Cheltenham Tips | Day 2
Racing expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets for Day 2 of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
The Ballymore Novice Hurdle has produced some fantastic winners down the years and this year’s renewal looks likely to produce another. Despite a field of 14 and heavy ground on the cards I think we are about to witness something special.
Samcro has had a huge reputation since he arrived at Gordon Elliott’s yard and such is this he has yet to start odds against in any of his six career starts. That is likely to become seven starts at odds on in a row and few could argue with his price. He is also yet to be challenged winning a Grade 1 last time in fine style with the third that day running well in the Supreme Novice on Tuesday.
He is touted as a superstar, a future Gold Cup winner and I’m excited about him. I would be disappointed and a little sad if he lost his unbeaten record here and I simply cannot oppose him.
The RSA is a serious test for any novice chaser and on the forecast ground this is likely to be a real war of attrition. There is plenty of stamina in this line up and heavy ground form so I have a feeling they are likely to go a really good pace despite the conditions.
Ignoring the fact that this race has been a bit of a graveyard for favourites down the years I really fancy Presenting Percy. He’s improved with every start over fences winning three times, however I feel his best performance came in defeat where he lost to the Gold Cup bound Our Duke.
He is likely to improve for that run and will handle the underfoot conditions too. He is a previous festival winner and I think he may be too good for his rivals here in what promises to be a really interesting race.
The Coral Cup is one of the biggest betting heats of the year and punters love to get stuck in to a race where they feel there is plenty of value around. With 27 runners there is plenty of each way options to be had and that’s what I’ve gone for.
Le Breuil has been seen twice this season and put up his best effort when second under a big weight in heavy ground at Aintree. Now that form doesn’t scream Cheltemham Festival winner however I think there is a lot more to come from this horse.
He won twice as a novice and seems at home on a soft surface. He remains potentially very well handicapped and he’s been nibbled at in the past week. In a race that looks very wide open he’s my idea of the each way value.
The Champion Chase next and this race is a cracker. Despite the market being dominated by three runners there is plenty of strength and depth here and to me this is the race of the week.
Everyone will have an opinion on who wins this and I’m no different. With doubts over Douvan and Altior suffering a scare on Sunday I’m all over Min. Coming in to the festival he had less questions to answer than the big two and nothing has happened to change my mind since.
He will love the ground, is a Grade 1 winner, was hugely impressive last time out and even if the big two were at their best he would be no back number. He’s drifting out in the betting too so he’s an even more generous price and I plan to take advantage.
The Cross Country Chase is the most unique race of the week and a race I love. A big field has assembled for this however a lot can be easily disregarded and I think Cause of Causes can continue his love affair with the Festival.
He has won races at three Festivals in a row and has a second place to his name too here, so he is Cheltenham royalty! He was a resounding winner of this race last year and I fully expect him to make it four Festival wins here.
The yard never had a great start to the meeting with a few running below form (notably Apples Jade) however I’m sure he will make it two wins on the day for the Elliott yard here.
The Free Winter is a handicap for juvenile hurdlers and it looks possibly the most wide open race of the day. The heavy ground will be really tough on these young horses and I suspect stamina rather than speed will be at a premium here.
Oxford Blu is no superstar but he is improving with every start and importantly acts on this surface. He shapes as if his future lies over much further and is likely to be staying on when the others have cried enough.
Richard Johnson is on board and this looks a match made in heaven to me. I expect them to try make this a real test and in a race that looks very winnable I’ve backed Oxford Blu each way.
The Champion Bumper, a race that produces numerous future Festival winners but also some big priced winners too, so nothing can be easily discounted. This looks a typically strong renewal and I’m siding with one at a big price.
David Pipe hasn’t had the greatest of seasons and his stable is a little cold at present. However they rarely leave the Festival without a winner and I think he could get one here. Know the Score was an expensive purchase and won his only start in good style.
That was on soft ground and he was doing his best work at the finish. He won his point to point over 3 miles and I feel he is tailor made to run well here. I’ve backed him each way at a big price.
Graeme Johnston’s Day 2 Picks
13:30 – Samcro
14:10 – Presenting Percy
14:50 – Le Breuil each way
15:30 – Min
16:10 – Cause Of Causes
16:50 – Oxford Blu each way
17:30 – Know The Score