Thursday, 29 April 2021

Friday 30th April 2021: Be On Garde in Cheltenham Season Finale

It’s Cheltenham’s season-closing Race Night on Friday evening, a fascinating card featuring seven races for hunter chasers only.

There are some pretty good value bets to be had on what should be an entertaining night of racing, beginning with the two-miler.

5.00 (2m½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – ENVOYE SPECIAL

The opening race looks ideal for seven-year-old Envoye Special, last seen under rules when finishing a decent if distant second to Adrien Du Pont at Kempton Park.

That was over two-and-a-half miles, seemingly his favourite trip, but given the nature of Cheltenham and the New Course in particular he should have enough time to reach his full racing speed when it truly counts under James King.

Jack Andrews’ mount Fumet D’oudairies is next best by our reckoning having put in a good round when scoring at Leicester back in March. The ground was much slower that day and he’s been beaten in a point-to-point at Dingley since then, though at just six there is clear improvement still to come. Sam Cavallaro is likely to prove to be best of the rest.

5.35 (3m2f Point-to-Point Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HOTEL DU NORD

Top point-to-point trainer Will Biddick saddles two in here with a chance, the handler looking to supplement his brilliant Cheltenham Festival win with Porlock Bay last month.

His Definite Dilemma, and especially Hotel Du Nord, have outstanding chances with the mount of Charlie Sprake getting the vote this time.

Based on what the eight-year-old has achieved in point-to-points, rules chases and also over hurdles, he looks like the classiest runner in the field here and will have no doubt been prepared perfectly.

Stablemate Definite Dilemma is indeed next best, while Alan Gill’s Getting Closer may also be worth a second look in the betting.

6.10 (3m1½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – WICK GREEN

There should be plenty of attention here on duo I’m Wiser Now and Trio For Rio given what they have achieved under rules, however Wick Green could now improve past them both in this sphere.

The eight-year-old ran in his first “proper” chase at Exeter earlier in the month, putting up an impressive performance to score by 2¼ lengths on fast ground. He should handle this OK and is bound to put up even better numbers in this bigger field on a tougher track.

6.45 (3m2½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – GARDE VILLE

Chasing a fourth win in a row and reappearing after just nine days off the track is Patricia Rigby’s Garde Ville, and it may be that the smart money will head this way.

Immy Robinson takes the ride on a horse who at 11 seems to be in the form of his life, and while even his brilliantly consistent best wouldn’t be enough to beat a fully on-form Sugar Baron here, that rival has not shown his true form for some time and so the value lies with our selection.

Sugar Baron must till be considered of course, along with Just Cause and Summer Sounds, however Garde Ville’s simple win at Ludlow in a four-runner race seemed to indicate a horse who has a little more to give now which could be enough to prove successful in this arena.

7.15 (3m1½f Mares Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HIGHWAY JEWEL

There does seem to be a genuine pecking order here in the mares’ event, meaning unfortunately the most likely winner is also likely to be much the shortest price of the bunch.

That mare is Highway Jewel, Bradley Gibbs’ seven-year-old. Having won four point-to-points in a row, Highway Jewel was sent off at 20/1 in that sphere at Chaddesley Corbett against good old Hazel Hill and ended up making all to win un-hassled by some 25 lengths.

After, the mare went to Warwick for her first chase run under rules and ran a fine second. That’s top form in these ranks, and she on that basis looks too good for this field.

Miss Seagreen is the one who looks sure to be priced-up second and will attract her share of wagers, while for the tricast African Belle can be said to have some sort of form chance as well.

7.45 (4m½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK

In all Cheltenham meetings other than the Festival in March, Fergal O’Brien can be relied upon to provide a winner or two.

In among the various point specialists here, O’Brien has Captain Cattistock who even based solely on the numbers has an outstanding chance in the race.

Of the four biggest contenders by our reckoning, Captain Cattistock is at least 11lbs well-in at the weights. To add to that, he is only eight years old and can yet improve much further.

Looking at his form a little deeper only adds to the confidence. While he hasn’t been at his very best of late, it’s entirely possible that he hasn’t been enjoying the ground and so now he gets to race at “home” and has four full miles to sort himself out, we can see him pull away.

The other three on our shortlist were Ennistown, Kilkishen and Know The Score who in particular can go well at what should be a fairly juicy price.

