Nicholls Pays Dollars On Cheltenham Day 2 Plus Day 3 Picks
Dodging Bullets topped off a fine season with a win in the Champion Chase, defeating the likes of a game Somersby, defending champion Sire De Grugy, and a disappointing Sprinter Sacre.
Today was Paul Nicholls’ day in the spotlight, as he had two other runners win in addition to Dodging Bullets, who was ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies. Don Poli backed up his heavy favoritism and gave jockey Willie Mullins his fifth winner of the festival in the RSA Chase.
The third day of the Cheltenham festival kicks off with the JLT Novices’ Chase in which the successful duo of Mullins and trainer Ruby Walsh team up once again with Vautour -- one of the stars of last year’s festival when seen easily winning the Supreme. The son of Robin Des Champs had been dominant since arriving in Ireland, but suffered his only defeat over fences in December at Leopardstown where he looked to struggle with the soft ground conditions and made a bad mistake five out. After the race, Mullins said Vautour wasn’t moving well that day due to a muscle issue and his improved jumping en route to winning the Leopardstown Killiney Novice Chase erased some fears of him competing versus top competitors over the larger obstacles. Perhaps his biggest competition comes from Ptit Zig, who soundly defeated Josses Hill, who’s since come back to finish third in this year’s Arkle, at Ascot. He also has a recent easy win over fences at Cheltenham. We’ll box the two of these in an exacta.
A full field of 24 are set to start in the three mile Pertemps Handicap Hurdle. Bygones Sovereign has won two straight. He’s a confirmed frontrunner and will ensure they go at a strong gallop from the start. This quick tempo should best suit The Tourard Man, a true stayer who appears to be well handicapped in this field. Should he handle the quicker ground conditions well, he looks to be a threat to hit the board at a big price, so we’ll play him to win and place.
The three mile World Hurdle is the featured race and it looks a wide open edition this year, as well. Blue Fashion has clearly had his issues, as he’s ran only twice in the past two seasons, but those two runs were runner-up finishes behind 2014 World Hurdle winner More of That and this year’s Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen. A run to that form should find him in the mix here late, so we’ll take him to win and place at what should be double digit odds and in an exacta with well regarded stablemate Whisper, winner of the Coral Cup at last year’s festival.
Race 1: exacta box Vautour / Ptit Zig
Race 2: The Tourard Man to win and place
Race 4: Blue Fashion to win and place & exacta box Blue Fashion / Whisper