Expect a right Royal Stayers performance

Cheltenham Festival selections Thursday 17th March

The Stayers Hurdle looks a wide open affair and Thursday’s highlight can go to the only mare in this year’s line up. From a punting perspective the best races all seem to come at the end of the card, so I am focusing on the final four races of the day. On a difficult day with the weather yesterday and a couple of non-runners, headline selection Ahoy Senor was placed for the each-way bet (advised 7/1).

Cheltenham 3.30: Royal Kahala

Having proved her stamina for 3m when winning the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran last time (in fact improving for the step up in trip), ROYAL KAHALA can make full use of the 7lb mares allowance and land a Grade 1 race at her first attempt.

Having finished lame when unplaced as favourite for the mares novice here last year (over too short a trip in any case), Royal Kahala has done nothing but improve this season. She finished a brave second on her reappearance at Punchestown over 2m2f where the ground was simply too quick. She then wore down to catch Heaven Help Us in the closing strides at Leopardstown over 2m4f.

However she won with much more authority when staying on just as strongly over the 3m at Gowran. Yesterday’s rain is a big plus for the Peter Fahey trained 7yo and she looks much more straight forward a ride than several of her market rivals such as Flooring Porter, Paisley Park and Klassical Dream.

Cheltenham 4.10: Imperial Alcazar & The Glancing Queen

The Plate will still take plenty of winning despite five non-runners, and the home challenge looks best here.

IMPERIAL ALCAZAR was a revelation when winning the novice handicap over course and distance on Trials day. Of course he has been hit with an 8lb rise as a result, but whilst he is in this top form he can overcome that obstacle. He seems to handle any going and having won over 3m1f on heavy last season, the change in ground conditions should not pose any issues given he has proven stamina. The slightly smaller field should also be to his advantage as it gives Paddy Brennan the chance to get this novice more room at his fences.

First choice though would be THE GLANCING QUEEN for the King/Cannon partnership already successful this week. This mare would probably make a place in the Mares Chase tomorrow, but Alan King clearly thinks she is well enough handicapped to win this off 141.

She has been held back for this since chasing home L’Homme Presse here on New Years Day, form that looks pretty good now. She has taken really well to chasing this term (did win an Irish point back in the day) and has form on all types of ground. Thoroughly genuine she is very tough to beat in a battle and having won a bumper here, we know she runs on up the hill.

Cheltenham 4.50: Choice of Words

We have a worthy favourite here in Dinoblue who looked a relentless galloper when scoring on her racecourse debut at Clonmel this winter, ploughing through the heavy ground. However she is short enough for one so inexperienced and instead why not have an each-way plunge on CHOICE OF WORDS who looks overpriced for a consistent sort who acts on soft and stays well.

She have Journey With Me a race at Naas last time, form that was franked yesterday, and had previously chased home a decent type in Daly Tiger at Limerick over Christmas. Soft ground is very important to her – she was a wide margin winner on heavy of a Punchestown bumper last season.

Fastorslow ran a cracker for connections yesterday which increases confidence in a big run from this mare today.

Cheltenham 5.30: Aint That A Shame & School Boy Hours

In contrast to the earlier handicap chase, the Irish challenge looks incredibly strong for the finale, a race they have won for the past three years.

First choice has to be Paddy Power winner SCHOOL BOY HOURS. Incredibly that was his first chase win at the tenth attempt, but he had been highly tried and had got himself well handicapped. What I particularly liked about his Leopardstown win was how strongly he finished off the race and he still remains unexposed at trips of 3m and beyond.

The novice AINT THAT A SHAME has failed to win any of this three beginners chases this season, but when you consider he chased home Stattler and Galopin Des Champs on the first two occasions then that is no disgrace.

He looked a sure winner over the last at Navan, only for Champagne Platinum to come from nowhere to get up on the line. In hindsight he was probably in front too soon and with a big field here, he should naturally come through for a later challenge today and he is a 3m winner on heavy over hurdles, so stamina and ground should be fine.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Royal Kahala – 3.30 Cheltenham – 6/1 Bet365, Paddy Power

1pt each-way – Imperial Alcazar – 4.10 Cheltenham – 9/2 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt win – The Glancing Queen – 4.10 Cheltenham – 4/1 general

1pt each-way – Choice of Words – 4.50 Cheltenham – 33/1 Coral, Ladbrokes (1/5 odds 1st 5)

1pt each-way – School Boy Hours – 5.30 Cheltenham – 5/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Aint That A Shame – 5.30 Cheltenham – 8/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

Already advised Winter Fog 2.10 Cheltenham (currently 6/1)

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