Day Three of the Cheltenham Festival and there will be plenty of sore heads and racegoers struggling out of bed in the morning, as they realise they are only half way through the Festival and there are still two more days to go!
There are not one but two open Grade 1s on the Thursday, but the day starts with the JLT Novices’ Chase. Run over two and a half miles, this year’s field looks extremely open with a number of horses who could potentially win. Invitation Only represents the well known silks of the Wylies and following a solid winter looks the one to beat.
Up next on Day Three is the Pertemps Final. A handicap hurdle which only horses who qualify in certain races through the season can run in, this race has often been the scene of a very well judged handicap “plot” through selective entries. Run over three miles the Pertemps has been full of drama in previous years and expect no different this year.
The Ryanair Chase is the first open Grade 1 on Day Three. Un De Sceaux won this race last year – having finished second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase the year before – and is the one to beat having won his two runs this season on a canter. His high octane, force the pace style has meant he’s normally been seen as a two miler, but he coped with the Cheltenham Hill last year.
The Stayers’ Hurdle follows; as the name suggests, this race is run over three miles. It looks potentially the most competitive of all the Grade 1s, with the constantly improving Supasundae taking on the much younger Sam Spinner (winner of the Long Walk Hurdle) and the winner of the Liverpool Hurdle, Yanworth.
The Festival Handicap Plate Chase follows, before the baby of the Cheltenham Card, the Mares Novices’ Hurdle. This has only been run twice, with Willie Mullins training both the winners so far (and Ruby Walsh riding). It’s therefore no surprise that a Willie Mullins horse is again the odds on favourite.
Day Three finishes with an amateur riders race – the Kim Muir Challenge Cup. Run over three miles, this was won by the 40/1 chance Domesday Book last year, and another big shock could happen again this year.