Thursday, March 7, 2019 - Defending champion Altior (Nicky Henderson, 4/11 favourite with Betway) tops 12 confirmations for the £450,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30pm), highlight of Ladies Day at The Festival™ presented by Magners, Wednesday, March 13.
The Patricia Pugh-owned nine-year-old is seeking a fourth consecutive victory at The Festival, following wins in the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2016), G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (2017) and last year's G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles, when he came home seven lengths clear of Min (Willie Mullins, 5/1).
Altior has now won his last 17 Jump races and, if recording a repeat win in the two-mile chasing championship next week, he will join the four-time Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle hero Big Buck's in winning 18 consecutive Jump races.
So far this season Altior has gained two easy wins, in the G1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park in December and in the G1 Matchbook Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.
His trainer Nicky Henderson said: "Altior is ready to go and is in good form ahead of the Champion Chase.
"On the Monday before Cheltenham last year, we did have an injury scare with him and that was a worry and it makes you realise that everything has to go right between now and Wednesday.
"However, we are very pleased with him and, if he does line up, then he will have every chance of winning the Champion Chase at The Festival again."
As well as last year's runner-up Min, Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has also left in the 2018 G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase scorer Footpad (6/1) and Un De Sceaux (14/1), who was runner-up to Sprinter Sacre in 2016 before winning the 2017 G1 Ryanair Chase, in which he was second last year.
Also among the G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase confirmations are Sceau Royal (Alan King, 14/1), successful over the course and distance in the G2 Shloer Chase at The November Meeting, and Politologue (Paul Nicholls, 20/1), who was fourth to Altior in 2018. Lady Buttons (Phil Kirby, 33/1) would create history by becoming the first mare to win should she prevail.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Betway odds: 4/11 Altior; 5/1 Min; 6/1 Footpad; 10/1 Un de Sceaux; 14/1 Sceau Royal; 20/1 Politologue; 28/1 Saint Calvados; 33/1 Castlegrace Paddy, Lady Buttons, Ordinary World; 40/1 God's Own, Hell's Kitchen
Each-Way 1/5 odds - 1, 2, 3 Non-Runner, No Bet
1.30pm £125,000 G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, 2m 5f (MAX 22 runners)
There are 41 confirmations for the opening contest on Ladies Day, the £125,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
The J P McManus-owned Champ, trained by Nicky Henderson, is the market leader, having gone through this season unbeaten in four starts.
The seven-year-old is already a G1 winner, having taken the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on his most recent start in December. The same owner-trainer combination has another possible representative Birchdale, an 18-length winner of the G2 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day in January.
Over half of the confirmations (23) are trained in Ireland, with the leading contenders including Battleoverdoyen (Gordon Elliott), City Island (Martin Brassil) and Klassical Dream (Willie Mullins).
2.10pm £175,000 G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase, 3m 80y
A total of 13 contenders remain engaged in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase, with Delta Work (Gordon Elliott) just edging favouritism over Santini (Nicky Henderson) with most bookmakers.
Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Delta Work has won all three of his chase starts and recorded a G1 double in December with victories at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.
Gordon Elliott reported: "Delta Work is very well. He has plenty of experience over fences with three runs under his belt and two G1 wins to his name.
"He didn't run at Leopardstown in February because the ground was quick. but we have had a smooth preparation with him and we are looking forward to running in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham next week.
"He won the Pertemps at Cheltenham last year which shows he likes the track and he has been very good over fences this year.
"He is a nice horse who doesn't do any more than he has to. He is quite an unassuming horse as you don't really know how good he is but he is in very good form at home and he will like the rain which is falling. I think whatever beats him will win."
Paul Nicholls recorded the latest of his two RSA Insurance Novices' Chases with the great Denman in 2007 and has a contender this year in Topofthegame, last seen when finishing one place ahead of Santini when runner-up in the G1 32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Nicholls reported: "Topofthegame is in good form and it is all systems go for the RSA Chase.
"He has been a bit green over fences at times this season, including on his first start when he lost at least 20 lengths at the start at Exeter.
"He ran very well at Kempton behind La Bague Au Roi last time. He jumped well and travelled extremely well, but probably just got to the front too soon and was a little bit green in the closing stages.
"The form was franked when La Bague Au Roi won again in Ireland and Topofthegame has form at Cheltenham. I think he has a great chance in the race."
2.50pm £100,000 G3 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, 2m 5f (MAX 26 runners)
A bumper 69 horses remain in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle on Ladies Day.
