Cheltenham Festival picks and plays for March 14, 2024

March 14th, 2024

Staying hurdlers and intermediate-distance steeplechasers provide the main high points of day three of the Cheltenham Festival.

The richest race of the day is one that didn’t exist 20 years ago. The Ryanair Chase (G1), over 2 1/2 miles, didn’t exist until a fourth day was added to the festival in 2005. However, it quickly grew and there are now only three races at the festival which are worth more money.

Complementing the Ryanair is the time-honored Stayers’ Hurdle (G1), run over three miles. It doesn’t get the same hype as the two-mile Champion Hurdle but it has been the domain of some of the festival’s favorite horses, most notably four-time winner Big Buck’s (2009-2012).

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 three.

Race 1, 8:30 a.m. ET: Turners Novices’ Chase (G1), 2 1/2 miles, novice steeplechasers

Irish hope #3 Facile Vega will have his supporters but he can come up a fraction short in the best class; a better Irish hope could be #10 Zanahiyr, who runs well up the hill at Cheltenham.

The British team could however hold the key hand. #4 Ginny’s Destiny has won his last three and two starts back beat another strong contender, #5 Grey Dawning. Ginny’s Destiny was receiving three pounds that day and has a tougher task at level weights, but his three victories were all on this track and Cheltenham form usually plays well at the festival. Don’t ignore #6 Iroko for exotics either.                  

  • $10 win/$20 show: #4 Ginny’s Destiny
  • $1 trifecta: 4, 5 with 4, 5, 10 with 2, 4, 5, 6, 10

Race 2, 9:10 a.m. ET: Pertemps Final Hurdle, 3 miles, open handicap hurdle

If you get this one, you’ll probably be facing a good collect, with local pre-post markets putting #11 Cleatus Poolaw as a 15-2 favorite. He’s been in very good form, finishing first or second at all his races.

There are, however, some other good horses here. Frequently these races are won by a younger horse that’s on the improve, and the obvious horse fitting that bill is #12 Cuthbert Dibble. He’s won both his races this season and seems well suited by three miles.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #12 Cuthbert Dibble

Race 3, 9:50 a.m. ET: Ryanair Chase (G1), 2 9/16 miles, open steeplechasers

There’s some very good horses here, horses that in other circumstances could be Champion Chase or Gold Cup runners. If the ground was not too wet, #2 Banbridge would be a leading contender; however, with doubts about how heavy it will be, things look set for #5 Envoi Allen to repeat last year’s triumph.

Last year’s Turners winner #11 Stage Star and former Gold Cup placegetter #10 Protektorat are others that look to have strong claims.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #5 Envoi Allen
  • $1 trifecta: 5, 11 with 5, 10, 11 with 2, 4, 5, 10, 11

Race 4, 10:30 a.m. ET: Stayers’ Hurdle (G1), 3 miles, open hurdlers

There’s a lot of fantastic chances in this year’s Stayers’ Hurdle. Gordon Elliott’s #13 Teahupoo is probably going to start favorite to improve on his third last year, and he should play a major role. But it would be wise not to ignore stablemate #11 Sire Du Berlais. Punters don’t seem to like him but he’s got a fantastic record at the festival with three victories from six starts, including this race last year. Don’t worry about his lack of lead-up form; it was the same last year.

Several others are contenders for whom wins or bold runs wouldn’t surprise, among them former winners #6 Flooring Porter and #10 Paisley Park, the ex-Grand National winner #9 Noble Yeats, and the improving #4 Crambo.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #11 Sire Du Berlais
  • $1 trifecta: 11, 13 with 4, 11, 13 with 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13

Race 5, 11:10 a.m. ET: Trustatrader Plate, 2 9/16 miles, handicap steeplechase

If Ginny’s Destiny goes as well as he should in the Turners, then watch for horses in this race that have form around him. They include #10 Crebilly, fourth to Ginny’s Destiny here Dec. 23, and #14 Theatre Man, second to the same horse Jan. 24. Theatre Man’s form looks slightly the better.

Ireland has good chances in the form of #5 Saint Felicien and #17 Arctic Bresil, while #7 Shakem Up’Arry was third in this last year and won nicely here Jan. 1.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #14 Theatre Man
  • $1 trifecta: 14, 17 with 5, 14, 17 with 5, 7, 10, 14, 17

Race 6, 11:50 a.m. ET: Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (G2), 2 1/8 miles, mares hurdle

An exciting rendition of the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, with several horses with unbeaten hurdling records trying their luck here. The two big players are #2 Brighterdaysahead and #3 Jade De Grugy; both hail from big Irish stables and have very good form to back their claims. Perhaps Brighterdaysahead, with three successes, is the more likely.

The most likely to trouble them could be #5 Dysart Enos, who under the conditions of the race will receive five pounds from the leading contenders. It puts her closer to them, but is it close enough?

  • $10 win/$30 show: #2 Brighterdaysahead
  • $3 box exacta: 2, 3, 5

Race 7, 12:30 p.m. ET: Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, 3 1/4 miles, amateur jockeys, handicap steeplechase

Amateur jockey contests are never easy to predict, with knowledge of the jockeys that little bit harder to come by. Most, however, are highly competent horsepeople and well capable of doing the job here.

It’s an even-looking line-up, but I’m going for #21 Whacker Clan. From the stable of the astute Henry De Bromhead, he’s won his last two over big fences and enjoys Cheltenham.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #21 Whacker Clan