Sport

Vatour de force: Fortune’s top tips for Day Three of Cheltenham

SportBy Michael Fortune
Ruby Walsh can ride Vatour to victory again
Ruby Walsh can ride Vatour to victory again

This is traditionally the weak session of the Festival since it was extended to four days – and it’s not helped by the inclusion of the Charity Race in the programme. There are three Grade One contests on the card with the Ryanair Chase and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle sharing top billing.

The World Hurdle has been a terrific contest over the years but with the absence of the great champion Big Buck’s and last year’s big two, More Of That and Annie Power, it has taken on a very open appearance and I feel the scene is set for a young champion to claim the crown.

Paul Nicholls supplies the likely favourite in Zarkandar (pictured) but he has never been a favourite of mine and has failed to deliver far too often to merit becoming the champion. Nevertheless, his overall form would entitle him to be in the frame.

Nicholls also has Saphir Du Rheu and he has reverted to hurdles after failing to make the mark over fences, something which also happened with Big Buck’s. Former Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby is not sure to stay the trip and so the search goes on.

The young improving horse in the equation is the six-year-old Lieutenant Colonel which bids to give Sandra Hughes her first ever Cheltenham win. He appears to be improving at a rate of knots and will appreciate the good ground which appears likely for next week.

He has won two Grade One staying contests, the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse and the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and gives the impression that there’s more to come. Of the other Irish runners, Briar Hill, Jetson and Monksland must all be considered. Lieutenant Colonel gets a tentative vote to win here from Zarkandar and Briar Hill. 

 

DON TO RULE

The final day was the big one for Gigginstown last year and it could well the third day this time. With Lieutenant Colonel in the World Hurdle, they will have Don Cossack in the Ryanair Hurdle and this is a race that Michael O’Leary would dearly love to win.

He is a most progressive sort and has won all four of his races this year. He has matured into the horse he promised to be and at eight years is only reaching his peak. Balder Succes could be the major danger from the British runners while Shark Hanlon’s Hidden Cyclone looks a banker to make the frame.

The bet of the day, though, can again be a Willie Mullins starlet with Vautour likely to dominate his rivals in the JLT Novices’ Chase. He has made a successful transition to fences if you pardon him his lapse at Christmas when I feel he was upset early by a mistake. He subsequently won a three-horse race easily and also jumped very well in a gallop. He’s a class act and can be too good for Apache Stronghold, The Tullow Tank and Ptit Zig. 

The other races on the card are handicaps and I would be interested in the selection of Tony Martin’s runners, Edeymi and Mydor, in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle final.

 

BEST BETS

1.30 – Vautour

2.40 – Don Cossack

3.20 – Lieutenant Colonel

 

Fortune’s Top Tips

1.30 – 1 VAUTOUR; 2 Apache Stronghold; 3 Ptit Zig 

2.05 – 1 EDEYMI/ MYDOR; 2 Call The Cops; 3 Regal Encore

2.40 – 1 DON COSSACK; 2 Ma Filleule; 3 Hidden Cyclone 

3.20 – 1 LIEUTENANT COLONEL (e.w); 2 Zarkandar; 3 Monksland

4.00 – 1 UN ACE; 2 Taquin Du Seuil; 3 Ballynagour

4.40 – 1 GRAND VISION; 2 Corrin Wood; 3 Colbert Station 

 

The programme:

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase. 2m 4f.

2.05 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final. 3m.

2.40 Ryanair Chase. 2m 5f.

3.20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle. 3m.

4.00 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Handicap Chase. 2m 5f.

4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase. 3m 2f.

5.15 St Patrick’s Derby (Charity Race) 1m. 5f.