Cheltenham Festival Betting: Tom Lee's Day Two Tips & Blog

After an opening day that was everything we'd hoped for, and more, we gallop on into day two with hopes high for more drama, and a similar edge of the seat ride on Queen Mother Champion Chase day...

The big race is a much debated, fascinating, complex and rich plot, and one with so many possible outcomes we could come up with something approaching a university thesis detailing all of the possible outcomes!

Which one will provide a profit though?

The Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.20pm) is always a much anticipated highlight, serving up the glorious sight of the cream of the speed chasing division going at it hell for leather over the big fences, fast and furious from the off.

If you don't find it exhilerating then you're either devoid of a pulse or should take up base jumping, but the burning questions surround the clash of the generations, with big guns Sprinter Sacre (winner of this race in 2013) and Sire De Grugy (2014) trying to prove they are still as good as they were, while dovetailing that challenge with trying to ward off the up and coming horses such as Mr Mole, Dodging Bullets and Champagne Fever.

Gary Moore Stable Visit : News Photo

The roof will surely come off if Nicky Henderson can somehow coax Sprinter Sacre back to the level required to net this prize for a second time.

Absent for 13 months after suffering from an irregular heartbeat in 2013, he was tenderly handled when finally back in business at Ascot in January, finishing a nonetheless creditable second to young pretender Dodging Bullets.

Can he step up from that and reverse the form, or is Dodging Bullets the value to confirm his superiority?

To my eyes there are too many question marks to justify a wager on Sprinter Sacre, and of the pair Dodging Bullets makes more appeal.

He also won the key trial, Sandown Park's Tingle Creek Chase, but you have to question if that would have been the case had Sire De Grugy been around to defend his title?

Then absent with a niggling hip problem, the reigning champ made a delayed but inconclusive comeback at Newbury, but then bolstered his chances by firing off a resounding warning shot at Chepstow 18 days ago, routing a useful field despite having to concede lumps of weight in handicap company.

Gary Moore Stable Visit : News Photo

While there are shades of the great One Man about Champagne Fever, who lest we forget is nearly a triple Festival winner, and the rogueish but talented Mr Mole could yet throw a spanner in the works if he can keep his temper in check, the resounding impression I got at Chepstow was that Sire De Grugy was back on his 'A' game just in time!

Emphatic in south Wales, the big chestnut has been delighting connections and is my strongest bet of the day.

Sire De Grugy can become the 11th dual winner in the race's history.

From the blink and you'll miss it extremes of the Champion Chase to a race nearly twice the distance, as at 4.00pm they file out onto the idiosyncratic banks course for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but a winner is a winner and after tasting victory Balthazar King in 2012 and 2014, the ace Somerset trainer Philip Hobbs is back for more with 10-year-old Milan gelding Duke Of Lucca.

Wincanton Races : News Photo

Balthazar King misses this assignment in order to remain fresh for a tilt at the Grand National, but having been fourth to him last year this lad looks a more than able deputy.

Neatly positioned when unseating at the 21st in a similar race at Cheltenham in December, Duke Of Lucca has been specifically targeted at this race and can reward connections' forward planning.

Doubly reassuring are the twin facts that six of the last 10 winners of this contest took part in the race in which Duke Of Lucca parted company with Richard Johnson last time out, while his prominent position in the betting is a bonus as 15 of the last 17 winners emerged from the front three in the market. 

The race prior to the Champion Chase has long been a stinker for punters, with the 26-runner Coral Cup (2.40) a fiendish puzzle.

I wouldn't be rushing to back favourite Aux Ptits Soins given that he's never run in this country having arrived from France, and at bigger odds the one to give us a massive run for our cash could be the Venetia Williams-trained Baradari.

I backed him in the Fred Winter 12 months ago (5th, ran okay), and this is a horse who has done well this winter, finishing third behind Sign Of A Victory at Ascot, running down the field in Cheltenham Greatwood Hurdle, and digging in to win back at Ascot when stepping up in trip.

His age group (five-year-old) took this prize in 2006, 2010 and 2011, and this further step up in distance could bring about more improvement.

Even earlier in the day they kick off with the Neptune Novices' Hurdle (1.30), a prize which could find its way into the clutches of Willie Mullins once again, after wins for his stable in this race in 2008, '09 and 2014.

Cheltenham Festival - Champion Day : News Photo

With four winners on the board on Tuesday he can get off to a flying start on day two with Nichols Canyon, a horse he believes possesses the speed to be competitive in a Champion Hurdle sometime in the not too distant future, allied to the stamina to be a danger in a World Hurdle.

He was very impressive in winning Leopardstown's Grade 1 Deloitte Hurdle last time out, and up in trip he can give Ruby Walsh a fourth winner of the meeting.

With winners at 40/1, 40/1, 33/1, 25/1 and 20/1 in the last 10 runnings the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm) hasn't exactly been a punters' paradise! 

Trying to make sure there are no hard luck stories for yours truly is Dan Skelton's Zarib.

He ran a peach of a race when third in Cheltenham's Triumph Hurdle trial back in January, finishing 12 lengths adrift of Triumph Hurdle favourite Peace And Co.

Either side of that run he won with ease at Newbury and Wincanton, and might have plenty more to give from a mark of 133.

His form in Ireland (where he was with Mick Halford) means quicker ground shouldn't be a problem, and the trends look favourably on horses who've had just the required three hurdles runs to qualify for their handicap mark, with seven of the 10 winners of this race to date having done precisely that.

Harder to decipher on day two is the concluding Weatherbys Champion Bumper, which has been ripe for export with 17 of the 22 runnings going to Irish-trained horses.

The one I like from a typically robust challenge from the Emerald Isle is Gordon Elliott's General Principle, about whom you'll get a generous each way price despite his amazing 22 length debut win at Punchestown.

He scorched clear under David Mullins at the County Kildare track, and is also the winner of his sole point-to-point.

In a typically open betting heat he looks a real threat.

Good luck!


1.30 - Neptune Novices' Hurdle - 3 Nichols Canyon (win)

2.40 - Coral Cup (Hcap Hurdle) - 17 Baradari (each way)

3.20 - Queen Mother Champion Chase - 7 Sire De Grugy (win)

4.00 - Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase - 7 Duke Of Lucca (each way)

4.40 - Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - 15 Zarib (each way)

5.15 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper - 7 General Principle (each way)


Check out a Day Two video preview from the great Mick Fitzgerald!