Cheltenham Festival tips: Experts on best bets and 14 horses to watch today

The Cheltenham Festival has reached the halfway stage in predictable fashion with Irish trainer Willie Mullins claiming his 100th winner on day two. Favourites Ballyburn and Fact To File kicked off proceedings with victories in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeplechase.

Dan Skelton celebrated two winners for Britain as brother Harry raced to victory in the Coral Cup for the second time in as many years before netting the Grand Annual Handicap in the penultimate race of the day while Rachael Blackmore added to her tally with a fine ride atop Captain Guinness in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

You can see the latest tip selections from James Boyle on Thursday’s races here, while we’ve also got a collection of each-way bets for day three in the Turners’ Novices Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and more and there’s also a full preview and best odds for the latter race, at 3:30pm.

Stay up to date across the festival and get our free betting newsletter with the latest Cheltenham odds, offers and tips by signing up here, while you can also see our updated list of Cheltenham free bets and offers.

Racing ambassadors Alex Hammond, Oli Bell and Ed Chamberlin spoke to Sky Bet about their Day 3 picks, while legendary former jockey Ruby Walsh shared his tips with Paddy Power.

13:30 - Turners Novices’ Chase

Oli Bell - “In the Turners Novices’ Chase, I’m taking an angle that I think punters will also go for, and that’s to go for Iroko. I can see him being quite well-backed. He was very impressive in his Chase debut earlier in the season, but then he had his injury which was a major setback, so it’s not been an ideal preparation for the Festival. However, as we saw last year at the Cheltenham Festival, he is a horse with an abundance of talent, and I think that despite him not having had the ideal preparation, he’s got so much talent that if the trainers have got him in good nick, then he’ll take a world of beating and give J.P. McManus another Cheltenham winner.”

Ruby Walsh - “I’m not going to desert Facile Vega. The way Willie Mullins turned around Gaelic Warrior shows you can’t go against his runners. I know Willie holds Facile Vega in high regard. It’s his last chance but I’ll stick with him.”

14:10 - Pertemps Handicap Hurdle

Alex Hammond - “The Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle is notoriously competitive, but Sky Bet are paying eight places instead of four. I’m keen on a horse from Willie Mullins called Icare Allen. He was third in a qualifier at Aintree back in November, he’s been kept under wraps since then and he’ll run off the same handicap mark at Cheltenham.”

Ruby Walsh - “I’m with my Dad’s mare Gaoth Chuil. She will definitely stay and Shane O’Callaghan takes off a 5lb claim. He’ll take his time on her and make a move late on. I’m hoping she can run into the money.”

14:50 - Ryanair Steeple Chase

Ed Chamberlin - “One of the big races of day three of the Cheltenham Festival is the Ryanair Chase, and I fancy Stage Star. I’m tempted to go each way as Sky Bet are paying four places rather than three, and I can’t see Stage Star and Harry Cobden finishing outside the top three.”

Ruby Walsh - “I’ve been on Envoi Allen for a while and I’m not going to desert him now. His record at Cheltenham speaks for itself and Henry de Bromhead’s horses have done brilliantly this week.”

15:30 - Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

Oli Bell - “Every year I come to the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and it seemingly, in recent years, has got a feel of a race that has a big-price winner written all over it, and I’m taking that similar approach. I can’t understand why Sire Du Berlais, who has an outstanding Cheltenham record and won this race last year, is the price he is. He will have been trained with one race in mind, you know he stays, he loves Cheltenham and loves this time of year. For me, Sire Du Berlais is a big price and with those extra places from Sky Bet, I’m sure he’ll give us a cheer because he comes alive when he gets to Cheltenham.

Ruby Walsh - “I’m with Noble Yeats for Emmet Mullins. He stays and he’s got cheekpieces on for the first time. I can’t see him finishing outside of the first three.”

16:10 - TrustATrader Plate Handicap Chase

Alex Hammond - “In the TrustATrader Plate Handicap Chase, Sky Bet are paying six places rather than four, and I’m a big fan of a horse called Theatre Man. He had a couple options at the Festival, but trainer Richard Bandey has taken this route and I think he can be well-handicapped. He’s got good Cheltenham form, which came on trials day and I’m hoping he’s going to be good enough to make a serious impression in this race.”

Ruby Walsh - “I like Riaan at a decent each-way price. Jack Kennedy not riding him has maybe put me off a little bit but I was really impressed with his run at the Dublin Racing Festival. I’ll stick with him.”

16:50 - Mares Novices’ Hurdle

Ed Chamberlin - “The Ryanair Mares Novices’ Hurdle is one of the races that I’m most excited about of the entire meeting. It’s a real mash-up between Elliott and Mullins and thankfully Sky Bet are paying four places instead of three, and I’m firmly in one camp and that’s the Jade De Grugy camp.”

Ruby Walsh - “The way Gordon Elliott talks about Brighterdaysahead is infectious. When he isn’t on the fence about one of his runners it’s worth listening. I can’t desert Willie Mullins’ Jade De Grugy but maybe I should listen to Gordon!”

17:30 - Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

Oli Bell - “The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase is another wide-open race; it’s going to be a competitive affair on paper. Extra places are being offered from Sky Bet, so if you like one of the big places then get involved with that.

“However, the horse I like is near the top of the market and I think will go off favourite. He trained in Ireland by Gavin Cromwell, Inothewayurthinkin is the horse in question, running in the green and gold of J.P. McManus. I think on some of his form, he is well-treated off his handicap mark, so for me, he will prove himself to be a well-handicapped horse. I can see him running in much better races from next season and beyond, so with that in mind, I think he’s the play in this race.”

Ruby Walsh - “Inothewayurthinkin is at the top of the market but I have my doubts over the 3m2f distance and his pedigree. Instead, I’ll have two picks and side with Amirite and Where It All Began as each-way picks.”