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Cheltenham - Racing: Day Two Preview

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, in what is another blockbuster day at Prestbury Park.

We could see Tiger Roll's final appearance of his wonderful career in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, while there are a host of novices looking to enhance their reputations.

Here's our race-by-race look ahead to day two of Cheltenham 2022 and you can get some pre-Festival tips from our Upping The Ante team.

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13:30 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (2m5f)

Irishman Willie Mullins holds the potential ace in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle this year with Sir Gerhard, who has been sent here instead of the Supreme 24 hours earlier.

It is notoriously difficult to pre-empt what Mullins will do, but all the noises coming from Closutton appeared to suggest the Ballymore will be a 'softer touch' compared to Tuesday's red-hot Supreme - and they are confident of landing this race having opted to deploy the Cheveley Park-owned runner here.

Sir Gerhard, trading at 4/6 for this race, has been full of running at the back end of his two races over 2m this season, so a step up to 2m5f is unlikely to be a problem for the 2021 Champion Bumper winner.

And what of the British challenge? Stage Star is 13/2 for Paul Nicholls and is a Grade 1 winner in his own right this season.

The Ditcheat supremo has been sounding positive on his hopes - but can the home team match the levels of the raiding Irish novices? They certainly did not last year, but will hoping for a better return this time.

14:10 - Brown Advisory Novices' Chase (3m½f)

Paul Nicholls is set to run his smallest team of horses at the Festival since the meeting was extended to four-days.

One of his best chances of a winner this year could come through Bravemansgame (2/1) in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase.
 
Nicholls won this race with Denman in 2007 and he has compared Bravemansgame favourably with 'The Tank' already. He will be hoping his latest novice chaser can follow in the footsteps of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.

He has done nothing wrong this season, with the pick of his victories coming in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase on Boxing Day, where he beat Ahoy Senor.
 
Lucinda Russell's charge is set to have another crack at him here, with the undulations of Prestbury Park deemed favourable for him compared to Kempton and he's 11/2 to reverse form.
 
Grade 1 Scilly Isles winner L'homme Presse is 7/2 as he step up in distance for trainer Venetia Williams and is already a Cheltenham Grade 2 winner this calendar year.

He adds some intrigue and looks an excellent jumper. Galopin Des Champs, as was expected, skips this race in favour of a mouthwatering St Patrick's Day scrap with Bob Olinger in the Turners Novices' Chase instead.

14:50 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (2m5f)

This race is always one of the most competitive of the week at the Festival. A maximum field of 26 runners will tackle this 2m5f trip.

Good Risk At All is 8/1 and is the most interesting entry in the race. He came up one shy of a place in the final line-up and so is installed as first reserve, leaving connections with an anxious wait before they know their fate.

If Sam Thomas' runner does get in, he could be well ahead of the handicapper off a really low weight having absolutely cantered clear of his opposition at Ascot recently. The Shunter was a winner over fences at this meeting a year ago and lines up here Emmet Mullins now, he's trading at 8/1 here.

Meanwhile, locally-based trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies may fancy a big effort from 12/1 Gowel Road, who races off a mark of 145 and was second behind Metier at Lingfield's Winter Millions Festival last time out.  

15:30 - Queen Mother Champion Chase (2m½f)

The feature race of the day, and for many the highlight of their week, is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It is always a great sight to see the leading two-mile chasers leap over their fences in this race.

Just a single length separated them at Ascot in the Clarence House Chase, where Nicky Henderson's unbeaten chaser prevailed despite things not going his way mid-race.

This year's renewal features the rematch between Shishkin and Energumene. They can be backed at 4/5 and 7/2 respectively for this Championship contest.

It is going to be fascinating to see if Energumene can reverse the form with his rival at this vastly different racecourse - the Irish horse lost little in defeat at Ascot.

With all the talk of a Shishkin vs. Energumene rematch, it's gone somewhat under the radar that last year's one-two-three - Put The Kettle On, Nube Negra and Chacun Pour Soi - are all set to come back for another go.
 
Chacun Pour Soi has failed to give his best in two previous runs in England but, after last month's Dublin Racing Festival win, there was a glint in Willie Mullins' eye as he talked of re-jigging his approach in regards to preparing him for Cheltenham this year.

Could he right the wrongs of last year and thwart the big pair in the market?

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16:10 - Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (3m6f)

The Cross Country Chase is the most unique contest of the week at the Festival and it has been dominated by Tiger Roll in recent years.

He has won this race three times in the last four years, taking his Festival tally to five overall and within one of the all-time record.

The dual Grand National winner is set for the final appearance of his career in the race, so it is not to be missed.

He is 13/8 to defend his crown, but the question is, can Tiger Roll produce his best again? His form this season has been below-par, but connections will be hoping a return to Cheltenham will help him find that spark once more.

His recent racecourse gallop was said to have 'thrilled' Gordon Elliott and, if he can prevail, he is likely to bring the house down at Cheltenham.

Challengers to the three-time winner include Prengarde (6/1), a horse recently purchased from France by JP McManus and sent to legendary Cross Country trainer Enda Bolger, 2020 winner Easysland and Tiger Roll's Elliott-trained stablemate Delta Work, 6/1 here and a Grade 1 winner in his pomp.

16:50 - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (2m)

The penultimate race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand Annual and Buddy Rich is much fancied in this race at 13/2.

The Irish horse from Elliott's yard broke his maiden over fences in a beginners' chase at Navan two runs back.
 
Ireland dominated the handicap races at the Festival in 2021 and they will be hoping to do the same again this year. Andy Dufresne, Embittered and A Wave To The Sea all featre in the raiding party.

Last year's winner Sky Pirate is 14/1 to defy top-weight this time around, while the Paul Nicholls-trained Thyme White looks a player at 8/1 on the basis of his Doncaster success last time.

17:30 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper (2m½f)

Facile Vega has been one of the best backed horses heading into the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.

Facile Vega is a son of Cheltenham Festival legend Quevega and there was big talk of his ability before his Leopardstown debut at Christmas, where he won easily.

Willie Mullins won the Champion Bumper for a record-extending 11th time in 2021 and Facile Vega is 5/4 to give the master trainer a dozen in the bumper.

At last month's Dublin Racing Festival he delivered a simply explosive performance under Patrick Mullins in blowing away some very promising rivals.

This race, for many, is going to be a coronation for Facile Vega, but Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd have other ideas with American Mike at 5/2.

He, too, is unbeaten and exciting and his connections are certainly not bound for Cheltenham as a mere support act in the Facile Vega show - this could be a blockbuster showdown to round off day two.

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