Unowhatimeanharry Is The Day Three Banker At Cheltenham
Unowhatimeanharry must be the banker of the third day of the Cheltenham Festival and we are guaranteed a run barring injury while the waters are muddied in two of the other graded races due to unconfirmed running plans. Unowhatimeanharry is the best staying hurdler in Britain and Ireland and as such is a worthy favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle. Let’s Dance looks a good thing in the mares’ novice race but the JLT and Ryanair chases are complicated due to a number of entries with alternative targets.
It has been proven many times that winning form at previous festivals is a good form guide. Unowhatimeanharry won the novices’ equivalent of the stayers’ hurdle last year and has continued to improve in the senior ranks. The horse has won the main trials and has no other entries so could start odds-on on Thursday. Vroum Vroum Mag and Yanworth are almost certain not to run and that would consolidate Unowhatimeanharry’s position at the head of the market.
The horse is now owned by JP McManus and his Yanworth ran in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday while Vroum Vroum Mag was declared for the mares’ race on the same day. It is feasible but not likely for a horse to run twice in three days and an early fall would make that scenario more understandable. Jezki will take his chance in the stayers’ race but on form beating the favourite will be too much to ask for the former winner of the Champion Hurdle.
Yorkhill was a leading novice hurdler last season and won the Neptune at the festival. The Champion Hurdle was still an option earlier this week but connections have dismissed that plan so the JLT Novices’ Chase is on the cards for which Yorkhill is a strong favourite. However, the horse has not looked totally convincing over fences in novice chases and Politologue is a viable alternative. Top Notch also has solid form in the context of the race but Politologue at almost twice the price is the value bet.
Betting for the Ryanair Chase looks settled even though Douvan is quoted. That horse wins the Champion Chases if staying up and with such a high cruising speed costly jumping errors are unlikely. Un De Sceaux would be the form pick in the Ryanair but Uxizandre won the race two years ago so is proven over the course and distance. God’s Own would be an interesting runner but the Champion Chase option is preferred.
The Pertemps Final is an open three mile handicap hurdle and Tobefair is a good story if winning. The horse is owned by a syndicate based in a pub in West Wales and has won seven races on the bounce. However, handicaps of this nature are often won by unexposed horse so Tobefair looks a false favourite. The card is completed by two handicap chases which are too open for a definite opinion but Unowhatimeanharry cannot be ignored in the Stayers Hurdle.
Djakadam Can Finally Win The Gold Cup
Most of the talk in the months leading up to the Gold Cup has centred around horses trained by Colin Tizzard but Djakadam can win the race for Willie Mullins and both have had near misses in the past. Djakadam has finished second in the last two renewals while Mullins has trained the runner-up six times in total so is long overdue a win in the most prestigious chase of the season.
Thistelcrack has fallen by the wayside but Tizzard still has the two shortest priced entries in Native River and Cue Card. The former looks ideally suited to the demands of the Gold Cup while the latter deserves to win the Blue Riband of chasing. However, Native River is a solid horse who will keep going but could be vulnerable to a speedier type and a negative for the 11-year-old Cue Card is age as no horse older than 10 has won the Gold Cup since 1969. By process of elimination that brings Djakadam right into the mix so both horse and trainer can win that elusive Gold Cup.
Djakadam was no match for Coneygree (2015) and Don Cossack (2016) but both horses are absent. In theory that means Djakadam takes the best form into the race and is the right age this year to finally deliver. The horse has been lightly raced and trained specifically for Cheltenham and the trainer believes he is spot on. One slight concern would be the two falls at Cheltenham but the jumping was excellent when it mattered most in the last two Gold Cups and this is now Djakadam’s time.
The Gold Cup card starts with the Triumph Hurdle which is the championship race for juveniles. Defu Du Seuil has been heavily backed and is the worst result for some bookmakers based on ante post wagers. In this age group the horse sets the standard with five wins over hurdles after running in two bumpers in France. Charli Parcs fell in a prep-race at Kempton so Master Blueyes is the most likely alternative to beat the favourite but that horse looks rock solid on all known form.
The Albert Bartlett is the race won by Unowhatimeanharry and identifies the best novice hurdler over long distances. Gordon Elliott believes Death Duty is the best novice he has trained but Wholestone could out stay him and upset the odds. The horse has winning form at Cheltenham and more battle hardened than his closest rival in the betting. On ratings the horses are closely matched but Wholestone is three times the price with some bookmakers so must be backed.
The Foxhunters is the hunter chasers’ Gold Cup and On The Fringe can complete a treble in the race but Paint The Clouds makes more appeal at the relative odds. The card also features three devilishly difficult handicaps in which stakes should be kept to a minimum so you can concentrate more resources on backing Djakadam to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.