4 things to look out for on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival

It’s St Patrick’s Thursday at Prestbury Park.

DAY THREE OF the Cheltenham Festival carries the St Patrick’s moniker in the presumed hope that adding a celebratory feel can distract from the lack of top-quality action.

Perhaps that’s a shade harsh given the horses that have won on Thursday in the past, such as Big Buck’s, Vautour and Un de Sceaux.

Nevertheless, as Ted Walsh once said, ‘Nobody is trying to breed a Stayers’ Hurdle winner’. Despite this, the day can still be entertaining.

The Inbetweeners

The JLT Chase and the Ryanair are both over around two and a half miles, the novices’ contest slightly shorter. The races are both relatively new additions to the Festival, but add options for chasers over the intermediate distance.

This in-between trip has led to a slight trend for those who genuinely relish it. Vautour won the JLT, and then followed up in the Ryanair the following year. This year’s renewal of the Ryanair see the last two winners of the race line up but both are far down the betting, with last year’s Arkle winner Footpad stepping up in trip after what has been a disappointing second season as a chaser. While a two-and-a-half mile Grade One chase at the Festival may not be for the purists, it certainly doesn’t lack for intrigue.

Emerging Rivalry

New Year Meeting - Cheltenham Racecourse Lostintranslation ridden by Robbie Power (left) jumps with Defi Du Seuil ridden by Barry Geraghty in the Betbright Dipper Novices' Chase during the New Year Meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse. Source: David Davies

Defi du Seuil and Lostintranslation have what looks like the making of long-standing rivalry developing. They have met twice already this season and the score stands at one apiece. At Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, Lostintranslation got into a battle with Defi and came out on top.

That day Barry Geraghty wasn’t delighted with his ride. When the two met again the scores were levelled. This time at Sandown in the Scilly Isles Chase, Geraghty got his tactics right and got the better of Lostintranslation by playing his cards late. Robbie Power wasn’t on board in the Scilly Isles, but he’s back in the saddle on Thursday and will have no interest in being mugged late.

Power v Geraghty is a battle of great Royal County horsemen. Both are bullish about their respective mounts’ chances. Both know what mistakes to avoid. A fascinating clash awaits in the opening race on Thursday.

Machine in working order

Faugheen with John Codd Faugheen tries out some pumpkins with John Codd at Willie Mullins' yard. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The journey to peak public consciousness for a horse can be a long and bumpy one. Faugheen is a horse held in genuine affection by the racing public, particularly the Irish racing public.

In his first 15 runs, he won 14, including eight Grade Ones and at two Cheltenham Festivals. His stunning victory on his 15th start was in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, and led famously succinct and businesslike commentator Dessie Scahill to proclaim “the machine was back in full working order”.

Since then he hasn’t been. He has only won once in six starts. However, that win was a remorseless lowering of champion stayer Penhill’s flag at Punchestown. Faugheen is now 11-years-old, and while there are few Cheltenham champions of that vintage, he was going very well when falling behind Apple’s Jade at Christmas. Connections are adamant the machine still works, but it will have to be well-oiled to get past Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle. If Faugheen wins, Cheltenham racecourse will need their own machine — to put the roof back on.

Corinthian Challenge

The closing race on Thursday is the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir, one of three races in the Cheltenham Festival restricted to amateur riders. Should Jamie Codd steer Measureofmydreams to victory, it would bring his total up to three for the week (more than Davy Russell, Jack Kennedy & Dickie Johnson combined) and bring him a fifth victory in the race.

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An amateur in name only, Jamie Codd and several of the other top Irish point-to-point riders have a significant advantage over their British rivals. The advantage? Talent. Quite simply the British riders are sub-standard, bar maybe Sam Waley-Cohen. The healthy state of the Irish point-to-point scene in Ireland, and the huge prices that are often paid for young point-to-point winning horses, means good riders are crucial.

Retaining amateur status means these riders get to sit on more quality horses between the flags, rather than struggle in the professional ranks with fewer opportunities.

The key point is unless you are a regular points attendee, witnessing these brilliant horsemen in action, is a rare experience. The Kim Muir, NH Chase and Foxhunters give them a considerably larger audience than usual.

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Thom Malone

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