8.15 (2m4½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – BARNEY DWAN

We have a real mixed bag in the lucky last, and while there are many ifs, buts and maybes in the field not least connected to Risk A Fine who has been off for 700 days, we can at least play relatively safe with one contender.

That contender is Sally Randell’s eleven-year-old Barney Dwan who is rarely unplaced when hitting the track. An easy win and two good runner-up efforts on the point-to-point scene last year read well, and given that he goes well fresh there should be no worries about him running right up to form.

Lawney Hill runs Clondaw Westie off top weight who also has a chance, while Marcle Ridge remains of interest given that there is potential improvement to be found.

The aforementioned Risk A Fine was rated 135 when with Alan King and even higher when with Gareth Moore, but it remains to be seen how much of that ability remains now he has changed hands once more to Francesca Nimmo.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

April Meeting Day Two: Thursday 15th April 2021 - Progressive to Advance to Grade 3 Win

It’s all about the mares on day two of the April meeting at Cheltenham, all seven races being exclusively for the females and we have found some decent betting opportunities in amongst them.

1.30 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – MARTELLO SKY

Most of the online cash in this opening race will no doubt be going the way of The Glancing Queen, and she is very solid at the top of the market too.

Alan King’s seven-year-old is just five runs into her hurdling career, but she’s been seen twelve times in total in public and doesn’t appear to necessarily be hugely improving now.

The value therefore could be in Lucy Wadham’s Martello Sky. Only a five-year-old, she won her first two hurdle races before heading to the Cheltenham Festival where she found things a little hot.

She still carried on her improvement however, running a fine 8th of 15 at Grade 2 level and now in this easier contest and with more progression to come, she rates a fair bet. Fantastic Lady could also run into a place for Nicky Henderson.

2.05 (Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – PROGRESSIVE

There is a lot of focus on the horse at the head of the market here – Joseph O’Brien’s Scholastic. JJ Slevin’s mount is the only runner on the card for O’Brien and her form backs up her position, however she is no certainty after nine attempts over hurdles which have so far yielded one win.

Scholastic has also gone up another 6lbs in the handicap since last seen, and it may be that there has been an overreaction after the Cheltenham Festival to the presence of any Irish-trained National Hunt horses in English races.

On the numbers, much stronger is Nicky Henderson’s Progressive who could live up to her name. Only seen four times over timber so far, she is getting better all the time and looks to be better treated in the weights as a result.

Of the outsiders, Table Mountain looks best in what should prove to be a very competitive betting event and an equally competitive race on the track.

2.40 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – REGARDING RUTH

According to our calculations, Lucy Wadham could be in for quite some day! As well as the fancied Martello Sky in the first, she also trains this underrated and overpriced Regarding Ruth and she may be worth a bet to small stakes.

With likely favourite Sexy Lot of the David Pipe stable the one to compare her to, it seems on the numbers Regarding Ruth is right where she needs to be and after an easy win last time out it would be no stretch to expect even more improvement now.

The doubt for many punters will come from the fact that said win last time was over three miles, she drops to 2½ here, but around Cheltenham that extra stamina may come in very handy. Molly Ollys Wishes is next on the list.

3.15 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – BLACK TULIP

This three-and-a-quarter-mile event is extremely close to call, with all runners holding a realistic chance of winning and, at the time of writing, all being listed between 5/1 and 10/1 in the betting.

Small stakes are therefore recommended here, with the one to perhaps side with being Henry Daly’s consistent nine-year-old Black Tulip. Tom O’Brien takes the ride.

For the places, there is little to separate the likes of Whatsdastory and Goodnight Charlie at the weights, though it may be prevalent to watch any betting moves in the minutes before post time.

3.50 (Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Final – Listed Race) – FLOWER OF SCOTLAND

Another close race, at least between the three we’d initially shortlisted who were Pink Legend (Venetia Williams), Danse Idol (Dan Skelton) and Liberty Bella (Brian Eckley).

When assessing the form a little more closely however, the one who stands out is Sandy Thomson’s Flower Of Scotland who could well make the team’s journey worthwhile.

Flower Of Scotland is a six-year-old grey who’s had just a couple of goes over fences since arriving from France; an average effort at Carlisle albeit in Listed company, and an easy win in a three-runner contest at Kelso last time out.

