Friday, 9 December 2022

Cheltenham International Meeting Day One: Friday 9th December 2022 - Mottes to Win the Pot

Friday marks the start of Cheltenham’s brilliant two-day International Meeting.

Lookout for Saturday’s blog. We have tips and info for the Triumph Trial, the December Gold Cup, the International Hurdle and the Grade 2 Bristol Novices’ among others.

As for today, we have a selection for each of seven races on the card beginning with the cross-country race.

12.05 (Crystal Cup Cross-Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – CREALION

We’re going over the familiar 3-mile, 6½-furlong cross-country course for the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup to open the card. There are some familiar names here too. 

Likely favourite Delta Work spoiled the Tiger Roll party by winning the cross-country at the festival in March, finished third in the National and won last time out. That all sounds great, but he’s had a hard time and may be handicapped a little high.

Plan Of Attack, Foxy Jacks, Diesel D’Allier, Singing Banjo and previous course and distance winner Back On The Lash can all also make claims, but Crealion is too big a price.

The sudden improvement in his form when he won easily in France last time was no fluke and he is well handicapped on that. He also has more speed than the others at these weights (yes, that counts even at this distance between obstacles) and he may be able to dash clear if getting a clean round.

12.40 (National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle – Class 3) – TIMEFORATUNE

This race is for the 4-6-year-olds over 2 miles and 1 furlong, one in which the Twiston-Davies horse Master Chewy is bound to attract the most money.

He was ahead when he fell last time so many will treat him like a last time out winner, however he is too short a price and we’ll never know what he would have done on the run-in.

Paul Nicholls’ Timeforatune on the other hand is improving fast. He didn’t go on as much as hoped last time, but he was very green indeed and is learning all the time. With the experience under his belt, he can prove his class in this event.

1.15 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – GREEN VAULT

There are only four runners in this race, three of which are out of the handicap.

Because of that, topweight Mister Coffey is a likely short-priced favourite and there are no particular weaknesses in his game with these conditions in mind.

On our numbers however, even from out of the weights, Green Vault may be only a few pounds behind so more improvement than we expect and/or a mistake from Mister Coffey brings him right into it.

Given that Lucinda Russell brings only this horse for today from Scotland, she may feel he has a big chance and so at the odds he is worth a small interest.

1.50 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MARTA DES MOTTES 

This race is a Challenger Mares’ Chase Series qualifier over the extended 2½ miles. Joint topweight Legends Ryde is relatively solid, as is Gazette Bourgeoise, but there is a lot to like about the chances of Marta Des Mottes at these odds.

We’ve compared her with the horses she’s beaten, looked at her speed figures and more, with everything pointing at the fact that the handicapper has got her all wrong.

This mare could be closer to a 120 horse than a 108 horse, meaning she looks very well in indeed and its not as though conditions are against her either. Ben Poste rides for trainer Tom Symonds.

2.25 (Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK

The feature race on day one is this 3¼-mile handicap chase worth £60,000. If the quicker conditions hold, there is more than enough in the profile of Captain Cattistock to suggest he can add another Cheltenham win to his record.

As well as the fact that his form stands up well, his local trainer Fergal O’Brien has been in excellent form so it’s fair to say the chances are the horse will be at his best.

He’s already had a pipe-opener this season so he’s race fit anyway, making him our favourite ahead of Switch Hitter, Nassalam and Commodore who won the race last year.

3.00 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – MULLENBEG

We’re back over the two-mile, one-furlong trip for this handicap hurdle. The top one Zoffanien remains of interest, likely at a nice price, while Punctuation could also improve enough to take a hand in the finish.

Anyharminasking is rock-solid by our reckoning and may well have been the ultimate selection ordinarily, but it’s just too hard to ignore the claims of Milton Harris’ Mullenbeg who gets the vote to make it four wins in a row.

According to our own stats, the handicapper has got Mullenbeg’s latest run dead on at 122. That’s based on the bare form shown, but it doesn’t take into account the improvement he undoubtedly still has and the fact that he won his race rather easily, meaning he could have pulled out more if necessary.

If he does indeed take another step forward then that may be enough for him to rack up the four-timer under jockey Jonathan Burke.

3.35 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – DUSART

Nicky Henderson has a very strong hand here as we finish over three miles in this handicap hurdle.

