Find out who our experts are tipping for day three of the Cheltenham Festival 2021
There is proper substance to the sky-high reputation of Envoi Allen, already a dual Festival hero, and you can't help but love the way he goes about his business. He could be the next big thing, but it's debatable whether his odds should be quite so prohibitive given the quality of opposition. Shan Blue is one super-slick jumper who could take some reeling in if finding his rhythm and Chatham Street Lad's handicap performance here in December brings him into the equation, but CHANTRY HOUSE appeals most. He ran well at the meeting last year in a hot renewal of the Supreme and, being a horse who does his best work late on in his races, he might see this out the strongest off what looks sure to be a helter-skelter gallop.
Shan Blue has already shown how slick he is in the jumping department and this course is tailor-made for front-runners over 2m4f.
After Honeysuckle extended the unbeaten start to her career on Tuesday, all eyes turn to this gelding who is also yet to taste defeat. An incredibly versatile sort with regards to underfoot conditions, he is yet to really be tested over fences this season. He was asked a question when winning at this meeting last year, responding well to pressure, skipping clear up the hill. He looks a tough one to beat once more.
Chatham Street Lad has been pulled out of four of his five Cheltenham Festival engagements. The Marsh Novices’ Chase will be his sole target now after his connections made their decision. A 15-length winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December, a repeat of that would make him very hard to beat. It was a performance that boggled the mind and he went up the hill as if it wasn’t even there.
The winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup was beaten back over 2m when last seen in Ireland, but simply found that trip too short. Bookmakers don’t make that many non-runner no bet errors but the 33-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power is simply wrong.
The prospect of a small field makes me want to back Shan Blue each-way. The Kauto Star Novices’ Chase win was his second in a row over 3m, but all that did was confirm that Shan Blue is a quick horse who doesn’t want to go a yard further and it makes perfect sense to drop him back to this 2m4f trip.
The Irish have dominated this race in recent years and they have at least three strong candidates this time round in Milliner (a reserve), Dandy Mag and The Bosses Oscar, who are preferred in that order. Imperial Alcazar and Brinkley impressed when winning their qualifiers and should have more to offer, although moving away from soft and heavy ground would ask a fresh question. Storm Arising and Southfield Harvest are live contenders for Paul Nicholls and there is an eyecatching candidate near the foot of the weights in STORM GODDESS (nap). Charlie Longsdon's mare appeared to be crying out for further in two 2m5f races this season and she made an encouraging first play at 3m in November. She gets the vote ahead of Milliner and Imperial Alcazar.
In the Pertemps Network Final (1.55) I’ve been keen on the form of the Warwick qualifier for a while, but you have to acknowledge it came on bottomless ground, and while Imperial Alcazar and Come On Teddy are major players, with the extra places on offer and the surface as it is, I’m tempted by an outsider. Storm Goddess is just that, but she flew home from an unpromising position for fourth of 19 in a 2m5f handicap on good here in October and then won a qualifier over the same distance at Kempton the following month, denying Younevercall a third victory in the race. She was tapped for toe in a tactical Listed race on her first run over 3m two weeks later, but clearly got the trip well, and a runout in a jumpers’ bumper last month should have put her spot on. Storm Goddess is clearly perfectly at home in a big field, can’t have the ground quick enough (unlike a lot of these), and 5lb claimer Tom Buckley has a terrific 1131 record on her.
The handicaps so far have been hard and should have taught everyone not to be scared of a huge price. The Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (1.55) doesn’t look any easier, so it might be worth chancing Storm Goddess at a huge price. She caught the eye over shorter at this track in November when flashing home to finish fourth, and the form of her Kempton win has been franked by the second and third in no uncertain terms. A strongly run 3m on drying ground will suit Storm Goddess perfectly and she goes well for her capable claiming jockey.
Has experience of a similar contest in the Martin Pipe at this meeting last year, doing a huge amount of running to get anywhere close to them having not really travelled early on. The step up to this trip has been a big plus this season, so it’s no surprise that he is towards the head of the market for this with it being his target all year. Another for this yard in the big handicaps using the seven-pound claim from Jordan Gainford, he looks the one to be with.
