Cheltenham Festival News

Cheltenham Festival: Lydia Hislop's top tips for Thursday

By Lydia Hislop@LydiaHislop
Thu 16 Mar 2023

Award-winning broadcaster and Road To Cheltenham presenter Lydia Hislop shares her best bets for day three of the Cheltenham Festival. And below, watch what she and Ruby Walsh had to say about the first two days of action.

Lydia and Ruby on day two

Lydia and Ruby on day one

1.30 Turners Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 166y

Gordon Elliott brought Andy and Gemma Brown of Caldwell Construction their first-ever Festival winner on Tuesday with Jazzy Matty’s Boodles Fred Winter success, but Mighty Potter is the flagship hope for all three.

He’s developed into a far better chaser than he was a hurdler, when blown away by the big three – Constitution Hill, Jonbon and Dysart Dynamo – in last term’s Supreme. But he’d also travelled over to Cheltenham badly and blown his top in the preliminaries, even crashing into some railing on the way to the start. If you’re playing late or in-running this year, it’s worth keeping a close eye on this horse in the preliminaries.

His Dublin Racing Festival success compared very favourably with stablemate The Goffer’s win over the same course and distance in handicap company that same day – and he went on to acquit himself with great credit when fourth in the Ultima on Tuesday. Mighty Potter’s jumping was also cleaner last time out.

His thumping of Banbridge in the Drinmore in December shouldn’t be taken literally as the third was never going in heavy ground and was running for the third time in relatively quick succession. However, eighteen-and-a-half lengths is a huge deficit to attempt to reverse. Last year’s Martin Pipe winner, who has also upgraded his form over fences, could have done with the rain staying away to help.

I’ve come around to APPRECIATE IT as the only possible play in this race at this stage. I have my doubts about whether he has the stamina for the job but the Irish Arkle – the form of which was expectedly but comprehensively franked on Tuesday by El Fabiolo and Dysart Dynamo – says he is intrinsically better than Banbridge, even though that horse mugged him on the line for second.

He was also good enough to win the Supreme two seasons ago and I expect he’ll have been the focus of intensive work at Closutton since his Leopardstown defeat.

Nicky Henderson has been sweet on Balco Coastal in recent days but I suspect the flatter plains of Aintree, rather than undulating Cheltenham with its final rise, would be more his thing. Stage Star has a substantial track success to his name, when carrying top-weight in a handicap here in January, but he’s got to prove he’s up to this class.

Back now: Appreciate It at 9/2 with Bet Victor or William Hill

2.10 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 7f 213y

Despite his vertical trajectory in the ratings and unusual though it is for the winner of a Pertemps Qualifier to win the Final, MAXXUM still shaped as though perfectly capable of making an impact here. He was still travelling well when badly hampered and losing all chance on the home turn at the Dublin Racing Festival.

I’m taking another Gordon Elliott runner alongside – THE BOSSES OSCAR, who was second in this race two years ago from a 9lb higher mark and made an encouraging return to action at Musselburgh last month.

Good Time Jonny is likely to go well for feared trainer Tony Martin. The horse shaped well behind Maxxum on his penultimate run and faced an inadequate trip last time. I tipped Mill Green each-way at 33/1 when he was third in this race from the same mark last year and he can run well again at a course he likes. However, it’s in his contract to make one massive blunder per outing.

Back now: Maxxum at 6/1 with various bookmakers

Back now: The Bosses Oscar at 10/1 with various bookmakers

2.50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f 127y

SHISHKIN towers over his rivals here and should be shorter, so he’s a bet if you like that sort of thing. When a doughty third in the Tingle Creek, facing an unsuitable track/trip combination, he had shaped as though a step up in trip was required. In retrospect, he dropped a similar hint even when winning the Clarence House last season.

It was noticeable how much straighter he jumped when upped in trip for the Ascot Chase last time out, the slower pace of race meaning he wasn’t going out to his left through the effort of trying to keep up. The diagnosis of a rare bone condition explains away his abject performance in last season’s Champion Chase. Aside from that one poor run, he has run consistently well all career and is proven capable of backing up a high-class effort.

Tactically, this will be a totally different Ryanair from the past two seasons when Allaho went out hard, imploding rivals in his wake. This time, pace-setting duties will fall to Hitman but he’s a flat-track bully and connections might overcompensate here for pressing on too far out in the Denman Chase last time out. I don’t see him lasting up front that long, even if first-time cheekpieces help.

