The Cheltenham Festival day two pot wasn’t landed, and we were again out of luck in the first leg after Bacardys was badly hampered by the fall of the ill-fated Consul de Thaix; with selection two also running poorly, the bet was onto a hiding almost before it had begin in anger.
Still, in-the-frame efforts in the remaining legs augurs well for day three’s attempt at the pot; and here’s Thursday’s Cheltenham Festival placepot selections and permutations to try.
LEG 1 – JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30pm) (2 selections)
POLITOLOGUE (6) is 3-4 over fences, tasting his sole defeat in the mud at Haydock behind Waiting Patiently.
Paul Nicholls’ classy grey horse is a solid jumper who relishes decent ground, and open to improvement on the back of a bloodless win at Kempton as well as impressive prior wins at Haydock and Ascot, he looks sure to go well.
TOP NOTCH (7) has thrived for the switch to chasing, finding only good sorts in Charbel and Le Prezien too strong on his first try over the larger obstacles at Uttoxeter.
Since then, Nicky Henderson’s charge has rattled off a four-timer of wins which include the Grade One Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown; softer ground would help, but he has shown he can handle quicker conditions, and assuming the ground doesn’t dry out too much more, he should remain competitive and can go close.
Top Notch can land the first leg of the Placepot.
LEG 2 – Pertemps Final (2.10pm) (3 selections)
JURY DUTY (4) has been progressive over hurdles, scoring last February at Navan in good style; and he built on that run to finish a good third to Coney Island at Fairyhouse in March. However, he bettered that effort again with a short-head defeat behind Cup Final at Punchestown.
The Well Chosen gelding beat Scoir Mear on his return to action at Navan in November, but found Gayebury – who reopposes – too strong next time at Chepstow.
Raised 2lbs, he is considerably better at the weights with that rival, and open to improvement for his in-form yard he can run well.
EL BANDIT (8) is 5-6 this term, showing improved form with every start until his progress was halted behind Solomn Grundy at Newbury in November.
Not at his best on the soft ground, he bounced back on better ground to get up late at Musselburgh; a further 4lbs rise makes things tougher for Paul Nicholls’ charge, but open to improvement he should be involved.
GOLDEN DOYEN (10) was a Graded winner over hurdles a couple of seasons ago, but Philip Hobbs’ charge never quite reached the heights over fences last term.
Smart on the flat, he has returned to hurdles in excellent form, scoring at Newton Abbot in August, and following up at this venue in October when gaining a narrow verdict over For Good Measure.
The drop back to this trip is no problem, and with ground no issue a 3lbs rise doesn’t look beyond him.
El Bandit (right) is one of three selections in leg 2.
LEG 3 – Ryanair Chase (2.50pm) (1 selection)
EMPIRE OF DIRT (3) was considered a Gold Cup candidate in the wake of his narrow defeat behind Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup; but Gordon Elliott’s charge has been sent for this contest instead.
Last season’s Festival Plate winner handles these ground conditions and he has also won the Troytown at Navan over this trip earlier in the season. Still a potentially progressive horse despite his advancing years, he represents an in-form yard and no surprise to see him going well.
LEG 4 – Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30pm) (2 selections)
JEZKI (6) is worth a try back at three miles having looked increasingly short of tactical pace at the minimum trip, despite scoring on his comeback over two miles.
The heavy ground and steady pace next time wouldn’t have helped Jessica Harrington’s charge as he was a beaten favourite behind Tombstone at Gowran Park; but back on a quicker surface the Milan gelding can bounce back if seeing out the trip and the stiff uphill finish.
SHANESHILL (9) has finished runner-up in three different races at the Festival in the past three years, and Willie Mullins’ charge could run a big race.
Third to Mare’s Hurdle heroine Apple’s Jade in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, he was a faller when looking likely to finish in the frame behind Vroum Vroum Mag at Leopardstown next time; and he won the Galmoy Hurdle on his last start, beating Snow Falcon.
The return to this venue could see the King’s Theatre post another big run, and with ground no issue he is solid place material if putting in a clear round of jumping.
Can Jezki land the Stayers' Hurdle and keep the placepot alive?
LEG 5 – Brown Advisory Plate (4.10pm) (2 selections)
BARON ALCO (7) found only Top Notch too good in a Graded novices’ chase at Sandown last time, but Gary Moore’s charge doesn’t look harshly treated stepping into a handicap.
The Dom Alco gelding is a dual-winner at Plumpton this term, and he wasn’t beaten far behind RSA Chase runner-up Whisper in the Dipper Novices’ Chase here on New Years’ Day; 12th to Diamond King over hurdles in the Coral Cup last year, he has looked a far better chasing prospect, and he should give a good account.
STARCHITECT (13) finished fourth in the Fred Winter two seasons ago, and David Pipe’s charge is still unexposed as a chaser after just three starts.
Third to A Hare Breath at Bangor on his chase debut, he has since finished third to Baron Alco at Plumpton before turning in an impressive performance to score at Ayr in January.
That form is some way below the best on offer here; but clearly progressing along the right lines, he is open to plenty of improvement and handles fast ground so with the potential for better he can post a big run.
LEG 6 – Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (4.50pm) (2 selections)
AIRLIE BEACH (1) is one of a strong raiding party for this race from the Willie Mullins yard, and the Shantou mare is unbeaten thus far.
Her latest success came when running out a six lengths winner over Saturnas, who later went on to Grade One success at Leopardstown, and although not seen since she could well continue to progress.
She won with something to spare at Fairyhouse in the Royal Bond, and sure to have more to come it wouldn’t be a surprise if she went close here.
LA BAGUE AU ROI (4) has looked a terrific prospect over hurdles, winning all three starts over timber in impressive fashion.
Warren Greatrex’s charge had shown some useful form in bumpers last term, scoring with authority in a Listed contest at Huntingdon. He was impressive again in a Listed hurdle at Newbury back in November, readily beating Dusky Legend – runner-up in this twelve months ago - and while he probably needs to improve again to lower the colours of the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Airlie Beach and Let’s Dance, he should be competitive.
Airlie Beach anchors the sixth and final leg of Thursday's placepot.
2017 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PLACEPOT TIPS – DAY THREE SELECTIONS & PERMUTATION
LEG 1: POLITOLOGUE (6); TOP NOTCH (7)
LEG 2: JURY DUTY (4); EL BANDIT (8); GOLDEN DOYEN (10)
LEG 3: EMPIRE OF DIRT (3)
LEG 4: JEZKI (6); SHANESHILL (9)
LEG 5: BARON ALCO (7); STARCHITECT (13)
LEG 6: AIRLIE BEACH (1); LA BAGUE AU ROI (4)