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Homeracing

Looking for a Cheltenham Alternatif? Candice Hare has Smart Talk

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TwinSpires Staff

March 16th, 2016

by CANDICE HARE

Cheltenham’s second day was one of minor upsets, none more popular than the legendary Sprinter Sacre reclaiming his Champion Chase crown. Setbacks, including a heart irregularity had left the once dominant force on the National Hunt racing scene sidelined for all of 2014, but he showed he was well and truly back when easily beating the heavily backed Un De Sceaux. This marked Sprinter Sacre’s fifth win in seven races at Cheltenham racecourse.

We look forward to the third day of the festival, however, and the first race on the card -- the JLT Novices’ Chase -- is a wide open affair. Our preference will lie with Garde La Victoire, who is undefeated in three career chases. His win over Bristol De Mai while conceding weight was outstanding and he brings local form to the table having twice won over hurdles at Cheltenham, including last year’s Greatwood Hurdle. If looking for value underneath, Zabana intrigues as one who will relish the quicker ground conditions. He was also second in his only festival appearance to date, which came in last year’s Coral Cup.

The Word Hurdle, carded as the fourth race of the day, features heavy favorite Thistlecrack, who enters here as one of the most highly-regarded runners at the festival. A runaway winner of all three of his races this season, including his Cheltenham win last time out, Thistlecrack is the standout. The intrigue of this race instead lies with who will chase him home and for that we will look to the lightly raced Aux Ptits Soins. This six-year-old former French runner looked a star waiting to be made at last year’s festival when seen winning the Coral Cup. He has not been out since, but he is very well thought of back home and Paul Nicholls will have him ready off the long break.

The sixth race of the day is the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. While Limini enters as the heavy favorite for the formidable Mullins/Ricci team, Smart Talk appeals at the likely prices exiting a solid win at Doncaster. The fourth- and fifth-place finishers that day, Pass The Time and Rock On The Moor, finished fourth and second behind Vroum Vroum Mag on Tuesday, boosting the form of that race as well.

In the last, David Pipe runner Alternatif appeals. He is in well at the weights and the expected ground condition is ideal. His local record is also a solid 3: 0-1-1-1. Alternatif’s recent form is indicative of a horse who has been well prepared for this type of big handicap. He had one poor run last time out, but that was over heavy ground and it is possible that was by design in order to preserve his handicap mark.

Suggested Wagers:

Race 1: Garde La Victoire win, Garde La Victoire / Zabana exacta

Race 4: Thistlecrack / Aux Ptits Soins exacta

Race 6: Smart Talk win

Race 7: Alternatif win/place

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