His Captain Morgs was entered along with Call Me Lord in a Pertemps qualifier last week but was rerouted to this race and is of some interest.

We’re not exactly sure Captain Morgs is the best handicapped horse at the moment however and it seems top stable jock Nico de Boinville may agree as he has chosen Dusart back from an absence.

The last time we saw this horse over hurdles was spring 2021. Since then, he’s gone chasing and had a breathing operation and a long break, but all in all he looks well handicapped for hurdle races in conditions he likes.

Annual Invictus, Flight Deck and Uhtred were also considered, all of whom may be the subject of some each-way bets.

Friday, 11 November 2022

November Meeting Day Three: Sunday November 13th 2022 - Edwardstone To Announce His Champion Candidacy

Sunday means day three and the final day of the fantastic November Meeting at Cheltenham.

We’ve seen some excellent action so far, some of it of course having a bearing on the upcoming Cheltenham Festival which we are already counting down to.

This time around, the Grade 2 Shloer Chase and the Greatwood Hurdle are the standout races. In the former, Nube Negra and Edwardstone are both expected to be on the Champion Hurdle trail and go head-to-head, while the latter is very competitive.

We begin with a classy-looking novices’ chase in which one of our favourites may well land a high-profile opening win of the season.

1.10 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – MISTER COFFEY

On these pages we really rather fancied Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey to win the Kim Muir at the Festival back in March, a race in which he was a respectable and well-backed runner-up.

He also went off 5/1 favourite for the Topham at Aintree in April but frankly needed a rest, something he’s had now which should lead to him resuming his progress over fences.

With that, we reckon he can outclass Irish challengers Bardenstown Lad and Indigo Breeze, trained by John McConnell and Gordon Elliott respectively.

1.45 (Shloer Chase – Grade 2) – EDWARDSTONE

In what looks like a match between Edwardstone and Nube Negra, we could not put anyone off backing a Champion Chase runner-up who took this race easily last year and is second favourite.

As good as Nube Negra is however, his challenger Edwardstone looks the real deal and is offered as the selection in what we know as the Cheltenham Chase.

Alan King’s runner was a novice last season, but is the same age as Nube Negra and doesn’t lack experience. What he has done is improve plenty in his eight chases and really came of age when running out an impressive winner of the Arkle back in March.

He has the speed and the jumping prowess, he can do it on softer ground if the rain comes, he’s very classy and is firmly on the road to the 2023 Queen Mother Champion Chase.

2.20 (Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – SLIPWAY 

In an open heat two horses stand out in the betting market; Fantastikas and Does He Know. Both horses have obvious chances on the book, however they may both prefer things to be a little softer out there and so they are vulnerable.

It’s not as though certain others in the pack are incapable at the weight anyway. One challenger, Back On The Lash, definitely wants it quicker and he has plenty of experience around Cheltenham including over on the cross-country course.

Even better off at the weights could be the bang in form Slipway of Ben Pauling’s yard and he promises to be a nice price for backers too.

Although pulling up a couple of times as well, he finished last season with a win at Southwell and a good fifth at Newbury, before heading to Perth where he won easily. He’s entered in this race and over at Fontwell.

2.55 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – I LIKE TO MOVE IT

Not many trainers truly use the Greatwood as a bona fide Champion Hurdle trial, mostly because they tend to try and win it with a lower-rated horse at the bottom of the weights.

There is a chance however that it may be treated as a trial this year given that, although ever so narrowly, we like the topweight in the race I Like To Move It.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner is rated 142 which means he’s not in the Champion Hurdle bracket yet, but he does have class and at only five years old he can continue to climb the hurdling ladder.

The difference in this competitive race is that he has more speed than the others between flights which may count for a hell of a lot. He was a Grade 2 winner at this meeting last year, a good one too, and he may be able to outclass this field.

There are plenty of others to note; Severance, Sonigino and Gin Coco being the best of them for sure, while Dads Lad is bound to attract plenty of support in the market.

3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – IBERICO LAD 

The very race I Like To Move It won last year was this Supreme Trial, otherwise known as the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.

As you’d imaging there’s not a whole lot for us to go on here. What we do know is that while top contenders such as Springwell Bay and Fennor Cross are decent, they aren’t so far above standard for a race of this nature which means it could be one by an unknown quantity with potential.

