TEMPLEGATE takes on day three of Cheltenham Festival confident of banging in a couple winners.
Our top tipster has studied the form for months and watched every race for every clue.
You would think there would be no excuses – but this is Cheltenham Festival and anything can happen!
Read on for our man’s definitive guide to day three of the greatest show on turf.
And don’t forget you can back any horse by clicking their odds below.
IT’S only a two-horse race on all form yet it’s one of the biggest head scratchers of the week trying to separate the big two.
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GALOPIN DES CHAMPS just gets the nod over Bob Olinger but there is so little in it.
The selection won the Martin Pipe Hurdle at last year’s Festival so should have no problem coming back to Cheltenham.
His career over the smaller obstacles finished with an impressive 12-length victory in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival where he saw out three miles well.
Connections had the option of keeping him as a Stayers’ Hurdle option but he’s gone over fences with two bloodless wins.
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He started by skipping around Leopardstown to win on debut by 22 lengths where his jumping was excellent.
Willie Mullins then pitched him up to Grade 1 level at the Dublin Racing Festival and he took that in his stride.
He clocked a very good time in giving some useful rivals a nine-length beating. With just two spins over fences under his belt there should be a lot more to come.
Bob Olinger won the Ballymore last year so ticks the Festival box too and is another who has done well in two runs over fences.
He didn’t have a lot to beat at Gowran on debut in December but took a big step forward when winning a Punchestown Grade 3 in January.
He is a couple of beats behind Galopin Des Champs on what we’ve seen but he can improve. The other two would be shock winners.
WINTER FOG (treble – my third best bet on the day) was an excellent second in the key qualifier for this race at Leopardstown last time out.
He was making his debut for canny Emmet Mullins after eight months off and tanked along until he just tired on the run-in.
He didn’t look a dodgy stayer but has a hood on today which can help him get up the hill.
He has a fair weight and can go close with Paul Townend getting on board for the first time.
Classy Sire Du Berlais has won this race twice and can’t be ruled out despite carting top weight.
He did the same thing in 2020 and has been brought along with this race in mind.
Dunboyne was fifth behind the tip at Leopardstown and got little luck back there last time.
He was full of running when getting no room turning for home and his light weight gives him every chance.
Stablemate Sassy Yet Classy was badly bumped before running into second at Navan latest and is another in with a chance.
Alaphilippe has run just once since finishing fifth in last year’s Albert Bartlett.
He was entitled to need that fifth-placed effort at Warwick in January and his class can see him figure.
He stays well but could do with the ground being a bit softer. Kansas City Chief is in cracking form and has a good record here.
He was sixth in this 12 months ago and has won twice at the track since.
It’s only three days since he scored at Plumpton so the veteran is in good heart.
Yet another Elliott hope Tullybeg ran well in fifth behind him when last seen in October.
This ground will be ideal for him and he is one of many with place claims.
You could say the same of his Folcano who was a good fourth at Navan last time and goes well in a big field.
Dame De Compagnie has come nicely down the weights and the first-time cheekpieces could wake Nicky Henderson’s hope up.
She won the Coral Cup off a 1lb higher mark in 2020 and the yard has been in the winners plenty this week.
Third Wind has a touch of class and has been holding his own in Graded company for Hughie Morrison and sees out this trip strongly.
Ballyandy is in cracking form and his rider takes off a handy 10lb.
ALLAHO was awesome when winning this race 12 months ago and there’s nothing in the field that can stop him following up.
This in-between trip is ideal for him so it was no surprise to see him beaten into second when dropped back to two miles for the Irish Champion Chase at Punchestown.
That was still a good effort as he gave the useful Nube Negra a 19-length beating.
He looked a bit undercooked on his comeback in December but was still good enough to take the Punchestown Chase in fine style.
Connections opted to swerve the Dublin Racing Festival and warmed up with a saunter around Thurles in late January.
He can throw in the odd sketchy jump but his engine is so good that he’s hard to fault.
Conflated was known as a solid handicapper but that all changed when he hammered his rivals to win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last time.
He beat defending Cheltenham champ Minella Indo fair and square. The pace was slow over the three-mile trip and his speed was the deciding factor.
It’s probably wise to swerve the Gold Cup because this sort of trip should be ideal taking the finishing hill into account.
He looks a solid each-way price and can make the frame, although his overall form is a good deal behind the tip. Shan Blue hasn’t been seen since his final fence tumble when a distance clear in the Charlie Hall Gold Cup at Wetherby in October.
That’s clearly a worry but it would have been an impressive victory had he stood up.
He was only fifth in the Golden Miller here 12 months ago but he has talent and he looks the pick of the British challenge.
Eldorado Allen was a distant second in the Arkle last season but showed his ability to stay when winning the Denman Chase over three miles at Newbury last month.
He looks a little short of winning in this company but deserves his place in the line-up for Colin Tizzard.
Willie Mullins has a couple in Allaho’s supporting cast and they both have a bit to find with their more illustrious stablemate.
Janidil has chased him home a couple of times but landed a Grade 1 of his own at Fairyhouse last year.
His second to the tip at Punchestown is his best run since so he’s playing for a place at best.
Melon is only ten but is running at his sixth Cheltenham Festival.
He has been second no fewer than four times at the meeting but was pulled up in this race 12 months ago and has shown his best in more testing conditions.
Mister Fisher is another who didn’t get round in this race last year and he’s always come up short at Grade 1 level. That is likely to be the case again here.
Fanion D’Estruval and Saint Calvados make too many errors for this class of race.
THYME HILL (Nap – my best bet) can take the next step and become the Stayers’ Hurdle champion.
Philip Hobbs’ eight-year-old has been aimed at this race all season and has already held his own at Grade 1 level thanks to his Aintree victory in April.
