17 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival day three – Irish seeking St Patrick’s Day celebration

17 March 2022

The raiding party from the Emerald Isle would like nothing more than to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a hatful of winners at Cheltenham – hopefully on a sunny afternoon, after a rain-soaked day two.

In the Ryanair Chase they look to have a banker in Allaho. He is, after all, last year’s winner. But though he is trained by Ireland’s finest in Willie Mullins, he is UK-owned by Cheveley Park Stud.

Gigginstown House Stud, who have won the race once with Balko Des Flos in 2018, have a strong candidate in Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated. Connections of the Gordon Elliott-trained eight-year-old have chosen to run in this race rather than go for Gold Cup glory. Time will tell if it was an inspired move.

Flooring Porter, from Gavin Cromwell’s Navan stable, is also a returning champion having won the Stayers’ Hurdle last year. In the same race many eyes will be on another past winner, Paisley Park, who came from way off the pace to land the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day in January. He was third 12 months ago and took the prize in 2019.

Bob Olinger was the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle hero in 2021 and Henry de Bromhead’s seven-year-old has looked a cut above when winning his two races over fences. He faces a fascinating clash with Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs in the Turners Novices’ Chase that opens the card.

Bob’s Turn again?

Jockey Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Bob Olinger (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)

Bob Olinger was an easy winner of the Ballymore last year and has since stepped into the novice chase division. A winner on his his debut over fences at Gowran Park, the bay then went on to a Grade Three triumph at Punchestown in January. His jumping has not been entirely assured, however, and he faces formidable competition from Galopin Des Champs, who has been dominant in his two chasing victories and is already a Grade One champion over fences.

Allaho all the rage for the Ryanair

Allaho winning the Ryanair last season (Michael Steele/PA) (PA Archive)

Considered by many to be the one sure thing of the meeting, Allaho strolled to a 12-length victory in the Ryanair last year and has been triumphant in his two starts this term when winning both the John Durkan and the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase. Dangers include Elliott’s Conflated, whose connections chose the race over the Gold Cup, and Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, an almost certain winner of the Charlie Hall but for falling three from home when 20 lengths ahead.

Flooring Porter out to stay the distance again

Flooring Porter winning the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Michael Steele/PA) (PA Archive)

Flooring Porter returns to defend his Stayers’ Hurdle crown off the back of a winless season that has seen him fall in the Lismullen Hurdle and finish second to Klassical Dream in the Christmas Hurdle. Two other former winners will also line up, with Lisnagar Oscar and Paisley Park looking to regain their titles. Nicky Henderson’s Champ was beaten by Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle and comes to Cheltenham looking for a rematch, with Paisley’s Park’s old foe Thyme Hill also in the mix for Philip Hobbs.

Berlais back for a treble?

Sire Du Berlais during the 2019 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Nigel French/PA) (PA Archive)

The Elliott-trained Sire Du Berlais first took the Pertemps Final in 2019 and duly doubled up when landing the same race by half a length from The Storyteller in 2020. Last year he was aimed at the Stayers’ Hurdle instead and finished a gallant second – but this time around he is back to bid for a record-equalling Pertemps hat-trick. The race is a large-field handicap, however, and can be an unpredictable affair. Emmet Mullins is known to play his hand wisely in handicaps and has an intriguing runner in the shape of Winter Fog.

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