The Cheltenham Festival continues on Thursday morning with three Group 1 races. The highlight should be Race 3, the Ryanair Chase (G1) for five-year-olds and up going 2 5/8 miles on a soft turf course.
Two handicapping warnings: first is that many of these runners are coming out of races with short fields and now they are facing full ones, second is that this is a weight-for-age race so the top-rated runners are not under penalty. A dozen runners are scheduled to compete.
FRODON (#6) (6-1) failed miserably in this event last year at 9-1 odds. He was given time to recover by trainer Paul Nicholls (15 for 42 the past two weeks) and came back with a good win against Group 2 company at Aintree. He was a good second here carrying 166 pounds next out in a Group 3, then won his next start with the same impost. Last out, he won ridiculously easy when he jogged home on yielding ground. The ground should suit him on Thursday and, with two months to prepare, it looks like Nicholls has him primed for a top effort at a good price.
Race 4 is the Stayers’ Hurdle (G1) at three miles. It should be an absolute slugfest with 18 runners entered. SUPASUNDAE (#13) (7-1) was a good second in this race last year. He came back two starts later to win a Group 1 going two miles and returned seven months later this year with a trio of second-place finishes. The last two were going two miles and now he stretches out another mile without picking up any weight. He will have to upset the ultra-consistent PAISLEY PARK (#10) (3-1) but trainer Jessica Harrington always get the best out of this gelded son of Galileo.
Race 5 is a 24-runner handicap chase (G3) going just over 2 1/2 miles. There is a 21-pound weight spread from top to bottom so anything is possible. SIRUH DU LAC (#12) (6-1) has won three races in a row, including a Group 3 chase here last out when he carried 146 pounds. He picks up five pounds and gets regular rider Lizzie Kelly back aboard. He can handle any kind of turf condition and is the right combination of recent form and assigned weight to be dangerous in here at a square price.
***Don’t forget that all week TwinSpires is offering jump insurance if your horse falls or doesn’t finish! You have to opt in to be eligible for a refund on your first win bet on each race up to $5.