Come On Teddy has a much better chance than his quotes of 16-1 suggest. Imperial Alcazar is a major player, but Come On Teddy is going to be 8lb better off, may well be suited by better ground and will definitely be suited by a stronger place, and he could still have plenty more left in the locker.
A fiercely competitive and wide-open renewal of the Ryanair. The suggestion is FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES, given that he's so unexposed at 2m4f. The return to this trip is well worth a shot and it may enable him to go one better than at the 2020 Festival, when an excellent runner-up in the Arkle. Melon has Festival seconditis but by the same token he's solid here and may well bag another silver medal. Imperial Aura is a highly respected third choice, ahead of Allaho and Mister Fisher. It is impossible to rule out Saint Calvados, Samcro and last year's winner Min, though the last named is slightly less convincing judged on this season's form.
Three miles on soft ground just stretched his stamina too far when last seen so the return to this trip at a track he adores is a big plus. Runner-up at this meeting four years in a row in the Supreme, Champion Hurdle twice and then the Marsh Chase, there are few as deserving as him to get a win on the board. The cheekpieces return in which he finished a nose second last year, this can be the year he deservedly makes that breakthrough.
Mister Fisher was only fourth for Henderson in the JLT last season, so he has ground to make up on Samcro and Melon who were first and second, but he’s two years younger than them and could well go into the race on the back of a career-best over course and distance in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase.
Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro has looked right out of sorts so far this season too so the only other ones that make any appeal are Mister Fisher and Greaneteen. It’s safer to have a look at Mister Fisher, who was a close fourth in the Marsh last year, not far behind Samcro and Melon.
Given how much class Melon has there is definitely an argument for saying he doesn’t win enough but he’s a brilliant jumper and if he’s allowed to stride on up with the pace he is surely going to run a huge race.
2019 winner PAISLEY PARK has bounced back from last year's disappointment (when found to have a fibrillating heart) with two fine performances this season and is the one to beat now he's back on song. Flooring Porter has been a revelation this term, making all with something to spare in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown last time, and he's feared most. Leopardstown third Sire Du Berlais tends to peak at the Festival, having won the last two Pertemps Finals, while stablemate Fury Road's best form last season also came at this meeting. Last year's 50-1 winner Lisnagar Oscar may not be far away, especially if the emphasis is on stamina, while classy chaser Vinndication has to prove he is just as effective over hurdles. The most interesting contender at big odds is Younevercall, with the forecast drying ground in his favour.
There are more obvious selections than If The Cap Fits, especially given the slightly worrying form of Harry Fry, but the price compensates and I do find him interesting. Unlike many of these, he is at least a 3m Grade 1 hurdle winner, having beaten Roksana (was around third favourite for this until running in the Mares’ Hurdle) and Apple’s Jade in the 2019 Liverpool Hurdle. He obviously wasn’t right when fifth in last year’s Cleeve as he didn’t race again until this season, and while he has not exactly looked a natural over fences, he has run to a decent level given the way he jumps. That 15-runner Liverpool Hurdle brought out the best of him (he’d have won easily if he hadn’t made a terrible blunder at the last) and with the potential pace angles here, he is going to have this one run to suit as well.
One to consider is The Storyteller, who always runs well at the festival and was a close second to Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps last year. Ideally, he wouldn’t want the ground any softer but he goes perfectly well under these conditions and there is reason to believe he is in better form now than any time in his career. Racing Post Ratings suggest his latest second in the Irish Gold Cup was his best run and he did well to finish second to Flooring Porter at Leopardstown the time before given he was held up off a slow pace. The Storyteller beat Sire Du Berlais and Fury Road that day and I think he can do so again.
All trips and obstacles seem to come alike for this adaptable gelding. He was behind Flooring Porter in his most recent outing over hurdles but that rival got a relatively soft lead there, something he is most unlikely to be afforded on this occasion. Winner of the Plate at this meeting in 2018 and a close second to Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps last season, he will no doubt be primed to perfection to produce his strongest run of the season at this meeting once more.
