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Keith Donoghue with Envoi Allen on the gallops ahead of the Cheltenham Racing Festival. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Keith Donoghue with Envoi Allen on the gallops ahead of the Cheltenham Racing Festival. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
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Cheltenham tips: Jane Mangan marks your card for Wednesday's Festival

EVERY year Ireland go across to Prestbury Park with a lethal weapon.

A Bugatti to take on Britain’s Ford Fiesta. Last year it was Envoi Allen in the bumper and now it’s that very same horse in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle!

Last year City Island made it five wins in the last six years for Irish-trained horses in the race and we hold a strong hand to make it six from seven.

I’m by no means disregarding his opponents, but Envoi Allen has been flawless to date. A point-to-point, four bumpers and three hurdles — at no stage has this horse looked vulnerable.

Ground won’t be an issue and with Youghal native Davy Russell in the saddle, this guy is banker material despite opponents of the calibre of Sporting John, The Big Breakaway (€360,000) and The Big Getaway.

The RSA Chase is sure to be a war of attrition and is a wide-open affair on paper. Minella Indo looks short in the market for what he has actually achieved to date and Allaho is a free-going type who might not get home in tough conditions.

Champ is the class horse of the race to my mind, beaten over shorter in the Ballymore last year — he set the record straight in no uncertain terms at Aintree. Unbeaten over fences, but for that woeful fall in the Dipper Chase over course and distance in January, I’m hoping this guy will have learned his lesson and won’t land Barry Geraghty in the turf twice.

At each way odds, I think Easy Game can run a huge race for Danny and Willie Mullins at bigger prices.

Built to be the race of the week, the Queen Mother Champion Chase has been a hot topic over the past few days. Nicky Henderson reported Atlior lame in front yesterday but hopes they can win the race against time to have him ready to defend his crown.

Never beaten at two miles over jumps, I think Altior is vulnerable on this rain-softened ground and suspect Defi Du Seuil will improve past the two times champion. Triumphant in last year’s JLT Chase, Philip Hobbs has had the perfect prep with this former Triumph Hurdle winner who bettered the mighty Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Willie Mullins has never won a Champion Chase and I doubt he’ll break that mould this year. Chaqun Pour Soi might have beaten Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown on good ground last season, but I don’t think he’ll have the finishing power of his rival today. Tactics will be fascinating but Barry Geraghty is the man to have onside in such instances.

At bigger odds, I fancy Dynamite Dollars to run a big race for each-way punters. He was off injured for 12 months before a satisfactory seasonal debut behind Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury.

Arguably the most entertaining race of the week is the Cross Country and rarely is the race run on such soft ground. Tiger Roll is an even-money shot, but don’t simply assume this is done and dusted.

The French challenge is strong this year and they are lead by David Cottin’s Easysland. A winner of his last six starts including a course win in December, JP Mcmanus swooped in to buy this son of Gentlewave only a few months ago with this race being his main target.

Tiger Roll has had a turbulent preparation and Aintree is his main aim. I’m jumping off the Tiger train for Easysland, the opponent that could stop the people’s horse recording his fifth Cheltenham Festival success.

It’s very difficult to oppose the Irish-trained horses in the Champion Bumper as 20 of the last 27 winners have come from this side of the Irish Sea. Master trainer Willie Mullins is hoping Appreciate It can provide him with a 10th win in the race and while Mullins typically sends a cavalry charge of runners to compete in this race, this year he only saddles three.

 Appreciate It and Patrick Mullins after their win at Leopardstown last month. Picture: Healy Racing

Appreciate It and Patrick Mullins after their win at Leopardstown last month. Picture: Healy Racing

Queens Brook has an each-way chance for the Codd/Elliott axis as does Darling Daughter for Lisa O’Neill, two mares in receipt of the 7lb allowance. That said, Appreciate It has the credentials and the right people in his corner to round off a productive day for the Irish.

SELECTIONS:

  • 1.30pm: Ballymore Novices Hurdle, Envoi Allen, Davy Russell, Gordon Elliott.
  • 2.10pm: RSA Chase, Champ, Barry Geraghty, Philip Hobbs.
  • 2.50pm: Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, Birchdale, Aidan Coleman, Nicky Henderson.
  • 3.30pm: Champions Chase: Defi Du Seuil, Barry Geraghty, Philip Hobbs.
  • 4.10pm: Glenfarclas Chase, Easysland, Jonathan Ploughanou, David Cottin.
  • 4.50pm: Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle. Palladium, Nico de Boinville, Nicky Henderson.
  • 5.30pm: Champion Bumper, Appreciate It, Patrick Mullins, Willie Mullins.