She’s getting better and looks to be the type who can put daylight between herself and her rivals at the crucial stage of this race, while she should also have enough stamina to see it out. Ryan Mania rides.

4.25 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – MISS AMELIA

This could be another close race with five of the six scheduled runners having all been under consideration, however all things considered the one at the head of the market is indeed the most solid overall and so it’s worth sticking with Miss Amelia.

Mark Walford’s mare will be ridden by the excellent Brian Hughes who should get the best out of her, and at the weights that best should be good enough for her to beat Cut The Mustard (Paul Nicholls) and Northern Beau (Michael Scudamore).

5.00 (Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – WIND FROM THE WEST

It’s very difficult to know at the time of writing how this market will shape up, which is rather typical for a bumper race.

With that in mind, you should once again consider any horse being solidly backed in the moments before the off, but with what information we have to hand on an inexperienced field we’d say there may be some value in this Wind From The West.

Warren Greatrex’s young filly has had just the one run, a decent third-placed finish at Taunton in March, and she is obviously the type to improve plenty from that run to this.

She also has the assistance of Sam Waley-Cohen up top who knows Cheltenham like the back of his hand, so presumable she’ll be eased into the race at just the right time. Brian Hughes’ mount Game On For Glory was next on our shortlist.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

April Meeting Day One: Wednesday 14th April 2021 - Take a Big Bite Out of the Bookmakers’ Profits

All the hubbub of the Festival has gone now, but the always popular two-day April meeting is upon us and we have a tip for all seven races on day one: 

1.30 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – FAVOIR

Of the three main contenders by our reckoning, Favoir, Torn And Frayed and Witness Protection, the first named is already at the highest level and as the youngest, also has more potential for improvement.

Dan Skelton has frankly done a brilliant job of attempting to propel his brother to the jump jockey’s championship title ahead of Brian Hughes, and their Favoir may well take that a step further.

The 6yo wasn’t impressive visually last time when winning at 1/7 in a three-runner race, but he’s way better than that and can add one more win to what has been a productive season. 

2.05 (Ballymore Silver Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 2) – THE BIG BITE

The Skelton’s are in with a strong chance again in this Grade 2 handicap chase over 2½ miles, their Romain De Senam having had a busy but productive season.

He still doesn’t look too badly handicapped following his easy win at Musselburgh two outings ago, though he hasn’t had a change in his mark since finishing fourth next time out.

Evan Williams’ Coole Cody won the Paddy Power Gold Cup around here back in November and that is of course rock-solid form. He has been very consistent since then, but is higher in the handicap and so without more improvement he looks a tad vulnerable.

The most interesting one in the field is Henry Oliver’s The Big Bite. A lightly-raced eight-year-old, The Big Bite keeps improving race on race and even when finishing second or third, has been doing so behind some really good yardsticks.

Remaining on a workable handicap mark, Jonathan Burke’s mount looks good enough to land a decent pot here before perhaps being put away for the season.

2.40 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – PROSCHEMA

Very smart on the flat, Proschema has always promised plenty in the National Hunt sphere and it seems that a few factors point to him now getting the job done on a big stage.

First is the form of his trainer and jockey, the Skeltons, then there is how he performed in the ‘bumpers for jumpers’ at Newcastle where he won twice. Most importantly of all, the 6yo has now gone up in trip by a full mile-and-a-half which should be the making of him over hurdles considering how well he stayed on the flat.

Against him in a close affair on the numbers is Beauport, Global Society, Java Point and Captain Tom Cat with plenty of top yards being represented.

3.15 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – BENEVOLENTDICTATOR

Rather wisely it seems, Gary Moore has given his Benevolentdictator some time off the track which should now work to his favour.

Back in December he made light of his lowly handicap mark when smashing his opposition over this 3m1f trip at Plumpton and, despite going up 11lbs, still looked to be a fair bit ahead of the handicapper.

He was sent up in trip next time at the same venue however and didn’t respond quite as well, although he finished a decent third, and now he’s had some time to recover from it all he should resume his improvement and can prove to be too good for this opposition at the weights.

After a cracking few weeks, owner JP McManus is still on the attack and has a chance here with his Eaglehill, while Oski and Accordingtogino also make the shortlist.

3.50 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – ASK DILLON

Local trainer and perennially popular social media figure Fergal O’Brien is often underestimated, and while he has not had the success at the Festival that he’d have liked, at the other meetings he has been great and this very column has often done well on the back of that.