Racing in the next rank will be FRENCH DYNAMITE, Chacun Pour Soi and Blue Lord. Chacun Pour Soi has never liked this place even when he was running well and has jumped poorly the last twice. Blue Lord has one standout item of form at Leopardstown over Christmas, on which he is flattered by weak finishers. He wasn’t fit when clinging on at Clonmel over this trip first time out this season and is the obvious candidate to finish second, if he stays.

However, French Dynamite was an excellent second when conceding 6lb to Ga Law in the Paddy Power Gold Cup over a similar trip on Cheltenham’s Old Course in November. Since then, he found three miles too far in the Savills Chase, and was hanging in there until clouting the last and hampered by the fall of Haut En Couleurs at the last in the Kinloch Brae. His jumping can let him down, but he has a better place chance than the betting suggests given the forecast weak pace and might even finish second.

If Fury Road is to get into this, he’d going to have to be ridden more forward than usual. Similar comments apply to Janidil, who plugged on into second in this race last year and did well to win the Red Mills Chase at Gowran last time out. Envoi Allen is capable of placing and Ga Law is progressive, but his training was interrupted when he suffered a cut when falling at the final fence at Doncaster when we last saw him.

Back now: French Dynamite each-way in the ‘betting without Shishkin’ market at 9/1 with Bet365 or William Hill

3.30 Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 7f 213y

Rain has removed my only doubt about TEAHUPOO, whose defeat of Honeysuckle first time out in the Hatton’s Grace was made to look even better when that mighty mare won on Tuesday. He then proved his stamina for three miles with an authoritative win in the Galmoy Hurdle, beating little but humbling them despite a 9lb penalty. We’re getting a good price due to the reputation of the favourite and his trainer.

Charles Byrnes’ ability to land a gamble has earned the right for his recent mixed messages, accurate though they might be, to be ignored by the betting public. Blazing Khal is better judged on his relentlessly progressive profile, topped by his win in the Boyne Hurdle last time out.

It’s not an advantage that rider Philip Byrnes, son of the trainer, cannot claim his 5lb against more experienced riders in Grade One company, but he came within a neck of winning the Boodles on Byker on Tuesday.

Similar comments apply to GOLD TWEET’s rider Johnny Charron, a veteran jockey in France where the races tend to develop very differently compared with Britain. However, he nonetheless delivered a copybook ride when winning the Cleeve over this course and distance. Even though this bigger field and the Festival’s febrile atmosphere makes this a harder task, his mount is greatly overpriced. I’m going to take him as a second dart against the favourite.

He has not yet comprehensively proved his stamina, admittedly, and the expectation from some is this will be a strongly run race. It was when Flooring Porter won two years ago, but his rider Danny Mullins controlled a steady pace 12 months ago. His mount has not been in the same form this season and was seemingly unable to go harder, as required, in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle since when he’s had a race against time to get here.

Dashel Drasher is the other front-runner, but he set a steady pace when second to Gold Tweet and a strongly run affair might raise stamina doubts. This pair might induce each other to go faster, but it’s not a given in my mind. 2019 winner, the veteran Paisley Park, would need an end-to-end gallop to get involved but he’s likely to run better than his Cleeve third when he’d had less recovery time than usual since the Long Walk.

Home By The Lee is an improved performer this season, now that connections have worked out that he needs more space in his races. He’s holding his position better but would again be vulnerable in a steadily run race. Klassical Dream split Teahupoo and Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse and goes well fresh, but he’s had a troubled preparation rather than a break having necessarily been the plan.

Back now: Teahupoo at 4/1 with various bookmakers

Back now: Gold Tweet at 12/1 with William Hill or Bet Victor

4.10 Magners Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 4f 166y

Connections of SO SCOTTISH successfully quibbled with the British handicapper’s mark last week, but the pound-schmound they gained from that Appeals process does not apply here – and he’s likely to make that entire pantomime academic with victory.

His shrewd trainer Emmet Mullins doesn’t need introducing after his Grand National success with Noble Yeats last April. This horse, since bought by JP McManus, shaped as though improvement would be forthcoming if stepped up in trip when second to Boothill over two miles at Ascot in November and he’s been laid out for this ever since.

