CHACUN POUR SOI is the clear form choice in the feature Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
Willie Mullins' star has raced to a series of impressive wins this season – and can follow up the success of stablemate Appreciate It from Tuesday's opening card.
Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to take the Unibet Champion Hurdle during the high class programme.
Her mount Honeysuckle was one of a series of well-backed winners, but bookmakers were saved a large payout when Concertista was narrowly defeated.
Here are Newsboy's best bets for day two :
2 BOB OLINGER
3 BEAR GHYLLS
BRAVEMANSGAME, who has been compared to the great Denman by the duo’s trainer, Paul Nicholls, gets the vote for a first Cheltenham Festival win.
Whether he can match the feats of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero only time will tell, but what is for certain is that the Ditcheat six-year-old has made a most promising start to his hurdling career.
Beaten in two bumpers in the first half of last season, Bravemansgame, with the help of a wind operation and the opportunity to tackle obstacles, has emerged a different horse this term.
He was edged out by subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Eagle at Chepstow in October, but Bravemansgame is unbeaten in three outings since.
Having scored by 11 lengths under Harry Cobden at Exeter at the start of November, my selection defied a penalty by seven and a half lengths when stepped up to two and a half miles at Newbury 24 days later.
But it was his victory in in Newbury’s Grade 1 Challow Hurdle four days after Christmas that really announced his arrival as potential star, as Bravemansgame made the early running before zooming 10 lengths clear of Star Gate.
There is plenty more where that came from.
Irish challengers Bob Olinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil are winners at the highest level who have their best days ahead of them, while Bear Ghylls is going from strength to strength.
2 EKLAT DE RIRE
3 SPORTING JOHN
MONKFISH is considered by many to be the Irish banker of Cheltenham 2021 – and with good reason.
Trainer Willie Mullins always believed last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle hero would go on to better things when allowed to tackle the larger obstacles.
And Monkfish has done exactly that, starting off with a four-length victory stroll at odds of 1-3 at Fairyhouse at the end of November.
Mullins then wasted no time in sending Monkfish to the top level, and Paul Townend’s mount took another step forward with a three-length margin over Albert Bartlett runner-up Latest Exhibition in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
He stayed in Grade 1 for the Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival in Foxrock, where the seven-year-old son of Stowaway gave the performance of a horse capable of going to the very top.
Making the running in an eight-runner field, Monkfish was always travelling with consummate ease and seemed hardly to come out of second gear to dish out another humbling to Latest Exhibition, this time by 11 lengths.
Mullins saddled nine winners of the meeting’s 15 races, and captured four of the six Grade 1s – but it was Monkfish who was universally lauded as the star of the show.
His latest success sets a standard that his rivals will struggle to match – never mind surpass – and Monkfish is rightly at cramped odds for a seventh win on the bounce.
Eklat De Rire and Sporting John are the most convincing candidates for the minor medals.
2 BLUE SARI
3 BOTOX HAS
CRAIGNEICHE has an attractive profile for his bid to give Nicky Henderson a fifth Coral Cup victory.
The debut winner of a Market Rasen bumper in June 2019, the son of Flemensfirth had two runs over hurdles in the middle of the winter that followed.
Third to The Big Breakaway at Newbury a week before Christmas, Craigneiche opened 2020 with a three-and-a-quarter-length score at Doncaster in the middle of January.
We didn’t see the seven-year-old until more than a year later, when Tom Cannon’s partner took in a handicap hurdle over Ascot’s extended two miles and three furlongs on the Clarence House Chase undercard.
Sent off at 14-1 in a field of 12, Craigneiche was pushed along to hit the front on the run to the final flight before surging clear to hold Arrivederci by seven lengths.
The handicapper hasn’t taken that performance lying down, raising my selection 12lb to a new British Horseracing Authority rating of 139.
But Craigneiche is a long way from reaching the bottom of the barrel and an honest gallop at two miles and five furlongs should prove right up his street.
In a race of endless possibilities, Blue Sari, Botox Has and Grand Roi are just three names worth throwing into the melting pot.
1 CHACUN POUR SOI
2 NUBE NEGRA
3 FIRST FLOW
CHACUN POUR SOI has a gilt-edged chance to fill one of the very flew blanks on Willie Mullins’ stellar curriculum vitae.
A warm order when a last-minute scratching in 2020, the star two-miler, who has suffered just one defeat since moving to Closutton from France, has been in dominant form this winter.