That brings in Iberico Lad. New owner JP McManus doesn’t get it wrong very often with his French recruits and surely, he’ll be expecting plenty from this four-year-old as the season goes on.

He won in his homeland back in May over 1m7f, quickening clear nicely on soft ground in the style of a horse who may appreciate a better surface. He’ll get that here and it might just be that Iberico Lad has that bit of star quality needed to separate himself from the rest of this inexperienced field. Aidan Coleman rides.

4.00 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – NOTNOWNED

These bumper races are never easy to call in advance so, as always, we recommend you have a close look at the betting in the half-hour or so before post time to see what is truly fancied.

As far as picking one out based on known information goes, John McConnell’s Notnowned is definitely the one who stands out.

Second in a point-to-point in April, the son of Notnowcato was beaten on his bumper debut but ran well at 25/1 before landing a similar race in very easy fashion at Bellewstown over the summer.

On that evidence he’s clearly improving very quickly, so the fact that his current level of form beaten that offered by Roger Pol, Cape Vidal and Crambo means he has an outstanding chance of making it two from three in bumper races.

November Meeting Day Two: Saturday 12th November 2022 - Midnight to Turn the Lights Out

Day two of the November Meeting is Paddy Power Gold Cup Day. We have a selection in that race, as well as in the other six on what is another fascinating days of racing at the home of National Hunt.

12.35 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – BLUEKING D’OROUX

How many of these horses make it to the Triumph Hurdle itself is anyone’s guess, but in its own right it is a fascinating juvenile event.

They piece of form coming into the weekend seems to be the Listed juvenile hurdle staged at Wetherby last month.

There, Dan Skelton’s Meydaf got home well to score by three lengths from Tuddenham Green (Alan King), though the winner now carries a 5lb penalty. It’s 50/50 whether or not Sheena West’s Mr Freedom would have won the event, though he ran out two from home.

Those three are at a very similar level at the weights, while War Correspondent and Scriptwriter could be roughly on a par with them too.

Standing out however is another Paul Nicholls recruit from France, Blueking D’Oroux. In a couple of races at Auteil he ran to a better level than anything in this race and can now improve. It’s also true that he reached his level of form despite the heavy ground and not because of it, so he should appreciate conditions here.

1.10 (Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – VALSHEDA

An interesting race for the amateurs, one in which the Irish challenge may prove to be quite strong.

Henry De Bromhead’s Brave Way should be well backed coming into the race on a hat-trick, while Gordon Elliott’s Punitive and Gavin Cromwell’s Malina Girl are also interesting, especially the last named.

Charlie Longsdon has a solid chance with his race-fit Kelso fourth Castle Robin, but the best of the bunch may prove to be Valsheda.

Carrying the familiar Kelvin-Hughes colours for trainer Nicky Henderson, Valsheda was a gutsy winner last time but he is one that is getting better. His 234 days off the track will have led to plenty of improvement, he’s fresh and he has the form at the weights.

1.45 (Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – PENTLAND HILLS

Higher profile races will be won by 2023 Arkle contenders this season, but this race looks very important too.

It’s a close one to call at first glance. Pentland Hills was given a walkover, Tommy’s Oscar won on debut over fences, Monmiral was classy over hurdles and makes his chasing debut while Banbridge was a comfortable debut chase winner and at five has lots more to come.

Nicky Henderson’s Pentland Hills was a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle winner and was a close second in the Champion Hurdle Trial in 2020.

After a forced absence, he came back with a win on the Flat and was better than before and he could be the best of this bunch now chasing.

2.20 (Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase – Premier Handicap) – MIDNIGHT RIVER

This two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase is as competitive as we’d expect it to be. Familiar Cheltenham runners Coole Cody and Simply The Betts will be popular, while French Dynamite has been very well backed and topweight Mister Fisher can hardly be ruled out.

Stolen Silver could be very well handicapped for Sam Thomas, while similar comments apply to David Pipe’s Umbrigado and Paul Nicholls’ Il Ridoto.

The one we liked best of all was the race-fit Midnight River. Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old has yet to peak as a chaser and after being solid but unspectacular last season looks a very different prospect this.

