After what can only be described as an ‘eventful’ first day, we are ‘in the running’ in the battle for a winning Festival week. A huge run for Vintage Clouds sadly didn’t get the reward deserved whilst Jerrysback ploughed on, and Limini was a disappointment in every since of the word leaving us just behind.
There’s plenty of racing left however, and no reason not to attack the day fully, so we head to the Coral Cup (2.50) where the man of the moment Willie Mullins could see his Festival get even better.
Closutton have already had two winners – with a third only stopped thanks to a cruel last flight fall – and it’s not hard to see Bleu Berry outrunning odds of 25’s. The eight year old is of course, last season’s winner of this race and now arrived just 5lbs higher having plied his trade exclusively in non-handicaps since, running either in Grade 1 or Grade 2 company. His seventh in the Galmoy Hurdle was his first run since June and should have put him close to peak form, as he showed last year when he won by a neck. In second that day was Topofthegame, who has since proven to be a Grade 1 chaser, and he’s now just 5lbs higher on a similar surface.
There are a huge number of horses who catch the eye, so taking just the two against the field is a hard move, but Killultagh Vic is given a chance here. The now 10 year old was a disappointment over fences last time, but he has a number of hurdling runs that make him a major player. The form of the Galmoy Hurdle has taken a knock or two but he’s a previous winner over hurdles at this distance, beating the useful Ex Patriot at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve in 2017, with previous Coral Cup winner Diamond King in third.
10 year olds don’t have a great record here but a couple of ten-year-olds returning to hurdles placed last season.
The Glenfaclas Cross Country Chase (4.10) is always testing but with the huge amount of rain and wind it’ll be even more of a slog here. Tiger Roll, last year’s winner and the reigning Grand National Champion, ought not to be too bothered but he is perilously short – and rightly so – following his win in the Boyne Hurdle when he bolted up like a horse half his age. God bless the terrific nine-year-old, but he can be left alone at the price in what is a tremendous each/way race.
JP McManus has plenty of riches following the win of Espoir D’Allen in the Champion Hurdle and he should have something to cheer coming around the home turn as both Auvergnat (fourth in the last two runnings) and Josies Orders (a four time course and distance winner who was a previous winner of this race) shouldn’t be far away.
Previous experience is usually a must when backing selections in this but so compelling is the best form of Ultragold that he feels worth chancing. Colin Tizzard’s 11-year-old is a two-time winner of the Topham Chase over the National fences, so we know he takes non park fences well, and the last of those wins came on heavy ground, so the surface today ought not to offer a huge problem to him.
The distance is the big question, but his fifth in the Classic Chase and third in the Becher Handicap Chase suggests he has at least half a chance of getting home and if he gets the distance then there wouldn’t be too many with his latent ability.
Urgent De Gregaine was second in what looked to be a strong renewal of the race last year and whilst he’s only run once since – and it was a disappointing effort at that – if one is charitable and forgives him then he has to be given a major chance here. He was second off a 117-day break last season and if he turned up in the same form then he’d be a huge player.
The Bumper (5.30) brings together a hugely promising bunch of horses together for the first time including Blue Sari and Envoi Allen, but many of these horses will be racing on ground this soft for the first time in their lives and and the one horse with soft ground form – Ask For Glory – has won a desperately weak Chepstow race.
The Champion Chase (3.30) is at the mercy of Altior or Min without the favourite, the RSA (2.10) is too tightly matched between the leading three, and the Ballymore (1.30) might be a race to watch.
4.10 – Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase)
BACK Ultragold 1 pt each/way at 11/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Urgent De Gregaine 1 pt each/way at 11/1 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 232.21 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post and Six Nations ante-post)