Il Etait Temps for the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival selections Tuesday 12th March

We are all set to go for the first day of four at Cheltenham and despite a couple of Willie Mullins odds on shots for the big two hurdles, the opening day has a little more open look than perhaps has been the case on recent Cheltenham Tuesdays. I have selections for four races on the card. We had a solid warm up at Sandown on Saturday with a 1-2 in the EBF final with Champagne Twist winning (advised 8/1) and Pic Roc second for the each-way (SP 10/1). Both Imperial Cup selections were also each-way placed with Faivoir (SP 11/1) and Making Headway (SP 8/1).

1.30 Cheltenham: Jeriko Du Reponet & Slade Steel

A very open Supreme and I am taking on the Mullins battalion with two alternatives.

JERIKO DU REPONET looks the standout of the three English challengers and comes into this race unbeaten in thee hurdles races, having also convincingly won an Irish point. The form of those wins may not add up to much, but his Grade 2 win at Doncaster has been boosted by the subsequent big race success of Lump Sum and came despite some sloppy jumps on faster ground.

He had earlier landed two smooth successes at Newbury in more testing conditions and I am expecting the ground to be near heavy by race time after morning rain. He looks the sort of horse who will find more off a more searching gallop and a strongly run suited 2m will suit him well.

SLADE STEEL was no match for Ballyburn at Leopardstown, but with that rival aiming for the longer distance Wednesday contest, the way is clear for a big challenge for Henry de Bromhead’s charge. He had already won over 2m4f at Navan before Christmas, seeing off a strong Mullins stayer in Lecky Watson. However a strongly run 2m on a stiff track should also see this one in a strong light.

He has finished off every race he has contested strongly, was quick enough to get within 7l of Ballyburn on quick ground in a Punchestown last spring in a bumper and has even won a 3m point in the past, so he should have no difficulty with the punishing finish.

2.10 Cheltenham: Il Etait Temps

A very game winner at Leopardstown last month, needing every yard of the contest to get by Found a Fifty, I can see IL ETAIT TEMPS confirming form today.

Not a very good jumper of a hurdle, he was nevertheless a solid fifth in the Supreme here last year, before chasing home Facile Vega at Punchestown. However he has stepped up a notch since switched to fencing and so far jumped much more efficiently.

I liked his attitude when coming clear over 2m2f at Thurles on chasing debut, beating a useful sort in Ho My Lord. He was not good enough to live with Gaelic Warrior in the controversial Limerick contest over Christmas, but over a shorter trip and a left-handed track, Il Etait Temps has every chance of beating his stablemate this time.

2.50 Cheltenham: Meetingofthewaters & Eklat de Rire

Two horses at opposite ends of their careers are fancied in a race where there are not too many upwardly mobile chasers in the contest.

MEETINGOFTHEWATERS is certainly one of those, the only question being has he improved enough to defy a 17lb rise for landing the Paddy Power at Leopardstown. I think he might be, given the dramatic improvement in form since joining Willie Mullins and switching to the bigger obstacles. He was probably value for more than a 4l winning margin that day and getting knocked over at the first at the Dublin Racing Festival might be a blessing in disguise as it protects his mark further for today.

EKLAT DE RIRE is a more speculative choice. However if he can recapture his form of old then he is thrown in. An easy 5l win over Gold Cup placed Conflated at Wexford in 2021 saw he made favourite for the Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Newbury and Thyestes Chases. He made no show in either contest though and has been rarely seen since.

He raced just once (over hurdles) last season and has shown signs of rustiness in two starts this term. However he ought to be building up to peak race fitness now and he is now 8lbs lower in the ratings since the start of the season. His best form of old saw him race handily on testing ground – those tactics often work well at Cheltenham and he could be worth chancing.

4.50 Cheltenham: Lark in the Mornin & Palamon

It will be a question of which trainers have their charges primed and handicapped to peak for this race and two shrewd Irish trainers might have done the best job here.

First choice is LARK IN THE MORNIN who was a good winner on soft ground as a juvenile on the flat and has just had the requisite three runs over hurdles to qualify. He has kept high company in each around the major tracks and been able to gain plenty of cover to potentially conceal his true ability.

I thought there was plenty left in the locker when a strong finishing third at Punchestown last time behind Highwind who looks set for a go at the Triumph here on Friday.

PALAMON was an improve on the flat, winning on softish ground at York on his final start for Richard Hannon. He too has had just the three starts in maiden company over hurdles and been given plenty to do each time.

One thing I did note was his fluent jumping and he got to within 4l of Ndaawi last time and is 13lbs better off today. Some more accurate jumping will put him in good stead today in what is sure to be a stronger pace and his old flat speed could be put to good use too.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Jeriko du Reponet – 1.30 Cheltenham – 8/1 William Hill

1pt each-way – Slade Steel – 1.30 Cheltenham – 5/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Il Etait Temps – 2.10 Cheltenham – 6/1 general

1pt each-way – Meetingofthewaters – 2.50 Cheltenham – 13/2 Betfred (1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Eklat de Rire – 2.50 Cheltenham – 20/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Lark in the Mornin – 4.50 Cheltenham – 13/2 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Palamon – 4.50 Cheltenham – 16/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

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