Cheltenham Festival picks and plays for March 13, 2024

March 12th, 2024

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival is always highlighted by the Queen Mother Champion Chase, It’s the climax of the season for the dashing open two-mile steeplechasers, named for one of National Hunt racing’s biggest enthusiasts of last century.

Other highlights include two more Grade 1 races for novices, the Champion Bumper for National Hunt flat horses, the spectacular Glenfarclas cross-country chase, and two handicaps that always carry plenty of punting interest, the Coral Cup and Grand Annual Chase. 

Don’t forget TwinSpires’ Cheltenham $10 money back offer, where those who opt in will get up to $10 back on unsuccessful win bets if their horse finishes second or third.

Here’s a look at possible plays for day two.

Race 1, 8:30 a.m. ET: Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle (G1), 2 5/8 miles, novice hurdlers

Willie Mullins has sent #1 Ballyburn here instead of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and despite the presence of multiple stablemates, he will dominate the betting. He does so with good reason; nothing is rated within seven pounds of him.

Strange things could happen, but Ballyburn looks very hard to bet against, and the best options might be in trifectas. Stable companions #3 Ile Atlantique and #7 Predators Gold, along with British contenders #2 Handstands and #5 Jingko Blue, may be the best options for minor placings.

  • $2 trifecta: 1 with 2, 3, 5, 7 with 2, 3, 5, 7

Race 2, 9:10 a.m. ET: Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (G1), 3 1/16 miles, novice steeplechasers

Irish horses have dominated the top novice races at Cheltenham in recent years but one race the Brits have performed well in is this three-mile chase. The Irish will have the likely favorite in #2 Fact To File, winner of his last two, and he could easily take the race. But whether he’s worth supporting at possibly less than even money is debatable. 

Have a look instead at #6 Stay Away Fay, from the Paul Nicholls stable. He won the Albert Bartlett last year and has been in solid form this term. He will definitely stay the trip.

Race 3, 9:50 a.m. ET: Coral Cup, 2 5/8 miles, handicap hurdle

As so often seems to happen, Willie Mullins has the likely favorite, this time #12 Sa Majeste. He could start at reasonable odds given that he beat former Grand National winner Noble Yeats decisively at his last start.

Two others look to be well worth considering. #10 Langer Dan may not have much form, but he loves Cheltenham, and this festival in particular, having won this race last year. Also, #11 Jigoro had form behind two smart novices in Tullyhill and Mystical Power, form that may be good enough to look at here at reasonable odds.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #11 Jigoro
  • $2 box exacta: 10, 11, 12

Race 4, 10:30 a.m. ET: Queen Mother Champion Chase (G1), 2 miles, open steeplechasers

There are those who would question the jumping ability of #4 El Fabiolo. But his record speaks for itself. He just keeps on winning, and though a lot is thought of England’s #8 Jonbon, El Fabiolo had his measure in the Arkle last year and there’s every chance he will do so again here. Look for some good trifectas with El Fabiolo as an anchor.

  • $3 trifecta: 4 with 8 with 2, 3, 5, 7