He may win yet again at Cheltenham with this Ask Dillon in the three-mile handicap hurdle, the eight-year-old being burdened with top weight but looking well capable of doing it.

He ran solidly at the Festival last month when finishing 6th in the Pertemps Final, so considering that the pace of this race will be far less demanding it’s easy to envisage Ask Dillon having much more in the tank after the final flight off the same handicap mark.

Encore Champs, Welsh Saint and Trincomalee all appear to be capable of landing a blow off their current ratings too.

4.25 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – DOMAINE DE L’ISLE

The Kelvin-Hughes’s had a fantastic result with their My Drogo at Aintree, while Dan and Harry Skelton are all the rage right now so just about all eyes in this race will be on favourite and last-time-out winner Born Survivor.

Available at around twice the price however is Sean Curran’s Domaine De L’Isle and he could be the smart bet. In winning at Kempton by five lengths over 2½ miles he reached a new level and frankly, the further he went the better he looked.

Jumping right up to the Gold Cup trip could well be in his favour, while his yard has also booked current champ and Harry Skelton’s closest rival Brian Hughes for the ride – this being one of only two mounts for Hughes on the card.

Beware The Bear and good old Singlefarmpayment also rate a strong mention, but not too many in the field look very well handicapped in truth.

5.00 (Conditional and Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – ELHAM VALLEY

Our pal Fergal O’Brien could land us a winning double in the lucky last, courtesy of his four-year-old hurdler Elham Valley.

True, any horse of this age against older horses lacks a little something in the way of experience, but at these weights with general progression taking into consideration Elham Valley appears a little way clear of his main rivals Hooper and French Crusader. Liam Harrison takes the ride.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Cheltenham Festival Day Four: 19th March 2021 - Champ to Be Crowned in Gold Cup Thriller

It’s Gold Cup day finally, and we think there may be heartbreak for hat-trick seeking Willie Mullins.

1.20 (Triumph Hurdle – Grade 1) – TRITONIC

It goes without saying that there is always precious little form to go on in a juvenile race such as this, but this year’s race has turned into a long-awaited dual between Alan King’s Tritonic and Zanahiyr, formerly trained by Gordon Elliott.

Now under the care of Denise Foster, Zanahiyr has looked brilliant so far in this three-race unbeaten hurdle career but hasn’t been seen since Boxing Day. He may well have improved a lot further since then and that would make him hard to beat, however it’s also difficult for us to know.

Tritonic has had just the two outings over hurdles; a very nice win at Ascot in January and a runaway win in a Grade 2 at Kempton last month.

His speed between flights has been outstanding and he is most definitely race fit, and given that there’s at least as much improvement to come from him as there is from his rival, he is the smart bet here. Quilixios also makes the shortlist.

1.55 (County Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – THYME WHITE

The County Hurdle is traditionally a huge betting race and this year’s will be no different, but with that comes a very tricky puzzle to solve!

When there is a standout horse, we would never be afraid to put it up but at the higher end of the market nothing really jumps out as particularly well handicapped and so we look instead for some value.

That value may come from Paul Nicholls’ Thyme Hill. He was midfield recently in the Betfair Hurdle, but was looking very good in that race for most of the way before tiring late on and he will definitely be fitter this time.

He gets the nod then but the challengers come from every conceivable angle, including Ganapathi, Third Time Lucki and the overpriced Strong Glance.

2.30 (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – BARBADOS BUCK’S

This week has been mostly about the two extremes of one-sided races featuring odds-on jollies, and races that on the face of it look impossible to solve.

This one shifts almost into the latter category, with five or six major contenders all within a few pounds of each other on ratings.

Even when digging deeper, we still found at least three of them to hold almost identical chances on paper, with Barbados Buck’s, Adrimel and Alaphilippe being our favoured trio.

The first-named is the one we recommend to small stakes, with Paul Nicholls perhaps belatedly coming to the Cheltenham party courtesy of two Stewart Family-owned horses in Thyme White and now Barbados Buck’s.

This chap comes into the race on a four-timer, is improving in leaps and bounds, is a proper stayer and should cope easily with the step up to Grade 1 level.