3/1 for his seasonal reappearance at Stratford, he demolished his opposition to win by an ever so easy 25 lengths, going up only 8lbs in the handicap. He’s a good deal better than that and may land this race before returning in December.

2.55 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – PADLEYOUROWNCANOE

This is a tough race to pick apart and it’s one that may come down to two good value horses, each not seen very often over hurdles in recent times.

Annual Invictus of Chris Gordon’s yard could be better than when last seen over timber, while Padleyourowncanoe very much has the speed between flights needed this time around and gets the vote.

He hasn’t won over hurdles for a little while but is well enough handicapped for the Skeltons, with Shearer and Sidi Ismael also making the shortlist.

3.30 (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – WISEGUY

This isn’t the sort of race to be dedicated massive stakes to, but there’s enough in the profile of Nicky Henderson’s Wiseguy to think that he has tons of improvement to come this season so gets the nod.

Rated only 119 at present, it would seem obvious that he won’t stay on that mark for very long so is more than likely to be very well handicapped.

When earning that rating, he jumped out to the side a little and looked unfinished but there will have been a lot of work done in the interim. Nico de Boinville takes the ride.

4.05 (Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – QUEENS GAMBLE

Fergal O’Brien’s Bonttay won three out of three last season, winning at this very meeting before not being seen again.

She may make a good fist of things, while Willie Mullins sends over Williamstowndancer and she will no doubt have her supporters too.

The likely favourite is Nicky Henderson’s Luccia and her winning would be no surprise, but it may pay to go for the value offered by backing Oliver Sherwood’s Queens Gamble instead.

Her debut win was more impressive than that of Luccia, she definitely has the speed for the Old Course on decent ground and although she has only raced once, both horses have been off for over 200 days which is ample time to strengthen and catch up.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

November Meeting Day One: Friday 11th November 2022 - Hermes to Deliver in Ballymore

What a treat we have in store this weekend at Cheltenham.

Friday marks the beginning of the three-day November Meeting and includes the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

We have information on all six Friday races, while later in the week we’re covering the Triumph Trial, Arkle Trial, the Paddy Power Gold Cup, Shloer Chase, the Greatwood Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Trial.

1.10 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – FINE CASTING

The market will be interesting in this qualifier for the Challenger Stayers’ Hurdle Series, as it looks very competitive indeed. Hurricane Harvey may yet return to form, while Hector Javilex is solid at the top and Astigar can go well.

Plenty is expected of Enki Flacke and Sweet Will, but we don’t see them as being as well handicapped as Hardy Boy and especially Fine Casting.

Ben Pauling’s six-year-old was climbing the ranks quite quickly last winter. If he’s ready to go after a break then he will prove to be well handicapped, while he also possesses the speed needed on the Old Course.

1.45 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – AMARILLO SKY 

The Glancing Queen would of course be a very popular winner on her seasonal return, while Grey Diamond, Hasankey and Malystic are also interesting.

The standout horse for us at the weights is Joe Tizzard’s Amarillo Sky. Fifth in the Grand Annual in March, he was improving quickly before that and can resume his progress now off a handy chasing mark. Brendan Powell takes the ride and the pair look well placed to run a very big race.

2.20 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3s) – HEREDITARY RULE

This is an interesting novices’ chase over two and a half miles. Here, we have some who haven’t taken a single fence, while conversely Railway Hurricane has already run in 14 steeplechases.

All things taken into consideration, Fergal O’Brien’s topweight Pull Again Green should have a fair shout, as should Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Super Six who should have done much better on his fencing debut but can improve now.

Above them on the shortlist however were Chris Gordon’s Unanswered Prayers and John McConnell’s Hereditary Rule, the latter getting the nod.

Unanswered Prayers was very consistent over hurdles but can probably reach a new level if taking to the larger obstacles, while the Irish-trained runner looks very well handicapped.

Hereditary Rule won ever so easily at Cartmel in the summer, then took in a hurdle race last time to ensure his fitness was spot on. Daryl Jacob takes the ride.

2.55 (Veterans’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – MAGIC DANCER

It’s hard enough to track the progress of horses who are on the way up in their careers and to correlate that with their current handicap marks. What’s even worse however is to do the same with those who are gradually regressing.

This is a great veterans’ chase, one in which lovely types such as Broken Quest, Elegant Escape and Ballyandy may all go well, but two against the field may be Kauto Riko (Tom Gretton) and Magic Dancer (Kerry Lee).