Call Me Lord (Nicky Henderson, 11st 12lb) heads the weights for the two mile and five furlong contest, for which Uradel (Willie Mullins, 10st 3lb) is the clear 13/2 favourite with sponsor Coral.
Supporters of the favourite will have an anxious wait as maximum field size is 26 runners and the eight-year-old currently lies 41st in the handicap.
Coral Cup, Coral odds: 13/2 Uradel; 8/1 Whiskey Sour; 10/1 Brio Conti, Dallas Des Pictons; 12/1 Cracking Smart, Rhinestone; 14/1 Calie Du Mesnil, Highest Sun, Vision Des Flos; 16/1 Cut The Mustard, Erick Le Rouge, Solomon Grey, Killultagh Vic, Mr Adjudicator, Knight In Dubai, 20/1 Bar
Each-Way 1/4 odds - 1, 2, 3, 4 Non-Runner, No Bet
4.10pm £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, 3m 6f 37y (MAX 16 runners)
There are 22 remaining entries on the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, headed by 2018 winner Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott).
The tremendous nine-year-old is a three-time winner at The Festival, having also landed the 2014 G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle and the 2017 G2 National Hunt Chase.
Following last year's victory, Tiger Roll went on to take Jump racing's richest prize, the £1-million Randox Health Grand National at Aintree, and put up a great performance on his latest start when victorious in the G2 Boyne Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs at Navan on February 17.
Gordon Elliott said: "Tiger Roll is in good form ahead of the Cross Country Chase.
"I couldn't believe how well he won the Boyne Hurdle, but that was a good pipe-opener for the Cross Country Chase.
"His enthusiasm for the game is unbelievable and to win a Grand National and three races at the Cheltenham Festival highlights his talent - hopefully he can run well again next week."The nine remaining Irish-trained entries also include the Enda Bolger-trained duo of Auvergnat, winner of the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December, and Josies Orders, who has scored four times over Cheltenham's Cross Country course, including when being awarded the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at The Festival in 2016. Bolger has saddled the winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase a record five times.
Both remaining French-trained entries have run well on their previous visits to Cheltenham. Urgent De Gregaine (Emmanuel Clayeux FR) was runner-up to Tiger Roll at The Festival last year, while Amazing Comedy (David Cottin FR) finished a close fourth in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The International in December.
The British-trained challenge could rely on Tea For Two (Jane Williams), a dual G1 winner over fences, Ultragold (Colin Tizzard), who has won the last two renewals of the Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree, and Fact Of The Matter (Jamie Snowden), successful in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The International.
4.50pm £80,000 G3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Fred Winter) (Grade 3) 2m 87y (MAX 22 runners)
A maximum field looks assured for the £80,000 Boodles Handicap Hurdle with 48 confirmations today.
Joseph O'Brien is responsible for market leader Band Of Outlaws (11st 8lb), with the four-year-old having been impressive when winning his latest two starts at Limerick and Naas.
The British-trained contenders are headed by Friend Or Foe (Paul Nicholls, 10st 11lb), who won well on his only start in Britain at Taunton in December.
5.30pm £75,000 G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper 2m 87y
Ladies Day comes to a close with the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, for which 17 horses go forward.
Willie Mullins has won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper a record nine times and his one contender this year is four-year-old Blue Sari, a very easy 11-length winner of his only start at Gowran Park in January.
Blue Sari is vying for favouritism with Envoi Allen (Gordon Elliott). Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, the five-year-old has won all three of his bumper starts and last defied a penalty to win a G2 contest at Leopardstown on February 2.
Elliott, who saddled the 2017 Weatherbys Champion Bumper heroine, Fayonagh, said: "Envoi Allen runs in the Champion Bumper. He just does what he has to do, everything was against him last time with the track and the ground and more of a galloping track will suit him.
"Envoi Allen is a nice horse, but is one for the future and is hopefully an exciting three-mile chaser in time.
"I have probably had speedier horses than him in bumpers, but you won't see him at his best until stepping up to three miles."
The going at Cheltenham remains: Good to Soft, Soft in places on all courses
The forecast is for unsettled conditions, with plenty of rain.
Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in Prestbury on the northern outskirts of the historic spa town of Cheltenham. The Home of Jump Racing, Cheltenham Racecourse is the venue for the world's pre-eminent Jump meeting. The Festival™ presented by Magners, which happens in March over four days every year, next takes place from Tuesday, March 12, to Friday, March 15, 2019 inclusive and tickets are on sale. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham Racecourse is a stunning natural arena and offers the highest-quality action throughout the Jump season.
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