3.05 (Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grade 1) – CHAMP

This is a fantastic renewal of National Hunt racing’s biggest and best race. Willie Mullins is looking to enter Gold Cup legend, his Al Boum Photo chasing a third win which would make him the first triple winner since Best Mate in 2004.

There’s no doubt that, having followed the same path as before, Al Boum Photo is considered to be in top form. After an impressive 2019 win, he just about got home last year ahead of Santini, who reopposes, and this is a hotter renewal for sure.

As for Santini, he doesn’t seem to be in the same nick. He does little but stay though and so in such a competitive race with potentially a fast pace, he may be staying on towards the end once again.

Even if Santini does stay on, he’ll be doing so no better than old-timer Native River. The winner of this back in 2018, Native River is 11 now but is remarkably in the form of his life and jockey Richard Johnson has been extremely bullish of late.

Royal Pagaille had various engagements this week but connections have chosen to throw him “in at the deep end”, and while he was impressive last time the bottom line is that it was still a handicap win and he’ll need to produce plenty more to be involved here.

2019 Ryanair winner Frodon stepped up to three miles to great effect when winning the King George at Kempton, but if he’s once again up with the pace in the hottest race he’s ever been involved in it is easy to envisage him being swamped late on.

A Plus Tard has promised plenty. Improvement is needed from Henry De Bromhead’s runner, but he’s been in wicked form this week and that progression may well come.

The one we like this year however is Champ. Nicky Henderson’s horse has the perfect background for this race, being the winner of last year’s RSA Chase here over three miles. He made a belated return to the track last month in the Game Spirit Chase, the two-mile trip being way too short for him and yet he put in a terrific display to finish second behind Sceau Royal.

His form is superb, he is bound to improve, and if the yard thinks Santini still has a chance then it is pertinent that this is easily their first choice with Nico de Boinville on board.

3.40 (St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 2) – BOB AND CO

It may yet be a great day for Paul Nicholls, his Bob And Co looking ahead of his competition in the Hunters’ Chase.

His form entitles him to hold a major chance in this race, with Willie Mullins’ Billaway, Red Indian and Hazel Hill next on the list.

4.15 (Mares’ Chase – Grade 2) – ELIMAY

Elimay has been on many a punter’s lips for a long time in the run-up to the Festival, and now she gets to prove why.

Representing Willie Mullins and JP McManus, she has the form in the bag, possesses enough speed and stamina and looks set to show us a career best. Stablemate Colreevy may provide her biggest opposition.

4.50 (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – LANGER DAN

There has been a move for the unknown quantity that is Gentleman De Ree, but seeking a big bonus after his Imperial Cup win is Langer Dan and he has everything needed to go ahead and land it for the Skelton’s.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Cheltenham Festival Day Three: 18th March 2021 - Aura to Fly in Ryanair Chase

Day three of the Festival is Ryanair Chase and Stayers’ Hurdle day, stamina beginning to come to the fore as we move now onto the tougher New Course.

Once more there’ll be some short-priced favourites trained in Ireland, but there are some mightily competitive events on the card too and we have a tip in all seven races.

1.20 (Marsh Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – ENVOI ALLEN

All the talk is about Willie Mullins, but Henry De Bromhead is having a brilliant Cheltenham Festival and it can continue with another Grade 1 win in this 2½-mile event.

His Envoi Allen is unbeaten in eleven career starts, including last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, has been faultless over fences so far and there’s just nothing in his profile to suggest he won’t be at his best in this race. If he is, he wins, with Jack Kennedy this time on board and probably ready to accept the plaudits.

In behind, the standout challenger is Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House whose easy win at Wetherby will have put him spot-on for a crack at the big one, while both Chatham Street Lad and Shan Blue appear to be at a very similar level to this point.

1.55 (Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – IMPERIAL ALCAZAR

This is a fantastic betting race, one in which a full field of 20-odd runners will be charging at their 12 flights of hurdles over a trip of three miles.

There are lots at big prices who are in which chances, but the standout horse is Fergal O’Brien’s Imperial Alcazar after his win in the qualifier at Warwick two months ago.

He was excellent that day under Paddy Brennan and it looks as though an 8lb rise won’t be enough to stop him, third-placed horse Come On Teddy being considered as his main opposition today.

2.30 (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) – IMPERIAL AURA

This is such a tough race to call. On official ratings there is barely anything to choose between them, with Melon, Kalashnikov, likely favourite Allaho, Saint Calvados, Fakir D’oudairies and Mister Fisher being very close by our reckoning.