I’ve been waiting even longer for Frero Banbou to race beyond two miles – a move trainer Venetia Williams mentioned at the start of this season. Charlie Deutsch somehow managed to guide him into third in last season’s Grand Annual after getting detached from the first fence. His mount again shaped well until out-speeded at Sandown last time out. Let’s back him each-way in the ‘without So Scottish’ market.

Expect Haut En Couleurs to run well despite top-weight. He would have won the Horse & Jockey Hotel (Kinloch Brae) Chase on his penultimate start but for falling at the last and then failed to win the supplementary money for the Ryanair, after his trainer uncharacteristically omitted to enter him, at Gowran last time out. He’s raced only right-handed this season and is better this way around.

Back now: So Scottish (nb) at 4/1 with various bookmakers

Back now: Frero Banbou each-way at 10/1 in the ‘betting without So Scottish’ market with Sky Bet

4.50 Jack de Bromhead Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 179y

Tuesday’s Close Brothers David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle was the best such event yet staged, anywhere. Similarly, this race looks like the deepest edition yet – vindicating the British Horseracing Authority’s Jumps Pattern Committee decision to enhance the mares’ programme in this country. Simply, more well-bred mares are now being trained over obstacles rather than raced only in bumpers or not at all, heading straight to the breeding sheds instead.

Luccia is a large talent but she has room for improvement in her jumping. Like You Wear It Well, MAGICAL ZOE and Saylavee, she must concede 5lb to this field. That didn’t prevent Love Envoi, Limini or Laurina from winning this is the past but, again, this is a tougher ask than they faced.

The pace looks likely to be fierce, which should suit HALKA DU TABERT. She’s a thorough stayer at the trip – will ultimately need further – and was not ridden to advantage when setting a steady pace, outspeeded by Ashroe Diamond late on, at Fairyhouse. On the upside, that means she’s penalty-free here. Her prominent run style is not ideal, either for this track or this race in particular, but she’s a huge talent in the making.

Magical Zoe did well to get past Nikini and The Model Kingdom at Down Royal in November, coming from further back than ideal, and has been put aside for this race – run in remembrance of her trainer Henry de Bromhead’s son, Jack. Magical Zoe’s patient run style is perfect for this task.

Back now: Halka Du Tabert at 12/1 or 11/1 with various bookmakers

Back now: Magical Zoe at 14/1 with BetFred or Bet Victor

5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Sponsored By JRL Group) 3m 2f

No strong opinion here. Stumptown appeared greatly improved at Sandown last time out but this is a very different track and his price is pretty short. Likeable mare Anightinlambourn has been progressive on Cheltenham’s Old Course so far this season and her sound jumping is an asset.

However, I’m interested in RAPPER at a good price. Wearing first-time cheekpieces, this thorough stayer won on this course in January and since shaped as if still in form at Sandown. He’s run well at the Festival before, pressing on too far out in the 2020 Pertemps.

Henry ‘Eeyore’ Daly now applies a first-time visor and Alice Stevens is a thoroughly capable amateur. The horse is the trainer’s only Cheltenham runner this year because – and I paraphrase – what’s the point? The Irish win everything.

Back now: Rapper at 28/1 or 25/1 each-way 6 places with various bookmakers

The ante-post Road To Cheltenham portfolio:


Advised 01/12/22: Ahoy Senor at 25/1 for the Boodles Gold Cup with various bookmakers.

Advised 14/12/22: Hiddenvalley Lake at 8/1 for the Albert Bartlett with Bet365 or William Hill.

Advised 05/01/23: The Real Whacker at 12/1 for the Brown Advisory with Paddy Power or Coral.

Advised 19/01/23: Impaire Et Passe at 6/1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with various firms.

Advised 26/01/23: Banbridge each-way at 20/1 for the Sporting Life Arkle with various firms.

Advised 11/03/23: Rare Edition to win the Sky Bet Supreme at 25/1 with various firms


Advised 01/12/22: Noble Yeats at 66/1 for the Boodles Gold Cup with William Hill.

Advised 19/01/23: Corbetts Cross at 25/1 for the Albert Bartlett with Coral or Ladbrokes.

Cheltenham Festival tips for Thursday:

A chance to win £50,000 with Paddy's Pick 5

How To Bet £20 on Thursday

Dave Nevison's best bets

Lydia Hislop's top tips for day three

Stayers' Hurdle: runner-by-runner guide

The Irish Angle: Johnny Ward's top tips

Placepot picks for Thursday




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