It’s time for Round Two of the Betfred Blog’s Cheltenham Panel feature!

After a brilliant first day of action over at Prestbury Park, our five panelists are stroking their egos and licking their wounds respectively!

There were winning NAPs for Jamie Baker and Martyn Worsdale in the form of Buveur D’Air at a very nice price!

All our panelists had a mare in the Mares, while nobody found 25/1 outsider Labaik in the Supreme! Do they have any gems up their sleeves for Wednesday?

Just in case you didn’t join us yesterday (why not?!), here’s a run down of the panelists:

ANDREW HUMPHREY (TOTEPOOL) – Andrew is the Totepool team’s social media man, and is a racing nut with a leaning for the National Hunt calendar. He’s on course all week but has kindly provided his hunches before heading to Prestbury Park.

JAMIE BAKER (BETFRED.COM) – Jamie is a keen Flat and National Hunt racing follower, looking forward to his first Cheltenham at Betfred HQ. All he wants to see is Cue Card stick his neck in front in Friday’s wide-open looking Gold Cup.

LUKE PARKINSON (BETFRED BLOG) – Luke is huge supporter of National Hunt racing in particular, and can be found in the greens of Cartmel every August Bank Holiday. This will be his third Cheltenham with the Betfred team, and has most of his hopes pressed on a third On The Fringe victory in the Foxhunters!

MARTYN WORSDALE (BETFRED VIP) – Martyn is a passionate racing man with a keen eye for an outside bet. A lover of gutsy performers at the Festival, he’s looking forward to seeing what future stars cement their legacies in the Championship races this week.

MATT HULMES (BETRED TV) – Matt will prove a regular face to any of our shop punters, frequently fronting up the company’s Betfred TV coverage. Matt is a huge racing fan of both the National Hunt and the Flat, and will be across the Betfred coverage all week!

Now that you know who’s talking…let’s see what they’ve got to say!

Wednesday’s opener looks a cracker – who wins the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle?

AH – Weather forecasts seem to be going against Neon Wolf and Finian’s Oscar with little rain hitting Prestbury Park between now and Wednesday according to many forecasts. Both horses have only been seen on soft ground so it is a trip into the unknown for them. One to take advantage of this could be Bacardys who has good ground Cheltenham form from last years Bumper. Likely to have Ruby Walsh on his back he could be the one to cause an upset.

JB –  Messire Des Obeaux for me. He was impressive at Sandown in December, coming out on top in a battle with Ballyandy. I like the way he found more on that occasion, if he can produce a similar effort in this race, he’ll have a good chance. Keeper Hill also has an entry in the Neptune (he beat Messire Des Obeaux last time out) so I’d stay on the right side of him too.

LP – It’s hard to really look past Neon Wolf if he turns up in this one, and the market tends to agree with that thought. However, I do have my concerns over Haydock as a track to read form out of heading to Cheltenham, I’m thinking Bristol De Mai, the New One and Cue Card more recently. So I wouldn’t be opposed to taking him on with Barcadys, who seems to have been pleasing the Mullins team of late and runs in the same colours as Supreme fancy Melon.

MW – Somewhat dependant on where others go this pick, however I can’t get away from Messire Des Obeaux. After just losing out to Keeper Hill last time while giving away weight, he left that race with a lot of credit. A 7th here last year in the Fred Winter when outpointed over the minimum trip shows that Cheltenham holds no issues for this galloper and he’s a solid price, with a little each-way value available.

MH – I was lucky enough to see Neon Wolf win impressively at Haydock and he looks a serious horse with a huge future. He should take the beating here under Noel Fehily. I would also give a chance to Alan Kings Betfred Challow Hurdle winner Messire Des Obeaux who was beaten in the Fred Winter last season but looks much improved this campaign and went close to giving the talented Keepers Hill 4lb in the Sidney Banks Hurdle at Huntingdon.

Any bet for you in the Champion Chase, or is it one to sit out at the prices?

AH – Provided he can stay upright for the duration of the trip this has to be Douvan’s to lose. Willie Mullins can’t hide his love for this horse and hopefully he can put on a show on Ladies Day. In the race for second place Fox Norton will have to improve on his run last time out but he does have a win around Cheltenham already as does Uxizandre. God’s Own would appreciate the dry weather and Tom George has given him a nice prep.

JB – Let’s be honest, it’s Douvan’s race to lose and he would probably have to fall for that to happen. At his current price, I’d be going nowhere near him. I would however like to suggest a horse that could creep into a place at a big price – Simply Ned. An old, experienced, wise head that has been there and got the t shirt. He’s not going to win this race, that’s a given, but he may pick up some place money.

LP –  For me, Douvan is one of the best horses in training, and after having the pleasure of watching him win the Arkle last season I think I’ll sit this out. However, there’s some big prize money to win behind him, and a noticeable runner is Top Gamble who has been supplemented for the race. The appropriately named runner has a good record at Cheltenham and could be worth following.

MW – I’ve been gutted about this race ever since the retirement of Sprinter Sacre earlier in the winter, and can’t see past Douvan for the win. His jumping so far has been pretty impeccable and it seems we may have to wait another year for a clash between him and Altior. However, God’s Own maybe staying on best at the end for second spot and seems to me a tasty option at the odds should the unthinkable happen to the favourite.

