Football Football
Horse Racing Horse Racing
Cricket Cricket
Basketball Basketball
Golf Golf

Richard Hoiles: My 4 best bets for day two at Cheltenham

12 Mar | BY Richard Hoiles | MIN READ TIME |
Richard Hoiles: My 4 best bets for day two at Cheltenham

The racing broadcaster reveals his fancies from all the races on Wednesday at the Festival.

It is traditionally the Festival’s opening day that has the bookmakers running for cover, with the number of short-priced favourites (remember the Annie Power capsize). This year, however, it looks to be Wednesday where the battle between punter and bookmaker may be most keenly fought. With Ballyburn, Fact To File and El Fabiolo all dominating their respective markets, it is a day where the prospect of liabilities stacking up on multiples is very real especially if any are linked in to the Mullins horses from day one.

The choice for me personally is whether to stick or twist, with my ante-post bets for Wednesday featuring two Nicky Henderson horses (many ran really poorly on Tuesday) and a horse in the Cross Country (inspection tomorrow morning) who arguably would not want a bog. Not exactly ideal.


Ballyburn has sent several potential rivals scuttling for cover in the Supreme or Albert Bartlett when confirmed by Willie Mullins for this race. His performance at the Dublin Racing Festival looked the best of the season by a novice and it was accomplished in dominant fashion. Not all Festival races have to be about the betting, and certainly in the case of the novice races it can be all about uncovering stars of the future.

With stable companions Ile Atlantique and Predator’s Gold also coming from the Mullins camp – he has five of the eight runners – it is difficult to believe they will be tasked with upsetting Ballyburn’s rhythm, and while Handstands and Jingko Blue fly the flag for the home team their form currently looks a long way below that of Ballyburn. Not a price that appeals, but a horse that certainly whets the appetite.


The first of two big Anglo–Irish clashes on the day with FACT TO FILE / for Willie Mullins taking on last year’s Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay for Paul Nicholls. There are a few points to make here, including the fact the race is run at 3m, not the Gold Cup trip of 3m 2f, and on the sharper Old Course rather than the New where Stay Away Fay won the traditionally gruelling Albert Bartlett. It is, however, the absence of a runner that for me tilts things very much in favour of Fact To File, with the news that Broadway Boy scoped badly and will miss the race.

When it was announced that this would be Broadway Boy’s target, Harry Cobden must have been delighted as it would mean the race would be run at an honest pace to assist Stay Away Fay’s stamina. The other issue is that at Sandown it didn’t look as if Stay Away Fay would exert himself enough in front to fill that role himself. The application of cheek pieces suggests the Nicholls camp may also be wanting him to be sharper, and he will certainly have learnt a lot from contesting the Cotswold Chase against more seasoned rivals, but I just see him being done for foot at the crucial stage here even on this ground.

Even though it was just a two-runner race that Fact To File won, it was run at a far more genuine pace than several bigger field races. Gaelic Warrior checked out tamely that day but his excellent victory in the Arkle only reinforces Fact to File’s immense promise.


This is a strong renewal with the likes of Sa Majeste, Might I (back over hurdles) and Langer Dan who once again has spent all season getting back to a mark where he can be competitive at the Festival – all with strong claims. I see no reason, however, to desert my original fancy DODDIETHEGREAT with the obvious caveat regarding the stable form. The Betfair Hurdle was a key line of form for the Imperial Cup, with Go Dante and Faivoir fighting out the finish. There is no reason to desert it, especially as Doddiethegreat shaped as well as anything in staying on into fourth looking as if a step up trip would bring about further improvement.


JONBON was my first ante-post bet for this year’s Festival directly after he was pushed out after getting beaten here on Trials day. My reasoning was that it was a bad round of jumping that was the reason for his defeat, and that was something over the course of his career I thought was not typical, and hence could be rectified. Recency bias – where a horse’s last run, good or bad, is overplayed in the prices – meant the difference between himself and old rival El Fabiolo looked too wide and there looked to likely be a small field and no other dangers.

That angle has been tempered slightly by Jonbon contracting from the 4/1 on offer at that time, the form of the stable and the re-emergence of Edwardstone in the Game Spirit Chase as a rival to respect. Whether the front-running tactics that underpinned that Edwardstone victory will be adopted again will be interesting. The stable run comparatively few horses from the front and this field is deeper than Newbury, so he may just succeed in setting it up for others.

El Fabiolo is a horse with a big frame and engine who has his own way of getting from one side to the other, and if Nico De Boinville can make the final two fences more important in determining the outcome than they were last year when the pendulum had already swung decisively El Fabiolo’s way, then the margin between their prices still makes Jonbon appeal more – especially if he is weak in the market after results today. I am pot committed here!


I had been talking myself into risking the enigmatic Harper’s Brook, who looked as if a fast run race could be ideal in allowing him to be held up until the last minute, having thrown away races at Sandown and Ascot when virtually pulling himself up to a walk. This suggested that he has more than enough ability to cope with his higher mark if he can be humoured accordingly.

This is one where the contraction in price means I will pass the race, as his foibles made him more of an each-way bet and only at a double figure price.

I would favour horses who are ridden handily as this is far less of a test on the sharper Old Course than when it was run on the New, with the likes of Calico, Gemirande (bounce candidate) and last year’s winner Maskada all in with a chance of being in the right place tactically.


After a busy day this is not a race I will be involved in, having seen very few of the principles in the flesh. Jalon D’Oudairies and The Yellow Clay (hampered last time) give Gordon Elliott a decent couple of chances, while the best UK bumper horses I have called are the Nicholls pair Quebecois and Teeshan, both of whom won on their Rules debut at Exeter having come from the Point-to-Point ranks, which could prove an asset in these conditions.


I have dealt with Doddiethegreat in the Coral Cup but there is a second form the tracker in SANITISER (15:30 Huntingdon) who caught the eye a while ago back in November. He has been taken out several times due to soft ground so it remains to be seen if he takes his chance here but based on his Flat form and the promise of the Kempton run then he looks very well treated in handicap hurdles.

Richard Hoiles

Richard Hoiles

Richard is a horse racing broadcaster and commentator who has been involved in the sport since 1992.

Richard Hoiles

Richard Hoiles

Richard is a horse racing broadcaster and commentator who has been involved in the sport since 1992.