So we move on to day three of Cheltenham and it’s a day where Oscar Whisky can finally star at Prestbury Park in the featured Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3.20).
In the absence of the great Big Buck’s, today’s contest has a very open look to it. Nicky Henderson’s Oscar Whisky is, it has to be said, the best two-and-a-half miler in the business over hurdles and he clearly wasn’t right when crawling up the hill behind Big Buck’s 12 months ago.
Plans were for him to bypass a rematch and head for Aintree next month, but after the injury to the four-times champion, connections had a change of heart and this race is all the better for it. If Barry Geraghty can switch him off then he could have too much pace for them all up the hill. Bog Warrior looks the biggest of several dangers.
Forty minutes earlier the two-and-a-half mile chasers take centre stage for the Ryanair Chase. Former dual winner Albertas Run would be a hugely popular winner but he is now at the veteran stage and youth can have its day. Cue Card proved he gets this trip at Ascot last time and looks a major player, as does Riverside Theatre, who bagged this prize in a controversial finish a year ago.
Menorah loves it around here and is a previous Festival winner himself. Conditions looks ideal for him and he doesn’t have much to find with the best of these on official figures. He can be backed each way, but First Lieutenant looks capable of seeing off his seven rivals for another Irish success.
The Jewson Novices’ Chase (1.30) kicks things off and can be fought out by Dynaste, the leading English hope on this season’s form and Aupcharlie, who has rock solid form in Ireland.
The Pertemps Final (2.05) sees a maximum field of 24 go to post and Paul Nicholls will be hoping that ante-post favourite Sam Winner can bring his Ditcheat team their first success of the week.
However, from a betting perspective he is plenty short enough and we’ll take him on with Jetson, who will love the drying conditions and have an each-way play on the hugely consistent Ballybough Pat.
The Byrne Group Plate (4.00) is no easier for wagering. Ferdy Murphy is a past master of winning Festival handicaps and Divers, placed in this race before, looks well handicapped if his jumping holds up. He certainly looks worth a nibble at around 16/1, but Ballynagour looks laid out for this by the David Pipe team and he can improve again here to land this.
The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (4.40) is another devilishly difficult race to sort out, with Same Difference likely to go off favourite for local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies but we will take a chance on Galaxy Rock each way. Twice a winner at the track, he stays all day and with a strong pace assured he can pick them off up the hill.
The Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (5.15) has passed an inspection and takes place over the Cross Country obstacles. We will stick with Tuesday’s assessment and take Arabella Boy to win it for Ireland, while Wedger Pardy can go close for the home team.