1pt win Politologue @10/1, 1pt win Arbre De Vie @12/1, 0.5pt EW Baron Alco @20/1, 14:50 Cheltenham

The Coral Cup is a great betting opportunity on day two of The Festival, and although we were a tad unlucky to see two of our selections get taken out before the race had even developed in the Ultima Handicap Chase, we are eager to get stuck in to another big-field handicap.

This race was won last year by a very unexposed French import, trained and ridden, by Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies respectively. That same owner runs POLITOLOGUE this year as he bids to make it two wins in a row.

His three runs in the UK have been encouraging. The first of which saw him unceremoniously dump Sam T-D out the side door before the last hurdle at Cheltenham, when he seemed to be in a great position to mount a winning challenge.

His second start was a 12 length second to the unbeaten Albert Bartlett favourite, Barter’s Hill – an excellent yardstick – and there is no shame in that. He was mightily impressive in his third, and latest start, which was a Listed race on heavy ground. Granted, he trounced poor opposition on that occasion, but he could not have done it anymore impressively.

Paul Nicholls is unsure whether his mark leaves him well-in or not, but he does think the better ground will help, and he looks like one to keep on the right side of before he is sent chasing next season.

BARON ALCO has been thriving this year, and his front-running tactics have seen him dominate all but one of his four starts. He has looked nothing but game in his races, responding well to pressure to win at Kempton at the Boxing Day meeting where he beat subsequent Imperial Cup winner, Flying Angel, by quite a distance.

He followed that up by just getting touched-off by Rock The Kasbah at Ascot, after a mammoth attempt to lead from pillar-to-post. That defeat was over a slightly shorter trip, where he also had the likes of Lil Rockerfeller three lengths behind with the rest of the field further adrift. That race has worked out well with Lil Rockerfellar beating Ubak in a Grade 2 before his Champion Hurdle run.

Baron Alco has a 2lb swing in the weights with the Hobb’s entrant, and he should be more suited to the ground he will encounter today. Gary Moore has freshened him up for this as well, and therefore he must stand a chance of reversing the form, if he remains ahead of the handicapper.

The slight concern is that he likes to take a keen hold in front, which might work against him when he ultimately comes up-the-hill, but I certainly think he represents better value at 20/1 than the 12/1 on offer for Rock The Kasbah, and he can finish in the first six places on offer.

ARBRE DE VIE finished fourth in the Albert Bartlett last season and although he may be the second string of Willie Mullins (based on Ruby taking the ride on Blood Cotil), his price of 12/1 looks very generous on the basis of that form, and his current handicap mark of 150.

He is just 5lbs higher than last year with D J Mullins claiming 3lbs and may be very well treated. The yard have decided to put a claimer on him, and this may be in an effort to give him a better chance as he is Willie’s highest rated hurdle horse in the race.

His last hurdle run was on gd-yld at Punchestown last April, where he ran a blinder to finish a close second to Sort It Out. His opening run this season was in a chase contest, where he also ran very well finishing far in advance of the third.

That may have been an attempt to preserve his mark for this race, and this represents a step down in quality from his last two hurdles starts. Trip and ground should be fine and with the wider yard in excellent form, he is worth a saver.

1pt win Politologue @10/1, 14:50 Cheltenham
1pt win Arbre De Vie @12/1, 14:50 Cheltenham

0.5pt EW Baron Alco @20/1, 14:50 Cheltenham

Coral pay 1/4 odds, for first six places.

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