MH – I have been looking for weeks for an each way angle but have truly struggled. It really is a race to watch and saviour a supreme performer in Douvan. He is a fine specimen with the stamp of a champion and perhaps look for a distance bet on the day if you need to have an interest. If I was forced to play a fiver now I would perhaps put it on Sir Valentino to run into a place at a big price.

Is Carter McKay a good thing in the Champion Bumper, or are your eyes elsewhere?

AH – The bumper is always a complicated puzzle and I wouldn’t be so sure that Carter McKay can repeat the demolition job he gave the field in his previous run. West Coast Time isn’t one to give up on just yet however Quick Grabim is the one I like. A bit of forgiveness is needed for Cheltenham winning jockey Robbie McNamara’s runner after his underwhelming Exeter performance but admirably he sticks his neck out and keeps going.

JB – He very well could be. He has 3 wins to his name, winning well each time, and let’s not forgot who his trainer is – Willie Mullins – and we all know what he can do with bumper horses. However, at the price, I wouldn’t be in a rush to back him. I’m more interested in Charlie Longsdon’s newly acquired 5 year old Copernicus; his Irish form looks okay to me and he could surprise at a few at a big E/W price. 

LP – I’m not a huge fan of the bumpers to be honest so this could be another one that I watch for the notebook. However, I was lucky enough to be at a preview night last week where the Irish Editor for Timeform, Billy Nash, tipped Carter McKay up as his NAP of the meeting. So if I was to have a few quid, the Mullins runner would be the one for me.

MW – I must be honest, the number of horses Willie Mullins usually throws at this race, and the fact that he has won the race 8 times over the last 20 years, makes for a strong case. However, he hasn’t won this since 2013 and the Irish contingent from other stables have more substance than most years. Fayonagh could not have been more impressive winning a listed bumper at Fairyhouse last month. If Jamie Codd gets the leg up and can work his usual magic then this could go off short.

MH – His form is rock solid and hails from the team to fear in the Champion Bumper with Willie Mullins looking for his ninth success in the contest. He has been visually impressive and should be bang there at the finish. I feel however that Bakmaj offers more value. He has 2 ½ lengths to find on Carter McKay where he was also in receipt of 3lb but that was his racecourse debut and was impressive in victory subsequently. At over five times the price of Carter McKay he would be my each way selection.

Anything in Wednesday’s other offerings you’ll be backing?

AH – Peregrine Run looked to have a nice chance in the Coral Cup before Tombstone got re-routed to the race, he still is a nice each way price. Our Kaempfer for Charlie Longsdon looks the one to take Might Bite on in the RSA. Whisper is another to keep an eye on in the RSA, he has looked a reformed character this year and if acting over three miles he is a danger under Davy Russell.

JB – Acapella Bourgeois‘ 32 length destruction of Road To Respect at Navan stands out as a piece of strong form to me. Granted, his last wins have been on soft/heavy ground, so any cut in the ground on Wednesday would really boost his chances, but he has won on better ground too. The only negative is the lack of Cheltenham experience, but I’m still keen on his chances.

LP – There’s plenty to have a look at to be fair on Wednesday, and I’ll be definitely having a crack at the Cross Country. Enda Bolger is without doubt the man to follow in this, and for that reason I think you’ve got to stick with the favourite in Cantlow. The veteran has a win and a second to his name on the famous course this season, and should be first past the post again.

MW – Every man and his dog is coming for Cause Of Causes in the cross country, but on these terms I’m still with Cantlow. He didn’t get the best of rides last time out when he hit the front too early and was beaten by an unknown quantity. This is one of my favourite races of the festival because of the unpredictability, the array of obstacles and jockeyship on show, but it often gets overlooked. 

MH – Peregrine Run looks well treated in the Coral Cup on the exploits of Wholestone and West Approach subsequently who he had behind him over the Coral Cup C&D back in November. I’m also a big fan of Our Kaempfer and he can outrun his odds in the RSA Chase. He was fifth in the Pertemps at last year’s festival and a big field in an open year can see him go close.

If you could only place one bet today, what would it be?

AH – Cantlow/Auvergnat reverse forecast in the Cross Country. These two if both complete should be very difficult to beat. 

JB – It’s quite a tricky day with no real strong favourites (excluding Douvan) so it’s hard to really highly recommended anything with real confidence. Therefore, I’d probably say that Acapella Bourgeois is my best bet for the day. It’s a strong race and you could make arguments for a few horses in there, but he was impressive last time out and I think he’s got a chance.

LP –  I’ve not made a mention for the RSA yet, so I’ll reserve this spot for that. I’ve always had a liking for Whisper, who is unbeaten in two rides this season, both with Davy Russell in the hot seat, and both in runs at Cheltenham. For that reason, I think he offers some cracking value and is the best bet to have on Wednesday for me.

MW – I think I’d plump for a double today, Douvan looks unstoppable and I really do like Cantlow’s chance in the Cross Country. The price still leaves a little to be desired but this could be a day that gets away from the punters within the first few races! 

MH – If life depended on it then obviously Douvan would be the obvious choice, but another solid option at a better price looks to be Neon Wolf in the Neptune.