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Lucky Loader’s Day 2 Cheltenham 2024 Preview: Festival Form Is Key

We move on to Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival, with the highlight being the Queen Mother Champion Chase. There are a few hotpots running today; some will win, and some I think you can take on. Hopefully, we can have a better day than yesterday.

1.30 – Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle 

After weeks of trying to guess Willie Mullins bingo, he finally made his decision to send Ballyburn here. I’m afraid I am going to be siding with the masses and going with the favourites. He has been very impressive in his last two starts at Leopardstown, especially when he won at the Dublin Racing Festival. The son of Flemensfirth has definitely been the best novice hurdler on either side of the Irish Sea and shown that he is versatile over different trips. He should take all the beating.

If you wanted an each-way selection, I think Handstands can go well. He remains undefeated since joining Ben Pauling’s team. I was impressed by the way he won the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon in February, and he seemed to cope well with the testing conditions. Pauling won this race with Willoughby Court in 2017, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him make the frame.

Selections:

Ballyburn – Win (8/15)

Handstands – EW (11/1)

2.10 – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase 

Fact To File is the one horse I have wanted to take on in the build up to the Festival. Yes, he did nothing wrong last time out when he beat Gaelic Warrior, but that was no contest. Furthermore, he’s got the stamina to prove at this trip, and with the ground having gone heavy, that has to be a big worry.

One horse that the rain would have helped is Stay Away Fay for Paul Nicholls. I think he should be vying for favouritism. This season he has taken to fences well, and he ran a cracker in the Cotswolds Chase when finishing third on Cheltenham Trials Day, taking on older horses and giving some of them weight. The seven-year-old gelding won the Albert Bartlett at last year’s Festival, and I think he can add another win at Prestbury Park to his CV.

Selection:

Stay Away Fay – Win (3/1)

2.50 – Coral Cup

It’s no secret that Martin Brassil has wanted to win this race over the years. In fact, he’s come second in the last two renewals with Fastorslow and An Epic Song, but I think he could go one better with Built By Ballymore in 2024. This horse looks very talented, and he seemed to have plenty in hand when winning at Punchestown in January. The handicapper has given him a mark of 139, which looks to be workable, and the first-time cheekpieces should help keep his mind on the job. 

Selection:

Built By Ballymore – EW (7/1)

3.30 – Queen Mother Champion Chase 

El Fabiolo is the most likely winner, but he doesn’t hold an aura of invincibility for me. It’s been well documented that he’s not the most proficient jumper, and I think one day he is going to make a mistake where he’ll be punished.

The one from a betting point of view that I like is Edwardstone. He was deadly when connections decided to make the running at Newbury in testing ground, as he’s always shown a tendency to be free in races. If they decide to employ the same tactics again, he could be hard to peg back in a race that has had some upsets over the years, and I think he’s a good each way price at 8/1.

Selection:

Edwardstone – EW (8/1)

4.10 – Cross County Chase

Gordon Elliott always seems to have the keys to this race, and I think he’ll take it again with Delta Work, who is going for a hat-trick in the race. Even though he’s yet to sparkle this season, he’s campaigned with the Cross Country in mind. Last year, he got the better of Galvin, who opposes him again, but I can’t see him reversing the form, especially with the ground being on the soft side.

Delta Work will be wearing first-time blinkers, which should just help him keep his mind on the job. Gordon Elliott has used them in the past with the likes of Tiger Roll in this race, so that doesn’t bother me.

Selection:

Delta Work – Win (11/4)

4.50 – Grand Annual Handicap Chase 

I put up Harpers Brook last time out when he won at Sandown. He’s clearly not a straightforward horse after throwing away a couple of races, but he is very talented. It’s interesting to see Ben Pauling dropping him back down in distance to 2m as he won this race with Global Citizen in 2022. You normally want a horse to be on the front end, and I think Kielan Woods will want to ride him handy. I also think he’ll like the hustle and bustle of a big field handicap, which should bring his stamina into play. I’m expecting a big run from him.

I’m also going to have a saver on Madara for Sophie Leech. He’s already been to Cheltenham and got the shirt this season. The last time we saw him, he was a rare British winner at the Dublin Racing Festival and appeared to have plenty in hand. He won’t mind the soft going, and I think he’s got a solid chance of going well.

Selections:

Harpers Brook – EW (10/1)

Madara – EW (13/2)

5.30 – Champion Bumper

It’s been a quiet build up to the Champion Bumper this year with no standout candidate at the top of the market. However, I do like the chances of Jasmin De Vaux. I put him up in my antepost column expecting him to be a shorter price as he looked like a horse with a bit of X-Factor when he bolted up at Naas in January. It’s good to see Patrick Mulins riding him as it gives the nod that it’s likely to be Willie Mullins’ best bumper horse.

I’ll also give a shoutout to Sixmilebridge, who won eased down at Sandown last month. Ben Pauling has been on fire with his crop of bumper horses this season and this horse looks to be right up there with the best of them.

Selections:

Jasmin De Vaux – EW (6/1)

Sixmilebridge – EW (16/1)

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