Day 3 of Cheltenham, known as St Patrick’s Thursday, is upon us, and by now the races are in full swing. Punters from all over have turned up to be part of the action – sometimes thrilling, other times nail-biting – but always thoroughly entertaining.
The second half of the festival kicks off with the showstopper events that many of us have been waiting for, including the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
Here are our expert predictions and betting tips for Cheltenham day 3 on Thursday 12th March 2020.
1:30 Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade One) 2m 3f 166y
Cheltenham day 3 begins with a bang and the action kicks off with the Marsh Novices Chase, a race that has been a Cheltenham staple since 2011.
ALLAHO is the favourite to win at 4/1. This six-year-old, backed by renowned trainer Willie Mullins and jockey R Walsh, has previously placed at Cheltenham and won in this class, which bodes well for the Marsh Novices’ Chase as every one of the previous nine winners were Cheltenham returners.
As befits a day of celebrating the Emerald Isle, Irish contenders are dominating in this category. ITCHY FEET (9/2), sired by an Irish stallion, is another contender to watch with G Sheehan riding.
Marsh Novices’ Chase tip: BLACK OP 18/1
2:10 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade Three) 2m 7f 213y
This twelve-hurdle race is guaranteed to present a breathtaking contest. British seven-year-old PHOENIX WAY has edged his way into favourite position at 6/1 and has a good record on hurdles.
Other runners to watch include SIRE DU BERLAIS (7/1), who ran well at Kempton behind SILVER SHEEN (12/1) and THE STORYTELLER (7/1) who won the Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last year with the same jockey, D N Russell.
Pertemps Network Final tip: WELSH SAINT (10/1)
2:50 Ryanair Chase (Steeplechase) (Grade One) 2m 4½f 127y
The anticipation around the Ryanair Chase is palpable – this race is a Festival highlight and showcases some of the best horses who just fall short of Gold Cup level.
A PLUS TARD is showing great odds at 9/4 and is a great option for each way betting, having won the Novices’ Handicap race at last year’s Cheltenham, and beating French runner MIN, who also boasts impressive odds at 3/1, in a close match at Leopardstown in December.
RIDERS ONTHE STORM at 7/1 is another solid choice after stellar performances at Aintree and Ascot, although after last year’s Cheltenham performance, this Irish runner has a lot to prove.
Ryanair Chase tip: A PLUS TARD 9/4
3:30 Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 7f 213y
PAISLEY PARK is the clear favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle race at odds of 4/6. After an impressive performance during Trials Day and having ridden to victory in the same event last year, Irish jockey Aidan Coleman is back with aspirations of another triumph.
Under Irish trainer Willie Mullins, BENIE DES DIEUX is another major player for the Stayers’ Hurdle with her current odds at 5/2, and a win in Cheltenham 2020 would make her one of only three mares to achieve this in over 30 years.
Nicky Henderson’s CHAMP is also worthy contender for the title after standout performances in Aintree and Newbury last year.
Stayers’ Hurdle tip: PAISLEY PARK 4/6
4:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 4f 166y
As is so often the way with any Handicap Chase, it’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of this extraordinary contest. After almost 12 months away from racing, SIMPLY THE BETTS (15/2) is back and fighting fit. This is Harry Whittington’s seven-year-old runner who triumphed over IMPERIAL AURA (14/1) during the Cheltenham trials.
BEN DUNDEE is another contender offering odds at 10/1 after solid performances at Punchestown and Navan, and GALVIN could be an outsider worth paying attention to at 12/1, after an uncertain start and solid finish at Cheltenham last year.
Stable Plate Handicap Chase tip: SIMPLY THE BETTS 15/2
4:50 National Hunt Breeders Mares Novices’ Hurdle
Race 6 of the day will see the long-awaited Novices’ Hurdle unfold, and it’s a tough call to see who will front this race. MINELLA MELODY holds tight odds of 5/2, finishing in first place in three different events recently.
Second only to this mare is another of trainer extraordinaire Willie Mullins’ steeds, LAMARCKISE (5/1) who looks a solid pick after a recent triumph at Limerick. Mullins has trained the last four winners of the Novices’ Hurdles race, so this is something to keep in mind when choosing your bet.
Mares Novices’ Hurdle tip: MINELLA MELODY 5/2
5:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
The final race of the day will be the Kim Muir Challenge Cup, a prestigious event with over 70 years of fascinating history behind it.
The often Irish-dominated race sees Gordon Elliott’s RAVENHILL (13/2) fighting fit and ready to make his Cheltenham debut, followed close behind by NO COMMENT (8/1) and LE BREUIL (also 8/1), both with similar credentials when it comes to Handicap races.
Handicap Steeple Chase tip: RAVENHILL 15/2