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    Cheltenham Blog  -  Day Two, Wednesday 13th March 2013    
    DATE POSTED: 12/03/2013    

The RSA and Coral Cup will have plenty of interest on Wednesday, but its the Queen Mother Champion Chase
which balances the whole of day two.  Sprinter Sacre bids to continue his dominance..

POSTED: 12/03/2013

Four miles in Soft ground and carrying 11st 6lb is the prospect facing the 16 Novice Chasers and their Amateur Riders for the John Oaksey National Hunt Challenge Cup (1-30) on Wednesday.

A quick look through the stats tells us that the results favour 7 & 8yo’s. Willie Mullins trains 8yo Back in Focus for owners Andrea and Graham Wylie and his form gives him a real chance. Another plus is that he prefers soft and heavy ground. On the down side, Irish raiders don’t usually do well in this race (only 3 line up tomorrow) but 150 rated, BACK IN FOCUS does look to have an opportunity to defy the statistics.  There’s been quite a buzz in the market for 8yo Rival D’Estruval, who will certainly get the trip and a win would give a huge boost to the small Northumberland yard of Pauline Robson. Better value may be found with another 8yo, Paul Nicholls’s Hawke’s Point, who looks an ideal e/w pick.

Willie Mullins also looks highly likely to hoover up the prize in the Neptune Novices Hurdle (2-05pm). His PONT ALEXANDRE is a huge star in the making despite this being a high class field. Jonjo O’Neill Taquin de Seuil and the New One look next best.

The RSA Chase (2-40pm) presents Willie Mullins and the Wylies with another excellent chance of a prize with Boston Bob, who was pipped in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle here last year and has put in two gutsy winning performances over fences since. However Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Paul Nicholls 5yo youngster Unioniste, who was successful in France and since won a valuable h/cap chase over c/d  in November last year. However, we don’t think this is an open and shut case and fancy that Venetia Williams has an opportunity for 148 rated HOUBLON DES OBEAUX to return to winning ways. He’s got a few miles on the clock with 24 runs, but holds his form very well and an e/w wager could be rewarded.

It will take a lot to lower the colours of Nicky Henderson’s SPRINTER SACRE in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3-20pm). He’s hardly put a foot wrong, winning 11 of his 13 races to date, and beaten a lot of very good horses on the way, including most of tomorrow’s opposition. As yet, the young pretender hasn’t encountered 11yo Sizing Europe, who won this race in 2011 and has amassed over £1,000,000 in prize money in a glittering career. His connections are bullish about his prospects but we can’t see past Sprinter Sacre.

The Coral Cup (4-00pm) has a wide open look about it, especially with 28 runners but is usually won by something near the top of the betting. Coming into that category is the favourite, Charlie Longsdon’s Pendra, which Tony McCoy rides for owner JP McManus and obviously the subject of a gamble.  We wonder whether Tony would like to have stayed with Mr Watson, a £210,000 purchase, who he has ridden to success for Jonjo O’Neill. Noel Fehily is perfectly suitable substitute in the saddle and we suggest he may have a good day out with this one but in truth anything could win this cavalry charge.

The Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle (4-40pm) for 4yo’s is another well-contested race, and the winner is often goes off at double-figure odds. We do like the look of the favourite Saphir du Rheu who seems to be learning fast and will have the considerable assistance of Ruby Walsh in the saddle. John Ferguson has many good novices to choose from and Bordoni must be close to the top of the heap as stable jockey Dennis O’Regan rides this one.

Wednesday closes with the Weatherby’s Champion Bumper (5-15pm) and proves to be a fascinating contest. Champion Flat jockey Richard Hughes has taken out a special licence in order to ride likely favourite, Sgt Reckless for Mick Channon, while Aidan O’Brien provides Shield for son Joseph to ride. It’s a really devilish one to call, but when in doubt in a Festival Bumper it pays to side with the maestro Willie Mullins who has three runners remaining in this. The obvious pick of the three is shortest in the betting, namely UNION DUES, ridden by Willie’s son Patrick and who won this race last year on Tuesday’s hero Champagne Fever. We will also take pot luck and assume that Shield will be good enough to at least make the places for the O’Brien clan.


Nap of the Day is SPRINTER SACRE and the outsider suggestion is
Houblon Des Obeau

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