WINNING NAP, NEXT BEST and PLACE BET from SHAMROCK: It was a solid start to Cheltenham for SHAMROCK on Tuesday when he had three winning bets from six.

Willie Mullins got off to an electric start at the Festival and I was delighted to be amongst the winners too on day one with:

1.30 SHANESHILL (place) 2nd 9/1
2.05 UN DE SCEAUX (nap) WON 4/6
3.20 FAUGHEEN (next best) WON 4/5

And now for day two which looks a whole lot trickier:

1:30 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle) (4yo+, Class 1, 2m 5f, 10 runners)

Yesterday’s Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen won this last season and again Willie Mullins has a strong hand with Outlander and Nichols Canyon. On Channel 4’s Morning Line this morning Mullins identified Nichols Canyon as the horse he was most looking forward to seeing today and it’s easy to see why as the five-year-old is unbeaten in three completed starts over hurdles (also unseated once) including two Grade 1 prizes. He was a Listed winner on the flat when trained by John Gosden and although this race doesn’t normally get won by an ex-flat type – I think he can edge an open renewal of the Neptune.

2:05 RSA Chase (Grade 1 Novices’ Chase) (5yo+, Class 1, 3m 110y, 9 runners)

A quartet of Irish challengers, again spear-headed by Willie Mullins and Don Poli who comes into this on to a hat-trick and is around 2.98 on BETDAQ. He hasn’t been seen since winning the Topaz Chase at Leopardstown after which Mullins said: “I’ve been saying all week it was probably the best Topaz Chase that’s ever been run here. He is improving all the time and he could be anything – he could be a Gold Cup horse.” He’s clearly held in the highest regard, is versatile ground wise and relatively lightly raced. My day two nap.

2:40 Coral Cup (Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle) (4yo+, Class 1, 2m 5f, 26 runners)

There are puzzles, enigmas and then Coral Cups to solve !! This looks as competitive as always and it’s a race where the market leader has a wretched record. A place bet (obviously!) only on Taglietelle who romped home by 19 lengths in a flat race at Fairyhouse last time out which presumably was a freshener for this. The Gordon Elliott trained runner looks fairly well in.

3:20 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m, 11 runners)

A strong Irish challenge numerically with five of the 11 runners but it’s only really Champagne Fever that can be given any kind of chance on the formbook. Winner of the Champion Bumper in 2012, the Supreme in 2013 and desperately unlucky not to complete the Festival hat-trick in the Arkle last year he comes into this on the back of a smooth success in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park last time and I think has an excellent chance – especially with question marks against former champions Sprinter Sacre and Sire de Grugy.

4:00 Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country) (5yo+, Class 2, 3m 7f, 16 runners)

The Irish have an exceptional record in the cross country chase and again present a strong challenge. I’m having a small bet on the old boy Chicago Grey who is the quirky sort needed to do well around here. He ran well enough in fifth in this last year and has slipped down the weights since.

4:40 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (4yo, Class 1, 2m 110y, 22 runners)

Thunder Zone was up against it when second to Kitten Rock at Gowran Park last time out but ran well in second and again is a small place recommendation in a wide open contest.

5:15 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1 Standard Open NH Flat Race) (4-6yo, Class 1, 2m 110y, 24 runners)

After Colin Tizzard and Phillip Hobbs rudely interrupted the Irish domination of the bumper normal service has been resumed over the last three years! It often throws up a big priced winner so don’t ignore second or even third strings. These horses are so inexperienced and so full of potential that anything can happen. With that in mind my pick is the Willie Mullins trained Stone Hard who was so impressive when winning under today’s jockey Paul Townend at Gowran Park.

1.30 NICHOLS CANYON (next best)
2.05 DON POLI (nap)
2.40 TAGLIETELLE (place)
4.00 CHICAGO GREY (place)
4.40 THUNDER ZONE (place)

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