Flooring Porter is the new kid on the block and he was really impressive in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. Everyone seems to want to make excuses for those he beat hollow that day but Flooring Porter won as he pleased and there could be a lot more to come from him.
£100,000 bonus-chaser The Shunter holds every chance provided he's not feeling the effects of a hard race in the Morebattle just 12 days ago. However, he is second choice behind 2018 Triumph Hurdle winner FARCLAS who has been building up to something big this season and should peak today. Fils D'oudairies and A Wave Of The Sea, both interesting contenders for Joseph O'Brien, are third and fourth on the list. The Irish clearly hold a strong hand but some of the British runners look capable of going well, notably Caribean Boy, Mister Whitaker, Dead Right and Sully D'Oc AA.
2018 Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas made a mistake at a crucial time when beaten at the Dublin Racing Festival last time, but I didn’t think he did too much after the last that day and if there is a horse who is well handicapped to beat The Shunter it could be Nicky Henderson’s Caribean Boy. On his only start on good ground at Newbury at the start of this season he thrashed Wednesday’s Brown Advisory runner-up Fiddlerontheroof and Getaway Trump, who was an easy winner of a handicap at Doncaster earlier in the month. That form gives him every chance and it could be that he has struggled on very heavy ground twice since then. In the first of them he was odds-on to beat the subsequent Grade 1 winner Dashel Drasher and 1m7½f in bottomless ground at Sandown was never going to suit. There are obvious concerns about the form f the Henderson horses, but that might have been overblown. After all, didn’t Shishkin win the Arkle on the bridle earlier in the week?
Happy Diva is just too big a price at around 20-1 for a mare with Cheltenham chase figures of B22121F. She was lobbing along on good ground when brought down four out in the 2018 BetVictor Gold Cup and was in a close fourth in the equivalent race this season when coming down two out, but that’s the race she won in 2019 and she was second to Simply The Betts in this last year. Happy Diva is 4lb lower than last year and it doesn’t take a genius to work out she has been primed for another crack at a big Cheltenham handicap.
The Shunter is the obvious favourite in the Paddy Power Plate (3.40) as he reverts to fences under Jordan Gainford, but Farclas and Happy Diva are my two against the field. Former Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas has been reinvented as a classy handicap chaser and having won his first three chases before missing a year and a half, he has run three solid races in top Irish handicaps this term. He just got ran out of it at Leopardstown last time, and this slight drop in trip on better ground could be perfect.
Three times a Cheltenham winner, including in the 2018 Close Brothers. He’s only run poorly here twice in eight starts, both of those over three miles. His six runs over about this trip read 114153, the third coming in this race last year from a two-pound higher mark. Just a pound above his last winning mark, he hinted that he is on the way to his best at Warwick last time, noted picking a few off late in the day. The return to this track is a big plus and this will have been his big target for the season.
Willie Mullins has won all five editions of this race and today's riding arrangements suggest Gauloise is his main hope this year. She needs to be taken very seriously but PERFECT MYTH seems to have been underestimated and might be worth chancing. Neil King's 7yo can easily be excused her defeat on heavy ground at Taunton in December and the form she showed on quicker surfaces in the autumn puts her right in the mix. Smart Flat-racer Mighty Blue was behind three of today's rivals when fourth in the Fairyhouse Grade 3 won by Roseys Hollow last month but drying ground will be in her favour and she is second choice.
The drop in trip looks a big plus for her, just not quite getting home over two and a half miles. Connections have been patient with her, taking a long time to hit the track but she has quickly made up into a decent type. Fourth to Blue Lord on her racecourse debut, she was only three lengths behind Stattler last time out. The former would’ve been second in the Supreme but for a last flight fall and the latter heads the Albert Bartlett market. That’s strong form to bring to the table, especially with the drop back to two miles looking the key.
Heavy ground would not have suited SIZING AT MIDNIGHT at Wincanton last month, following a break, and he firmly enters calculations on his progressive form last August-November. Second choice is Milanford, who made his rules debut in only November and has shown considerable promise. A return to form is needed from Kilfilum Cross but he has been second in the last two runnings and has a lower mark to work with today. He's next on the list, ahead of Shantou Flyer who also has strong Festival form. Mount Ida, Deise Aba and Hold The Note are others who could go well.
