Nicholls can lift the Kup

Steve Hughes previews the second day of two at Cheltenham on Thursday

The only card entirely dedicated to mares and fillies takes place at Cheltenham today. I have selections from the two feature races for this valuable fixture. We had a solid Wednesday with placed efforts from each-way bets Lithic (advised 15/2) and The Welsh Paddies (SP 12/1).

Cheltenham 2.40: Kupatana

Trainer Paul Nicholls has taken out two fancied runners from other races today on account of the quickening ground – but not Kupatana who has a big chance in the EBF Mares series final.

This mare is almost over enthusiastic about her racing and has been guilty of over jumping at her fences, hence a couple of non-completions this season. However I think she needs to go left handed and her falls have been at right-handed tracks. There were no issues when she strode to victory at Kelso last time.

Despite her keen going nature, she does stay well, so I have no fears that this stiff track will hinder her style of racing. Likely to be prominent throughout this small field will suit and front-runners do seem to be favoured here over fences, especially on quick ground. She looks the class act of the race.

Cheltenham 3.15: Agusta Gold & River Arrow

This listed handicap is invariably the strongest contest on this mares card and this year looks no exception. I have two hopefuls against the field.

Agusta Gold makes the trip over from Ireland and looks feasibly weighted having run in some hot races at home this winter. Most recently she was a good third in a Grade 3 at Limerick over 2m6f and this sort of distance seems to suit her best. She won a Grade B handicap at Navan in January against the boys and in between gave a great account of herself at the Dublin Racing Festival when third over an inadequate 2m2f in a big field handicap. She acts well on fast ground having run well throughout last summer under such conditions.

Assuming she is allowed to take her chance on the ground (all her previous races have been with some cut), I think River Arrow is overpriced. Having been absent for over a year through injury, she was entitled to need her comeback at Uttoxeter last month when well beaten. That will have served its purpose of getting her fit for today though and her form over the previous couple of seasons puts her in with a serious chance. She was a narrow second over course and distance last year in a class 2 mares handicap (and is 1lb lower today) and the previous spring was a fine third in the EBF hurdle final at Newbury on ground that was only just on the soft side.

Recommended bets:

1.5pts win – Kupatana – 2.40 Cheltenham – 2/1 general

0.75pts each-way – Agusta Gold – 3.15 Cheltenham – 9/1 Bet365, BetVictor

0.5pts each-way – River Arrow – 3.15 Cheltenham – 28/1 general (Paddy Power 1/5 odds first 5)

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