Cheltenham Festival Tips: Tom Collins provides his selection for every race on Wednesday

14 March 2023

Electric El Fabiolo, classy Constitution Hill and heartthrob Honeysuckle were among the winners on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, which well and truly lived up to the hype. 

No matter whether you made a good profit, broke even or recorded a notable loss, this meeting is a marathon not a sprint and Wednesday provides a fantastic opportunity to go again and enjoy some top quality action. It kicks off with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle…

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (1.30 Cheltenham)

All the talk has been about Impaire Et Passe, so much so that he is now the most hyped horse at this year’s Festival. His form isn’t great - he beat opponents with a subsequent record of 0/38 on his rules debut before finishing ahead of two Listed-class mares when last seen - so plenty are just backing him on reputation and connections, which can be dangerous. Given he has already been overbet, I want to take him on. 

I have no criticisms regarding Hermes Allen’s form and he’s already proved that he can run to a high level on attritional ground (Challow Hurdle victory), so I consider him the most logical winner. I’ll probably have a saver on Paul Nicholls’ runner but I prefer the price offered about Good Land, who hits almost every trend for this race.

This seven-year-old is being overlooked despite boasting serious claims. His only blip this year came when he unseated Michael O’Sullivan on hurdling debut - he didn’t actually touch the brushwood, he just forgot to get his landing gear out. Since then he has proved that he not only stays this trip well, but he is also well capable of winning Grade 1s. His forward-going running style is ideal and I love the guts he shows when he goes head-to-head with a rival.

Selection: Good Land @ 3/1

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (2.10 Cheltenham)

This is the only race over Cheltenham’s four days that I will be completely sitting out.

Gerri Colombe deserves to be the market leader given his unbeaten record, though I think that is largely down to excellent placing from Gordon Elliott. He’s still far from the finished product and, despite believing that he will become a proper horse in time, I don’t want to get involved at anything like 13/8 here.

Sir Gerhard: runs for Willie Mullins in the Brown Advisory

Sir Gerhard has the requisite talent but he should be in the Stayers’ Hurdle - I have serious reservations about his jumping. The opposite applies to The Real Whacker, who jumps impeccably but has won a couple of races that have completely fallen apart. Thyme Hill (age), Ramillies (trip) and Galia Des Liteaux (jumping) aren’t for me, so I’ll move on to the Coral Cup!

Selection: N/A

Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (2.50 Cheltenham)

Get ready for an excellent punting heat as our traders go 8/1 the field - back the Coral Cup winner and you will bolster your balance before the halfway stage of the festival. Trends tell you to avoid the market leaders with just one favourite landing the spoils in the last decade, and I’d be firmly against Camprond (never wins), Run For Oscar (ground) and Langer Dan (consistency) regardless.

Instead, I want to back two Irish-trained horses who were last seen crossing the line in first and second respectively in a Punchestown handicap hurdle on New Year’s Eve. Joseph O’Brien’s San Salvador won the race, and I loved how he powered clear rounding the homebend before getting tired late in the day. He should have won his penultimate outing, too, but he walked through the last hurdle.

Captain Conby closed all the way to the wire in that aforementioned Punchestown affair and the pair drew a remarkable 10 lengths clear of the remainder. They have both been hit with a pretty hefty rise in the handicap, but they look extremely progressive and likeable types and I’m confident that at least one of them will go close at a double-figure price.

Selection: Captain Conby @ 11/1, San Salvador @ 18/1

Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30 Cheltenham)

The Clarence House Chase rematch! Editeur Du Gite looks to back-up his victory in the rescheduled January showpiece as he reopposes runner-up Edwardstone and third-placed Energumene in Wednesday’s headline event. All three warrant respect, but I think we will see a form reversal here as I’m firmly with Willie Mullins’ runner.

Energumene, who won the Champion Chase last year without breaking sweat, didn’t jump with the same fluency as usual and was repeatedly knocked out of his rhythm inside the final mile, which culminated with an awkward blunder at the last fence. Mullins blamed the new white panels and I’m happy to buy that excuse - there was no reason to question his jumping before.

