2019 International Meeting day two tips – Tips for every race at Cheltenham on Saturday
Jon Vine takes a look through the card on day two of Cheltenham’s International Meeting and provides readers with his tips for every race on Friday 13th December.
Following on from Friday’s festivities, the stunning action at Cheltenham rolls into Saturday. Day two of the International Meeting is highlighted by the namesake race of the meeting, the Unibet International Hurdle, but there are also two further Graded races and an intriguing juvenile contest to enjoy.
I’ve taken a look through the full card on day two of Cheltenham’s International Meeting and put up my selection in every race.
2019 International Meeting Day Two
Despite Botox Has running well here behind Allmankind, and Langer Dan’s Listed-winning form, I’m usually inclined to take a risk in juvenile races and back something at a bigger price. Ellmarie Holden wouldn’t send Tremwedge over if she didn’t think he had a big chance, but I’m going to stick my neck out and side with hurdling debutante, ELYSIAN FLAME (12/1 Paddy Power).
Mick Easterby’s charge reached a very high level on the flat, ending his season rated 91 after pushing the classy Hamish all the way in a 14-furlong handicap. Easterby hasn’t had a runner here at Cheltenham in the last five years, so he must be confident Elysian Flame can stand up to the scrutiny of this track and there are few jockeys who ride Cheltenham better than Paddy Brennan. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run well beyond his odds.
Another fascinating renewal of this excellent race to take in, with Nicky Henderson throwing two of his top novice chasing prospects into the mix. Mister Fisher is yet to step up over two miles and this will be Champagne Platinum’s first start over fences, but neither can be discounted.
The hot favourite here will likely be Good Boy Bobby, who has impressed on both his outings over fences. He could simply be too good for the rest of the field. Yet, there’s still a question mark next to his stamina and I fancy BEAKSTOWN (5/1 William Hill) could prove himself to be well-handicapped.
At the start of the season, I thought Dan Skelton’s youngster would quickly reach Graded company over fences. I have to admit, I’ve been a little underwhelmed by his first couple of starts, finishing second to Sam Spinner and fifth behind Champ. Still, he was in with some good quality horses in both of those races and this looks slightly easier, considering he’s been handed a mark of just 138. He could be the one to side with.
Theinval has previous here at Cheltenham, having placed in a Grand Annual over course-and-distance, but it seems he needs further than the minimum distance these days. Destrier is capable of carrying top-weight to victory and deservedly leads the way in the betting. I just feel BALLYWOOD (3/1 William Hill) could be the best bet, considering ground conditions are in his favour.
Alan King’s charge has struggled on both his starts at Ascot so far this season, unseating Tom Cannon fairly early on his first start, before staying on to finish a distant third behind Capeland and Diego Du Charmil last time out.
Throughout his short career, Ballywood has shown a liking for good ground and I feel this galloping, left-handed track will suit him more than Ascot. King’s charge clocked an RPR of 148 when following Dynamite Dollars home at Doncaster last term, and bettered that mark significantly when winning at Ludlow next time out, so he could turn out to be well-treated running off an official rating of 147 on Saturday.
In summary, there are two horses I’ve backed ante-post for this handicap. First up is BRELAN D’AS, who ran a screamer in the BetVictor Gold Cup and remains on a highly workable mark over fences.
The second is BENATAR, who’s an enigmatic sort, but a classy one if he manages to put everything together. He could look extremely well handicapped if he can produce a performance we all know he’s capable of. Benatar is my best bet!
Nicky Henderson fires two arrows at this Grade Two, throwing both Igor and ten-year-old Valtor into the mix. Valtor ran in last season’s Grand National, but looked nothing more than a workmanlike during his first victory over the smaller obstacles. Igor comfortably saw off expensive purchase Papa Tango Charley on his most recent start at Ascot and looks well suited to the step up in trip.
Mossy Fen appeals more than both of the Henderson runners and could run well beyond his current 7/1 odds. However, I’m always keen to draw on previous course form in these novice races at Prestbury Park and, to me, CHAMPAGNE WELL (NAP) (4/1 bet365) looks rock-solid at the head of the market.
A second-season novice, who rounded off last year with an appearance in the big Grade One at Aintree, Champagne Well opened his account at the first time of asking this term, holding off Gordon Elliott’s Braid Blue to secure a narrow victory here at Cheltenham. Fergal O’Brien’s youngster then clashed with Thyme Hill in the Hyde here during the Showcase Meeting and gave a good account of himself, staying on gamely to finish second.
Champagne Well could have finished closer to the classy Thyme Hill, had it not been for a slight stumble before the second last. Yet, he still proved he loves the course here at Cheltenham and I can’t see the step up to three miles causing O’Brien’s charge any undue problems. 4/1 looks a cracking price!
Ch’tibello is a very capable handicapper and ran a screamer to place third in the Aintree Hurdle, just weeks after winning the County Hurdle. Three of his four wins have come in the spring though and his reappearance record is poor, so he could have his work cut jumping straight into Grade Two company first time out. Call Me Lord is a classy sort, but he this trip could be a little on the sharp side and he’s never raced on a left-handed track before, let alone one as tricky at Cheltenham.
Everything looks set up for two-time Grade One winning juvenile, Pentland Hill to make a winning return to action. I, however, am always hesitant backing second-season juveniles when they return over hurdles and the most appealing prospect in this race for me is ELIXIR DE NUTZ (13/2 bet365).
It’s a bit of a risk backing a horse who hasn’t been seen since January, but I’m confident Colin Tizzard wouldn’t turn him out unless he felt he was fully fit and raring to go. Elixir De Nutz won twice here at Cheltenham as a novice hurdler, before staying on gamely to beat Grand Sancy in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle. This is far from a vintage renewal of the International Hurdle and Elixir De Nutz seems a solid each-way prospect.
Dame De Compagnie made an excellent impression on her return from long-term injury in the Greatwood, finishing powerfully to cross the line just five-lengths behind the winners in fifth. A reproduction of that performance would surely be good enough, but these Mares’ Handicaps are always open, unpredictable affairs and there’s little value to be found siding with the favourite.
I could reel off five or six runners I feel are overpriced. Indefatigable and Lust For Glory would both be worthy of an each-way bet. The one who appeals most to me though is MEGA YEATS (14/1 Paddy Power), who ran up to a good level in bumpers and novice hurdles last season.
Ruth Jefferson’s mare was fairly well-beaten on her reappearance, but that came in a Grade Three over three miles. This is a much, much easier race, dropping back in trip will be ideal and she has run well here at Cheltenham in the past. Mega Yeats is an excellent each-way bet at 14/1.