CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: eve-of-meeting preview and tips update

File photo dated 05/04/2013 of Sprinter Sacre ridden by Barry Geraghty. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday February 23, 2014. Sprinter Sacre will not defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham next month, trainer Nicky Henderson has announced. See PA story RACING Sacre. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
File photo dated 05/04/2013 of Sprinter Sacre ridden by Barry Geraghty. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday February 23, 2014. Sprinter Sacre will not defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham next month, trainer Nicky Henderson has announced. See PA story RACING Sacre. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
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Now that running plans are almost finalised, I can pass on some last-minute updates to supplement my day-day, race-by-race previews and tips, posted at the end of last week. All original comments and tips stand, unless stated below.

DAY ONE (TUESDAY)

Jockey Barry Geraghty celebrates after winning the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on Bobs Worth during the Cheltenham Gold Cup Day on Day Four of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 15, 2013. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire

Jockey Barry Geraghty celebrates after winning the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on Bobs Worth during the Cheltenham Gold Cup Day on Day Four of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 15, 2013. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire

1.30 GARDE LA VICTOIRE is a surprise contender in the opener, rather than the County Hurdle on Friday. He has plenty to find, but is no mug.

2.40 Tony Martin’s Irish raider SRAID PADRAIG does not run. He has been switched to the 2m4f handicap chase on Thursday. Similarly, BUDDY BOLERO is also a non-runner and is likely to be diverted to the Kim Muir on Thursday. If you need an each/way substitute, have a look at MULDOON’S PICNIC at tasty odds.

4.00 After a disappointing performance at Sandown on Saturday, SWING BOWLER does not run in the Mares’ Hurdle.

4.40 TOUCH THE EDEN is a non-runner. ROGUE ANGEL enters the equation as a live outsider.

Big Bucks ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies jumps the last ahead of eventual winner Knockara Beau ridden by Jan Faltejsek (right) in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle during Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday January 25, 2014. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire.

Big Bucks ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies jumps the last ahead of eventual winner Knockara Beau ridden by Jan Faltejsek (right) in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle during Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday January 25, 2014. See PA story RACING Cheltenham. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire.

5.15 Nicky Henderson’s novice ERICHT turns up in this novice handicap chase instead of a race later in the week for which I’ve tipped him. Take the hint and include him, instead of ATTAGLANCE, as one of the Next Best Bets. Ericht won’t be far away, despite top weight. FESTIVE AFFAIR also has an each/way squeak for Jonjo O’Neill.

DAY TWO (WEDNESDAY)

1.30 UN TEMPS POUR TOUT is lame and unlikely to run. I am now strong on ROYAL BOY, who becomes the Main Bet. RED SHERLOCK is now the main David Pipe contender, while LIEUTENANT COLONEL looks good each/way value.

2.05 While I remain sweet on BALLYCASEY, my Next Best Bets views have changed. Remove SMAD PLACE and SAM WINNER and insert MANY CLOUDS and DON COSSACK who, at the prices, are terrific each/way value. Don Coassack will ear a tongue-tie for the first time.

2.40 Now that the Coral Cup is at last taking shape, DELL’ ARCA has become my Main Bet. Significant money has arrived for CLONDAW KAEMPFER, who has been disappointing but was one of my horses to follow at the start of the season and remains well handicapped. He is now one of four Next Best Bets, alongside BAYAN and two likely to sneak in at the foot of the weights, INDEVAN and CALCULATED RISK.

4.40 Some decent juveniles could miss the cut for the Fred Winter, including our main two fancies, AALIM and ZAMOYSKI. If so, consider switching loyalties to GOODWOOD MIRAGE and ASTRE DE LA COUR. Also, CARRY ON SYDNEY is unlikely to run after a below-par effort at Sandown on Saturday. However, the smooth winner of that race, DORMELLO MO, must come under serious consideration if he gets in.

5.15 WESTHORPE has not been included in the Willie Mullins team for the Champion Bumper.

DAY THREE (THURSDAY)

2.05 An Irish gamble is expected on INIS MEAIN if he sneaks into the Pertemps Final at the foot of the weights. He is unexposed as a staying hurdler.

4.00 My Main Bet, ERICHT, plus one of my Next Best, ATTAGLANCE, run instead in Tuesday’s novice handicap chase. I am now keen on Venetia Williams’s SHANGANI, backed up by THIRD INTENTION, UNE ARTISTE and SEW ON TARGET. Tony Martin’s raider SRAID PADRAIG, whom I mentioned for the 3m handicap on Tuesday, has been re-routed here and could trigger a gamble. But only one Irish-trained horse has won this race since 1951!

4.40 Next Best Bet EDMUND KEAN does not feature in the entries for the Kim Muir. Replace him with NIGHT ALLIANCE.

DAY FOUR (FRIDAY)

2.05 Of my Next Best Bets in the County Hurdle, VIEUX LION ROUGE looks likely to take up an alternative engagement, while VIBRATO VALTAT will not make the cut. It is probable that DELL ‘ARCA will turn up elsewhere too. Contingency plans include supporting ARCTIC FIRE (Willie Mullins) and LAC FONTANA (Paul Nicholls).

2.40 DEPUTY DAN (each/way) looks overpriced for the Albert Bartlett.

3.20 ROCKY CREEK is now a non-runner in the Gold Cup because of ringworm. If LAST INSTALMENT pulls out too because of the drying ground, I expect the places to be fought out by the reigning champion BOBS WORTH and the Gigginstown owners’ replacement for Philip Fenton’s horse, FIRST LIEUTENANT, who is half a stone better on ground without cut and would be a cracking each/way bet.

4.00 The owners have relented, and TAMMYS HILL will now take his place in the Foxhunters. He will be hard to beat and vies for Main Bet status alongside ON THE FRINGE.

4.40 It’s still anybody’s guess how the Martin Pipe will shape up. But this may well be the Festival target for both DELL’ ARCA and VIEUX LION ROUGE, trained by his son, David, in which case both must be backed. Our Main Bet, FULL SHIFT, swerved an alternative race at Sandown on Saturday and looks sure to run if he makes the cut, especially as stablemate VOLNAY DE THAIX has been withdrawn.

5.15 Colin Tizzard’s SEW ON TARGET, whom I fancy each/way in a handicap on Thursday, might turn up in the Grand Annual instead.