which Conflated may have been at an advantage tactically. That one is roughly half the price of Janidil in their own personal rematch here in any case.
There are a few other plausible candidates to benefit if Allaho is off his ‘A’ game, or to run into a place if he does not. But it is not too difficult to pick a few holes in their CVs.
Saint Calvados burst a blood vessel when last seen, Shan Blue has not been seen since falling (when winning easily, but from second-rate opposition) back in October and may not be at his best on ground this deep anyway, and Eldorado Allen improved at 23f last time (this is at 20.5f) and has a tendency to get outpaced at a crucial stage.
Janidil’s best probably gets him placed and puts him in with a chance of something even better. I would have him no bigger than 8/1, even against a supreme talent like Allaho, and the shape of this year’s Ryanair is each-way friendly. That’ll do for me.
There is no clear favourite, never mind a clearly attractive alternative to that favourite, for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at 3.30, but we do have the last three winners of the race (Paisley Park in 2019, Lisnagar Oscar in 2020, and Flooring Porter in 2021).
That may make this seem like a vintage edition, and it is good to see a lot of familiar faces on show, but it is also a reflection that we have been living in an era in which the crown has been passed around, not a Big Buck’s era.
At least half of the 10-runner field could put in a 160+ rated performance on their day, but nearly all of the 10 have some doubt or other surrounding them. Klassical Dream is probably about the best of them, but he has a chequered career and ran poorly last time. I will avoid having a bet in this minefield and hope that we get a Big Buck’s-like winning performance.
I am now going to appear to contradict what I wrote earlier by putting up a short-priced selection. The horse in question is not favourite (at the time of writing), but I believe should be. Thursday’s card starts at 1.30 with a Turners Novices’ Chase which has only four runners but two possible superstars.
Bob Olinger looked just that when winning the Ballymore at the Festival 12 months ago, but his two wins out of two over fences have been somewhat workmanlike (if high on quality). He could be very good as a chaser but is not definitely that yet.
GALOPIN DES CHAMPS has also won two out of two over larger obstacles, both at Leopardstown, but he has been little short of spectacular, winning by 22 lengths on his debut in this sphere then handing out a nine-length beating to Master McShee at the Dublin Racing Festival.
That rival has since run superbly in defeat giving weight to seasoned Graded horses. A literal interpretation of that form suggests Galopin des Champs would go close in the Ryanair Chase, never mind this.
He may not be quite as good as that suggests, but he is a natural over larger obstacles, suited by the trip and effective on the going (it was more testing than given officially when he won at Punchestown in April). I would have him no bigger than 4/6 so he is a bet at current odds.
I find the two handicap chases – the Plate at 4.10 and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at 5.30 – too tight to unravel, but the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at 2.10 could be a different matter.
ALAPHILIPPE looks the one to beat in the former, having shaped really well (but as if the race was very much needed) when fifth in the qualifier for this at Warwick in January. He stays well, acts on the ground and is worth a punt, even now some of the fancier prices have gone.
The bookies are offering some attractive each-way terms and it is worth availing yourself of those.
I had a nibble on Mighty Blue ante-post at a price in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 4.50 – a race in which she was third against stronger opposition 12 months ago – but am concerned about the ground and so will not be following it up as a tip. The form of the favourite, Dinoblue, has worked out pretty well, it has to be said.
Simon Rowlands’ selections:
Turners Novices’ Chase (1.30) – GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (2pts win)
Pertemps Networks Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10) – ALAPHILIPPE (1pt e/w – at least six places)
Ryanair Chase (2.50) – JANIDIL (0.5pts e/w)