At 11 Kauto Riko still has plenty of zip and he was strongly considered, however the ten-year-old Magic Dancer was in winning form when last seen and has shown the requisite speed as well as jumping ability to give punters confidence in a two-and-a-half-mile race on the Old Course.

Kauto Riko is one of only two rides on the card for the excellent Brian Hughes, but Richard Patrick is on the selection.

3.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – HERMES ALLEN

Still known to many as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle, the Ballymore is important in sorted out future staying stars and has been won recently by Thyme Hill and Gold Cup winner Coneygree.

A brief look at the names involved this time suggests the result of this race will very much be worth keeping in mind when looking at bets for the festival in March.

Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Gordon Elliott and Dan Skelton all have fancied horses in this race. We can only judge the horses however, not their handlers, though it’s almost impossible to do so naturally when it comes to runners such as Weveallbeencaught (Twiston-Davies) who makes his hurdling debut.

Elliott’s Music Drive is interesting, while the bulk of the money will probably go the way of Hubrisko for Elliott’s main rival Willie Mullins.

Quid Pro Quo for JP McManus and the Skelton’s is right up at their level, though they may all find themselves playing catch-up to Paul Nicholls’ recruit Hermes Allen.

The five-year-old former point-to-pointer won with his head in his chest at Stratford last month. True, he didn’t have much to beat but in reality, was around 35lbs ahead of a solid yardstick in second and there’s no doubt he will improve from race one to race two.

If the numbers are right and we think they are, then he is at a level above this opposition. Harry Cobden rides.

4.00 (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – RATHMACKNEE

A very tentative selection for the final race is Rathmacknee. This is a terribly difficult race to solve as a wide-open novices’ hurdle, but this horse at least ticks a few boxes.

Rathmacknee was a very easy winner last time out and could be considered well handicapped for this event. He is also trained by a top-class handler in Nicky Henderson and trained by Nico de Boinville, the pair having won much bigger races than this around Cheltenham.

In terms of the trip and ground there should be no problems at all for this six-year-old, with some of our thinking being that you won’t get too many 124-rated horses in the Henderson yard, so there’s some reason to believe he is very much better than that.

Others to consider are Alto Alto, Galahad Threepwood and Master Dancer.

Friday, 21 October 2022

Cheltenham Showcase Meeting Day Two: 22nd October 2022 - Knight to Lay Down a Marker

Day 2 of the Showcase Meeting, and more appetite-whetting for the big-race season to come at Cheltenham Racecourse.

We have another seven races to go through on Saturday, beginning with the novices’ hurdle in which we expect Shearer to score.

1.30 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – SHEARER

After winning three of his last four in Ireland lots of attention coming into this three-miler has been on Rexem, however one trained a little closer to home also has outstanding credentials.

Paul Nicholls’ Shearer is match fit having won easily over 2m7f just 16 days ago and it’s very possible he can go in again under Adrian Heskin.

He’s coming along just nicely and seems to enjoy this sort of ground, so he is taken to land the opener ahead of Rexem and Saint Palais.

2.05 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK

Having pulled-up twice in his last three outings and having not been seen for nearly 200 days, The Hollow Ginge certainly has some questions to answer but nevertheless he has already been well backed for this valuable handicap chase.

The same age, higher in the handicap and off for a very similar time is Captain Cattistock, but their most recent form is very different.

Fergal O’Brien’s runner has won his last two in fact and, based on his love of good ground, this track and a decent trip, is a fair shout to back that up with another win under 3lb claimer Liam Harrison.

2.40 (Masterson Hurdle – Class 2) – KNIGHT SALUTE

There are just the five runners for this extended two-mile hurdle, though two of them do stand out in Gordon Elliott’s Triumph Hurdle third Pied Piper and Milton Harris’s Knight Salute who dead-heated with Pied Piper in a Grade 1 at Aintree.

Having initially cross the line together at Aintree, Pied Piper was demoted to second for causing interference. While that may seem harsh, the fact is we can take from that the fact that Knight Salute was probably a tad better on the day.

He’s also rated 1lb higher than his rival officially, yet is a much bigger price with many thinking the favourite suits Cheltenham more which may not actually be the case.

