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The Mandarin’s Cheltenham Racecard for Friday 15th March 2024

The Mandarin’s Cheltenham Racecard for Friday 15th March

JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 1.30
Storm Heart
Two weeks ago very few people would have gone against Nicky Henderson’s Sir Gino for this year’s Triumph Hurdle. However, such is the malaise overhanging the Seven Barrows yard, with just one finisher on Tuesday, it may pay to look elsewhere while Sir Gino waits for another day. Willie Mullins is having an outstanding Festival and having sent out the first four in last year’s renewal, could have the winner somewhere in his team once more. Majborough and Storm Heart both make plenty of appeal, along with the mare Kargese, but with Paul Townend picking Storm Heart, that’s as good an indicator as any. Plenty of support likely for Sir Gino despite stable form, but Storm Heart just edges it for Willie Mullins

BetMGM County Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) 2.10
L’eau Du Sud
With a brilliant record in big field Handicaps at the Festival, the Skelton brothers can score again with L’eau Du Sud. They were unlucky not to land the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month, in the lead over the last but agonisingly reeled in by the smart Iberico Lord. The mark looks workable still, despite a 6lb rise, and with Pied Piper heading the field at 12 stone there’s no margin for error for Gordon Elliott’s charge. The Closutton yard will send out a small army, including the versatile Ebor winner, Absurde along with the classy Zenta and Bialystok, but trust is retained in Dan and Harry Skelton to pull off another big Festival win

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2.50
Dancing City
Another Novices race where Willie Mullins can dominate and cement his place as the Festival’s best ever trainer. He has an embarrassment of riches in the Closutton yard, but that’s in no way to detract from the hard work and attention to detail that has gone into producing such a brilliant line-up from all his team. For the Albert Bartlett, the ready preference is for Dancing City, who stepped up to Grade 1 level at the Dublin Racing Festival to show that this trip in range, while stablemate Readin Tommy Wrong still has to prove himself at this trip under rules. The winner is likely to come from this pair, with Harry Fry’s Gidleigh Park making up the numbers

Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3.30
Galopin Des Champs (nap)
A brilliant renewal in store, but last year’s winner Galopin Des Champs can defend the crown. It’s a quality field fitting of the Festival’s Blue Riband, with Fastorslow, Gerri Colombe and last year’s runner-up, Bravemansgame. Fastorslow has 2023 form over the selection, though couldn’t stay with Galopin Des Champs in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month, and Gerri Colombe was a long way behind in the Savills Chase over Christmas, while Bravemansgame has not been at his best this term. Galopin Des Champs to score again granted a clear round in a top class renewal

St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase 4.10
Billaway makes his fifth appearance in this Hunters Chase, and can repeat the success of 2022 with his usual late run. This year he has his work cut out with defending Champion Premier Magic looking to retain his crown while there’s been plenty of support for Emmet Mullins’s Its On The Line, who was runner-up last year and now sports JP McManus’s green and gold hoops. Billaway to storm home late and wrest his title back

Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (Grade 2) 4.50
Dinoblue (nb)
The Willie Mullins show continues with Dinoblue in the Mares’ Chase. She won the Grand Annual at the Festival to start a sequence of four wins, including a Grade 1 in open company at Leopardstown over Christmas, and it took El Fabiolo to lower her colours in the run up to this years meeting. Stablemate Allegorie De Vassy and Gavin Cromwell’s Limerick Lace are both very good, but Dinoblue can give weight and a beating to both of them

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle 5.30
Waterford Whispers
The final race of the 2024 Festival can go to Henry de Bromhead with Waterford Whispers. He won a Rated Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse back in December, and made a bright start in handicap company when runner-up to the front-running Champagne Admiral at Leopardstown, keeping up to his work. More to come in this sphere, and sure to go close

The Mandarin

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