Last year’s winner Min should go well once again and can challenge at the top of a competitive market, but a small chance can be taken on Imperial Aura for the Kim Bailey yard.

Imperial Aura was a well-backed winner of the Listed handicap chase at last year’s meeting, beating Galvin in the process. He clearly loves it round here, while Galvin has already come out this week and won his own Festival race.

Kim Bailey’s star was brilliant at Ascot over the winter and looks as though he’s joined the top rank now, while he unseated early when an even-money favourite in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase in January.

3.05 (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – PAISLEY PARK

It’s a great shame we won’t see Thyme Hill running in this race as we definitely had him down as the one to be on, though a small injury has put paid to his chances.

2019 champion Paisley Park had two great battles with Thyme Hill this season, and while we feel it may have been time for the younger horse to take over this division, in his absence one of the most loved horses in training can regain his crown.

He was beaten surprisingly by 50/1 shot Lisnagar Oscar last year, but simply put in a poor round and is back to near his best now which should be enough.

Sire Du Berlais loves it here and can make his presence felt, while the one to surprise a few could be Gavin Cromwell’s runner Flooring Porter who is a decent price for a place.

3.40 (Stable Plate Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – MAYPOLE CLASS

We’ve gone tentatively with one of the big outsiders here in the shape of Maypole Class. Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, this seven-year-old improved hugely from his debut race to win at Bangor and then even more impressively at Fakenham.

He did pull up last time out, but was found to be lame afterwards and it seems he is back to full fighting fitness now and may well prove to be well handicapped.

Emmet Mullins’ The Shunter has been a real market mover having won nicely over hurdles recently, while both Sully D’Oc AA and Fils D’oudairies could prove to be overpriced in the market and can make challenges also.

4.15 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – ROYAL KAHALA

Royal Kahala have away weight when beaten two lengths last time out by her rival here, Roseys Hollow, but is now in receipt of 5lbs and should turn that form around.

Her old rival should be there or thereabouts ounce again, although getting closer may well be Willie Mullins’ Hook Up and Henry De Bromhead’s Tellmesomethinggirl.

4.50 (Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BOB MAHLER

This should prove to be a proper stayer’s race and with that we’ll need a horse with plenty of guts and plenty of stamina to win it.

While at 3¼ miles this isn’t the longest race of the week, it’ll take some getting around the New Course and there are plenty of horses in the race who could perhaps be aimed at Grand Nationals in the future.

In fact, our horse Bob Mahler got back to something like his better form in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh over four miles and one furlong having pulled up three times in a row.

He’s actually pulled up five times in total, but you can usually sense when this chap is ready to go and he should be spot-on for a tilt at this race and should go off at a nice price.

Philip Hobbs will be full of hope for Deise Aba and he rates a shout for Grand National specialist owner Trevor Hemmings, while Hold The Note and the mare Mount Ida can also make their presence felt.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Cheltenham Festival Day Two: 17th March 2021 - Nube Negra to Pour It on in the Champion Chase

It’s Queen Mother Champion Chase day at Cheltenham, and we have a great value pick in the big race.

1.20 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – BRAVEMANSGAME

We kick off day two with this 2m5f novice event, one in which we have another strangely small field of seven. That affects our odds of course, but we may just have found a betting gem here.

There’s little we don’t like about Bravemansgame. His form is excellent and the conditions won’t be a problem, so the basics are in the bag.

More pertinently though; trainer Paul Nicholls is top-class and he has always said this horse is potentially brilliant. Furthermore, he has spoken about how he is no longer interested in sending horses to the Festival just to challenge, that they should only go there with a big chance and that he’s more than happy to wait for Aintree.

This one coming in with a major shout then is a big hint, and we reckon he’s the best of this bunch. The likes of Gaillard Du Mesnil and likely favourite Bob Olinger are no slouches either and will provide stiff competition, but Bravemansgame is a future chasing star and can take this race under Harry Cobden who is in good form.

1.55 (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – MONKFISH

Monkfish, representing the all-powerful Willie Mullins yard, has been backed by many for next year’s Gold Cup before he even takes part in this particular three-mile chase and you can honestly see why.