He achieved a Racing Post Rating a full 10lb below his best that day and I’m putting a line through it. Providing he’s back to his brilliant best here, I think he has a class edge especially as the testing ground will suit him better than his rivals. Edwardstone is clearly very talented, but I’ve never been his biggest fan and he is prone to a mistake or two. And I’m sure they won’t give Editeur Du Gite an easy lead this time!

Selection: Energumene @ 13/8

Cross Country Chase (4.10 Cheltenham)

Gordon Elliott has dominated this specialists race in recent years with four wins from the last six renewals, though Tiger Roll’s victory in 2021 would have also been credited to him had he not been suspended at the time. The Meath trainer looks to have a stranglehold on this edition, too, with Delta Work and Galvin heading the market.

These former Grade 1 winners boast a notable ability buffer over their bigger-priced rivals and, although Galvin possesses the highest official rating and recent top-level form, I prefer last year’s winner Delta Work due to his experience over the banks. 

This has been his target all year and rain-softened ground provides me with more confidence. Although I’m optimistic that he will get the job done, I just can’t justify having a decent-sized bet in the Cross Country given all the variables. I’ve been burnt here before!

Selection: Delta Work @ 11/8

Grand Annual Handicap Chase (4.50 Cheltenham)

This race has been a graveyard for favourites in recent years. The only anomalies have been the JP McManus-owned Alderwood (2013) and Gordon Elliott-trained Chosen Mate (2020), who both justified strong market support to plunder the first prize. McManus and Elliott team up this time around with Andy Dufresne, who may be the subject of another notable gamble.

Plenty has gone wrong for Andy Dufresne in his career - let’s not forget that he was considered a leading novice hurdler and chaser three years ago. Two below-par performances in Grade 1s in the spring of 2021 led to connections opting for a different route, and he almost landed a significant punt in this race last year (sent off at 10/3) when he finished a gallant second to Global Citizen on heavy ground.

He then ran in three more Grade 1s - all of which he didn’t stand a chance in - before being sent to Fairyhouse in January for what can only be described as a hack around. The handicapper had no choice but to drop him in the weights for that questionable display, which has allowed him to compete off the same mark as 12 months ago. A first-time tongue tie is fitted and you should expect a much better performance.

Selection: Andy Dufresne @ 13/2

Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.30 Cheltenham)

Irish-trained runners have won 23 of the 30 runnings of this race and Willie Mullins has saddled the winner four times in the last five years, so his battalion will be well-found in the market. It’s For Me or Chapeau De Soleil might be the best of them, though I’m not even sure the trainer knows who his leading hope is!

I’m going to stick to the solid option in the race and that is A Dream To Share, who is bred to be running over middle-distances on the flat and has put that speed and stamina to good use in three Irish bumpers to date. Since his most recent success over the reopposing Fact Or File, this son of Muhaarar has been purchased by JP McManus but remains in the capable hands of John Kiely, who is no stranger to glory in bumpers.

Soft ground is an unknown for him - his victories have come on good and yielding - but I’m not too concerned unless it gets really testing out there. And if you haven’t heard of jockey John Gleeson, worry not as he’s more than capable. 

Selection: A Dream To Share @ 4/1 & 5/1 antepost

Cheltenham Festival Wednesday Tips

1.30 Cheltenham - Good Land @ 3/1
2.50 Cheltenham - Captain Conby @ 11/1, San Salvador @ 18/1
3.30 Cheltenham - Energumene @ 13/8
4.10 Cheltenham - Delta Work @ 11/8
4.50 Cheltenham - Andy Dufresne @ 13/2
5.30 Cheltenham - A Dream To Share @ 4/1 & 5/1 ante-post

All prices were available at the time of writing and will be used in the Cheltenham P/L, which will be posted in my daily tipping articles all this week. Current P/L to £10 win level-stakes: +£3.64.

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