Cheltenham Day 3: Saphir can be best in the World
Some impressive performances yesterday at Prestbury Park, most notably Don Poli who won with tons in hand in the RSA and must now be a leading contender for next year’s Gold Cup. Hopefully there will be more performances to leave us with gaping mouths on day three and I am hoping that Saphir Du Rheu may be one of them in a very competitive World Hurdle.
With seventeen runners, it is one of the biggest fields of all time in the Day 3 highlight and with last year’s first and second not around, it has opened up into what is a tricky race to decipher. Paul Nicholls, for so long the master of this race with the great Big Bucks, may just hold the key again with Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar and the former, who will be sporting the same colours as Big Bucks, gets a tentative vote from me.
The 6yo was a very progressive hurdler last season but connections decided to send him over fences at the beginning of this campaign and it all started well with victory at Exeter but he tipped up on his next start in the Kauto Star Novices Chase and the decision was made to revert him back to the smaller obstacles.
He is made to be a chaser and he could be a big player next season if returned to that sphere but was very dogged in victory in the Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance last time and will hopefully have a big say today. He has plenty of room for progression over this trip, is pretty adaptable ground wise and with the stable and jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies in great form, 13/2 looks a generous price to me.
In the other Grade 1’s on the card, Don Cossack looks the likely winner of the Ryanair Chase after a stellar season for Gordon Elliott. Gigginstown’s 8yo has finally delivered on the promise he has always shown this season. He arrives unbeaten in four this season and has trounced some talented rivals in the process. He fell here last year in the RSA which is a slight worry but he has been foot perfect since and is definitely the one to beat.
I would love to see Hidden Cyclone give Shark Hanlon a victory on the biggest stage of all but he may have to settle for second best again and connections may be ruing not taking their chance in yesterday’s Champion Chase. Foxrock is the dark horse having been supplemented late but he will have to prove his speed over this trip on a sound surface. He is progressing at a rate of knots but may actually have been better taking a shot at the Gold Cup.
In the opener, the JLT Novices Chase, Apache Stronghold has a cracking chance. He was a Grade 1 winner last time at Leopardstown getting the better of today’s rival Valseur Lido and connections have always said that he is a far better horse on good ground, which he encounters today. Expect Paul Carberry to again play the waiting game and hopefully we will see those pink colours flashing home up the hill.
In the Pertemps, I am having a few pennies e/w way on both Brother Brian and Sybarite. The former is a huge horse that travels extremely well and he should love the fast pace today and the step up to 3 miles for the first time today. Sybarite can be a tricky type at times but he is another that will enjoy coming off of this fast pace and he has such a light weight he cannot be let go at big odds.
I am also taking e/w shots at the gallant old Hunt Ball in the Grade 3 handicap chase. Despite having to lump top weight around, he loves this place and may stay on for a place. In the Kim Muir, Heaney gets the vote now encountering nice ground and after a promising effort behind Foxrock at Leopardstown last time.
Kevin Walsh 12/3/15
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