Day Three of the Cheltenham Festival is dubbed St Patrick’s Thursday, and while the Guinness will be flowing like water in some areas of the famous course, we have before us yet another day of top class National Hunt racing.
The feature race of the day is the Stayers’ Hurdle, but there is plenty of other fine racing action to get stuck into aside from the championship race. So read on as we give you the lowdown on the races that feature on the third day of the fantastic race meeting that is the Cheltenham Festival.
13.30 – JLT Novices’ Chase
The day is kicked off with the Grade One JLT Novices’ Chase, a fast-paced chase run over a distance of two miles and four furlongs that is open to horses aged five years and older. There are 17 fences to clear in this one and it is a significant challenge to novice chasers, and one which trainers and jockeys do not take lightly.
The race was inaugurated in 2011 so there isn’t a great deal to go on in terms of the past winner stats, but basing your picks on previous good form over hurdles – ideally at Cheltenham – is a wise move. Some horses simply don’t make the transition from hurdles to fences, so you should ensure the runner you’re backing has at least had a faultless run over the larger barriers. For instance, the 2014 winner, Taquin du Seuil, had won three novice chases and placed in two others in the months before his victory at the Festival.
Of course – as with many races – going with the chief Mullins entry could pay off: he’s saddled four winners to date (prior to the 2018 renewal).
For further details please read our JLT Novices’ Chase Betting Tips article.
14.10 – Pertemps Network Final
The Pertemps Final is a three mile Listed handicap hurdle that has 12 obstacles to jump and which is open to horses aged five years and older. With a large field this race is very tough to call, but there are a few pointers to consider when looking to pick the winner. For instance – prior to the 2016 Festival – four of the last nine winners were eight-year-olds, and nine of the last 12 winners carried weights of less than 11 stone. But given that the 2014 winner – Fingal Bay – had a hefty 11-12 on his back, there are always going to exceptions.
In short, if you are going to keep your wallet shut for any races at Cheltenham, this is probably one you should consider. That said, there is likely to be plenty of each way value and that could be tempting if late market moves suggest any runners have been priced too long.
14.50 – Ryanair Chase
The Ryanair Chase is yet another fine Grade One race that lights up the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. Run over a distance of two miles and five furlongs and with 17 fences to clear, it has seen some very fine chasers storm to victory since it was inaugurated in 2005.
Horses who perform well in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and the King George VI at Kempton on Boxing Day usually fare well in this one, and a runner who has placed or won at a previous Cheltenham Festival is obviously also a good sign. It’s all about the stamina here, so the breeding also comes into it if you are prepared to do your homework and the ground is also sure to be a factor.
For further details please read our Ryanair Chase Betting Tips article.
15.30 – Stayers’ Hurdle (formerly World Hurdle)
The Stayers’ Hurdle is the big race of the day and is the most prestigious long-distance hurdle on the National Hunt calendar. Run over three miles with 12 hurdles to jump, the race was the sole domain of Big Buck’s from 2009 to 2012 when the Paul Nicholls-trained steed triumphed four times in succession.
Past form is everything when seeking the winner of this one, and ideally you will find a runner who has good form over hurdles at Cheltenham, while the Long Walk Hurdle – run at Ascot in December – is generally a decent indicator of how a horse might get on in this one.
The four victories for Big Buck’s and three for Inglis Drever in the last decade or so distort the stats in terms of the age of the winners, suffice to say there is not always a winner as obvious as that pair, and there is always a healthy clutch of each way options available.
For further details please read our Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Tips article.
16.10 – Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate
The Grade Three Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate – formerly known as the Byrne Group Plate – is the first of two handicap chases to get the pulses racing after the big race of the day. Run over a distance of two miles and five furlongs and with 17 fences to jump, it is open to runners aged five years and older, but there hasn’t been a five-year-old winner since Majadou back in 1999.
Nine of the last 12 winners (prior to the 2018 Festival) were of age eight or older and it’s worth noting that 19 of the last 22 winners have carried a weight of less than 11 stone. Ultimately you are seeking a runner who has shown good form at Cheltenham in the past but who has not performed so well in recent times that they have been given too harsh a handicap. You’ll still need a stroke of luck to pick the winner here though and this might be another time to keep your Cheltenham betting powder dry.
16.50 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
The final race of the day – if the charity race, the St Patrick’s Derby is to be ignored – is the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup which is run over a distance of three miles, one and half furlongs and is a really tough race to call.
When trying your luck here, it is worth taking into consideration that – prior to the 2018 Festival – seven of the last nine winners carried weights of 11-06 or greater and that six of the last nine winners were aged eight or nine. There should be scope for some decent each way value, as with many of the lesser contests at Cheltenham, but don’t put your house on this race as there will be no dead certs here.