SportRacing

Michael Fortune marks your card for Day 2 of Cheltenham Festival

RacingBy Michael Fortune
Willie Mullins' brilliant Un De Sceaux could be the star of Day 2
Willie Mullins' brilliant Un De Sceaux could be the star of Day 2

It’s hard to believe that is all of three years since Sprinter Sacre won his only Betway Queen Mother Chase and here he is at 10 years of age facing the best two-mile chaser we have seen in recent times, the Willie Mullins trained Un De Sceaux.

Admirable as Nicky Henderson’s attempt to nurse the 10-year-old back to his form of old has been, his performances have hardly justified the optimism which has grown that he might be as good as he was. 

Un De Sceaux spent the early years of his career as something of a tearaway and he won last year’s Arkle Chase in a canter. This season he has settled better and he was majestic in victory over Sire De Grugy at Ascot in January. 

His fall at the second-last at Leopardstown at Christmas set doubts in motion, but he jumped like a pro when trotting up at Ascot and there are strong suspicions that he wasn’t in top form when he had that festive spill. 

Sire De Grugy has had an admirable year and he was the 2014 champion after leading home Somersby. However, he was firmly put in his box by Un De Sceaux last time, while earlier, in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, he somehow managed to hold on to the decision after absolutely murdering Henry de Bromhead’s Special Tiara at the last fence. 

And Special Tiara is a serious player. He should have won that Tingle Creek and he ran a blinder in last year’s race when a close third behind Dodging Bullets and Somersby. He also hammered Sprinter Sacre by six lengths in the Celebration Chase at Sandown last year and represents serious each way value at prices up to 14/1. 

That leaves us with reigning champion Dodging Bullets, who has only been seen once since last year’s victory. He was beaten 10 lengths by Top Gamble in the Game Spirit at Newbury and has a lot to find if he is to defend the title. 

On all known form, a definite vote has to go to Un De Sceaux to set up another big day for the Mullins stable and I would suggest an each way speculation on Special Tiara.     
This is one of those make or break days which could turn into a beano for the Irish – or it could be a costly experience! There are some serious Anglo-Irish battles in store and the home team have two of their own bankers in Yanworth and More Of That. 

TODAY'S CARD

1.30 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2m 5f)
2.10 RSA Chase (3m 110y)
2.50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (2m 5f)
3.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (2m)
4.10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (3m 6f)
4.50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2m 110y)
5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (2m 110y)

JP’s Jewel  

Yanworth is one of the jewels in JP McManus’s crown and he puts his growing reputation on the line in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle, where the 2m 5f trip should be absolutely ideal. He has been splendidly impressive in his four hurdle outings and is Barry Geraghty’s banker going to the meeting. 

Geraghty will also be aboard More Of That, which has returned from injury to make his mark over fences. However, I am going to oppose Annie Power’s only conqueror and nominate the Gordon Elliott-trained No More Heroes to take this prize. 

This fellow is a real old-time chaser and that Cheltenham hill could have been made for him.

MICHAEL'S TOP TIPS

1.30 – 1 YANWORTH; 2 Yorkhill, 3 A Toi Phil  
2.10 – 1 NO MORE HEROES; 2 More Of That, 3 Monksland 
2.50 – 1 DIAMOND KING; 2 Blazer, 3 Politologue 
3.30 – 1 UN DE SCEAUX; 2 Special Tiara, 3 Sprinter Sacre 
4.10 – 1 FOXROCK; 2 Balthazar King, 3 Josies Orders 
4.50 – 1 MESSIRE DES OBEAUX, 2 Campeador, 3 Swamp Fox 
5.30 – 1 NEW TO THIS TOWN; 2 Ballyandy, 3 First Figaro

BEST BETS: 

1.30 Yanworth
2.10 No More Heroes  
3.30 Un De Sceaux
4.10 Foxrock