Tom Lee's Cheltenham Festival tips: Day 2 - Neon Wolf set for bright start and Bakmaj to land a big finish


Off to a fantastic start courtesy of the likes of reformed character Labaik, classy novice Altior, gutsy performer Un Temps Pour Tout, plus the Champion Hurdle one-two for owner JP McManus and trainer Nicky Henderson with Buveir D'Air leading home stablemate My Tent Or Yours, the 2017 Cheltenham Festival is officially up and running, and we go steaming into day two with winners on the wish list.

Kicking off at 1.30pm with the Neptune Novices' Hurdle, Unibet customers would do well to look long and hard at the market leader, Neon Wolf (7/4), an unbeaten six-year-old who'll be partnered by Champion Hurdle winning rider Noel Fehily.

Fehily was at his brilliant best to help Buveir D'Air come out on top in Tuesday's feature, and here his mount has much to recommend him.

Neon Wolf has displayed a mix of speed and stamina in beating all comers to date, turning on the style to win a traditionally informative Grade 2 contest at Haydock Park last time out.

What's more, the stats endorse his chances, given that four of the last eight winners of the Neptune were top-rated, 12 of the last 19 were already a graded winner over hurdles, while five of the last seven began their career in an Irish Point-to-Point.

Neon Wolf ticks all those boxes, and is very much the one to beat.

After his Champion Hurdle masterclass many punters will be putting their faith in than man Henderson to solve the RSA Chase (2.10pm), with the master trainer responsible for favourite Might Bite, a horse who had Kempton Park's Kauto Star Novices' Chase sewn up back in December, before a capsize at the last cost him the race.

He has since triumphed in a small field at Doncaster, but mistakes like the blunder he produced at Kempton aren't tolerated at this level, and the one to take him on with at each way prices looks like Acapella Bourgeois (6/1).

Trained by Sandra Hughes in Ireland, this fast improving animal is on a roll having won his last two outings, both at Navan.

Upped to the three mile trip of the RSA most recently, he produced a career best 32 length victory when coming home in splendid isolation in the Ten Up Novice Chase.

That was a classy display from a horse who goes on any ground, and at decent odds he looks a big player.

It could be quite a day for the rider of Acapella Bourgeois, Roger Loughran, because just 40 minutes later one of the lesser known names in the weighing room gets the leg-up on my fancy for Coral Cup at 2.50pm.

A field of 26 stands between us and a payout, but anyone who sides with Loughran's mount, Peregrine Run (8/1), is a horse who has long been specifically trained for this target.

Just two runs this season have yielded a course and distance win back in November, plus a rock solid third at Warwick, after which he has been saved with the Coral Cup in mind.

It's the first of those outings that really fires the imagination tough - a display that showed quality and guts in equal measure - on what is probably the most demanding track in racing.

It was November the 11th when his trainer, Peter Fahey, brought him across from County Kildare to contest a Cheltenham Grade 2, in which he beat Wholestone (a leading fancy for Friday's Albert Bartlett), West Approach (runs in Thursday's Stayers Hurdle), plus Dan Skelton's Spiritofthegames, an improver who won with plenty to spare at Taunton recently.

All three pay a handsome compliment to Peregrine Run, who can return the favour by giving us a massive run for our cash. Back him each way.

A la Altior on Tuesday, you won't get rich backing Douvan to add yet another win to his CV in the feature Queen Mother Champion Chase, so instead bide your time and wait for each way pick Bakmaj (12/1) in the concluding Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.30pm).

Five of the last seven winners of this event were priced between 14/1 and 40/1, and at likely odds of around 16/1 Bakmaj could well be another.

First time out he chased home the favourite for this, Carter McKay, but showed the benefit of that experience to run out a ready five length winner at Leopardstown last time out. There's a very strong argument that the gap between them in the market shouldn't be anything like as big, and fingers crossed Bakmaj can reward those punters who back him to continue his upward curve.