Knight Salute was a Grade 2 winner at Cheltenham at last year’s November Meeting and may have been underestimated and overpriced for this clash.

3.15 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – DADS LAD

In this valuable and competitive two-mile handicap chase, we’re on the Old Course on good ground so speed is as important as any other handicapping factor.

Clear The Runway is the obvious favourite having won five in a row, Editeur Du Gite has already won a very similar race at the November Meeting and, at simply too big a price, El Borracho looks just the right type and is improving all the while.

The one we’ve plumped for however is Willie Mullins’ raider Dads Lad. Fifth on his chase debut at Wexford, the seven-year-old improved by around 8-9lbs when winning next time, and by another 10 or so when scoring easily last time out.

He is improving so quickly that we cannot ignore his chances. His handicap rating of 132 doesn’t represent his true ability, let alone what he might achieve going forward, he has the speed required to win this and is in the hands of the best National Hunt trainer around. Brian Hayes takes the ride.

3.50 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – BOTOX HAS

This is not the most valuable race on the card, but it is probably the most competitive, Let’s not lose sight either of the fact that it is a crucial Pertemps Series qualifier, so those with a very early notebook on the go for the Cheltenham Festival should be watching carefully.

Looking for a five-timer is Salvador Ziggy, though top weight will be tough even in dry conditions. Didtheyleaveuoutto was fourth in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow recently and is also worth a major mention, while Kansas City Chief won the race last year and is overpriced to get into contention once more, while Panic Attack also made the shortlist.

The one we’re most interested in however is Gary Moore’s Botox Has. This horse is young, only a six-year-old, with his best days ahead of him.

He managed to win a Grade 2 race at Fontwell back in February, yet was put up only 1lb by the handicapper which is strangely lenient. With that in mind, he could simply be very well weighted for this race considering the likely improvement he has in him.

Shoot First is one more worth mentioning in what is a potentially tough betting race.

4.25 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – LIFE IN THE PARK

Although not a huge price in the market admittedly, the sensible choice here in the extended three-mile novices’ chase is Henry De Bromhead’s Life In The Park.

Any winner at this track for De Bromhead right now is sure to be an emotional and well-received one, and this five-year-old has the form and the potential to provide him with one.

Despite the presence of a Gordon Elliott runner who is prominent in the betting, second choice is Mahler Mission, but at these weights and with race fitness on his side Life In The Park appears to be the most likely winner of the penultimate race.

5.00 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – STRONG LEADER

Although Milton Harris’s Gentle Slopes has been well touted in recent times, and indeed it may turn out to be the case that he’s well up to winning this bumper, the level of form reached by Olly Murphy’s Strong Leader is better at this point.

He did that some 20 weeks earlier than Gentle Slopes too, and so there is the strong possibility that’s he’s improved plenty more since then.

Chris Gordon’s Kayf Legend and Denis Hogan’s Thecompanysergeant also make the list, while punters should also watch out for any significant money going down on runners in the moments before post time.

Cheltenham Showcase Meeting Day One: 21st October 2022 - Season Begins on a Gathering Storm

Cheltenham is back!

The Showcase Meeting, particularly Friday of course, is a rather low-key start to the season at the home of National Hunt racing, but nevertheless this place is special and always hands us a betting opportunity or two.

We go through the seven-race card on Friday, beginning with the conditionals in the opening race:

1.35 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – ELHAM VALLEY

This opening contest run over the extended two miles is a real lottery at first glance. We’d imagine not too many serious bets will be going in, unless they come from within a yard that knows something, so from our point of view it’s about playing the percentages.

At this time of year race fitness may play a key role. Of the leading contenders on the numbers, Elham Valley is the best of those with a recent run having finished second at Southwell in September.

His trainer Fergal O’Brien tends to do well in these early-season Cheltenham meetings too and it may be that the five-year-old is prepped to perfection. Jack Hogan claims six.

2.10 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – ASH TREE MEADOW

Given the forecast fast ground for these novices, especially over two miles, those with some proven speed may be at an advantage in this race and that is certainly the case with Ash Tree Meadow.

As well as having the obvious toe this runner has the best form in the race, even at the weights, is trained by Gordon Elliott who brings him over from Ireland, he has the assistance of Davy Russell in the saddle and at six he’s not the oldest in the line-up and he has more improvement to come.

