Timeform take you through the card on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday...
"That form looks very strong now..."
Timeform on Simply The Betts
13:30 - An open renewal of the now named Marsh Novices' Chase, made all the better for the inclusion of the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen. He has won all three of his starts over fences this season, notably two Grade 1s, but his jumping hasn't always been assured, and this will be his stiffest test to date. Therefore, it could be worth siding with SAMCRO (9), who hasn't been the easiest horse to train, but clearly possesses plenty of ability. He was no match for Faugheen at Limerick when last seen on Boxing Day, but he has since undergone wind surgery, and is reportedly in rude health. If arriving in the same sort of form that saw him win the Ballymore at this meeting in 2018, he is sure to take plenty of stopping.
14:10 - One of the most competitive handicaps of the week, so it makes sense to keep a couple on side. First on the list is WELSH SAINT (13), who relished the step up to three miles when winning a qualifier for this event at Haydock in February, travelling strongly throughout and still going well when left in front at the last. A subsequent 4 lb rise for that success looks lenient, particularly as Welsh Saint has more improvement in him at this trip, and he ought to go close. THE STORYTELLER (3) is another who looks very interesting based on his chase form. Momentum began to gather around him for this race when given a considerate ride to finish sixth in a qualifying race for this at Leopardstown in December. He won the Plate at this meeting from a 2 lb lower mark in 2018, and has to be high on the shortlist for a yard who know how to get one ready for this meeting.
14:50 - The manner of A PLUS TARD's (1) victory in the novice handicap chase on the opening day of last year's Festival remains fresh in the memory, and he looks one of the bankers of the week in the Ryanair. Admittedly, a peak form Min edges him on ratings, but whether that rival is capable of such form anymore remains to be seen, and A Plus Tard certainly has his best days ahead of him. He beat Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown last time, and the return to this intermediate trip will bring more out of him, so it is hard to see him not in the mix.
15:30 - It is really hard to see past another PAISLEY PARK (8) win in the race. He has become the dominant force in the division over the last 12 months, stretching his record to seven straight wins in the Cleeve Hurdle over C&D last time, not having to be at his best to do so, but still impressing by the manner in which he went about it. There is a feeling that we haven't seen the best of him yet, either, and it will take a top-class performance to knock him off his perch.
16:10 - The one who stands out as having more to offer is SIMPLY THE BETTS (6). He is a novice, but has won three of his four starts over fences this season, latest in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase over C&D by one and a half lengths from Imperial Aura. That form looks very strong now, with the third horse home winning their next start, and also Imperial Aura winning the novice handicap chase at the Festival on Tuesday. At a bigger price, SIRUH DU LAC (4) also makes some appeal. He won this race 12 months ago from a 9 lb lower mark, and shaped as though he would be better for the run when pulled up in the BetVictor Gold Cup here last time. It is a little concerning we haven't seen him since, but his record at this track is a positive one, and he could go well after a break.
16:50 - Willie Mullins has won this race all four times since its inception in 2020, but Henry de Bromhead to his scalp on the Mares' Hurdle on Tuesday, and the same connections could do so again here with MINELLA MELODY (4). She maintained her unbeaten record over hurdles in determined fashion in the Solerina Mares Novices' Hurdle at Fairyhouse last time, posting a figure right up there with the best in the division this season. There should be even more to come from her and she looks the one to side with.
17:30 - DEISE ABA (6) is improving rapidly and likely has even more to offer over this sort of trip. If he handles this big-field scenario then he seems sure to go well and he's taken to come out on top. Plan of Attack is also firmly on the up and still appears well treated, so he's feared most ahead of Fitzhenry.
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13:30 - 9
14:10 - 3, 13
14:50 - 1
15:30 - 8
16:10 - 4, 6
16:50 - 4