Thursday, 2 May 2019

Friday 3rd May: Hay to Mount Challenge As Cheltenham Season Closes

After another successful Festival and many other seasonal highlights, jump racing’s HQ closes its doors to racing for a while this weekend with the season-ending Race Night featuring Hunter Chase Racing at Cheltenham its final meeting and the competitive seven-race card has thrown up some fine betting opportunities.

Look out for one or two going off at potentially nice prices in the 5.40 and 6.15, but we start with what punters will be hoping is a banker bet to get the ball rolling in the opening two-miler.

5.05 (2m½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – GUSTAVE MAHLER

It would be a surprise if the opening race were not won by Gustave Mahler, thought the price offered about Alastair Ralph’s entrant may well prove very prohibitive.

Even on their very best form under rules, none of today’s rivals should really hold a candle to the nine-year-old so given that so many have not performed that well for so long this more recent runner-up at Ludlow and Southwell should have enough about him to out-jump and outgun this lot.

Saffron Wells looks like the only real danger, so it is hoped that the 11-year-old eventually goes off at a price that makes him backable for a place on the Tote or as a fair each-way prospect.

5.40 (3m2f Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase) – COCO LIVE

There could be some great value to be had in race 2 in the shape of Coco Live, forecast to go off at odds as big as 10/1 when the entries were revealed on Thursday morning.

Despite being beaten in a maiden chase under rules at Taunton recently, it’s the seven-year-old’s point-to-point form from Badbury Rings that really stands out in the context of this race as well as his defeat of today’s likely favourite Ballycahane at Larkhill and so, with some improvement likely, Harriet Waight’s runner has an outstanding chance of success.

Fellow 7yo Chapelier is on a great winning run and can give our horse most to do, while Captain McGinley should be capable of running into the places too and should be watched in the betting.

6.15 (3m1½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – ORDER IN COURT

An open race this time, with Order In Court, Miracle Ridge and Alfstar all very likely to throw in challenges at some point in the race.

We’re hoping here that youth can win the day as the six-year-old Order In Court, in very good form this spring, can improve a little more than the others and may have too much at the business end of the race given that he is a good stayer.

6.50 (3m2½f Mixed Open Gold Cup Hunters’ Chase) – HAZEL HILL

Philip Rowley’s Hazel Hill won the Foxhunters Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in fine style back in March and is the clear pick of the bunch if turning up in anything like the same form this time around.

The admirable eleven-year-old has also won under rules at Leicester, Towcester and Warwick in the past and there’s no conceivable reason why he should suddenly take a dip in form low enough to compromise his position as the likely winner of this race.

At the weights, the main danger could come from Catterick second and Hornby Castle point-to-point winner Path To Freedom who still has more to offer and at the likely prices is the value option against the favourite, though Virak should also go well and could provide some value.

7.20 (3m1½f Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase) – THEATRE TERRITORY

Although she has arguably taken a number of backwards steps over the last few months, Theatre Territory is way better than this opposition so after a potentially confidence boosting win in a novices’ hunters’ chase at Exeter just over a fortnight ago, Warren Greatrex’s mare should have enough in the bag to see this lot off.

In looking for something to back against her, perhaps with an eye on the each-way and place markets to offer us some value for money, we could do worse than keep a close eye on Tb Broke Her who remains consistent in point-to-point races and could make her mark in this for trainer Sam Jukes.  The top one Martha’s Benefit should also go well.

7.50 (4m½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – HAYMOUNT

Despite the presence of a couple of big challengers from top yards in the shape of Mendip Express (Philip Hobbs) and Wonderful Charm (Paul Nicholls) with the latter the better fancied of the two, this race could fall to husband and wife duo Tom Ellis and Gina Andrews and what a win it would be for the pair.

Their Haymount, trained by Ellis and ridden by Andrews, is perhaps not at his peak right now having pulled-up last time out under rules when behind Hazel Hill at the Festival, but he has since won nicely in a point-to-point at Kingston Blount and in getting 6lbs from the two aforementioned horses he may have a little in hand when it counts.

As well as Mendip Express and Wonderful Charm, a big challenge could come from former Paul Nicholls runner Southfield Theatre who is right back to form after an easy win in the point-to-point sphere recently.

8.20 (2m4½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – RISK A FINE

This looks like a very good opportunity for Gareth Moore to grab a winner with recent Warwick and Stratford scorer Risk A Fine in the lucky last, a ten-year-old who having changed hands a couple of times now seems to be improving and in fact is potentially better now than he ever was when in training with Philip Hobbs.

Hobbs himself has a challenger here in the shape of Village Vic although David Maxwell may well have his work cut out to get the best out of him this time, while a bigger challenge to our horse could come from Petrou who has been in fine form in point-to-points of late.