Returning to the fray in Cork’s Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase in December, the 1-5 chance had matters under control when stablemate Cash Back fell at the final fence, leaving him to coast home by 19 lengths.
Back at the highest level at Leopardstown over Christmas, Paul Townend’s mount, who had been beaten by A Plus Tard in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase of 12 months previously, set the record straight with a ruthless six-and-a-half-length dismissal of Notebook with Put The Kettle On, whose unbeaten record at Cheltenham includes the 2020 Arkle Trophy, back in third.
It was a similar story in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month, which Chacun Pour Soi captured for the second year in succession.
As Townend oozed assurance from every pore, his partner sauntered to the head of affairs with the final fence to jump, unextended to beat Fakir D’Oudairies by eight lengths.
The chief question is whether Chacun Pour Soi can produce his best now that he encounters Cheltenham’s ups and downs for the first time.
If he does, he surely wins.
Nube Negra took the prized scalp of the absent dual Champion Chaser Altior in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park in December, and Dan Skelton’s up-and-comer is poised to profit should the market leader fail to meet expectations.
Cilaos Emery, Sceau Royal, Rouge Vif and Greaneteen have work to do, but First Flow racked up a six-timer with a seven-length margin over reigning Champion Chaser Politologue in Ascot’s top-tier Clarence House Chase in January, and is well capable of playing a part.
1 SOME NECK
3 BALKO DES FLOS
SOME NECK is put up as an each-way option against market leaders – and past winners – Easysland and Tiger Roll.
A Grade 2 victor over fences for Willie Mullins, the grey is now in the care of Co Meath-based John McConnell who has switched the son of Yeats to the cross-country discipline this winter.
Some Neck got off to an encouraging start in the sphere when third to Neverushacon at Punchestown in November.
And, wearing the cheekpieces he’s declared to sport today, the nine-year-old built on that with a last-gasp nose defeat of Defi Des Carres in a handicap over today’s course and distance 17 days later.
A defeat over hurdles at Punchestown is of little relevance now he’s back over the banks and hedges, and Some Neck, partnered by four-time champion jockey Richard Johnson – amateur Ben Harvey is unable to compete at this year’s Festival – can show to good effect.
Tiger Roll has two successes in this race but it looks as though age is catching up with the dual Grand National hero, and reigning title-holder Easysland rates a bigger danger despite a far-from-ideal preparation.
Balko Des Flos and Le Breuil have won here in the past and are capable of getting involved.
1 SKY PIRATE
SKY PIRATE is progressing at a rate of knots and a return to handicaps can help him return to winning ways.
A three-and-three-quarter-length margin over Ibleo at Cheltenham 13 days before Christmas was a first success over fences for the Jonjo O’Neill trainee.
And the win appears to have done him the power of good – Sky Pirate followed up when beating another of today’s foes, Amoola Gold, by two and a quarter lengths at Warwick in the mid-January.
The eight-year-old son of Midnight Legend returned to Warwick for the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase last time, and there was little wrong with his 14-length second to Allmankind.
Now back in handicaps, Sky Pirate has further improvement up his sleeve as he bids to go past a British Horseracing Authority mark of 152, and Nick Scholfield will bid his time on the strong traveller before aiming to pounce late.
Dangers lurk at every turn in a real head-scratcher, with Embittered, Zanza and Chosen Mate a trio of viable winners who warrant a second look.
2 SIR GERHARD
3 THREE STRIPE LIFE
KILCRUIT is expected to supply Willie Mullins with an incredible 11th triumph.
Ireland’s champion trainer sees the Champion Bumper as the race that launched his career and he’s got his usual strong – and, very likely, winning – hand in 2021.
Kilcruit is top of the list.
The son of Stowaway, handled by Mullins’ brother Tony for his first run, a second at Clonmel last March, opened his account for the Closutton stable at the first time of asking with a nine-and-a-half-length victory over Killer Mode at Navan at the start of December.
Kilcruit went off the 11-10 hotpot to beat nine opponents for the Grade 2 bumper on the first day of Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival nine weeks later, and it’s no exaggeration to say his win was jaw-dropping.
Evidently Patrick Mullins – who gives way to Paul Townend – struggled to comprehend it as his mount eased 12 lengths clear of Letsbeclearaboutit, and that run makes Kilcruit an impressive clubhouse leader.
Former Gordon Elliott inmate Sir Gerhard boosts the Mullins squad still further, while Three Stripe Life, still at Cullentra House under Denise Foster’s name, also warrants respect.
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