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Cheltenham Festival day three tips: 3 best bets for Thursday

13 Mar | BY Enda McElhinney | MIN READ TIME |
Cheltenham Festival day three tips: 3 best bets for Thursday

Enda McElhinney's selections for Thursday at the Festival include picks in both the Ryanair and the Plate.

Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival is sure to be a cracker and the key races are the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase. There’s also a fascinating Grade 1 novice chase which opens the card and it looks extremely competitive.

Hexham is the day’s other National Hunt meeting and Southwell and Chelmsford provide the all-weather action in the evening.

Our three strongest fancies of the day all come at Cheltenham however and they include a Willie Mullins horse trying a new trip which could unlock his full potential.

Facile Vega to prove his worth now up in trip

The absence of Fact To File has left a gaping hole in the market for this race and it’s one that needs to be filled. Dan Skelton’s Grey Dawning is understandably popular, having won well at Warwick last time out, and Paul Nicholls’ Ginny’s Destiny continues to surprise and improve.

Day 1 was a good day for Willie Mullins, who managed to get a treble up in three of the day’s four Grade 1 races. He runs two in the Turners Novices’ Chase and it is FACILE VEGA / `who makes the most appeal in this field.

His style of jumping wouldn’t have been suited by the Arkle on Tuesday and the step up in trip should be a massive help to him. His dam is the wonderful Quevega who won the Mares’ Hurdle six times and won Grade 1 races over three-miles so it’s no surprise that he’s been crying out for a step up in trip.

He seems to lack the gears in top races over trips at around two-miles these days but he’s got plenty of ability and the soft ground is definitely in his favour. A return to top form could well be on the cards here, as well as yet another Willie Mullins Grade 1 victory at the Festival.

Stage to be the star of the show in the Ryanair

The Ryanair Chase is a major highlight on Day 3 and it’s shaping up to be a competitive affair this year. The ground could be the deciding factor here and Joseph O’Brien’s Banbridge is now a major doubt with that in mind, while he’s surely worth taking on in the conditions if he does run.  

Last year’s winner Envoi Allen is back and he can’t be ruled out for the Henry de Bromhead yard, who won the opening race on day one.

This could be one for the British though and Paul Nicholls’ course specialist STAGE STAR / may well be the one to side with. He was in imperious form when winning the opening race on this day last year and that form is rock-solid.

His victory in the big November Meeting handicap chase here off a mark of 155 was arguably even more impressive, particularly as he made a complete mess of the final fence and still managed to score by four-lengths, despite nearly falling.

You can forgive his disappointing effort last time out as it was too bad to be true and Nicholls regrets running him. The eight-year-old will be fresh and well here, and he’s unlikely to be far away.

Saint Felicien is one to watch in the Plate

Gordon Elliott’s horses ran some cracking races in defeat on Tuesday and it would be a major shock if he doesn’t add to his impressive Festival tally as the week goes on. SAINT FELICIEN / runs in the TrustATrader Plate and this lightly-raced chaser has the perfect profile.

He was unfortunate to bump into a few smart sorts on his first three starts over fences but he managed to finish in the places every time. He got off the mark at Gowran Park last time out and the second has boosted the form by winning comfortably next time out.

This is just his second start in handicap company and the best is almost certainly yet to come. A British chase mark of 146 looks workable on the evidence of his latest run, and he should be bang in there with Jack Kennedy on board.