That came after his close-run second in the Long Walk at Ascot and he filled the same position there last time out in December.
He was a good fourth in the Albert Bartlett two years ago and has a Grade 2 win on his CV at Cheltenham.
This looks wide open and Flooring Porter has every chance of defending his crown.
He was below par twice after his Festival success but looked close to his best when going close in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
It will be a good battle again with the horse that beat him that day Klassical Dream.
Willie Mullins’ hope has blotted his copybook since with an odds-on defeat at Gowran but he’s had a little break since then and can give his true running.
Champ finished a neck ahead of the selection in the Long Walk before Christmas.
That was a fantastic effort on his return to hurdling after being pulled up in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The excitement about his chances for this race took a kicking when he was beaten by a revitalised Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle last time.
If he returns to the form of his Ascot success he’ll be a major player and trainer Nicky Henderson is confident of a big run.
Paisley Park won this in 2019 and beat Thyme Hill in the 2020 Long Walk.
His Cleeve victory was much his best effort since then and it was all the better because he ducked out when the tapes went up and gave his rivals a head start.
That seemed to help and he’ll get another fast pace to aim at here.
It would be no surprise to see him make the frame again.
Royal Kahala is rising through the ranks and followed a Leopardstown win with a good success at Gowran.
This is tougher but he proved his staying power last time and can take another step forward.
Lisnagar Oscar is another former winner of this race but he hasn’t hit the target since then.
He was only third in the Cleeve so has a fair gap to bridge but his liking for the track gives him an each-way squeak.
IMPERIAL ALCAZAR was impressive when winning here in January.
He put in much the best jumping performance of his career and had lots left in the tank over this trip.
That was just his third run over fences so there should be a lot more to come.
The Glancing Queen was a good second to the classy L’Homme Presse in the Grade 2 Dipper here on New Year’s Day.
She landed two good Listed wins at Warwick and Bangor before that and has talent along with staying power.
Grand Paradis may have been underestimated on this first handicap run for Gordon Elliott.
He has been knocking on the door and looks capable of landing a race like this.
He’s done much of his racing in the mud and will be a threat if taking to these quicker conditions.
Celebre D’Allen was a regular winner in France and came back from two years off to score a couple of times over hurdles before an impressive UK chase debut win at Warwick last month.
He is very well handicapped and sees out this trip well. He handles any geound and looks a major player.
Coole Cody won the Racing Post Gold Cup on the New Course in December but has been below that level a couple of times since.
He’s had a little break and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him go well from the front. He beat Fusil Raffles when landing that prize.
Nicky Henderson’s runner will be happier at this trip after not seeing out three miles at Doncaster. Simply The Betts was second in a Grade 3 here at Christmas and is another who will enjoy coming back to this trip after not staying last time.
DINOBLUE (Nb – my next best bet)looks the pick of no fewer than seven darts Willie Mullins is firing at this race he’s won five times in its six runnings.
This five-year-old couldn’t have been any more impressive when winning by 15 lengths at Clonmel on debut in January.
The time of the race was strong and the third home has gone on to finish second in a Grade 3.
You would expect plenty of improvement from that excellent start.
Brandy Love is another big chance for the Irish champion trainer after her good effort in the Solerina Hurdle at Fairyhouse in January.
She jumped out to the left there so may be happier at this track.
Gordon Elliott has a couple of entries with Party Central appearing to be the strongest.
She was a useful bumper performer who has taken well to hurdling.
She took Listed honours at Punchestown before matching that effort with a big-field handicap success at the Dublin Racing Festival.
She has a lot of pace and won’t be far away. Stablemate Say Goodbye chased her home that day when finishing off strongly.
She isn’t written off again here. Impervious is dropping in class after a solid fifth in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse.
We haven’t seen her since November but she was an impressive Grade 3 winner at Down Royal and has a touch of class.
Statuaire got the better of her at Fairyhouse but was no match for Sir Gerhard at Leopardstown last month.
That’s hardly a disgraced and she will be more at home back against the mares.
Love Envoi is respected for Harry Fry but she has only run in testing conditions so far.
She had a fair bit in hand when scoring at Sandown last time against some useful rivals.
She can figure if repeating that on what’s likely to be quicker ground. Another of Mullins’ battalion, Grangee, has shown promise including when beaten less than five lengths at Grade 1 level.
She took a tumble at Fairyhouse last time out in January but is capable of bouncing back.
At a big price, Heia has Rachael Blackmore on board and cruised to victory at Fairyhouse 36 days ago.
This is much tougher but she is likely to take a major step forward on just her third hurdles run.
MISTER FOGPATCHES is as honest as they come and can run another cracker in a tough handicap.
He progressed well last season and finished a close-up third in the Scottish Grand National before improving to score at the Punchestown Festival.
He has been in the frame on all five starts this season including when third in the red-hot Thyestes Chase at Gowran in January.
He has top amateur Patrick Mullins on board and has every chance of getting on the podium again.
School Boy Hours returned from a long break to win a valuable Leopardstown prize at Christmas.
He wasn’t stopping over the three miles so should get home. He’s up the weights but will go close again.
Jamie Codd rides Smoking Gun who was a length third at Fairyhouse last month.
He is a guaranteed stayer who handles any ground and is sure to run his race.
Frontal Assault has been keeping decent company and looked to be crying out for this sort of trip when a half-length second at Fairyhouse latest.
He has few miles on the clock and can make a bold bid off top weight. Ain’t That A Shame has been knocking on the door and makes his handicap debut.
Soft ground would be ideal for him. Looking at the home team, Mister Coffey was second to L’Homme Presse in the Scilly Isles at Sandown which is strong form.
He’ll go well if staying, while Cat Tiger battled well two win at Ascot and can give David Maxwell a good spin.
Templegate’s tips for all UK races on Thursday…
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