13:30 - JLT Novices' Chase
This is a strong renewal of this race, and Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who are having a dismal week, saddle the favourite in the shape of YORKHILL (5/4). Last year's Neptune winner has taken to fences well enough and won both his most recent starts at his ease with a fairly fluid round of jumping at play on the most recent occasion. His jumping the run before that was questionable and he tends to jump left. However, another one with course experience and form is the impressive TOP NOTCH (4/1) for Nicky Henderson. The 4/1 about him is very tempting and he gets the vote to win for the fifth time in six starts over the larger obstacles. His only defeat over fences came on chasing debut when he went down by a couple of lengths to CHARBEL, who was travelling well when falling in front in Tuesday's Arkle Trophy. This one will love good to soft ground, having run well on it twice at Cheltenham, most recently when 5th to ANNIE POWER in last year's Champion Hurdle. He was 2nd the year before behind PEACE AND CO in the Triumph and clearly enjoys surroundings here. He is still improving over fences and will go well for the bang in-form Nicky Henderson yard. DISKO (5/1) is the one to complete our top three for Noel Meade. He had a couple of talented sorts behind him, including OUR DUKE, when he won on soft ground at Leopardstown in February. Noel Meade can get one ready for the big day, and he should be still there at the business end.
1. Top Notch (4/1)
2. Yorkhill (5/4)
3. Disko (5/1)
14:10 - Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle
Another puzzling handicap where a host of them have good claims. PRESENTING PERCY (7/1) will be popular with a lot of Irish punters after beating THAT'S A WRAP last time out at Fairyhouse. However, the one I like here is ISLEOFHOPESANDDREAMS (12/1) for Willie Mullins. His latest effort at Punchestown looks decent, considering he had the current favourite for this, PRESENTING PERCY, well behind him. He also had SUTTON MANOR behind him and Willie Mullins is known to like this horse's chances. It's been a forgettable week for the Mullins/Walsh combination but I think this ISLEOFHOPESANDDREAMS can get them back in the winner's enclosure. TOBEFAIR (8/1) could be the story of the festival if it wins, and he could well do it, despite being 65 pounds higher now than he was when he started a series of seven straight handicap victories. He may not be topped out yet and could produce the fairytale of the festival on Thursday.
1. Isleofhopeanddreams (12/1)
2. Tobefair (8/1)
3. Presenting Percy (7/1)
14:50 - Ryanair Chase
UN DE SCEAUX (9/4) could be a great bet at 9/4 in this, and those odds may look generous afterwards. He was not one of the more fancied of Willie Mullins' stable stars coming into this, as that honour fell most especially to DOUVAN, who was beaten on Wednesday. However, UN DE SCEAUX has won here numerous times before, including the Arkle at the 2015 festival, and on his most recent run in January in the Clarence House chase. He easily got the better of the re-opposing UXIZANDRE that day, and also had the 2017 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, SPECIAL TIARA well behind him. UN DE SCEAUX will go off fast and may run the race out of the likes of EMPIRE OF DIRT who would probably want further than this. SUB LIEUTENANT (7/1) could give UN DE SCEAUX most to think about for Henry De Bromhead and the English challenge is headed by UXIZANDRE and JOSSES HILL, neither of which can match UN DE SCEAUX when he is on a going day. UXIZANDRE (4/1) completes our top 3 as he won this in 2015, likes the ground and goes well at Cheltenham, but I think UN DE SCEAUX will take some stopping!
1. Un De Sceaux (9/4)
2. Sub Lieutenant (7/1)
3. Uxizandre (4/1)
15:30 - World Hurdle
UNOWHATIMEANHARRY (11/8) is many people's banker of Day 3, having won eight from eight since November 2015. He has steadily improved and emerged as the supreme staying hurdler on either side of the Irish Sea this term. I won't be backing him at his current odds, however, and I'm going back to SHANESHILL (12/1) for the each-way value. He has been very unlucky, albeit consistent, as a runner-up at the last three Cheltenham festivals, but clearly loves it around here. Ruby has chosen to ride NICHOLS CANYON of the Willie Mullins runners, but just like in the Mare's Hurdle, where he went for LIMINI, and she came in behind stablemate VROUM VROUM MAG, I think Ruby may have chosen the wrong one here again. Course form is everything and SHANESHILL can build on his win over SNOW FALCON recently to at least run into a place, if not finally get his head in front at the festival. Previous winner COLE HARDEN will have plenty of backers, but for another each-way option, I'd turn to BALLYOPTIC (14/1) for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies. He was a good second to UNOWHATIMEANHARRY at Newbury in November, and was less than ten lengths behind him on his most recent outing. He may not be able to reverse that form, but with a tongue-tie reached for, he could certainly get into the mix.
