Cheltenham DAy 3

And that’s why they run the races.

Willie Mullins winning three more yesterday, including his 100th when his son, Patrick, guided Jasmin De Vaux to win the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. But he didn’t win them all. El Fabiolo, bowing out after slithering on his belly at the fifth in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. The 2-9 favorite jumped tepidly at the first four and crashed out at the fifth.

Numbers mean everything. Mullins deservedly has the numbers. Imagine coming here with Tullyhill and El Fabiolo. Any trainer in the world would be thrilled to come to Cheltenham with those two stars. They both lost. If they were your only two, the week is gone, the season is shot, go home and kick the cat – and the dog. Mullins loses those two and wins six others over the first two days.

Mullins will win more races at Cheltenham than any trainer this week. He will also lose more races than any trainer this week. He’s sent out six winners so far. And 33 losers. It’s an incredible number, right? El Fabiolo landed in the latter category Wednesday. Townend wisely, empathetically, pulled him up. He lives to fight another day.

The gallant Captain Guinness picking up the pieces to land a deserving Grade 1. On my Horse Tracker, the note reads, “Going well when brought down in Supreme.” That was four years ago. He chased Shishkin in the Arkle the next year. Energumene in the Queen Mother last year. Rachael Blackmore at her imperious best. Dad cashing on his favorite jockey again.

Ballyburn lived up this billing in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle. Head low, future high. Fact To File looked like a future – present – Gold Cup horse winning the Brown Advisory. Langer Dan pulling off a handicap coup for the second straight year in the Coral Cup. Unexpected Party for the same connections winning the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual. And Patrick booting home the 100th to finish the card. Stop and think about that – 100 winners at the Cheltenham Festival. We are in the midst of greatness.

As for our handicapping, we were ducking and weaving. We touted the straight exacta (Ballyburn at 1/2 over Jimmy Du Seuil at 66-1) in the first and the straight trifecta (Fact To File at 8/13, Monty’s Star at 13/2 and Giovinco at 40/1) in the second. Stephen Mulqueen delivering a beautiful ride to pick up third money on Giovinco. We picked Captain Guinness (17/2) in second, Grand Annutal third Path D’Oroux (10-1) in third and Jasmin De Vaux (9/2) in second. Yeah, ducking and weaving.

Now on to today, which looks tougher than yesterday.

Race 1. 9:30. Eastern Standard Time. The Turners Novices’ Chase. Grade 1. Registered as the Golden Miller. 2 miles, 3 furlongs, 168 yards. $210,000.

I’ll take an early stance against Facile Vega, although the step up in trip should benefit him. He never looks comfortable to me. That could be trip or could be him. He’s too short for me in a competitive race.

Iroko was impressive in his only chase start but, whew, it’s a tough assignment.

Ginny’s Destiny sports three wins from four starts over fences at Cheltenham.

The Picks: Ginny’s Destiny, Facile Vega, Djelo.

Race 2. 10:10. The Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards. $120,000.

Confounding renewal of the Pertemps Final. Like throwing darts at a moving dart board.  

The Picks: Cleatus Poolaw, Gaoth Chuil, Noble Birth.

Race 3. 10:50. The Ryanair Chase. Registered as the Festival Trophy. Grade 1. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards. $466,000.  

Hey, old friends. Established chasers still going strong. Envoi Allen tries to win his second straight running of this. Conflated has sparred at the top of the game. Stage Star won the Turners last year.

The Picks: Envoi Allen, Conflated, Capodanno.

Race 4. 11:30. The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Grade 1. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards. $390,000.

Sire De Berlais, 11, returns to defend his crown from last year. Flooring Porter won this in 2022 and 2021. Noble Yeats won the Grand National in 2022. Teahupoo is tough. Crambo gives the British a real chance. Dashel Drasher returns once more. And there is the indomitable Paisley Park. He makes his seventh consecutive appearance at the Festival and his sixth start in the Stayers. Come on my son. One (more) time.

The Picks: Crambo, Teahupoo, Noble Yeats.

Race 5. 12:10. The Trustatrader Plate Handicap Chase. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards. $144,000.

I was impressed with Theatre Man’s second behind Ginny’s Destiny in January. If you like the latter (watch how he runs early), then you have to like the former. Short price. No value. Deep race. Shop and pop underneath and around.

The Picks: Theatre Man, Riaan, Saint Felician.

Race 6. 12:50. The Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 2. 2 miles, 179 yards. $126,000.

Congested at the top. Brighterdaysahead has been hailed and regaled. She’s 6/4 for Gordon Elliott. Jade Du Grugy is right behind her at 9/4. I’ll try Dysart Enos at 5/1. Sometimes you must zag when others zig.

The Picks: Dysart Enos, Brighterdaysahead, Jade De Grugy.

Race 7. 1:30. The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys Handicap Chase. 3 miles, 2 furlongs. $90,000.  

Angels Dawn won it last year. She’s been raised 10 pounds from that victory. Twenty-four runners clash in the finale. Jockeys can make the difference here. Look for stayers.

Tricky race. Hope you don’t need to get out here.

The Picks: Cool Survivor, Whacker Clan, Dom Of Mary.