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Keith Melrose
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Cheltenham Festival betting tips: Flooring Porter to retain crown

Thursday is day three of the Cheltenham Festival and Keith Melrose from the Racing Post has provided his best bets on the first four races on the card.

1.30 Cheltenham

Stage Star @ 10/1

1pt each-way

2.10 Cheltenham

Green Book @ 25/1

1pt each-way (six places)

2.50 Cheltenham

French Dynamite @ 9/1

1pt win in the 'Without Favourite' market

3.30 Cheltenham

Flooring Porter @ 11/2

1pt win

Stage to Star in opener

Mighty Potter is hard to oppose in the opening Turners Novices' Chase, but STAGE STAR each-way is marginally more appealing than a win-only bet on the favourite.

There is little depth to the race, but three places on offer so realistically Stage Star only has to beat two out of the four other challengers for a place in order to collect each-way money. 

He is more likely than most to run his race: he has excellent course form, courtesy of a handicap win on Festival Trials Day in what is traditionally a red-hot novice. 

Stage Star has been generally progressive over fences, but was no slouch over hurdles as he won a Grade 1 novice, and he appeals as the type Paul Nicholls will turn into a top-class chaser in time.

Green means go for Venetia

The Pertemps Final is competitive, but not to the extent it can be and classy sorts who have seemingly had their turn can have a say once more.

GREEN BOOK is high on that list. He is a useful soft-ground handicapper on the Flat and has gradually got the hang of hurdling.

He excelled himself when finishing fifth in the Albert Bartlett last season and his win in the Heroes at Sandown in February appeals as strong form as the well-treated Call Me Lord and progressive Jet Of Magic filled the places in behind.

Green Book copes with anything on the easy side of good, so should have conditions to suit here and he tends to race prominently.

That is not as big an edge on the hurdles course as the chase course overall at Cheltenham, but in big fields it often keeps horses out of trouble and Green Book looks a sporting bet for the first six.

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Dynamite to explode onto the scene

The more I think about the Ryanair and Shishkin, the more fanciful the idea of him bouncing becomes. Yes, this horse went missing in action for a good few months but there was no long absence before his last run and he looked back to his best after two fences.

Even as someone who tends not to back at odds on, I toyed with putting him up. But you can avoid the question by playing in the 'without Shishkin' market and there is a much more habitual bet for me in that list.

FRENCH DYNAMITE ought to have won the Paddy Power Gold Cup here in November when he shaped like the best horse. On his next run he was last off the bridle bar winner Conflated in the Savills, but failed to get home. He was then almost wiped out at the last when second to Fakir D'Oudairies on his most recent run.

This is a Grade 1 horse in the ascendancy, returned to a course where he has run extremely well before. In a race that lacks depth, he offers great value in the 'without' market and you don't even have to guess on his readiness.

Hat-trick hunter can floor his rivals

There are no saints in this year's Stayers' Hurdle. Teahupoo remains something of a stamina doubt, Home By The Lee and Klassical Dream have their own ideas about the game and both Blazing Khal and FLOORING PORTER only got here by the skin of their teeth after interrupted preparations.

With all of those uncertainties, the course form of the last named is surely a haven that is hard to resist. 

Flooring Porter is a two-time defending champion, the horse with the best form in the race and it has been recorded at this very track on this very day. 

His two runs this season have been perfectly in line with last season, when he built up slowly to the Cheltenham Festival, and he should arguably be favourite for a race he has made his own.

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