The second day of the Cheltenham Festival always means that it is Queen Mother Champion Chase day a race which decides the two mile chase champion of the season. There is also the very competitive Grade 1 RSA Chase, plus the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle as well as the hugely competitive Grade 3 Coral Cup. The final race is the Grade One Champion Bumper
1.30 Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Race
This Amateur rider race is always highly competitive which always attracts a big field. Favouritism this year is likely to be between the Willie Mullins trained Allee Garde and the Paul Nicholls entry Harry The Viking a winner four times already this season.
2.05 Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle
There has been some very useful past winners of this race, such as First Lieutenant 12 months ago and Peddlers Cross in 2010. However it is not necessarily a good race for favourites with Mikael D’Haguenet in 2009 being the only one to find the hallowed Cheltenham Festival winners enclosure in the last ten years. That fact does not auger too well for the current 5/2 favourite Simonsig from the Nicky Henderson stable but on all known recent form he does appear to be the one to beat in this.
2.40 RSA Chase
Since the announcement that David Pipe’s Grands Crus will run in the RSA and not the Gold Cup betting has become quite frenzied for this excellent looking 3 mile Novice Chase renewal. Grands Crus looks certain to go off as the favourite, but he is by no means a certainty as the race has attracted several top class novice chasers. These include Bobs Worth a Festival winner 12 months ago, First Lieutenant who beat new Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby in the Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle on this day a year ago as well as the Paul Nicholls big fancy, Join Together twice a winner of 3 miles plus races on this course this season.
3.20 Queen Mother Champion Chase
This is set up for a showdown between Sizing Europe winner of the race 12 months ago and his great rival 2010 winner Big Zeb. However it is not as ‘cut and dried’ as all that as Nicky Henderson’s stable are quite keen on the chances of their Finian’s Rainbow and the Paul Nicholls entry Kauto Stone could well get himself amongst the action if he is fully fit and focussed.
4.00 Coral Cup
One of the most competitive betting Handicap Hurdle races of the ‘Festival’ which is rarely won by favourites, the last coming back in 2003 with Xenophon. The likely favourite for this year’s renewal is the David Pipe trained Balgarry who’s only run in this country saw him win the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Newbury just over a week ago. He has been backed into 6/1 and now, whether he needs the burden or not, he is likely to start the race at the head of the market.
4.40 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
There has been plenty of antepost support for the Alan King trained Vendor following his Juvenile Hurdle win at Newbury on New Years Eve. He is likely to go off as the favourite but he can expect stiff resistance from the David Pipe lead entry Kazlian a winner of his last two starts at Juvenile and Novice level and Edeymi from the Alan Martin yard in Ireland who was an impressive Maiden Hurdle winner at Clonmel a month ago. Paul Nicholls has the interestingly named Ulck Du Lin making his debut in England, who is said to be a very impressive youngster with ‘bags of speed’.
5.15 Champion Bumper
This final race of the day will be a fiercely competitive affair with any amount in with chances. Leading the betting currently with odds of 6/1 is the John Ferguson trained New Years Eve who has booked Barry Geraghty for the ride. Also being heavily backed is the Brian Hamilton entry Moscow Mannon winner of the Galway Festival Bumper back in July and a winner of two subsequent ‘Bumper’s. Royal Guardsman from the Colin Tizzard stable is highly regarded while Willie Mullins has two in the race, Champagne Fever and Pique Sous both of which were winner’s last time out.