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Vautour has the class and Festival form to maintain Mullins charge


The Willie Mullins-trained Vautour and Ruby Walsh can follow up their victory in the Killiney Chase at Leopardstown by landing today's JLT Novice's Chase at Cheltenham

The Willie Mullins-trained Vautour and Ruby Walsh can follow up their victory in the Killiney Chase at Leopardstown by landing today's JLT Novice's Chase at Cheltenham


The Willie Mullins-trained Vautour and Ruby Walsh can follow up their victory in the Killiney Chase at Leopardstown by landing today's JLT Novice's Chase at Cheltenham

I hope you have been following the column this past couple of days and find yourself a few quid up. We had three winners on the first day thanks to the policy of following Willie Mullins. And, like a lot of people, that might have been four but for Annie Power falling at the last.

That was a setback but it still went down as a good day at the office.

Still our luck held yesterday with two winners in the first two races while Taglietelle, which was advised as an each-way shot, ran a great race at 14/1 to get a place in the Coral Cup.

We'll hopefully keep up that sort of pace for the rest of the Festival. Yesterday's nap Don Poli came in with an impressive charge at the end to secure the honours in the RSA. And for me, today's best bet is Vautour in the opening race, the JLT Novices Chase.

He won the Supreme Novices last year and, as I've said here before, having a horse with experience around Cheltenham that knows what the place is all about is a huge advantage. The move to fences has largely gone smoothly for him. He's won two from three since the switch to the bigger obstacles and the race he didn't get home first in was two spins ago.

A slight error at a fence saw him lose out but I think he would have won that day without that mistake. This time, he'll have learned from that and he can follow in the footsteps another of Willie Mullins' novice winner of last year - Faugheen - and put together back-to-back victories at the Festival.

Next up is the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (2.05). A lot of people might be put off my selection of Call The Cops here given that he takes a 5lb penalty but to me he still looks well in here.

He looked good when winning in Doncaster in February and he is in with a real shout for Nicky Henderson and Andrew Tinkler.

It's a pretty big field and it's worth looking at some of the other runners. I also like the look of Edeymi for Tony Martin after his eye-catching run in Musselburgh and he could be worth an each-way shout. Tony got on the board yesterday so that is a positive too.


Bryan Cooper showed he was a man in form yesterday when winning the RSA and he could be in the winner's enclosure again when he is paired with Don Cossack in the Ryanair.

Gordon Elliott's charge has done nothing but improve all season - winning his last four outings. There's no doubt that a lot of people will remember that he fell at the Festival last year when running in the RSA Chase. That's a fair point but aside from that, it's very hard to oppose him.

Looking down the card from that race, one that catches the eye is Ma Filleule for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty. She seems to be improving with each of her runs recently and with a 7lbs allowance she could get in among the boys and shake things up.

I'm down for a spin in the World Hurdle on Tiger Roll. Winner of last year's Triumph Hurdle, he's a funny sort that we don't know quite what to make of. He won at Cheltenham back in October and we were very pleased with his form but for some reason he has fallen away since.

It might have been the heavy ground and he's had a bit of a problem with his wind so that may have slowed him up a little. Maybe he just likes the track as he has won here twice and that could be a lucky charm for us but he's only a five-year-old up against older and more experienced horses here. And with this being his first attempt at three miles, it's a very big ask.

Plenty of people will be keeping an eye on the enigmatic At Fishers Cross and if he were to get home first, it would complete the list of championship races which AP McCoy has won at the Festival. It would be a nice story but I just don't think he has the ammunition to round off the list here.

Paul Nicholls has a strong hand in this race with both Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar, and I think the latter has a great chance of taking the spoils.

A half-brother to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Zarkava, Zarkandar landed the Triumph Hurdle in 2011 and looked the part after a five-length victory in France back in November.

He has run once since then when finishing second in Ascot. Since then he's been aimed at this race so he looks like the one to beat.

The handicap chase at 4.0 is wide open and a tough one to call.

You can make a case for Rawnaq, a winner in Navan on his last run but there's a handful of horses which have a real claim including Aupcharlie for Henry de Bromhead.

Finally, day three of the meeting will be rounded off by the Kim Muir. The one that catches my eye here is Champagne James for Ted Walsh. Katie is up and they'll have him well-prepared for this run and the last race of the day could end up being a great moment for the Walsh family.


1.30 Vautour (Nap)

2.05 Call The Cops

2.40 Don Cossack

3.20 Zarkandar

4.00 Rawnaq

4.40 Champagne James

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