Cheltenham: Monalee can turn on magic to land RSA honours

Gordon Elliott can strike with Cause of Causes at Cheltenham today.
Gordon Elliott can strike with Cause of Causes at Cheltenham today.
Have your say

Monalee should have what it takes to claim a fascinating renewal of the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained gelding looked a top-notch animal at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and has an ideal profile with this race in mind. His Leopardstown success came in the Flogas Novice Chase, where he made amends for a crashing fall at the Christmas meeting by making all the running in the Grade One.

There was something tremendously impressive about the manner in which he defiantly held the reopposing Al Boum Photo by three-quarters of a length. Be that as it may, Monalee gave the distinct impression that there is plenty more to come, while this longer trip could be made to measure.

Samcro comes to the Cotswolds with a reputation as high as Cleeve Hill and he should get the job done in the first race of the day.

The six-year-old, trained by Gordon Elliott, is likely to go off a short price for the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on the back of three mightily convincing triumphs.

The latest came in the Grade One Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown five weeks ago and it will be a surprise if he fails to live up to expectations.

Elliott, pictured, can also strike with Cheltenham regular Cause Of Causes in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase.

The 10-year-old has won at the last three Festivals and can make it four in a race he took in 2017. He also has his name on the roll of honour for the four-mile National Hunt Chase and Kim Muir and was second in last year’s Grand National at Aintree. Cause Of Causes did not run again until last month and, though he was well-beaten, he is likely to come to life at his happy hunting ground.

A last-minute scare has thrown a spanner in the works but, with a little bit of luck, Altior can still confirm he is the dominant force over two miles in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the feature race on the second day of the Festival.

The first half of the season did not go to plan and trainer Nicky Henderson was left mortified on Monday morning when it emerged his superstar was lame – all after Altior had seemingly put his issues behind him with an impressive comeback victory at Newbury last month.

He shrugged aside Politologue, who had been arguably the best horse over the 
specialist distance this season, having won the Haldon Gold Cup, Tingle Creek Chase and Desert Orchid Chase.

That race would have blown away the cobwebs for Altior, as it was his first outing since he disposed of Special Tiara in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April last year. That was just a month after Henry de Bromhead’s charge had won the Champion Chase when hot favourite Douvan failed to fire.

Altior had lifted the Arkle Trophy, for which he was 1-4 favourite, as he followed up his win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in 2016. If he runs he will be hard to oppose, although the presence of Douvan makes life a little harder and the Willie Mullins-trained runner is the obvious pick if Altior does not make it.

Nube Negra may have found Triumph Hurdle favourite Apple’s Shakira too good on this course in December before scoring at Doncaster but he looks the answer to the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Max Dynamite has what it takes to strike for Willie Mullins in the Coral Cup. The smart Flat former also has good form over jumps and should be too classy for the opposition.

Dual Leopardstown winner Blackbow can give Mullins a double the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Elsewhere, Venetia Williams’ Call Carlo was put up 7lb for his recent victory at Southwell but looks up to the task in the 188Bet Up To £75 Cash Bonus Handicap Chase at Huntingdon.

Volatile has come alive in 2018 with back-to-back win at Chelmsford and Southwell. Jamie Osborne’s four-year-old can follow up at the latter track in the Handicap.