I can’t resist Mount Ida for the Denise Foster team, who have had winners with Black Tears on Tuesday and Tiger Roll on Wednesday. She thrashed a subsequent Grade 2 winner at Cork in December and, although no match for Colreevy when upped in trip next time, Mount Ida still stayed on well to be second. The worry is about whether she will stay 3m2f as she has never run over three miles under rules, but she did win a point-to-point. Each time she’s run she been finishing strongly and she’s a half-sister to runaway Ladbrokes Trophy winner Sizing Tennessee.
It has been a great week already for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore and although Plan Of Attack is no Honeysuckle or Bob Olinger, he might well be a Cheltenham Festival winner after the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (4.50). Fourth in the race last year on much softer ground off a higher mark, Plan Of Attack looks to have been campaigned with this race in mind and De Bromhead has reached for a pair of blinkers for the first time. Last year he arrived after a series of hard races in the best handicap chases in Ireland and still ran really well. This time his form has been much worse, but there were clear signs of a return to form in the Paddy Power in December, and if he’s ever going to win a big one it will be today.
A horse who has been on the radar for quite some time is Milanford. He is a superb jumper for an inexperienced chaser and given his size, he looks well capable of stepping up considerably on what is in the book so far. Drying conditions would be a big plus for him during the week. A dour stayer, he misses the National Hunt Chase for this. Nick Mitchell trains, he also trains Lieutenant Rocco who was vying for favouritism in the Ultima until he got injured. When that horse won at Ffos Las in February, Mitchell was asked on Twitter if Lieutenant Rocco was National Hunt Chase bound. He replied, “Sorry, not entered and wouldn’t get anywhere near Milanford.” That comment pricked up the ears in no uncertain terms so he looks one very much to follow.
A chaser who boasts Cheltenham form of 1F1422223, figures which include a neck second in a handicap at the Festival off a mark 11l higher than he will run off in a couple of weeks’ time.
This race celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2021 and it only took three years until it was handed Grade 1 status after plenty of quality novices have won the race before making an impact at jump racing’s top level. Sir Des Champs and Vautour went on to thrive at three-mile distances while 2019 hero Defi Du Seuil made an impact as a two-mile chaser. Finding the winner of the Marsh has been typically one of the easier races to predict with eight winners priced at 4-1 or shorter. That includes three winning favourites, Vautour (2015), Yorkhill (2017) and Defi Du Seuil (2019), and one co-favourite Black Hercules (2016). Irish trainers have a particularly strong record with eight of the ten winners - three of which for Willie Mullins. This race revolves around Envoi Allen looking to complete a Cheltenham Festival hat-trick with Grade 1 wins in a bumper, over hurdles and fences and he looks one of the bankers of this year’s meeting. He has thrived at this distance, looks an outstanding jumper while his form at Cheltenham is impossible to knock. Shan Blue is among Envoi Allen’s main challengers on the form of his highly impressive Kauto Star Novices’ Chase success over three miles - and this step back in distance will prove no problem. Elsewhere Hitman has shown a high-level of form over fences this year and could run for the Paul Nicholls team. The race is a rare omission of Grade 1 chases missing from the 11-time Champion Trainer’s CV. Allart looks one of Nicky Henderson’s leading novice chasers this season and he could also feature.
The Pertemps Final is a complex handicap as it can often be won by either proven three-mile hurdlers or future top-class chasing types, who have excelled in the race in previous years. 2017 winning Presenting Percy enjoyed a festival follow-up next season in the RSA while Delta Work went on to enjoy multiple wins at Grade 1 level over fences. Although, on paper, it looks a hugely muddling handicap, results have favoured those near the top of the betting. The two 11-2 joint-favourites - The Storyteller and Relegate - enjoyed top five finishes last season, while in 2018 the first two in the betting filled the top spots with 6-1 chance Delta Work beating 9-2 favourite Glenloe. Both of those runners were trained by Gordon Elliott, who has won the race in three successive years knowing another win would make him joint winningmost trainer in the race with Jonjo O’Neill. Elliott has the current favourite with the bookies in the form of The Bosses Oscar who has won once and finished second twice this season.
