Horse Racing

Cheltenham 2024 | Day Two Preview: Could Mullins Crack The Century?

Willie Mullins holds all the aces today, with three strong odds-on favourites. There’s also the Coral Cup highlight and the Grand Annual Handicaps with the ever-so tricky bumper to decipher.

13:30 – Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One) – 2m 5F

The first of Willie Mullins’ big shots comes in the first race of the day. Ballyburn was highly touted to go to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but Mullins decided to come here and take advantage of what looks to be a weaker field than the Supreme.

He won under similar conditions over the Christmas period at Leopardstown, when 25 lengths ahead of the second-place horse, Cleatus Poolaw.

Ile Atlantique could make it a one-two for the Mullins yard, when just being nosed off in the Grade One Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle. However, he doesn’t look a match for the winner.

Heading the British challenge is Handstands for Ben Pauling. He enjoyed a successful day yesterday as Twig finished second to Chianti Classico in the Ultima Handicap Chase. Handstands beat Grade One winner Jango Baie in a Listed novice hurdle at Huntingdon and will relish the conditions.

Non Runner: The Grey Man

Odds: Ballyburn 4/9, Ile Atlantique 6/1, Predators Gold 9/1, Handstands 14/1, Jingko Blue 20/1, Bar 40/1

14:10 – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Grade One) – 3m 110yds

Fact To File could make it a quickfire double for the Mullins stable and give owner JP McManus his second winner of this year’s Festival.

He beat Gaelic Warrior in a match race last time out at Leopardstown, when Gaelic Warrior fell at the last fence. His opponent has gone and won the Arkle since, giving him a big form boost for the race. He was also the first horse to be announced by Mullins to come to this race, before any other horse in the yard.

Stay Away Fay has been the best British novice chaser this season. Trained by champion trainer Paul Nicholls, he won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival. He has won two races over fences, but went to the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day and was found out by the more experienced horses in the field. Back in novice company, he stands a chance to create an upset.

Monty’s Star and American Mike head the rest of the Irish challenge, with American Mike beating Fact To File over two-and-a-half miles. American Mike won over three miles last time out, and Gordon Elliott is keen to explore this avenue.

Odds: Fact To File 8/11, Stay Away Fay 9/2, Monty’s Star 5/1, American Mike 11/1, Bar 25/1

15:30 – Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade One) – 1m 7F 199yds

El Fabiolo is the banker of the day for many, as he has been the standout horse for many in this division. There isn’t many that can lay a glove on him in this field, now that Jonbon is a non-runner.

Edwardstone was rumoured to step up and be aimed for the Ryanair Chase, but the plan failed with a disappointing run in the Silviniaco Conti Chase. He hacked up in the Game Spirit on heavy ground with some front-running tactics deployed by the jockey. Potential to come second.

Non-Runner: Jonbon

Odds: El Fabiolo 30/100, Edwardstone 13/2, Captain Guinness 11/1, Elixir De Nutz 25/1, Bar 33/1

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