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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Five forgotten stars who could deliver a big Festival run in March

The Cheltenham Festival will soon be here, and we pick out five forgotten stars who could post big runs.

Brian Healy picks out five largely overlooked star names who despite being forgotten by punters could post big runs for each-way backers at the Cheltenham Festival.

With the Cheltenham Festival inching ever closer, punters’ thoughts are already turning towards their Festival bankers, and the likes of Altior, Laurina and Presenting Percy have already been mentioned in dispatches as many peoples’ top Festival picks when the four-day extravaganza gets underway.

Of course it is easy to see why this trio are already well fancied to land Cheltenham Festival success, but throughout the four days’ top class action there are some forgotten horses lurking dangerously having been largely overlooked as Festival candidates for success.

Brian Healy picks out five horses from across the four days who have proven top-class form and could prove to be dangerous to discount from Festival calculations if they make it to the Greatest Show on turf; while Festival success could well elude, they rate strongly as possible each-way punts.

FOX NORTON (Ryanair Chase - 14/1, Ladbrokes)

Fox Norton developed into a top-class chaser in recent seasons, and the Lando gelding is a dual-Grade One winner having beating Sub Lieutenant in the 2017 Melling Chase, and following up in the Boylesport Champion Chase where he beat Un De Sceaux.

The nine-year old also won the 2017 Shloer Chase on his return to action prior to going close behind Politologue in that season’s Tingle Creek Chase; his subsequent disappointment at Kempton in the King George VI Chase is easily forgiven due to a spinal injury and subsequent leg problem.

He’s been absent since that Kempton outing, but the Lando gelding is scheduled to reappear in the upcoming Clarence House Chase, and a good performance there could see him return to the reckoning for the Festival.

He boasts a very good record at Cheltenham, winning four of his seven starts at the track; while he would be unlikely to beat Altior in the Champion Chase, the Ryanair Chase could prove a viable target for Colin Tizzard’s charge and if back to his best come March then he could go well if taking his chances.

MINELLA ROCCO (Gold Cup - 50/1, Coral)

It is hard to believe that a horse that has the latent talent of Minella Rocco has only managed one sole win over fences in his career, which came at the Cheltenham Festival when Jonjo O’Neill’s charge won the 2016 National Hunt Chase, beating none other than 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River.

The Shirocco gelding is low-mileage for a nine-year old, and perhaps his biggest day came when chasing home Sizing John in the 2017 Gold Cup, running on late to grab the silver medal and again finishing ahead of Native River.

Things didn’t go to plan last term for Jonjo O’Neill’s charge, and he only completed in two of his four outings, finishing fourth each time. He was last seen falling in the Irish Gold Cup won by Edwulf, although he was beaten when crashing out of the race.

He has since had wind surgery, which could well deliver some improvement, and while he is yet to run this season at the time of writing, he holds entries in both the Sky Bet Chase and the Irish Gold Cup ahead of a possible tilt at the Gold Cup.

If he could recapture his best this term, his past form with Native River would make him of huge interest at lengthy odds, especially given the muddied waters currently with several of the fancied runners under something of a cloud.

PALLASATOR (Stayers’ Hurdle - 33/1, William Hill)

A Group performer on the flat for Sir Mark Prescott when he consented to put in maximum effort, the highly talented-but-enigmatic ten-year old Motivator gelding subsequently moved to Gordon Elliott where he showed aptitude for hurdling with a series of solid runs which included back-to-back wins at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse.

The latter of those successes came when beating Jetz in a novices’ Grade Two contest, after which he finished a fair fifth behind Dortmund Park at Punchestown in the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle. 

He then returned to the flat to run out an impressive winner of the Queen Alexandra Stakes, and the trip at the Curragh when tried in the Irish St Leger was probably too sharp for him on the ground.

Undeniably classy at his best on the level, he remains unexposed over timber, and despite his years there could still be some improvement to come in this sphere given his flat ability, especially when faced with an even stiffer test.

He may well go chasing this term, however, and it will be interesting to see which route trainer Gordon Elliott goes with the Motivator gelding who could still have more to offer as a hurdler.

SUPASUNDAE (Champion Hurdle - 16/1, William Hill)

Most of the Champion Hurdle talk thus far has surrounded the first two in the current betting, with reigning champion Buveur D’Air and Laurina taking up most of the attention.

The former’s surprise defeat at Kempton behind stablemate Verdana Blue has been seized upon as a possible chink in the armour of the Crillon gelding whose previous hurdling invulnerability has been shattered; while the unbeaten Laurina has drawn plenty of plaudits for her performances to date which include a recent Sandown success.

That win can’t be read too much into given she faced only one rival, while she had also missed previous engagements on account of faster ground so there has to be a slight fear that the ground at Cheltenham in March may not prove ideal - an argument that could also be levied against the reigning champion.

Jessica Harrington’s charge however has no such issues, and the Galileo gelding has proven his effectiveness on a range of underfoot conditions and distances from two to three miles. He has developed into a top class hurdler in his own right, opening his Grade One win account with a defeat of Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle last term prior to chasing home Penhill over three miles in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Having then finished runner-up at Aintree in the Aintree Hurdle, he got back on the winning trail with a defeat of Wicklow Brave in the Grade One Punchestown Champion Hurdle; and he has finished runner-up on both starts this term, firstly behind Apples Jade in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, and then Sharjah in the Ryanair Hurdle.

He is a tough and consistent customer, and a fast-run two miles around Cheltenham is likely to be ideal for him; proven over further, he could give a good account and a solid run in the Irish Champion Hurdle could reveal more about his Champion Hurdle credentials which may prove a more suitable target for the nine-year old over the Stayers’ Hurdle for which he also holds an entry.

SIMPLY NED (Champion Chase - 33/1, William Hill)

Altior will be all the rage once again for this contest, and Nicky Henderson’s defending champion will be very hard to beat in defence of his crown.

Willie Mullins’ pair of Min and Un De Sceaux could offer some resistance, but both have already been vanquished by the Seven Barrows star, and at longer odds veteran Simply Ned could make some appeal as an each-way play.

Nicky Richards’ charge is rarely mentioned in the same breath as that aforenamed trio; but the twelve-year old has a win over Min to his name having beaten that one during last season’s Christmas Festival, although Min did gain revenge next time over the veteran.

He has run well this term, probably needing the run on his return at Kelso in October before chasing home Sceau Royal - five years his junior - in the Shloer Chase; he then got back to winning ways with a defeat of Footpad at Leopardstown in the Grade One Paddys Rewards Club Chase.

He is yet to win at Cheltenham however, but while hard to envisage offering up serious resistance to an on-song Altior, he could give a good account of himself despite his advancing years, and the likeable veteran could prove an interesting each-way pick.

Veteran chaser Simply Ned could prove an each-way player in the Champion Chase.


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2019 Cheltenham Festival tips - Five forgotten stars who could deliver a big Festival run in March

Brian Healy picks out five largely overlooked star names who despite being forgotten by punters could post big runs for each-way backers at the Cheltenham Festival.

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