The Ryanair Chase was introduced to the Cheltenham Festival in 2005, providing a big seasonal target for chasers that specialise to the two-and-a-half mile distance. This race has been used as a stepping stone for future Gold Cup bids with Imperial Commander winning this in 2009 before landing the big one the next year. This race has produced some memorable highlights, such as Cue Card’s victory in 2013, a demolition from Vautour in 2015 and Frodon’s emotional success three years later. Albertas Run is the only horse to have recorded two wins in the Ryanair which is a feat Willie Mullins, Paul Townend and Min will look to achieve this March. Favourites have a good record in the race with four winners - Riverside Theatre (2012), Dynaste (2014), Vautour (2016) and Un De Sceaux (2017) - in the last ten years while a further three were priced at 9-2 or shorter. This season Min will take on plenty of new challengers including Imperial Aura, winner of the novice handicap chase at the festival last season who has continued his climb into Graded company.
The Stayers’ Hurdle looks one of the strongest races of the festival with plenty of top-class hurdlers from either side of the Irish sea poised to take on each other. It had previously been the weaker of the four festival races, but the impressive four-timer has drastically raised the profile of the race in which has subsequently seen brilliant performances from Thistlecrack and Paisley Park in recent years. The race has produced a few surprise results in recent years, notably with Cole Harden (2015) and Lisnagar Oscar (2020) but four short price favourites have scored in the past ten years courtesy of Big Buck’s (2011 and 2012), Thistlecrack (2016) and Paisley Park (2019). British-trained runners have enjoyed better fortune in the race in the last ten years with only three winners coming from Ireland - Solwhit (2013), Nichols Canyon (2017) and Penhill (2018).
First introduced in 1951, the Paddy Power Plate has a tradition of being one of the most competitive handicap chases of the season and is the final race in a number of excellent two-and-a-half mile handicap chases run throughout the season at Cheltehnham. It has been a good race for the market leaders with the last three winners - The Storyteller a 5-1 favourite in 2018, 9-2 shot Siruh Du Lac (2019) and last year’s 100-30 favourite Simply The Betts - all short prices. But there have been some tougher winners to pick out with 50-1, 33-1 and 16-1 winners in the past ten years. One more success for Nicky Henderson would make him the winningmost trainer in the race and he has a number of leading chances, with classy novice Chantry House the most interesting.
This race was first introduced to the Cheltenham in 2016 and every year it has been won by top Irish trainer Willie Mullins runners and he will look to make it a perfect six in 2021. Not only has he won each race and some by huge margins - such as Limini (2016), Laurina (2018) and last year’s winner Concertista - he has had second-place finishes in addition in two of the other years. It is of no surprise that he is responsible for this year’s ante-post favourite in Gauloise. The race is named after Dawn Run, one of the most legendary mares in jump racing history and the only horse in history to have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle.
The Kim Muir is one of the oldest races at the festival with the 3m2f handicap dating back to 1946. The race is one of the biggest races exclusive to amateur riders and future trainers Roger Charlton, Michael Dickinson and Ted Walsh have wins in the race on their CV. Recently, the big yards have not dominated as much as other handicap chases at the Cheltenham Festival although Gordon Elliott does have a good record in recent years - scoring with Cause of Causes (2016) and last season’s hero Milan Native. But Willie Mullins or Paul Nicholls have won the Kim Muir while Nicky Henderson’s last success came in 2005. Five of the last six winners have been well found in the betting, with only one horse - 40-1 shot Domesday Book - winning at double-figure odds. Of the amateur jockeys, the man to follow is Jamie Codd who has won the race four times and usually rides one of the main fancies in the race. The Kim Muir is also a race in which British trainers have fared marginally better, with six winners in the decade. Run Wild Fred - for the same connections as last year’s winner - was made favourite following his fine second in the Thyestes Handicap Chase.