Cheltenham Festival day two tips: Minella Indo, Alfa Mix, Black Tears, Tronador, Palladium

3m½f  (3m80y) (Old) RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)  (Class 1) (5yo+)

Quite a few surprises among the final declarations for this race. Copperhead has taken up his entry instead of running in the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday, but his yard’s jockey Robbie Power has chosen to ride Slate House instead, which the market had very wrong. I don’t fancy Slate House at all after he jumped so badly in the Cotswold Chase so I’ll pass the both of them. To my eye, Allaho would have had a better chance in the shorter distance Marsh Novices’ Chase on Thursday, but he is the pace angle in this race along with Champ, and would be my most likely winner if I was confident he would see the trip out strongly. However, his sire seems to be producing two-milers and he hasn’t fully convinced over three miles to date, and I’ll be taking him on with last year’s Albert Bartlett winner MINELLA INDO, who stays all day. He likes to race prominently and won’t let Allaho or Champ have an easy time of things up in front – either that or he will make the running himself – and I suspect a strong pace could separate the glorified handicappers or dodgy jumpers from the Grade 1 horses in this race. Joel

1pt win Minella Indo @7/2, 14:10 Cheltenham, Wednesday

2m5f  (Old) Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)  (Class 1) (4yo+)

I’ve long had the Gavin Cromwell-trained ALFA MIX in mind for this race because he hasn’t stopped progressing since stepping up from two miles, and there’s every chance of more to come given he’s only a five-year-old novice. A facile handicap success off a mark of 127 was followed up by a very solid second to Kilfenora last time out off 136, when there was more than a hint of mark preservation as the winner was allowed first run. He’s been raised to 142 for that effort but is allowed to race off his Irish mark in this – a rare thing – and I don’t think he necessarily needs to improve again to hit the frame. With 26 runners I will be backing two here. It’s disappointing that Franco De Port has halved in price overnight as he was very much on the short-list, but value is everything and I’d much rather back the bigger price of Gordon Elliott’s mare BLACK TEARS at 16/1. She’s been campaigned in graded races for mares, consistently hitting the frame by staying on late, so the 21f trip and stiff finish of the Coral Cup should suit her well. We know she handles the track from her narrow 4th in last year’s Mares’ Novices Hurdle, and she also gets in off her Irish mark of 144, which gives her a chance. I’m a little concerned she ran to 133 seven starts in succession so might not be well handicapped now, but she is only six and appears to be in the form of her life, so perhaps she is still improving. Joel

1pt each-way Alfa Mix @9/1, 14:50 Cheltenham, Wednesday (1-7, 1/5 Paddy Power)
1pt each-way Black Tears @16/1, 14:50 Cheltenham, Wednesday (1-7, 1/5 Paddy Power)

2m½f (2m87y) (Old) Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Registered As The Fred Winter) (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo)

Always a cracking juvenile race, the Fred Winter looks like being another belter this year and we really like the chances of PALLADIUM who comes into this off a mark of 137. This is technically outside the favoured band of 124-134. But, Band Of Outlaws broke that trend last year, and Palladium also has rare form in that he has beaten older horses already in his short career. Flic De Voyou – a horse that finished behind Supreme-hurdlers, Edwardstone and Fiddlerontheroof – was well beaten by a whopping 10l at Sandown on his last start. Palladium has had two wins by a distance already this season, has a very nice pedigree, and looks like he’s a relentless galloper that should thrive in this sort of affair. Another one we like is TRONADOR, who looks absolutely thrown in here at the bottom of the handicap having been targeted as this race by Gordon Elliott. Tronador put in an eyecatching performance on his debut to finish 4/24 at Leoparstown coming from a mile off the pace having previously been a fairly average flat performer. He picked up his maiden at Thurles going way before a respectable effort in a Novice hurdle last time out which has helped to surpress his mark. Tronador can’t go unbacked off a mark of 129 wearing first-time blinkers. Paul

1pt each-way Tronador @8/1, 16:50 Cheltenham, Wednesday (1-5 places, 1/5 odds)
1pt each-way Palladium @11/1, 16:50 Cheltenham, Wednesday (1-5 places, 1/5 odds)

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