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Graham Cunningham's Cheltenham Blog: Rave reports point to Alexandre

Willie Mullins has a strong hand in the Neptune with Pont Alexandre

Day two recommendations

Back Pont Alexandre for the Neptune Hurdle
Back Houblon Des Obeaux win and place in the RSA Chase
Back Sizing Europe in the "without Sprinter Sacre" market for the Champion Chase

Brace yourself for the hottest festival favourite for almost 50 years this Wednesday. The general consensus is that Sprinter Sacre needs only to jump round to land Wednesday's Queen Mother Champion Chase, but Channel 4 analyst Graham Cunningham wonders if the current two mile king might be being crowned as an all-time great a shade prematurely in part two of his 2013 Festival blog...

We live in the era of the superstar banker.

Not the ones who fix the Libor rates and rate and hoover up millions, though there might be a few of those mischievous scamps necking champagne in the corporate boxes at this week's Cheltenham Festival.

No, the superstar bankers of racing folklore are the top-class horses who just keep winning and winning at very short odds.

The mighty Kauto Star and Denman started the trend, while stablemate Big Buck's took the concept to a new level with an astonishing 18 consecutive victories and four consecutive World Hurdle wins until injury laid him low.

The bank of Frankel paid out dividends without fail on the Flat for 14 starts spanning three years until stallion duty beckoned, while fans of the Aussie superstar Black Caviar and the brilliant Irish mare Quevega will testify that there is much coin to be made in keeping it simple when the big names come out to play at the world's great racing occasions.

This year's Festival contains its usual quota of so called bankers, but there is one horse who stands head and shoulders above them all both in terms of physique, form and odds.

The Betfair market shows that three will get you one in the four minutes it will take for Sprinter Sacre to complete the course in Wednesday's Queen Mother Champion Chase.

There is absolutely no chance that any horse will outshine this gelding in the paddock and the fact that a grounded judge like Barry Geraghty says he is "as close to perfection as you can get" pays testament to a record which is every bit as seductive as that unfeasibly handsome physique.

But are we in danger of crowning Sprinter Sacre as an all-time great just a shade prematurely?

Most racing fans will have golden memories of the exuberant Master Minded, who earned a Timeform rating of 179 for the first of his two Champion Stakes wins in 2008.

And many will recall the 184-rated Moscow Flyer, who propelled Geraghty into the big time with two Champion Chase wins in 2003 and 2005.

But those with a true sense of history will recall several other true greats of the speed chasing division.

Desert Orchid's epic Victor Chandler Chase win was one of the highlights of his astounding career. Badsworth Boy (179) and Pearlyman (174) were exceptional at Cheltenham, while Flyingbolt (rated 210 at his very best) put up one of the great Champion Chase performances of all time when cantering home at 1-5 in the 1965 renewal.

So what does Sprinter Sacre have to do this Wednesday to increase his current Timeform mark of 183p and cement his place among the legendary two milers of yesteryear?

Timeform jumps handicapper Phil Turner says: "Sizing Europe is rated 172 and has recorded nine wins and three seconds from his last 12 starts. He has an exceptional Festival record and looks as good as ever aged 11, so if he runs to his rating and Sprinter Sacre still wins in the same style he has been then it's safe to say we are dealing with one of the best two milers we have ever come across.

"I don't say that lightly as I was a huge Moscow Flyer fan, but I suspect this fella is even better than him and that's high praise indeed."

So good luck to the latest superstar banker as he bids to ignite day two of the Festival.

My gut feeling is that the admirable Sizing Europe might just give Sprinter Sacre a bit more to do than the market suggests, but what about the rest of the day two card?

Pont Alexandre was a very appealing bet for the Neptune at 4.0 and [3.753/1 three weeks ago and I stepped in accordingly.

Rave reports from Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins have tightened the price to 2.447/5 now, but this relentless galloper has a touch of Denman about him and I think he can win this and win it handsomely.

The RSA Chase is wide open without Dynaste and Walsh's judgement will be put to the test given that he has opted for Unioniste ahead of Boston Bob.

I'm not sure he has made the right choice, but I do think the door is open for a hardy longshot to hit the frame here and Houblon Des Obeaux could certainly outrun long odds given that he jumps well and is highly consistent.


Recommended Bets 
Back Pont Alexandre for the Neptune Hurdle
Back Houblon Des Obeaux win and place in the RSA Chase
Back Sizing Europe in the "without Sprinter Sacre" market for the Champion Chase


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