There's £50,000 up for grabs on each day of the Cheltenham Festival this week! We have shared our selections for Tuesday's Paddy's Pick 5 races and you can enter for free below. Best of luck!
Race: Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30pm).
“Facile Vega is potentially the best racehorse I’ve ever seen." - Tony Mullins.
“I've never had a horse like Marine Nationale in all my career in racing, I just think he's different.” - Barry Connell.
“Il Etait Temps is a very good horse.” - Willie Mullins.
“I’m really confused.” - The rest of us!
For what it’s worth, Racing Post Ratings have Facile Vega and Il Etait Temps rated 5 lb superior to Marine Nationale, while Timeform have Facile Vega 1 lb ahead of Il Etait Temps who in turn is 1 lb clear of Marine Nationale (albeit the latter retaining a ‘p’ for open to improvement).
I’m firmly in the MARINE NATIONALE camp, who I thought travelled like much the best horse when winning the Royal Bond despite a final flight mishap. I’m scared of a resurgent Facile Vega, but I don’t buy the ride criticism from last time – the horse either wasn’t right, or he isn’t as good as we thought over a trip his mother Quevega failed to show her best form over.
The big danger for me is Il Etait Temps – whose fans may have appreciated the translation of roughly ‘it was about time’ for his name – when the grey broke his maiden tag on his fourth start for Willie Mullins, having kept the highest company last season. He was an emphatic winner last time, and, on a form-line through the fourth home Irish Point, has the beating of Marine Nationale. But his jumping still worries me.
High Definition holds Diverge on their Leopardstown run and brings a high level of Flat form to the picture, while the British challenge is led by the Tolworth winner Tahmuras who still looked green when beating a solid – if unspectacular field – at Sandown last time.
Selection: Marine Nationale.
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Race: Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase (2.10pm)
Jonbon or El Fabiolo? El Fabiolo or Jonbon? Elfabijonbonolo!
This race has sent me loopy, hours of to-ing-and-fro-ing turning me into some sort of deranged kids TV presenter shouting out unintelligible catchphrases.
It’s possible that tactics will ultimately tell, but whereas Jonbon appeared favoured by more prominent tactics when beating El Fabiolo at Aintree after chasing home Constitution Hill here last year, this time it might work against him.
Dysart Dynamo appears hard to handle out in front so assuming he stays on his feet longer than in the Supreme, then my gut feeling is that a prominently ridden Jonbon may just set the race up for EL FABIOLO, as he ultimately did for the superior Constitution Hill 12 months ago.
If they go much too fast then that could bring confirmed hold-up performer Saint Roi into the mix. He unseated early last time but his Festival record includes a ready win in the 2020 County Hurdle and a solid third to Honeysuckle in last year’s Champion Hurdle, but so far his chasing form is below the standard required.
Can we turn this into the Pick 5 Forecast? Elfabijonbonolo!
Selection: El Fabiolo.
Race: Ultima Handicap Chase
FASTORSLOW was more slow than fast in two prep runs before last year’s Festival, at which he suddenly found another gear when a short-head second in the Coral Cup, with the front two nicely clear. Once again, he’s being asked to put two modest prep runs in the past (albeit in top company) as he steps up in trip once more, and further improvement is anticipated despite a mark of 150.
He’s preferred to last year’s winner Corach Rambler, who may have more weight, and be worse off at the weights with several of those he beat, including Oscar Elite (third) and Tea Clipper (fourth), but who looks sure to give it a good go as he bids to emulate Un Temps Pour Tout who won back-to-back renewals in 2016 and 2017.
David Pipe’s charge was one of a stream of British winners of this race, which in the context of the Festival is akin to Michael Caine et al at Rorke’s Drift. The in-form home-grown duo of Into Overdrive and Monbeg Genius join Leopardstown winner The Goffer on the shortlist, with the Rowland Meyrick winner Into Overdrive possibly the pick given the quality of opposition he has been facing, while Nassalam caught the eye when third at this venue on New Year’s Day.
Race: Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (3.30pm)
Sticking your head above the parapet can be a dangerous pastime, especially when it comes to Nicky Henderson 1/3 shots in a race he has won eight times that half the world thinks is the next Night Nurse. But I just don’t see it, certainly not to 1/3 levels, and not now Constitution Hill is tested against the pick of a Willie Mullins stable that has won this race four times.
Obviously, having said that, it’s worth pointing out that Constitution Hill has been pretty flawless in Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle wins this term, but those were weak races where he had just one feasible rival to beat. Admittedly, last year’s Champion runner-up Epatante is no mug, but she is no STATE MAN, either.
State Man could easily still be unbeaten, having still held every chance when falling on his British debut, and he was backed as if he couldn’t lose (he didn’t) in the County Hurdle at this meeting last year. His book of form this season, including two comprehensive beatings of Vauban and friends, looks very solid and he could get the run of the race from the front.
Last year’s Triumph winner Vauban could get closer here, mind you, given he should be ridden more prominently than has been the case this term. He’s a year younger than his rivals, and connections may still be plotting some sort of succession of success, but I think we will see a big career-best here.
I Like To Move It has impressed on two of his three starts this term, but everything went in his favour last time and he’s got loads to find with State Man on their County run. And, to (mis)quote the great Les Dennis, “if any of the others win I’ll give you the money myself”.
Selection: State Man.
Race: Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
There’s been a lot of talk about Honeysuckle, and whether connections are dodging the issue by not running her in the Champion Hurdle on this, her swansong. But I think it’s a good move, and though she would get an uproarious send off regardless, this race lessens the chance of a Kauto Star-esque goodbye.
Though beaten in two starts this season, Honeysuckle’s form still looks rock-solid (beaten by two leading Stayers’ Hurdle contenders on reappearance and then State Man last time) and she certainly knows her job around here, having won this race in 2020 and then the Champion Hurdle both in 2021 and then last year (Epatante second).
But I really like outsider SHEWEARSITWELL who could easily have been a big factor in the Pertemps, but connections have plumped for this instead, and that might be a sign of their confidence. The form of her defeat of Queens Brook has a) been boosted by the runner-up since, when she beat Brandy Love, and b) means she doesn’t have anything to find with Marie’s Rock who beat that same rival when winning this race 12 months ago. Though not the biggest, she’s tough, stays well, and is improving.
Echoes In Rain is respected but isn’t a guaranteed stayer over this trip, while connections of Theatre Glory will have been cursing the weather since supplementing the good-ground mare. In contrast, it will suit the relatively unheralded Love Envoi who was beaten by Brandy Love after winning at this meeting 12 months ago, but who has looked a more formidable opponent in two starts this term.
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