Thursday 25 April 2019

Min steps into breach once more but Altior set to cement legacy

Nico de Boinville celebrates winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Altior in 2018 to make it three wins in three years at Prestbury Park. Nicky Henderson’s chaser is backed to continue that trend this year. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Nico de Boinville celebrates winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Altior in 2018 to make it three wins in three years at Prestbury Park. Nicky Henderson’s chaser is backed to continue that trend this year. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Altior bids to join esteemed company in the likes of Moscow Flyer, Master Minded and Sprinter Sacre as a two-time winner of the Champion Chase with Nicky Henderson's imperious chaser the standing dish on day two at the Cheltenham Festival.

The all-conquering nine-year-old has scared off most of the opposition as the home team look to cement their vice-like domination on the Champion Chase having won six of the last seven renewals.

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Nico de Boinville's mount looks nailed on to continue his remarkable winning ways but after a bumper opening day, Willie Mullins sends Min into the breach once more against his old foe.

1.30 GRADE ONE BALLYMORE NOVICES' HURDLE 2m5f

Henderson may have the favourite in Champ - named after legendary jump jockey AP McCoy and unbeaten in four starts this season including a smooth Grade One win at Newbury over Christmas - but the Irish challenge is a formidable one.

Irish raiders have dominated today's opener, winning four of the last five runnings and Gordon Elliott - winning trainer with Samcro 12 months ago - relies on Battleoverdoyen and Galvin.

Battleoverdoyen is unbeaten in four career starts and continued his upward curve when taking a Grade One at Naas in January but is untested on ground slower than yielding and doesn't represent value.

Martin Brassil's City Island is an unknown quantity having done little wrong in his three hurdle wins, while Pat Fahy's Dunvegan looks massively overpriced to snatch a place.

However, the value choice is Mouse Morris' Sams Profile. The Tipperary trainer holds him in seriously high regard and after encountering trouble in running when chasing home Battleoverdoyen at Naas, he shouldn't be four times his price.

Verdict: The exciting Sams Profile can reward each-way punters.

2.10 GRADE ONE RSA NOVICES' CHASE 3m80yds

Many of the leading fancies have question marks hanging over them but there's much to like about Delta Work, unbeaten in his three chase starts for Elliott and improving with every run over fences.

A winner at last year's Festival when landing the Pertemps over three miles, there looks to be no end to his engine and his form stands up to close scrutiny having outbattled subsequent dual Grade One winner Le Richebourg in the Drinmore Chase.

Last year's Albert Bartlett winner Santini has fitness concerns and was turned over at Christmas and while Paul Nicholls' Topofthegame has shown much promise, he is still a maiden over fences.

Three of the last four RSA Chase favourites have obliged and Delta Work is expected to do likewise with Irish challengers having a decent record in this, landing six of the last ten renewals.

Joseph O'Brien's Mortal is one to consider at a bigger price having ran respectably in two Grade Ones - chasing home Delta Work at Christmas - and could bely his odds.

Verdict: Delta Work will relish the conditions under Davy Russell.

2.50 GRADE THREE CORAL CUP H'CAP HURDLE 2m5f

THIS 26-runner cavalry charge has been a bookie bonanza with no favourite obliging in ten years.

Uradel has been all the rage since the weights were released for the combination of Mullins and Ruby Walsh but it's hard to justify backing at short odds in one of the most competitive races of the week.

There are six Closutton runners with last year's winner Bleu Berry of interest under David Mullins, while the high-class Killultagh Vic - which ran in the Gold Cup 12 months ago - is another to note.

Elliott fires three bullets but Cracking Smart, Diamond Cauchois and last year's Triumph Hurdle victor Farclas don't look well-handicapped and the latter may prove best of that trio.

The home team may wrestle back supremacy with 2016 Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy - fourth in the 2017 Supreme - the choice for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.

Verdict: Ballyandy can place in a difficult riddle for punters to solve.

3.30 GRADE ONE BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE 1m7f199yds

THERE'S a fair argument to be made that Mullins' Min is the second best chaser in training and had he not encountered Altior, he would be a two-time Festival winner.

Betting without the favourite, Min is the clear choice but when push comes to shove, it's very hard to see anyone serving it up to Altior when the famous 'Hill' has to be climbed.

Seeking back-to-back victories and his 18th successive victory over obstacles, Henderson's stable star is eyeing his fourth straight Festival win and should do so barring a major mishap.

While De Boinville's mount is prohibitively short, he should be the first name in every Festival accumulator as he stands one off equalling the record for consecutive triumphs over jumps set by Big Buck's.

He has looked better than ever this season so sit back and enjoy one of the best chasers in recent memory etch his place further into history.

Verdict: Min should be second best but Altior simply cannot be opposed.

4.10 GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHASE 3m6f37yds

EVERYONE was left in no doubt about the class of Tiger Roll when Elliott's charge blew any cobwebs away with a scintillating performance in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle despite being only being 75pc fit.

Only one favourite has obliged in the last ten runnings, however, and the nine-year-old scarcely represents any value at short odds as he bids for his fourth Festival victory.

Keith Donoghue's mount will take some beating as he tries to repeat last year's Cross Country/Aintree Grand National double but anything can happen in these events.

'King of the Banks' Enda Bolger - winner of this race five times - is doubly represented with Paddy Power Chase winner Auvergnat and 2016 winner Josies Orders live chances.

Bless The Wings may prove a profitable each-way option though with the three-time Festival runner-up continuing to defy his senior status and Russell may squeak a place out of Elliott's 14-year-old.

Verdict: Tiger Roll will be hard to stop but Bless The Wings has place claims.

4.50 GRADE THREE BOODLES JUVENILE H'CAP HURDLE 2m87yds

THIS has been a lottery in recent years with a 40/1 shot, three 33/1 chances and two 25/1 outsiders prevailing so value must be sought among the 22 runners.

Lethal Steps is one of three runners for last year's winning trainer Elliott and could be his leading fancy but while looking ahead of the handicapper, he will have to step up on what he's achieved over hurdles thus far.

Ciel De Neige is an interesting runner on his debut for Mullins but would have to step up significantly on his French form to be in the mix and Fine Brunello is a tentative selection.

Joseph O'Brien has a cracking Festival team with Band Of Outlaws also fancied in this but Barry Geraghty can help Fine Brunello lose his maiden tag in some style.

Verdict: Fine Brunello is a hesitant selection here.

5.30 GRADE ONE WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER 2m87yds

MULLINS has been the man to follow in today's closing contest with nine winners and punters shouldn't be deterred by the fact that he hasn't his usual handful of runners.

Blue Sari - an impressive winner on debut at Gowran Park and since snatched up by JP McManus - is his sole candidate and he has struck on four of the eight occasions when he has had just one representative.

Geraghty takes the mount aboard the four-year-old - which gets an 8lb age allowance - while Irish champion Flat jockey Donnacha O'Brien is also involved aboard his brother Joseph's Meticulous.

He chased home Elliott's imposing Envoi Allen at the Dublin Racing Festival and it is Jamie Codd's mount that may prove best in a contest which Irish raiders should dominate again having taken five of the last seven runnings.

Envoi Allen has justified his lofty €465,000 price tag with each of his impressive victories and there may be more to come en route to a promising career over obstacles.

Verdict: Envoi Allen could be an aeroplane in equine form.

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