Nicholls to land double with Alfie and Poquelin

PHILIP Hobbs has his string in rude health and I’ll be taking a chance on his COPPER BLEU in the opener at 16/1 with William Hill. The eight-year-old was only narrowly touched off at Aintree last year having finished fourth in the Supreme Novices at the Festival. He looks to have been campaigned with this race in mind and, even though he’d prefer some rain, I think the first time tongue-tie will make the difference.

ALFIE SHERRIN won in the style of a seriously good horse last time and he looks the one to beat in the Pertemps Final (2.05pm). He may just be ahead of the handicapper and I’m sure the 4/1 on offer with Stan James this morning won’t last for long. The Nicholls team can double up with POQUELIN in the Ryanair Chase at 2.40pm. He will relish the drying ground and is one of his trainer’s big hopes for the week. He can be backed at 7/2 with Paddy Power and I fancy Schindlers Hunt to chase him home.

The Festival Plate (4.00pm) looks an impossible race to call and I respect the chances of Song of Songs, Watch My Back and Sunnyhillboy. However, I’ll be having a small each-way bet on Alan King’s TAROTINO at 20/1. He is much better than he has shown so far and is another who will bounce off the ground.

Finally, have a few quid on the Ferdy Murphy trained GALANT NUIT in the finale (4.40pm). He was amongst the winners yesterday and this fellow won at the Paddy Power meeting, so the course holds no fears!

COPPER BLEU e/w 16/1 Cheltenham 1.30pm
ALFIE SHERRIN 4/1 Cheltenham 2.05pm
POQUELIN 7/2 Cheltenham 2.40pm
TAROTINO e/w 20/1 Cheltenham 4.00pm
GALANT NUIT e/w 11/1 Cheltenham 4.40pm