The opening race of Day Two at Cheltenham Festival is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle; run over two miles, five furlongs, this year sees Samcro head to the starting post as the one to beat. Unbeaten on all of his six starts to date, he has improved with every start and took the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle last month comfortably. The only thing which may stop him is the going and with the rain seen at Cheltenham in the last two weeks that’s less of an issue than many would have worried.
Up next on Day Two is the RSA Novices’ Chase over three miles for novices. This race is for those who hope to go on to become Gold Cup winners and the list of past winners includes top class horses such as Don Poli, Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth, plus Might Bite who is the current favourite for the 2018 Gold Cup. The biggest surprise this year is perhaps that Nicky Henderson doesn’t have a single runner, although Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls all have contenders with strong credentials.
Race three of Day Two is the always fiercely contested Coral Cup; run over just over two and a half furlongs, a field of 20 or more take on the hurdles course for £56,950 to the winner. Max Dynamite was last seen when finishing 6th on the Flat in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase and has been well backed to win off a mark of 141, but he is just one of six potential runners for owner Rich Ricci.
Up next is one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival, the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Altior was the comfortable winner of the Arkle Chase last year and this looks the obvious next step, with just the one prep one last month seeing him run out an easy winner at Newbury. The competition comes from the aforementioned Rich Ricci, with Min and possibly Douvan. On their day, both would be good enough to win this, but there are question marks over both – consistency for the former and fitness for the later. If either turns up at their best on the day, this will be one of the best races of the week.
The final race of Day 2 on ITV racing is the Glenfarclas Chase, offering an interesting change of pace. Three miles and six furlongs of the cross country course sees the runners take on banks, hedges, hurdles, fences and more. Enda Bolger’s runners are always worth keeping a close eye on in any cross country race and he’ll hope Josies Orders can take a step forward from his last run and regain the title he won in 2016. Grand National runner up Cause Of Causes is the current antepost favourite, and returns to defend the title he won last year from all comers.
To finish Day Two are two races for horses of the future; the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle is a handicap for those who are a step behind the field of the Triumph. As with any handicap race at Cheltenham Festival, it’s always a close contest, and there have been plenty of big price winners. Then to finish is the Champion Bumper; normally for four and five year olds, this National Hunt Flat Race features no obstacles but gives a glimpse at some of the potential stars of the future.