Cheltenham Festival Tips: Tom Collins provides his thoughts for every race on Thursday

15 March 2023

Energumene, Delta Work and A Dream To Share provided cheer on Wednesday, so we go to war on day three with a refreshed balance and the hope of further success.

Turners Novices’ Chase (1.30 Cheltenham)

Dual Grade 1-winner Mighty Potter is probably the horse to beat following his top-level victories at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown. And, although I’m not convinced he faced the toughest of opponents on either occasion, this heat also has a pretty weak feel to it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gordon Elliott’s favourite won, but I’m not happy to take even-money about a novice who takes a chance at one or two fences and doesn’t boast a huge talent advantage. The third-last on the downhill run at Cheltenham will be looking mighty large for him, that’s for sure! Instead, I’ll stick to my guns and go in again on the Joseph O’Brien-trained Banbridge, who featured on one of my ante-post tickets back in January.

I was on track at Cheltenham when he won a novice chase at the November meeting and I was extremely impressed how quickly he got from A to B without touching a twig. He clearly wasn’t at his best in the Drinmore - three quick runs may have caught up with him - but he ran a great trial when second to Tuesday’s winner El Fabiolo in the Irish Arkle last time. A similar display puts him in the mix over this longer trip.

Selection: Banbridge @ 4/1 & 12/1 ante-post

Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10 Cheltenham)

Sire De Berlais gave me one of my favourite punting memories in this race back in 2019 when Barry Geraghty lifted him over the line to land a nice antepost touch. I’ve not had a bet of that magnitude in this year’s renewal, but I’ve backed Maxxum on a couple of occasions and remain confident that he will run a good race.

This six-year-old shot up the weights after back-to-back impressive handicap victories before the turn of the year. The latter came in a qualifier for this final, and Maxxum fairly romped home off a mark of 120 to leave 26 rivals, including the reopposing Good Time Jonny, in his wake. 

He was instantly inputted as favourite for this, though his price drifted out to 8/1 after he suffered a heavy defeat at the Dublin Racing Festival. I’m happy to put a line through that run, though, as he encountered traffic issues rounding the homebend and was only tenderly handled thereafter. Maxxum is off a career-high mark, but Gordon Elliott will have kept something back and the booking of Davy Russell provides me with confidence.

Selection: Maxxum @ 6/1 & 8/1 ante-post 

Ryanair Chase (2.50 Cheltenham)

Shishkin will win the Ryanair if he reproduces his Ascot Chase performance, let’s not beat around the bush. Nicky Henderson’s star chaser returned to his glory days with an emotional and highly impressive success just last month - a display that rates him at least half a stone better than his chief rivals in this contest.

The only worry is that he came into last year’s Cheltenham festival with similarly confident claims in the Champion Chase, and it was game over after two or three fences (he eventually pulled up down the backstraight). He was subsequently treated for physical issues, which would help you believe that was an anomaly. 

I wouldn’t be having a maximum bet on him, but if the real Shishkin turns up then 4/5 would represent good value given his superiority on figures and form.

Selection: Shishkin @ 5/6

Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30 Cheltenham)

Will someone finally decide to take on Flooring Porter for the lead? Opposing jockeys have let Gavin Cromwell’s runner dictate matters on the front end for the last two years and he’s used his admirable turn of foot to boot clear at the top of the homestraight. If that happens again then I’ll be shocked, especially given Flooring Porter missed some vital training in the build-up and may not be fully fit.

Flooring Porter (white and black): a two-time winner of the Stayers' Hurdle

Another horse who suffered a setback in recent weeks is Blazing Khal, though he still retains his place at the top of the market for Charles Byrnes. I’m not dead against him - it’s almost impossible to have that viewpoint given he’s won his last five races and is yet to hit his ceiling - but he’s short enough in the market and I’m happy to look elsewhere. If he beats me then so be it.

After initially backing Sir Gerhard in the antepost market (they should have run here!) I had to find an alternative and eventually ended up siding with Teahupoo. Gordon Elliott’s gelding has only run two bad races in his career - last year’s Champion Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle - but the ground was too quick for him on both occasions. The forecast rain should make it slow out there and he can benefit from it.

Selection: Teahupoo @ 7/2

Plate Handicap Chase (4.10 Cheltenham)

What price will So Scottish go off? He has all the makings of a gamble: Emmet Mullins and JP McManus with a form horse in a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival? Exactly. His runner-up finish behind Boothill last time out was eyecatching, and he’s still seemingly feasibly treated.

I’ve backed Il Ridoto and Datsalrightgino several times this year and I’m not bypassing them lightly, but the former might have had his day in the sun last time out and the latter’s lack of fluency over his fences is a concern. Frero Banbou becomes a major player if the ground gets deep.

Instead, I’ll have a small each-way bet on War Lord at a big price. Joe Tizzard’s grey recorded a brilliant fourth in the Grade 1 Arkle last year and backed that up with a solid second in the Manifesto Chase at the Aintree Grand National festival. His three runs this year haven’t been as good, but there were signs of life last time out and he’s suited by soft ground, so he could be a touch overpriced.

Selection: War Lord @ 22/1

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (4.50 Cheltenham)

Nicky Henderson takes on the Irish once again as Luccia looks to maintain her unbeaten record when she faces Lot Of Joy, Halka Du Tabert, Princess Zoe et al in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. I’m with the Lambourn trainer’s mare - and I believe they have made the right decision to come here rather than opting to send her to the Supreme on Tuesday.

The majority of these remain unexposed and could consequently be far better than they’ve shown to date, but the visual impression left by Luccia on her last two outings was immense. Not only that, but her victories were backed up by strong closing sectionals and solid RPRs. For what it’s worth, the handicapper believes she’s upwards of 7lb better than her nearest pursuer in this event.

Perhaps the only negative is her jumping technique. She’s very quick from one side to the other, but she can get a little too low on occasion and I’d like to see her get a clear sight of her hurdles to eliminate that factor. She’s pretty short in the market, but justifiably so.

Selection: Luccia @ 13/8

Kim Muir Handicap Chase (5.30 Cheltenham)

Seven-year-olds have won six of the last ten editions of the Kim Muir, and the last four victors have raced in mid-division or further back in the early stages. With the ground likely to become testing by the close of play, solid form on soft/heavy would be preferable as well as assured stamina.

One horse that ticks all of those boxes is Beauport, a former EBF Final winner who plundered the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Chase on his seasonal reappearance before jumping novicey at Haydock. His technique improved last time at this track and, although he was stuffed by 20 lengths, eventual winner The Real Whacker landed the Brown Advisory yesterday.

His only run over three miles was encouraging, so he should improve for the step back up in trip, and Zac Baker is one of the best riders in the race. Dunboyne was the last horse off my shortlist, while backers of Mr Incredible will have a tough watch as his jumping is deplorable. 

Selection: Beauport @ 11/1

Cheltenham Festival Thursday Tips

1.30 Cheltenham - Banbridge @ 4/1 & 12/1 ante-post
2.10 Cheltenham - Maxxum @ 6/1 & 8/1 ante-post
2.50 Cheltenham - Shishkin @ 5/6
3.30 Cheltenham - Teahupoo @ 7/2
4.10 Cheltenham - War Lord @ 22/1
4.50 Cheltenham - Luccia @ 13/8
5.30 Cheltenham - Beauport @ 11/1

All prices were available at the time of writing and will be used in the Cheltenham P/L, which will be posted at the bottom of my daily tipping articles this week. Current P/L to £10 win singles after two days: +£34.64.

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