Cheltenham Day 2 Tips: Check out all Wednesday's selections here
There's another mouth-watering card taking place on Wednesday afternoon on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, and our tipster Steve Chambers picks out his best bets for a day that will see Shishkin and Energumene clash in an epic Queen Mother Champion Chase...
13:30 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Sir Gerhard will be sent off a red-hot favourite for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, which kicks off day two of the meeting, and it's hard to see last year's Champion Bumper winner not racking up a second victory at the Cheltenham Festival, as he has been faultless since his switch to the hurdling sphere, and he can prove to be a cut above his rivals.
However, from a punting perspective he's awfully skinny, so while he should have too much class it's worth looking elsewhere for a potential each-way alternative in the contest, and the one that stands out is Nicky Henderson's I AM MAXIMUS, who is available at 16/1, at the time of writing. An impressive bumper win at Cheltenham over the classy My Drogo showed his potential, while he was hugely impressive when winning a maiden hurdle at Newbury over two miles. He was unable to live with the Albert Bartlett favourite Hillcrest last time out at Cheltenham, but having shown strong form at the track, the Seven Barrows inmate can at least give Sir Gerhard something to think about here.
I Am Maximus (EW)
14:10 - Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
There's more Grade 1 action at 14:10 with the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase attracting a field awash with quality, and all eyes will be on the mouth-watering clash between the Paul Nicholls-trained BRAVEMANSGAME and the Venetia Williams-trained L'Homme Presse, who dominate the betting.
The former has been a sensational novice chaser this season, and having bounded to victory over another of today's rivals Ahoy Senor in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton, the Ditcheat raider then carried a huge weight to victory in a novices' handicap chase at Newbury. L'Homme Presse has done absolutely nothing wrong this season, and his win in the Dipper Novices' Chase showed he can produce the goods at Cheltenham, while he made it four from four over fences when winning the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase, but the step up to three miles could see him struggle, and the dour stayer Bravemansgame can claim a notable win for the Nicholls team.
14:50 - Coral Cup
A huge field will line up for the Coral Cup, and unsurprisingly it's a hugely competitive betting heat for punters to decipher on Wednesday afternoon. The lightly-raced Saint Felicien immediately jumps off the page, as the Gordon Elliott-trained raider was last seen finishing second in a Grade 3 contest, and with more improvement to come he has to be a solid each-way contender.
However, the one worth taking a chance on is the Pat Fahy-trained DROP THE ANCHOR, who was a decent fifth at Leopardstown last time out over two miles, and the step up to 2m 5f in the Coral Cup should see him at his best. He ran a fine race to finish seventh and only three lengths behind Belfast Banter in last year's contest, and now taking his chance off a 3lbs lower mark he can get even closer. Taking his chance of 143, Drop The Anchor is prominent in the betting, and he can duly carry the JP McManus silks to victory in this contest.
Drop The Anchor
15:30 - Queen Mother Champion Chase
Nicky Henderson's SHISHKIN and the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene served up a sensational spectacle in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot earlier in the season, and the pair are set for an epic rematch in the Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase, which is the feature race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
Energumene appeared to have the measure of Shishkin as they jumped the final fence at Ascot, but the Seven Barrows charge picked up tremendously for Nico De Boinville to claim the win, and it could be a similar story at Cheltenham on Wednesday. Sure to set a fierce gallop, Paul Townend will look to get Shishkin out of his comfort zone, but with two wins at the festival already, Shishkin has the benefit of track experience and he can duly grind down his market rival in the closing stages.
Last year's favourite for this Chacun Pour Soi will be eager to bounce back from a poor show 12 months ago, and he has to be respected, while last year's runner-up Nube Negra and reigning champion Put The Kettle On add depth to the contest, but it's Shishkin that looks the solid option, at a shade of odds-on.
16:10 - Cross Country Chase
Five-times Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll is set for his farewell appearance in Wednesday's Cross Country Chase, and the dual Grand National winner, who was a runaway winner of this event 12 months, is a red-hot favourite to claim his fourth Cross Country crown. The class act in the race, Gordon Elliott's star will not be heading to Aintree for a crack at the Grand National next month, so the Elliott team will have him primed for this, and it's hard to see him being beaten.
However, with him being so short in the betting then there could be some each-way value, and it's his stablemate ALPHA DES OBEAUX that could outrun his lofty odds of 50/1 and sneak in the frame. With the majority of bookmakers going four places in this event, which is devoid of significant strength in depth, Alpha Des Obeaux will need to bounce back from some poor shows this season, but he was a fine plugging on fourth in last season's contest, and he could repeat that feat again. He disappointed on his last visit to Cheltenham, and the 12-year-old may not be the force of old, but if he can bounce back from a poor run at Punchestown last time out he could well sneak a place in behind his heralded stablemate.
Alpha Des Obeaux (EW)
16:50 - Grand Annual Handicap Chase
One of the toughest conundrums on day two is the Grand Annual, which sees some of the premier two-mile handicap chasers go to post, and Gordon Elliott will saddle a lively duo in the shape Buddy Rich and Andy Dufresne, who both have some excellent form. Last year's winner Sky Pirate and the Colin Tizzard-trained Amarillo Sky will be two of the main contenders for the British, but it can go the way of the Irish and Joseph O'Brien's EMBITTERED, who can outclass his rivals.
Sent off favourite for this event 12 months ago, Embittered fell at the ninth fence, but he lines up off a 1lb lower mark in the 2022 renewal and can deliver the goods, if producing his best. He has been contesting Graded events in recent times, and found the Grade 1 Irish Arkle too hot to handle last time out, where he was behind Blue Lord, but this is much easier on paper, and with a Grade 3 win on his CV already the classy performer can bound to an emphatic glory.
17:30 - Champion Bumper
It's billed as the monster clash between the hugely exciting Facile Vega and the Gordon Eliott-trained American Mike, and the Irish duo dominate the betting for what is a fascinating renewal of the Champion Bumper, which concludes day two of the Cheltenham Festival. You couldn't help but been impressed by Facile Vega, who sauntered to a 12-length victory in a Grade 2 event at Leopardstown last time out, and the son of six-times Cheltenham Festival winner Quevega is an odds-on favourite for this event.
However, AMERICAN MIKE has been equally as impressive during his fledgling career, and he could offer a little more value than his market rival. A seven length winner on debut at Down Royal, he built on that hugely when running away with a Navan listed event by 17 lengths, and there's surely more to come from him, and he can down the Mullins hotpot in a renewal full of potential.