All of that makes him a fair shout for this race.

2.45 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – SHE IS ELECTRIC

Gordon Elliott has another outstanding chance here in the shape of likely favourite Music Drive and of course, we don’t know how good that one could be over hurdles just yet.

That’s for the future, but as for today fellow Irish raider She is Electric may just have the experience and toughness, as well as the speed, to take care of this field and land a hat-trick going up in trip.

3.20 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – HANG IN THERE

This is a very close field with only about 1½ points in the betting separating all five runners at the time of writing.

The fairly obvious but nevertheless solid betting choice is Emma Lavelle’s Hang In There. An eight-year-old, the son of Yeats has been kept quite busy throughout the warmer months, winning his last four races.

True, those races have been weak and they were all small fields, however he has done things ever so easily and by an aggregate of some 88 lengths and so we’ve no idea if the handicapper has got close to finding the true rating for him. It’s possible he remains well in.

A case can be made for all of the other four; Tullybeg, Pull Again Green, Champagne Gold and Found On, with the latter also on a solid winning run.

3.55 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – ONAGATHERINGSTORM

This two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle really should be competitive and, according to this year’s betting, it is.

Thirteen of them line up, headed by good old stick Coole Cody who has been prepared to attempt to add to his 4 wins, 2 seconds and a third at the course he loves.

The popular eleven-year-old certainly made our shortlist but, regardless of how well trainers do with such types, it cannot be argued that they go backwards and not forwards at this age and so we cannot judge him on his very best form.

Francky Du Berlais is an interesting contender, one that may be just peaking now over hurdles having done so well at Bangor in August.

Spanish Present has been the one for money since the final declarations came through having won his second hurdle start so impressively, but the one we’re plumping for is another Fergal O’Brien runner in the shape of Onagatheringstorm.

The seven-year-old skipped quickly to a rating of 131 and in the fulness of time he will surely achieve more than that.

Owing to a couple of under-par runs however, he gets in here off 129 but after a wind operation it may be he’s fresh and ready to produce his best, a best that at these weights would see him be too good under Paddy Brennan.

4.30 (Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – ON SPRINGS

At around 5/1+ the field and with a maximum field of 20 taking part under amateur jockeys, this race too is an extremely difficult one from a punting point of view.

No very strong view can be taken, that’s for sure, so once again it is wise from a betting standpoint to simply try to cover a few bases and see which horse ticks the most boxes.

In the top half of the betting, in the top three on speed ratings (considering the quick ground), having been in the first two for 50% of his races and having won his last three means On Springs is the horse with the most ticks.

Ben Pauling’s runner has been very progressive overall going over the larger obstacles and there’s no reason that, as a seven-year-old, he is finished improving yet so he gets the nod.

5.05 (Maiden Hurdle – Class 3) – HULLNBACK

There are 12 runners in the finale, but frankly a number of them give us nothing to go on.

Assuming there are no nasty 66/1 surprises ready to shock us and thrill the bookmakers, it seems the race may come down to Fergal O’Brien’s Hullnback, Milton Harris’s Twinjets and Gordon Elliott’s An Mhi.

All three have good credentials in the context of this event. Hullnback and Twinjets achieved a very similar level in their respective bumpers at Aintree and Haydock in the spring.

The former may just about be the better animal, though it is a tentative selection.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Cheltenham Race Night: Friday 29th April 2022 - Geordie B Will Make It Alreet, Pet

Cheltenham’s Race Night on the New Course promises to be a very fun evening of racing for hunter chasers, and the last sight of this famous track until the Showcase Meeting on October 21.

We have seven twilight races to go through, all of them opportunities for some less familiar faces to the general racing public to get into the Cheltenham winners’ enclosure.

4.40 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – ENVIOUS EDITOR

We go over two miles and half a furlong for the first open hunters’ chase of the evening and the race may provide a winner for trainer Joe O’Shea. He handles eight-year-old Envious Editor and he gets the nod in the opener.

Fit having won a point-to-point at Sandon thirteen days ago, James King’s mount has enough class to take care of this field, the likely favourite Envoye Special perhaps being his biggest danger.

Christopher Barber’s runner will be popular having once been in the care of Paul Nicholls and having also won a recent point race at Trebudannon by some 25 lengths.

