Find out who our experts are tipping for day three of the Cheltenham Festival 2023
Running plans for the novice chases will remain fluid right up to race week, leaving the picture especially murky for this one at the intermediate distance, but a couple of leading fancies who have been running at this sort of trip and appear highly likely to come here are Ireland’s Bob Olinger and Britain’s L’Homme Presse. The Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger left a big impression with last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle triumph, although it’s fair to say he hasn’t done the same over fences, having failed to convince entirely with his jumping. He faces a stiff test against Venetia Williams’ L’Homme Presse, who has made rapid progress in winning all four chase starts in the space of just two months. Willie Mullins would have the favourite if he diverted Galopin Des Champs here, but he might rely on one or two of his others like Jungle Boogie or Capodanno.
This staying handicap hurdle had long been dominated by the home contingent but that stranglehold was broken in 2016 by Pat Kelly’s Mall Dini and it has been one-way traffic since then for the Irish courtesy of Presenting Percy (for the same connections), Delta Work and Sire Du Berlais (twice) for Gordon Elliott, and Paul Nolan’s Mrs Milner last year. The top trainer to note is certainly Elliott, who won three straight runnings (with two 1-2s in that run). At the five festivals before last year’s suspension he had nine runners in this race and all finished in the first five. Dunboyne is high up the betting for Elliott, whose other possibles include Sire Du Berlais, Folcano and Dallas Des Pictons. Alaphilippe (Fergal O’Brien) is a leading British candidate and it is possible Sporting John (Philip Hobbs) could run here instead of the Stayers’ Hurdle. Winter Fog is a leading fancy for the shrewd Emmet Mullins and The Big Galloper looks interesting for Charles Byrnes.
The Willie Mullins-trained Allaho put up one of the performances of last year’s festival in running away with this race, beating Fakir D’Oudairies by 12 lengths, and he appears to have his opponents at his mercy again if he turns up in the same form. That is likely judged on another 12-length victory over Fakir D’Oudairies on his latest run at Thurles in January. Several possible rivals were well beaten last year, including Fakir D’Oudairies, Tornado Flyer (third) and Mister Fisher (pulled up), and it might take a fresh opponent to pose a threat to Allaho. One could be Eldorado Allen, who was second in last year’s Arkle and won the Denman Chase when upped in trip at Newbury in February. Gordon Elliott’s Conflated would be interesting if he dropped back in trip after his Irish Gold Cup triumph, while Dan Skelton could field Shan Blue for the first time since his fall in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October when running a big race.
Familiarity with the combatants is one of the attractions of the staying division and plenty of old favourites are set to do battle here in an open-looking contest, including the last three winners of this race. Heading the list is Gavin Cromwell’s title-holder Flooring Porter, who has not won since but comes here fresh from a good run in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, as he did last year. He had to settle for second there, though, after the Willie Mullins-trained Klassical Dream stole a march at the start and could not be pegged back. Had he not blotted his copybook afterwards in the Galmoy Hurdle, Klassical Dream would probably be favourite here. The British challengers are closely matched too – Nicky Henderson’s Champ reverted to hurdling to win the Long Walk at Ascot from Thyme Hill (Philip Hobbs) and Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle) but then 2019 Stayers’ hero Paisley Park returned to form to defeat Champ in the Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham’s Trials day. With last year’s runner-up Sire Du Berlais (Gordon Elliott), 2020 winner Lisnagar Oscar (Rebecca Curtis) and Galmoy scorer Royal Kahala (Peter Fahey) also in the mix, this looks highly competitive.
Established in 1951 and traditionally known as the Mildmay of Flete, this race has been the biggest graveyard for favourites over the years but last year the gambled-on The Shunter became the second successful market leader in a row and the fourth consecutive winner at no bigger than 5-1. There had been only one Irish winner in the race’s long history until a hat-trick from 2016 to 2018, followed by The Shunter last year. Celebre D’Allen went back to chasing to complete a hat-trick for Philip Hobbs at Warwick in February and is on the right sort of mark, having gone up to 141. Other leading British challengers could be Imperial Alcazar (Fergal O’Brien) and The Glancing Queen (Alan King). Enda Bolger’s Birchdale won the handicap chase at around this trip at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Willie Mullins suffered his first loss in six runnings of this race last year when Henry de Bromhead demonstrated his own strength in the mares’ division by saddling a one-two with Telmesomethinggirl and Magic Daze. Sixth was the best Mullins could do in a below-par year but Ireland still dominated, filling the first four places. Mullins has leading candidates this time in Brandy Love, who was a somewhat wayward second in a Grade 3 mares’ novice hurdle at Fairyhouse, and Dinoblue, who won by 15 lengths on her debut in a mares’ maiden hurdle at Clonmel. Dan Skelton is quite well stocked for mares and has last year’s Champion Bumper third Elle Est Belle, although she could wait for Aintree. Gordon Elliott’s Party Central won the mares’ handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, although handicap options look tempting for her, while another potential British runner is the Harry Fry-trained Love Envoi, who won at the valuable Lingfield Winter Million meeting in January.
Covid restrictions last year meant that professionals rode in this race – as in the others usually restricted to amateurs – but normal service will resume this year. The best amateur jockeys are in demand for this contest and Jamie Codd has been the main man with four wins in the last 12 runnings up to last year, most recently aboard Cause Of Causes in 2016. Gordon Elliott has become a powerful force with two winners, two seconds and two thirds from just ten runners (last year’s winner Mount Ida came from his stable, officially under Denise Foster’s name). With little between most of the runners nowadays, the higher-rated runners have started to do well and 11 of the last 13 winners carried 11st 4lb or more. Elliott’s options include Frontal Assault and Smoking Guin, while Ain’t That A Shame (Henry de Bromhead), School Boy Hours (Noel Meade) and Mister Fogpatches (Pat Fahy) are other interesting types.