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best bets Ruby Walsh and Mick Fitzgerald give their tips for day three at Cheltenham

Paddy Power pundits give their verdicts on the big races


Ruby Walsh. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ruby Walsh. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Ruby Walsh. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The Cheltenham Festival is finally here and Paddy Power are throwing everything at their coverage of the biggest racing event of the year.

Racing greats Ruby Walsh and Mick Fitzgerald have made their selections for the opening day and here is their verdict on the big races.

Marsh Novices' Chase (1.20pm)

Mick Fitzgerald: We’ve got another superstar to kick the action off in the Marsh Novices’ Chase. This race is all about Envoi Allen as he remains unbeaten and looks a superstar. His price does reflect that and even though he has changed stables, it hasn’t been that long since he did and I wouldn’t be concerned. CHATHAM STREET LAD was so impressive winning a big handicap at the track this season that I can’t ignore him and he’s got an each-way chance in a wide open contest without the short priced favourite.

Ruby Walsh: ENVOI ALLEN is unbeaten so far in his bumper, hurdles and chasing career, so what’s going to beat him now? He looks very hard to oppose and is nearly ‘value’ at the price in the non-runner money back market.

Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (1.55pm)

Mick Fitzgerald :This contest looks wide open. The Bosses Oscar was fifth in the Martin Pipe conditionals handicap at last year’s festival, and he has to have a good chance with Jordan Gainford taking 7lbs off his weight. The one I like is STORM ARISING. He is a bit of a character and this sort of contest will really suit him. He should be a good each-way prospect in a wide-open contest.

Ruby Walsh: Everyone looks at the qualifiers and looks for horses that were fourth, fifth and sixth. THE BOSSES OSCAR was second at Leopardstown and has been duly penalised for that. He runs off 151 when he could end up with a mark in the 160s.

Ryanair Chase (2.30pm)

Mick Fitzgerald: Min was the winner of this race last year, but it’s fair to say he does not come into this year‘s contest in the same form as last year. He beat SAINT CALVADOS, but Harry Whittington’s gelding is the value in this contest. Whittington has had a quiet season, but this would really turn it round. Mister Fisher is one who has promised so much but has not yet delivered what the Seven Barrows team feels he is capable of. However, the drying ground will help him.

Ruby Walsh: My preference for this one is MIN. I can never get away from his performance at Aintree over two-and-a-half miles, that was spectacular to watch.

Paddy Power Stayers' Hurlde (3.05pm)

Mick Fitzgerald: This race has lost some of its appeal with the 11th hour withdrawal of Altior, but it is still a good contest. Last year’s winner Politologue lines up for Paul Nicholls while Nube Negra is there for the Skelton team and we also have Put The Kettle On running for Henry de Bromhead. She won the Arkle Chase at the track last year and is also three-from-three in runs at Cheltenham. However, this is the ideal opportunity for CHACUN POUR SOI to get a first Champion Chase win on the board for Willie Mullins.

Ruby Walsh: Last year's winner LISNAGAR OSCAR has been overlooked. I think he’s coming back into form at just the right time and can hit the places at least.

Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase (3.40pm)

Mick Fitzgerald: THE SHUNTER is going for the £100,000 bonus after winning at Kelso and following up at the Festival. While he is an inexperienced chaser, he has some big handicap form to his name at the Dublin Racing Festival. he is reasonably well handicapped but they have enlisted the services of 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford to help his chances. Caribbean Boy is fancied by connections but may not be that well handicapped. Happy Diva is interesting as an each-way bet and if The Shunter was not in this, she would be the pick.

Ruby Walsh: FILS D’OUDAIRIES won at Navan in December, placed second to Envoi Allen at Punchestown but he didn’t stay behind Monkfish in Grade 1 company last month. He runs off 145, with a weight of 10st 9lb and is a strong traveller. The trip and pace of the race will suit him.”

Mares Novices' Hurdle (4.15pm)

Mick Fitzgerald: We saw Appreciate It win on Tuesday and HOOK UP was not far behind him and Ballyadam – who was second to Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices Hurdle – at Leopardstown in February. She gets the vote ahead of Royal Kahala.

Ruby Walsh: Roseys Hollow beat ROYAL KAHALA and Gauloise but I don’t think there’s that much between those three. I think the 9lb swing will be huge for Royal Kahala and I wouldn’t be shocked if she turned it around.

Kim Muir Challenge Cup (4.50pm)

Mick Fitzgerald: I like to find an unexposed, well-handicapped, improving chaser who will appreciate a step up in trip when looking through the field. With that in mind, MOUNT IDA looks to tick all the boxes. She ran really well at Thurles last time behind that good mare Colreevy trained by Willie Mullins in a Grade 2 Chase over 2m 4f. She is a very decent each-way play in at trappy handicap.

Ruby Walsh: STORM CONTROL won twice at this track last winter and could still be improving. Ignore his last run on bad ground.

Paddy Power are offering a free bet for all customers on the first race of the day - click HERE to collect it.

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