Coral Cup Tips: Henderson to strike with improving sort

Coral Cup Tips: Nicky Henderson can win the race for the third year in a row.
Coral Cup Tips: Nicky Henderson can win the race for the third year in a row.

Lewis Tomlinson picks out his best Coral Cup tips in a race that looks hugely competitive on paper on day two of the Cheltenham Festival...

Lewis Tomlinson's Coral Cup Tip

Craigneiche at 10/1 with bet365

The biggest field of the week goes to post for the Coral Cup, an ultra-competitive handicap hurdle over 2m5f. Star names such as dual Grade 1 winner Whisper and former Irish Champion Hurdler Supasundae have won this race in the past decade before establishing themselves as top class hurdlers.

I’m not particularly one to buy into Cheltenham trends, but I think the statistic regarding lightly-raced horses in this event holds water. Nine of the last ten Coral Cup winners had less than nine starts over hurdles, and there’s likely several animals in this line-up who will prove to be ahead of their current mark in time, so genuine cases can be made for most of the field in a competitive betting heat.

Grand Roi will make his handicap debut here, and he heads the betting for this year’s renewal. Owners Noel & Valerie Moran paid £400,000 for him during the summer after a fruitful four-year-old campaign for Nicky Henderson, in which he won both of his starts in juvenile hurdles. 

He’s also performed with credit in three runs for his new connections in Ireland this season, winning a Grade 2 against his own age group at Limerick in December before conceding 7lbs and finishing second to the in-form Bachasson in the Limestone Lad at Naas at the end of January. That being said, I’m not surely how much those pieces of form amount to. The favourite for that Limerick race, potential County Hurdle contender Galopin Des Champs, was clearly under the weather and pulled up, leaving Grand Roi to beat the fairly exposed Wolf Prince, who has since been dropped 4lbs in the ratings. His Naas run also reads well on paper, having finished ahead of subsequent Boyne Hurdle winner Beacon Edge, though I’d also be inclined to view that form rather sceptically, as the two-mile trip was at least half a mile too short for Beacon Edge to be seen to best effect. 

Cheltenham Festival Wednesday Races

Certainly, on paper, his profile isn’t one of a typical Coral Cup horse, and is yet to face more than eight rivals over hurdles, so the hustle and bustle of this event may come as somewhat of a culture shock to Grand Roi. He is yet to run a poor race, and may well be good enough to go and win this from a mark of 149, but at 6-1, I’d be happy to just watch him rather than take a fairly skinny price.

Koshari evidently hasn’t been the easiest to train for Willie Mullins and returned to the track this season after an absence of two-and-a-half years. He made no mistake in making up for lost time, though, with a winning reappearance at Cork in January. He caught the eye of many when sixth behind Maze Runner over three miles at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, making progress from rear without ever threatening to hit the frame. I’m not quite sure whether I was as impressed as others after that, but it is always worth taking note when a horse representing his powerful connections is as well-supported as Koshari is.

Nicky Henderson has won the previous two renewals of this courtesy of William Henry and Dame De Compagnie, and I think Craigneiche has an outstanding chance of providing him with the hat-trick. The seven-year-old is incredibly lightly raced, still with only four starts to his name. He made a winning start to his career in a Market Rasen bumper in the summer of 2019, and showed promise under considerate handling on his first hurdles start that winter, when finishing third behind a pair of expensive recruits in The Big Breakaway and Papa Tango Charly. The useful duo I K Brunel and Killer Clown finished in behind Craigeiche that day, and he didn’t need to improve much to land odds of 4-11 at Doncaster on his next start.

He returned this season on a lenient mark of 127, and was impressive in winning a good Ascot handicap in late January, powering clear of the consistent Arrivederci between the last two flights. Craigneiche looks to possess a serious engine and I think he’s capable of going very close again here, even with his 12lb rise in the weights. 

Henderson will also be represented by the five-year-old Monte Cristo, who caused a 25-1 upset when winning a handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day and has also been given a 12lb rise, as well as last season’s eighth Birchdale, who remains unexposed as a handicap hurdler after two failed novice chasing campaigns. That’s far from a negative in this race, though; several horses have performed well in the Coral Cup after failing to take to fences earlier in this season, not least one of Henderson’s winners William Henry.

Gary Moore’s Botox Has possesses a fine Cheltenham record, with two wins and a second from three starts at the track. He’s now 4lbs higher than when winning a four-year-old hurdle at the track in November, and I’m not sure whether there is as much juice in his mark as there may be with others here, though his slightly below-par efforts that last twice have come on unsuitable winter ground.

The novice Guard Your Dreams steps up in trip here after a fine sixth in the Betfair last time out. He’s won three times this campaign and is a really nice type, certainly with the potential to prove to be better than his current mark of 135. He found himself outpaced in the early stages at Newbury on his most recent outing, so extra half mile here should suit, though they will go quick here and Guard Your Dreams’ chances may revolve around his capacity to hold his position in the opening period. Slower ground would help him.

Former Supreme runner-up Thomas Darby has held his form well in Graded events on his last three starts and he’s interesting pitched back into a handicap for the first time in over a year from a fair looking mark of 155.

Wed 14:30 - Coral Cup
Craigneiche silk

Craigneiche

placed
Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners
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