Cheltenham Festival race-by-race preview and suggested bets for Thursday, March 16:
Low Risk Accumulator (Win Treble)
1.30 Disko 5/1
2.50 Un De Sceaux 9/4
3.30 Unowhatimeanharry 11/8
Mid Risk Accumulator (Each-way Treble)
3.30 Nicholls Canyon 11/1
4.10 Thomas Crapper 11/1
5.30 Doctor Harper 14/1
2.10 El Bandit
2.50 Un De Sceaux
4.10 Thomas Crapper
5.30 Doctor Harper
If there’s one jockey who will be high on confidence, it’s Lisa O’Neill after she proved her Munster National win earlier in the season was no fluke by winning the Challenge Cup here on Tuesday for the Gigginstown team. She takes the ride on Doctor Harper (NAP) who looks well-handicapped on the best of his form. The stable has a fine record in these races and a good amateur jockey can make all the difference in big field handicaps.
The Willie Mullins-trained Yorkhill is the expected favourite after winning eight of his nine races but his jumping can let him down at times and Telegraph Fantasy Racing players may find better value with Disko. Gigginstown have enjoyed a flying start to the Festival and they’ve won this before with the like of Sir Des Champ; this six-year-old may enhance their record and he’s run well on good ground before. Top Notch has won his last four races but will need to step up on the bare level of that form to figure here.
- 3.Top Notch
Lots of Fantasy Racing points on offer for placed horses at good prices and the Paul Nicholls-trained course winner El Bandit has a real chance of making the frame at least on the quicker going he relishes. The progressive Tobefair has won his last six races and the trip will not be a problem although he has soured up the handicap and never raced at Cheltenham before whilst the game and consistent Rocklander usually delivers points and has run well at the track.
- El Bandit
Un De Sceaux was put in his place by Sprinter Sacre in last year’s Champion Chase but there is nothing approaching that class in opposition today. This is a step up in trip but he did win over the distance in France and looks a good selection to pick up Fantasy Racing points. Empire of Dirt had a choice of engagements but connections opt for this race they sponsor, whilst former race winner Uxizandre was beaten by Un De Sceaux last time but should strip fitter.
- Un De Sceaux
- Empire Of Dirt
Unowhatimeanharry has been a revelation this season and he is arguably one favourite this week that justifies his short price. He’s won all of his eight starts since joining this yard two-years ago and there’s no doubt he will be hard to beat. However, his short odds may not be everyone’s cup of tea and if there’s a horse that could be considered for a betting forecast it is Nicholls Canyon. He’s a seven-time Grade 1 winner and could give the favourite a run for his money provided he stays this trip.
- Nicholls Canyon
The nine-year-old Diamond King has been a bit hit and miss since winning at last year’s Festival. He’s not been missed in the ante-post markets though and could still be on a good mark. However, Fantasy Racing players may be more interested in the place claims of Thomas Crapper who hacked up on ground that wouldn’t have been ideal last time and he’s run well at Cheltenham before. The ground should suit and he looks like the value pick from the bottom of the handicap with Starchitect another to consider.
- Thomas Crapper
- Diamond king
Top on official ratings is Willie Mullins’ Grade One winning mare Airlie Beach who has won all her seven races. She likes to be up with the pace and holds a leading chance on her first visit to Cheltenham. Coillte Lass was not disgraced behind Vroom Vroom Mag in a Grade 2 at Doncaster and has strong place claims as does the consistent Dusky Legend who is yet to finish out of the first two over hurdles and may appeal to Fantasy Racing players at a big price.
- Airlie Beach
- Coillte Lass
- Dusky Legend
The Pipe team have a fantastic record in Festival handicaps and it may pay to look no further than Doctor Harper. The nine-year-old has some smart form around here and his latest disappointing run at Warwick can be dismissed. Jockey Lisa O’Neill won the Munster National earlier in the season and rode her first Festival winner on Tuesday so and looks capable of rising to the occasion once again. Alvarado has won from a 1lb lower mark around here and with the services of talented amateur Zak Baker, could be the main danger ahead of Squouateur.
- Doctor Harper