He has been brilliant in his short chasing career thus far, and while his price is very prohibitive you’d have to be scratching around for reasons why he shouldn’t be a short-priced favourite, and he is one.

On the balance of things, it’s hard to see him being beaten but at 10/1+ in this sort of race Sporting John is too big a price against him and so should also be carefully considered.

Philip Hobbs’ horse has only had two starts over fences and is bound to improve plenty, while he was detached at one stage after a slow start last time and still came away to win nicely. Eklat De Rire and The Big Breakaway make up our shortlist.

2.30 (Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – SHANG TANG

We’re hoping for a big result in the Coral Cup, our horse Shang Tang being offered out at some outrageous prices overnight.

Emma Lavelle’s runner improved nicely to win a small race last time out at Fakenham, a success that has to be significantly upgraded.

The handicapper has taken it literally, giving him a mark of 135, but having raced wide, never been extended and winning it comfortably Shang Tang was much, much better than the bare result suggests.

Furthermore, the third-placed horse (beaten 14½ lengths) has since come out and won by a good margin to frank the form brilliantly.

Koshari and Dysart Diamond have plenty of good form and can both run well, while Grand Roi is attracting most of the money.

3.05 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1) – NUBE NEGRA

You go against a Willie Mullins hotpot at your peril. They can make you look silly. However, you have to stand by your own reading of the game and we get no pats on the back for tipping up a winning odds-on shot!

With all of that in mind, we’re really looking forward to seeing Nube Negra in this championship race and he is vastly overpriced to win it.

Having progressed nicely in his four novice chase races, he went into December’s Desert Orchid Chase a 20/1 shot up against Altior and even considering Nicky Henderson’s horse was a few pounds below his best, he impressed greatly in landing that race.

He’s been off the track since then, but with nothing more than natural improvement he can put himself right up to the sort of level required to win this race and is a around an 8/1 shot at the time of writing.

Chacun Pour Soi has been excellent so far, but he’s not miles ahead of these unless he improves again, which is possible, and is just too short a price.

First Flow is another overpriced runner who can step up for Kim Bailey, while last year’s winner Politologue is admirable but faces a much stiffer test twelve months on.

3.40 (Cross Country Chase – Class 2) – EASYSLAND

While still at short odds, Easysland is not as restrictive a price for this race as he might be based on two factors; Tiger Roll is in the field and will still garner support, and he was beaten around the Cross Country Course over the winter when favourite to win.

The truth however is though that on the numbers, the French raider ran to about the same level this season as he did last in that November event, and last year he peaked to monster this race and could well do so again.

Tiger Roll and Some Neck are fancied for places if both are well, while Le Breuil can challenge also.

4.15 (Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – ZANZA

We have a full field and a competitive race for the Grand Annual, one that could go the way of Zanza. In a good race at Cheltenham back in December, Zanza was crawling all over Ibleo and Sky Pirate before falling three from home, and both of those horses reoppose.

Had he won, Zanza would have been much higher in the handicap now and so with the rest having done him good, he is taken to prove how well handicapped he is.

4.50 (Weatherbys Champion Bumper – Grade 1) – KILCRUIT

After Sir Gerhard was moved by Cheveley Park from Gordon Elliott’s yard to Willie Mullins’, the master was left with the top two in the market.

The chances are however that he’ll win this with his original favourite Kilcruit, who looks to be ahead of the others. Three Stripe Life is the one who may challenge the big two.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Cheltenham Festival Day One: 16th March 2021 - Goshen Aiming for Redemption in Champion Hurdle

It’s finally here! Day one of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival looks like a cracker, and we have strong tips in all seven races on the card.

1.20 (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – METIER

We should still get the same rip-roaring start to the Festival in the Supreme Novices’ – on the track at least. There will be no ‘Cheltenham Roar’ and a reduced field of only eight runners, but the quality is there for all to see.

For us, this came down to trying to accurately evaluate Metier and long-time short-priced favourite Appreciate It. The latter, of Willie Mullins’ yard, has beaten the likes of Ballyadam, Blue Lord and Irascible and in some cases more than once, so deserves his reputation.

That said, those three rivals didn’t rate too highly on our numbers while Metier’s form read very differently. It seems awfully prevalent that those in behind when Metier has won ever so impressively this season seemed to always be running seasonal highs they couldn’t replicate, which is a nod to them being dragged along by what might be a very high-class horse.

