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KEEN ON FRANK’S FRIDAY FANCIES?
Unbeaten in eleven starts under rules it would be a huge shock were Envoi Allen to lose his unbeaten record here. Twice a winner at the festival previously, he won the bumper and the Ballymore the past two years and has looked impressive in winning his three chase starts to date.
You won’t get rich backing him at a short price but you could argue that he is the best horse in training and I don’t think he will be too concerned with the opposition here. If you were looking for you each way against him, I’d be looking at Fusil Raffles who was a Grade 1 winning juvenile hurdler and is three from four over fences, including winning here in November. The drying ground will suit and he can follow Envoi Allen home.
Gordon Elliott has won this race the last three years, having the 1-2 in two of those years, and he looks to have laid out The Bosses Oscar for this race. While The Bosses Oscar runs under Denise Foster’s name here, you just know he has been trained to the minute for this race.
He ran an incredible race in last year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hurdle (worth watching back if you haven’t already), where he was out the back and looking likely to be pulled up heading out on the final circuit but he was flying up the hill when badly hampered by a faller at the final flight and was only beaten under four lengths in fifth.
He was second to subsequent Grade 1 winner Flooring Porter at Navan and then was second to Dandy Mag in the Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown at Christmas. The handicapper hasn’t been kind giving him a mark of 151 but the brilliant Jordan Gainford takes a handy 7lbs off his back and he looks sure to play a big part now.
Things haven’t gone his way this season for SAMCRO and he was disappointing when pulled up last time out at Leopardstown. However, he does tend to come alive at the Cheltenham Festival, as he has won the Ballymore Hurdle and Marsh Chase on his two previous visits.
Drying ground will suit and you have to remember that he won the Marsh Chase last season off the back of a poor run at Limerick over Christmas. He also had Melon and Mister Fisher behind that day and he can run a massive race again.
Paisley Park deserves to head up the market here but I’m not sure he is that far clear of many of these and I am going to oppose him. Vinndication was unbeaten as a novice hurdler, beating Champ despite conceding a penalty to him and he also won at Listed level. He obviously has reached a decent level over fences in the interim, finishing a close 4th in the Ultima at last year’s festival, despite carrying top weight off a high mark of 159.
He was 2nd to Cyrname in this year’s running of the Charlie Hall Chase and was running a big race when favourite in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury when tipping up five fences from home. He was running off a mark of 161 there and would certainly have placed at the very least. He now reverts to hurdles but he has the raw ability to play a huge part in this race. He is a horse whose jumping has held him back over fences and the return to hurdles could see him fulfil his potential, which could see him hit a mark in the high 160’s. If that happens to be the case, then he has a huge chance of winning here.
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The Shunter landed a bit of punt when winning the Greatwood hurdle in November off a mark of 128, scoring with plenty in hand. He has mixed hurdling and chasing this season since joining Emmett Mullins and has been extremely progressive. He had a break after that Cheltenham win and reappeared at the Dublin Racing Festival back over fences off a mark of 132, which was 4lb higher than his Greatwood win.
Again he was well backed and was up with the pace all the way round. While he was only beaten just under four lengths in third, it did look like his saddle slipped a little and he was hampered slightly when they straightened up for home. He was really strong at the finish that day and his last win over fences came at this trip when he easily account for Enjoy D’Allen who is now rated 142 after two wins and two seconds in the interim.
The Shunter is chasing a £100,000 bonus after winning up in Kelso less than two weeks ago but he did win twice in two weeks back in September, albeit at a lesser level, to prove that he can back up relatively quickly. He runs here off a mark of 140, which is 5lbs higher than his Kelso win over hurdles but Jordan Gainford takes off 7lbs, so he would look fairly treated now.
His prominent style of racing suits this race and provided that Kelso run hasn’t taken the edge off him, he should run a big race.
Willie Mullins has won all five renewals of this race and Hook Up and Gauloise look most likely to give him another win but it might be worth taking a chance on Glens Of Antrim. She showed plenty of ability on her debut when fourth to Blue Lord and Julies Stowaway at Punchestown and built on that effort when second to Stattler on her next start at Christmas.
Blue Lord and Stattler have been placed in Grade 1 company since, so her form looks really solid. She was then second to Mr Incredible at Naas last time, just being outstayed over the 2m 3f trip. A strongly run race over a shorter trip should really suit her and she makes appeal at the prices.
Deise Aba ran really well in this race last year when finishing fifth off a mark of 142 off the back of winning at Sandown and finds himself coming into this race off the same mark of 142, after winning the very same Sandown race last time.
He was ridden far more prominently last time at Sandown and they are tactics that can give you an advantage at Cheltenham if you get into an early rhythm. Amateurs can’t ride this year, so Richard Johnson will take the ride. If things fall into place for him, he has a big race in him.
13:20: Marsh Novice Chase – Envoi Allen
13:55: Pertemps Handicap Hurdle – The Bosses Oscar
14:30: Ryanair Chase – Saint Calvados (Each Way)
15:05: Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle – Vinndication (Each Way)
15:40: Paddy Power Plate – The Shunter
16:15: Mares Novice Hurdle – Glens Of Antrim (Each Way)
16:50: Kim Muir Handicap Chase – Deise Aba (Each Way)