1. Shaneshill (12/1)
2. Unowhatimeanharry (11/8)
3. Ballyoptic (14/1)
16:10 - Handicap Chase
DIAMOND KING (9/2) for the all-conquering Gordon Elliott team is the favourite in this one, and the nine-year-old does have form on the track to his name. He won last year's Coral Cup on good to soft and so will certainly be in the frame here. However, I am opposing him with three each-way options, one of which is another consistent Cheltenham veteran, STARCHITECT (7/1). He's been a relatively close-up 4th and 5th in the Fred Winter and County Hurdle at the last two Cheltenham festivals respectively, and connections are keen to turn him into a Cheltenham winner. He won at Newbury in his latest start and will have the able pilot Tom Scudamore for company on Thursday. The other two I like are ROAD TO RESPECT (22/1) and SIZING CODELCO (14/1). ROAD TO RESPECT actually has a form line with the favourite here. He carried level weights with DIAMOND KING in December and was ahead of him in a race won by CONEY ISLAND. He followed that by getting within ten lengths of MIN at Leopardstown over Christmas, a race where ORDINARY WORLD (3rd in the Arkle on Tuesday) was just half a length in front of Noel Meade's runner. His latest was a strange race where ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS burned off rivals and beat ROAD TO RESPECT by 32 lengths at Navan last month, but I'm happy to put a line through that. He should run a big race, while SIZING CODELCO (14/1) can get Colin Tizzard into the place money after an excellent run to be a length second to TOP NOTCH in December. BARON ALCO is another to consider in a competitive renewal.
1. Starchitect (7/1)
2. Road to Respect (22/1)
3. Sizing Codelco (14/1)
16:50 - Mare's Novices' Hurdle
Willie Mullins collected this prize in 2016 with LIMINI and he may have another of that class in the form of LET'S DANCE (7/4). She hasn't done anything wrong in winning her last four on the bounce, including an annihilation of the useful SLOWMOTION at Leopardstown in December. Her latest Leopardstown success was also impressive as she had the likes of PEACE NEWS and JOEY SASA well behind. However, Willie Mullins has been struggling for form with his string this week, and therefore a risk is taken on COILLTE LASS (25/1) to upset the odds for Paul Nicholls. She's won three out of four starts for Nicholls since joining his yard in April of last year, her only defeat in that time coming against the extremely talented VROUM VROUM MAG in her most recent racecourse appearance. She was just seven lengths behind Willie Mullins' star that day, and that form was franked when VROUM VROUM MAG was second in Tuesday's Mare's Hurdle behind APPLE'S JADE. I think COILLTE LASS is massively overpriced and could well surprise a few here. Another at a colossal price I'd have a small each-way punt on is MONTANA BELLE (66/1). It looks like you could name your price with this one but she has some credible form in the book. She won at Fairyhouse on New Year's Day with a few of today's rivals behind her, and has run twice with credit at Cheltenham. With the way this week is going, anything could happen.
1. Coillte Lass (25/1)
2. Let's Dance (7/4)
3. Montana Belle (66/1)
17:30 - Kim Muir Handicap Chase
The best bet of the day could come in the last race in the shape of MALL DINI (7/1). Katie Walsh takes the ride on last year's Pertemps Final winner, and conditions underfoot will definitely suit the seven-year-old. Since that Cheltenham victory, he has not been out of the front three in five starts, all against very strong opposition. He's run well in defeat to the likes of EDWULF, who was going well on Tuesday until suffering injury, GREAT FIELD, who could be exceptional in time, HAYMOUNT, 3rd in a handicap chase on Tuesday, and BACHASSON, another one of Willie Mullins' talented chasers. This horse always runs his race and Thursday should be no different. WHAT'S HAPPENING (16/1) is a very interesting runner here. He came back from a 477-day lay-off to be second behind PERFECT CANDIDATE at Exeter recently. He loves it at Cheltenham and has won around here twice - in April and October 2015. He should appreciate the drying ground and will improve from his latest run having freshened up and got himself race sharp following that lengthy lay-off. SQUOUATEUR (5/1) is the favourite but he tends to have problems, and before a decent 2nd last time, was eighth and pulled up in his two previous starts. If giving his running he should fill the placings, but if not, PREMIER BOND (14/1) and ANOTHER HERO (14/1) could get involved.
1. Mall Dini (7/1)
2. What's Happening (16/1)
3. Squouateur (5/1)
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