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Lucky Loader’s Day 3 Cheltenham 2024 Preview: “She reminds me of Mrs Milner”

It was a better showing on Wednesday with two winners from my preview with Jasmin De Vaux and Ballyburn. Hopefully we can find some more on Thursday where the racing looks as tough as ever.

1.30 – Turners Novices’ Chase

On paper, this could be the deepest novice chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, but I am going to side with Facile Vega. I think the key to him could be stepping up in trip. His dam, Quevega, thrived over 2m4f, and she also won at 3m, so it should be in the blood. He didn’t run too badly when last seen at the Dublin Racing Festival after finishing third in the Irish Arkle. Furthermore, he has a good record at Cheltenham, and returning here could bring out the best in him.

Selection:

Facile Vega – Win (2/1)

2.10 – Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle

Gaoth Ciull has been my idea of the winner of the race in recent months, as she reminds me of Mrs Milner, who won this race in 2021. She’s been a model of consistency for Ted Walsh this season in several big field-handicaps at Leopardstown. The daughter of Hazard seems to go in all types of ground, so any juice in the ground won’t put me off her chances.

Elsewhere, Springwell Bay makes my shortlist for Jonjo O’Neill. The seven-year-old gelding ran home like a steam train when finishing second in the Musselburgh qualifier for this race. He is one of the topweights, but when he won here at the November meeting, his trainer wasn’t ruling out the Stayers’ Hurdle. At a double-figure price, he’s worth a play.

Selections:

Gaoth Ciull – EW (7/1)

Springwell Bay – EW (16/1)

2.50 – Ryanair Chase

I think the Denman Chase holds the keys to this race, and that’s why I am going to side with Protektorat and Hitman. Both ran encouraging races behind Shishkin last time out at Newbury, and the form has already taken a boost after Does He Know won the Grimthorpe at Doncaster earlier this month.

Protektorat has been holding his own this season in some competitive races, and he has plenty of good form around Cheltenham. I think the drop-back in trip will help, and with Dan Skelton already among the winners, I can see him going well.

I’ve also liked Hitman for this race for a while. Paul Nicholls says he’s in the best form he’s ever had him at home. The last time we saw him at Newbury, I thought he might give Shishkin a scare but didn’t quite get home. If he can replicate his third in last year’s race, he can be a major player each-way.

Selections:

Protektorat EW (9/1)

Hitman EW (28/1)

3.30 – Stayers’ Hurdle 

This is more competitive than the betting suggests. I’m going to have to have a saver on Paisley Park. Emma Lavelle has kept him in great shape this season, and he’s finished second in three photo finishes. If he can keep it going, I can definitely see him being involved in the places, and it would be great to see him in the winners’ enclosure.

However, my main selection is Noble Yeats. I like the way he won the Cleeve Hurdle last time out at Cheltenham, and it looks like a shrewd bit of placing by Emmet Mullins. The cheek pieces are going back to what he wore to win the Grand National, which could bring out some more improvement. We know he stays well, and he will relish the proper test of stamina.

Selections:

Noble Yeats EW (6/1)

Paisley Park EW (12/1)

4.10 – Plate Handicap Chase

Theatre Man ran a blinder in this race to finish second behind Ginny’s Destiny last month in a race that usually throws up plenty of Cheltenham Festival winners. He has taken to fences really well this season and has the stamina for further which should come into play. I think the son of Ocovango has a very solid chance.

Arctic Bresil also makes my shortlist. He looks to have been campaigned with handicaps in mind and he was a big eye-catcher when finishing second at Punchestown behind Mister Policeman last month. Off a mark of 135, he looks to have been let in lightly.

Selections:

Theatre Man – EW (7/2)

Arctic Bresil – EW (12/1)

4.50 – Mares’ Novice Hurdle

The horse I like for this race is Golden Ace. Most people will think it is between the top three, but don’t rule out this mare. She’s been impressive on both her starts at Taunton, and on her hurdles debut, she beat Lucky Place, who subsequently finished second in Grade 2 and was fourth in the Coral Cup. Moreover, she gets 5 lbs from Brightdaysahead and Jade De Grugy, which could be a huge factor.

Selection:

Golden Ace –  EW (14/1)

5.30 – Kim Muir Challenge Handicap Chase

I really like Cloudy Glen for Venetia Williams in this race. This horse finished second in this race back in 2021, and it looks like he’s been campaigned for another crack at it after some good runs at Cheltenham this season. Lucy Turner and Venetia Williams combined to take this race on Chambard, so they know what it takes. I can see him running well at a big price.

The other horse I have to have a saver on is Annual Invictus for Chris Gordon. He put up a career best to win the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster, which has been boosted by the fast improving Forward Plan. The nine-year-old gelding finished eighth in this race last year, but with a fresher campaign under his belt, I think he can improve on that this time around.

Selections:

Cloudy Glen – EW (25/1)

Annual Invictus – EW (28/1)

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