Harry Fry’s Meter it is then for us, who looks to be the real deal and can take care of the favourite as well as Soaring Glory who seems a fair place shout.

1.55 (Arkle Challenge Trophy – Grade 1) – SHISHKIN

Again, we have a smaller than ideal field for the Arkle, though it’s hardly a surprise given that so many have been scared off by the presence of Shishkin.

With no doubts about his class, this track, the trip or, basically, anything else, it should only be a mistake that stops him winning this and confirming him as the top novice chaser in the world.

Shishkin came into last year’s Festival as a 6/1 shout for the Supreme Novices’ but won that too, while he’s been simply imperious in his three very easy chase wins this term. Allmankind looks next best to us, while Willie Mullins’ Franco De Port has an outside shout at around 9/1.

2.30 (Ultima Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – HAPPYGOLUCKY

The Ultima is our first really competitive event – a 16-runner handicap chase over 3m1f which should be fiercely contested.

Some of the money has gone in the wrong places by our reckoning, with the likes of Nietzsche and The Wolf holding great each-way chances, but the strength of feeling behind Happygolucky should prove to be very well placed indeed.

Kim Bailey’s runner was impressive when landing a novice event around here in December, and now on the Old Course he can prove how well handicapped he is with a valuable win under David Bass.

3.05 (Champion Hurdle – Grade 1) – GOSHEN

It was said before last year’s Triumph Hurdle that Goshen was the real deal, and he was on the way to destroying his field before famously coming to grief at the last flight.

He handles Cheltenham very well and came right back to form when landing the Kingwell Hurdle last time, again completely taking apart his field. He remains good value as second or third favourite in the market and may well prove to be a brilliant Champion Hurdle winner.

The two mares have attracted most money; last year’s winner Epatante of Nicky Henderson’s and Willie Mullins’ Honeysuckle who is unbeaten in her entire 10-race career thus far.

They each get 7lbs from Goshen which may count for plenty, but for our money neither has met a horse of Gary Moore’s runner’s class and so while they remain second and third on our list, in no particular order since they are so close on ability, they may be heading for defeat.

Among the long shots last year’s second Sharjah may make his presence felt once again, while Aspire Tower looks overpriced, however considering how far ahead of him Goshen was last season before falling he only adds confidence to the overall selection.

3.40 (Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – ROKSANA

Another Cheltenham race, and another short-priced Willie Mullins favourite. Concertista is the mare in question and she is rock-solid to be fair. Her own form is not in question, we simply believe that the improvement Roksana has shown for the Dan Skelton yard has been overlooked and she’s the value in this race.

In fact, Roksana won this race two years ago, albeit luckily, and she’s a much better racehorse now. Given that her form at least stands up with that of Concertista’s and we know she can handle this event, she gets the nod to land the race under Harry Skelton.

Black Tears is next on our list while Cheltenham Festival winner Indefatigable may outrun her price too.

4.15 (Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – SAGE ADVICE

The market for this four-year-old event has centred around Paul Nicholls’ Gallic recruit Houx Gris in the run-up to the meeting, but if he is indeed to run well then that also brings in Oliver Greenall’s Homme Public.

Homme Public was only a neck behind Houx Gris in France last October off level weights and now gets 3lbs from his rival, making him a big price at around 14/1.

That form line is important, however at an even bigger price we like the look of Sage Advice. Dr Richard Newland’s runner ran well enough when winning on his hurdling debut in January to be considered well-handicapped here, so with natural improvement he looks very solid indeed.

He’s been beaten twice since winning, but that was on much heavier ground than he’ll get here and so now can show his very best form at big odds. Busselton and Saint Sam are also worth considering.

4.50 (National Hunt Challenge Cup – Grade 2) – GALVIN

Most of the money last week was for Paul Nicholls’ Next Destination, and he has a solid chance along with Remastered with whom we get his form and ability very close by our reckoning.

Galvin on the other hand may just be at a higher level. Formerly under the care of Gordon Elliott who reportedly had a strong Cheltenham Festival team together, Galvin can peak today which would be something considering he comes into this on the back of four successive chase wins.

A three-mile winner at Cheltenham in October, Galvin was also second at last year’s Festival behind Imperial Aura and it seems nothing here holds any fears for him. Escaria Ten also made the shortlist.