Cheltenham Festival Tips: Who is Tom Collins backing on the third day of The Festival

13 March 2024

The ground was very testing on the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival and further showers in the forecast for Thursday will surely loosen it up even more.

Backing horses who will skip through the mud should be at the forefront of every punter’s mind as we enter the second half of action at the biggest jumps meeting of the season. Below are my selections for day three. 

Turners Novices’ Chase (1.30 Cheltenham)

I’m going to sit out the opening Turners Novices’ Chase. This event has been won by some nice types in the past, but I haven’t loved the last few editions and my feelings don’t differ for this year’s renewal. It’s a competitive field but none of them are overly solid and value is pretty hard to find.

Ginny’s Destiny and Grey Dawning are closely matched on the form of a race here back in December. Facile Vega is very classy and should handle the ground but his last few runs have been disappointing, while Iroko is the joker in the pack as he comes into the race off a long layoff. There’s no need to have a bet in every race so I will leave this one.

Selection: N/A

Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10 Cheltenham)

This has been my favourite punting race at the festival since Sire Du Berlais won the first of his two Pertemps Finals crowns back in 2019. Following the form of the Leopardstown qualifier run just after Christmas has been potent in recent years, but that might not be the best ploy this time around. 

I’m going to take a shot on two horses. The first is Icare Allen, who finished fourth in the Triumph as a juvenile hurdler but has struggled since he entered open company. His winless streak is now at ten races, but I was pretty encouraged by how he performed in a couple of competitive handicap hurdles at Galway during the summer and his recent third at Aintree also caught the eye. He’s unexposed over this trip and seems to stay, but the ground is unknown.

The other runner I like is Le Milos. Dan Skelton has campaigned him very interestingly since he won the Hennessy in November 2022 and he definitely wasn’t asked for any kind of effort when last seen at Ascot. The handicapper leniently dropped him 4lb for that and he’s undoubtedly well treated if he puts his best foot forward. The trip and ground are both positives for him.

Selection: Icare Allen @ 11/1 & Le Milos @ 8/1

Ryanair Chase (2.50 Cheltenham) 

My strongest bet of the day is Envoi Allen and I’m surprised that he’s still as big as 9/2. This ten-year-old was unbeatable early in his career - he won his first 11 races under rules after a sole point-to-point success - but his streak ended with a fall in the Turners (then named the Marsh) in 2021.

He has been a little hit-and-miss since, but it’s worth noting that he has won three Grade 1s in the interim and, although he has proved a little inconsistent, he quite clearly retains all of the talent he showed in his early days. One of those top-level successes came in this race 12 months ago when he ran away from Shishkin despite making several jumping mistakes.

Henry de Bromhead has campaigned him with this race in mind and I loved his effort when just touched off by Gerri Colombe at Down Royal before Christmas. That was a joint career-best effort on RPRs (167) and will have set him up nicely for this prize. He is 7/11 on ground listed as soft or heavy, too.

Selection: Envoi Allen @ 9/2

Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30 Cheltenham)

I have been pretty critical of this division over the last few years but there is new blood now with Crambo, Noble Yeats and Sir Gerhard among others in the field, which is pretty exciting. All three of those have solid chances on their best form, but the market has this right with Teahupoo at the head of affairs on ground that he will adore.

Gordon Elliott’s charge is undoubtedly the one to beat, but I’ve had a few quid each-way on Home By The Lee at prices between 14/1 and 25/1. This nine-year-old ran a screamer to finish fifth in this corresponding race 12 months ago as he made a terrible mistake passing the stands for the first time. A clean round of jumping would have seen him go very close and he may have actually beaten the aforementioned Teahupoo, who was just two places ahead of him at the line.

His three subsequent outings haven’t been great, but Joseph O’Brien fits blinkers for the first time on Thursday and the testing ground will almost certainly help his cause. He lacks a gear that others have, but that factor will be mitigated by the wet conditions.

Selection: Home By The Lee @ 12/1

Plate Handicap Chase (4.10 Cheltenham) 

Trends hint that you should be looking at big-priced runners here as there have only been three winning favourites in the last 10 years. However, history doesn’t always dictate the future and I’m pretty keen on market leader Crebilly to get the job done for Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus.

This lightly raced chaser finished a good sixth in the EBF Final, a race that has worked out brilliantly, on deep ground last year before taking a step forward over fences this term. He looked like throwing down a big challenge to Ginny’s Destiny on reappearance when falling two-out, an incident that probably left a scar given he didn’t jump well on his next outing.

Ginny’s Destiny is now rated 155, so a strong case can be made for Crebilly looking well handicapped off 140. I loved his finishing effort over a shorter trip at Exeter last time out, during which he further proved that heavy ground is right up his street.

Selection: Crebilly @ 9/2

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (4.50 Cheltenham)

Brighterdaysahead was regularly given NAP status on the preview circuit from what I’ve been told, so I’m going against the crowd by laying her and backing Jade De Grugy for trainer Willie Mullins. 

Both of these mares have looked supremely talented so far in their respective careers and only 2lb separates them on official figures, so I see no reason why there should be such a big disparity in price. In my opinion they should be 7/4 each of two, so I have to back Jade De Grugy purely from a value perspective. 

She romped home on heavy ground on her rules debut before fending off some nice types at Fairyhouse when last seen. Her ceiling remains sky high and trainer Willie Mullins has won five of the eight renewals of this race since its inauguration.

Selections: Jade De Grugy @ 2/1

Kim Muir Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (5.30 Cheltenham) 

There’s usually more emphasis put on stamina in this race as the amateur riders tend to go too hard early on. We have seen plenty of runners cruise into contention before the second-last in the Kim Muir but crumble up the hill, so you want a proven stayer. 

Market leader Inothewayurthinkin has a sexy profile, but he has never run over further than 2m5½f and has 12 stone on his back. There’s a high possibility that he’s well handicapped but that might not be enough in a race like this, so I have to take him on. 

Last year’s winner Angels Dawn will try to retain her crown and she’s attractively priced to do so. That’s where my money will go. She is 11lb higher in the weights this time, which doesn’t help her cause, but it looks like she has improved over the last few months and comes into the race on the back of a credible third-placed finish at Gowran Park in January. 

Selections: Angels Dawn @ 8/1

Cheltenham Festival Thursday Tips

Icare Allen (2.10 Cheltenham) @ 11/1
Le Milos (2.10 Cheltenham) @ 8/1
Envoi Allen (2.50 Cheltenham) @ 9/2
Home By The Lee (3.30 Cheltenham) @ 12/1
Crebilly (4.10 Cheltenham) @ 9/2
Jade De Grugy (4.50 Cheltenham) @ 2/1
Angels Dawn (5.30 Cheltenham) @ 8/1

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