Rewritetherules is owned, trained and ridden by David O’Brien and is another with a solid enough each-way chance.

5.15 (Intermediate Point-to-Point Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – FAMOUS CLERMONT

There are plenty of horses in this race with lots of recent winning form, most notably Famous Clermont, Rebel Dawn Rising, Latenightfumble and Castle Trump who all made the shortlist.

This will be a tough one over the 3¼-mile trip, Christopher Barber and jockey William Biddick perhaps having the best chance with their seven-year-old French bred Famous Clermont.

Trained by Barber since 2009, save for a brief career under rules with Kayley Woollacott, Famous Clermont remains in fine form and won a hunters’ chase at Exeter very well back in March.

Along with the 6.25 this race is the most valuable on the card at £10,000 and is appropriately competitive, the aforementioned Rebel Dawn Rising, Latenightfumble and Castle Trump all holding chances.

5.50 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – FIXE LE CAP

Nine go to post for this one over three miles, one-and-a-half furlongs, with Trio For Rio likely to be the one for money.

Clive Boultbee-Brooks’ horse was pulled-up last time in a point as the 5/4 favourite and that sticks in the memory a little bit, though his previous form is solid.

Moratorium, I’m Wiser Now and Tel’Art were all considered too, but there is more to like about Fixe Le Cap who is taken to score.

The top one, now a ten-year-old, is joint-highest rated in this race along with Trio For Rio and is arguably in much better form right now.

Twice a runner-up in point-to-points in March and April, he’s very much race fit and can use that to good effect.

6.25 (Mixed Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – GEORDIE B

We go over the Gold Cup trip for this £10,000 contest and we reckon that while Clive Boultbee-Brooks may miss out in the previous race, he and Tommie O’Brien can land the pot this time around with Geordie B.

Their nine-year-old grey, by Geordieland, had a solid level of form under rules for Venetia Williams back in late 2020 and has held that level by running second at Lingfield in February and winning at Carlisle in March.

Geordie B was also rated as high as 140 over hurdles after winning over three miles at Exeter in 2019, showing he has plenty of stamina which will serve him well in this contest.

Caryto Des Brosses and Salvatore should also be considered and are all unlikely to let people down for each-way and placepot bets.

7.00 (Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – FEUILLE DE LUNE

Even when taking out Tb Broke Her, who might just be behind the others in this three-mile, one-and-a-half-furlong mares’ race, this contest is way more competitive than it looks at first glance.

There are just five runners here, but there will be strong opinions floating around about at least four of them we feel.

Gina Andrews rides Kalabaloo and the pair are likely to go off favourites, while the Polly Gundry-trained Wind Tor is another very solid contender alongside Cashmoll at a bigger price.

The one we like is Feuille De Lune however after winning three point races by an aggregate of 80 lengths since December. Kelly Morgan’s mare is also the youngest in the line-up at seven and there could be much more to come from her yet.

7.35 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – LAW OF GOLD

The penultimate contest is also the longest race on the card at some four miles and half a furlong.

Stamina, naturally, will be the number one factor and there are some well-known names showing up including Shantou Flyer, Law Of Gold, Give Me A Copper and Captain Drake.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Shantou Flyer is the obvious one. David Maxwell’s horse was an easy winner at Fontwell when last seen and should stay all the way.

He gets 3lbs from the likes of Law Of Gold too, but at twelve years old we shouldn’t expect too much and it may be the last named who gets an edge.

David Kemp’s runner has really kept his form in recent months having run around some top tracks, winning races at Fontwell, Stratford and Ascot (easily) before finishing runner-up at Fakenham last time behind Not That Fuisse.

8.10 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – SOLOMON GREY

There should be a little bit of speed on show as we go down to two miles, four-and-a-half furlongs for the finale which is due to finish only around ten minutes or so before sunset at Cheltenham.

Paul Nicholls and David Maxwell team up again and their Stratagem is expected to be a clear favourite here, though while the six-year-old grey has a clear chance he is passed over in favour of the better value Solomon Grey.

The ten-year-old son of Sulamani was some 16 lengths behind Strategem in March at Ludlow and has just a 2lb weight pull now.

However, we reckon he’s better than that and won in very impressive fashion last time out at the same track.