There’s no better way to start 2020 for jumps fans than with a Cheltenham card and so it’s great to begin as we mean to go on. We have some great value selections for the first meeting of the year, beginning in the Ballymore Novices’ event.
12.15 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 2m4½f – Listed Race) – WELSH SAINT
A good event to kick off our seven-race card and it’s one in which we trust crack trainer Nicky Henderson to have prepared his Welsh Saint well enough to handle the rigours of Cheltenham.
While Nico de Boinville’s mount is unproven in such company and around such a tough course, we feel this horse is the one with the most potential having won his maiden hurdle at Warwick ever so easily and at the likely odds, he could also represent some value.
Top weighted Redford Road is the most solid contender in the line-up and rates next best for us, just ahead of Imperial Alcazar.
12.50 (3m2½f Handicap Chase) – SINGLEFARMPAYMENT
There are some good old Cheltenham types in this line-up, one of which is Tom George’s ten-year-old Singlefarmpayment and while we don’t expect him to reach his career highs in terms of ability on the day, the level he can get to off his current mark could see him win this.
With a record most encouraging around this track, Singlefarmpayment is sure to give us a run for our money and based on his improvement from race one to race two this season, a fourth placed finish in the BetVictor Handicap Chase in December, we think he can take another small step forward which off a mark of 140 could be enough.
Both Doing Fine and Singlefarmpayment’s old rival Cogry remain of interest and should give a great account of themselves, but at both these weights and the likely odds we stick with Jonathan Burke’s mount.
1.25 (Dipper Novices’ Chase – 2m4½f – Grade 2) – CHAMP
Even at probable long odds-on, it’s very hard to oppose Cheltenham Festival ante post favourite Champ in this race but every horse can have an off day, so we don’t recommend having too much on him.
Should you need an alternative, one in the ‘without the favourite’ market or for the Placepot for example, you could do worse than back Deyrann De Carjac who rates as our second-best, but is third in the market overnight at around the 6/1 mark.
2.00 (Paddy Power Handicap Chase – 2m4½f – Grade 3) – EX PATRIOT
After an excellent effort at Newbury in defeat when losing a shoe, it’s very much expected that solid top weight and Grade One winner Kalashnikov will put up another bold show in this race but as the likely favourite he won’t offering a great deal in the way of betting value to do so.
Money may come for former Arkle Trophy favourite Lalor and that would be interesting, but the best value in the race lies with Irish raider Ex Patriot of the little known Ellmarie Holden yard.
His form so far, while going under the radar perhaps on this side of the Irish Sea, is good enough to get him involved at a big price and should he improve further which we expect, then in fact he could prove to be a very well handicapped sort indeed.
2.35 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – SKANDIBURG
Both Rapper and Goodbye Dancer are solid propositions here in what is a highly competitive three-mile hurdle race, the two being by our reckoning very close at these weights with former top-class staying chaser Might Bite meaning quite a battle for place money could be on the cards.
Even in taking into account that as an Aintree winner Skandiburg may not be quite as good around this track, Olly Murphy’s six-year-old still comes out on top for us so given that he could even improve today he definitely rates as the most likely winner and the best value in the line-up at around 6/1 overnight.
3.10 (Relkeel Hurdle – 2m4½f – Grade 2) – SUMMERVILLE BOY
Another fascinating race, one in which Nicky Henderson tries again to make hay over hurdles with a horse proven over fences, this time in the shape of Janika. It remains to be seen how good he is over the smaller obstacles these days though and as favourite, we don’t like his price much either.
William Henry is solid though he gives weight away, while Emitom is probably the one with the most ticks in the most boxes and would be the one we’d recommend for a place. A chance is taken at a nice price however on Summerville Boy who returns to hurdles having fallen on his second chase start and he’s one that could just outclass them in this sphere.
3.50 (1m6f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – GRAND ROI
It’s always hoped that the lucky last can either supplement our winnings or get us out of trouble, but with not a lot to go on there are a fair few leaps of faith we need to take in order to pick out the right one in the closing bumper race.
It does look though that, on all known evidence at least, we can pick out two against the field with first of all Belle De Manech of Anthony Honeyball’s yard holding a winning chance in receipt of weight following her simple enough win at Warwick in November.
She has a tongue-tie for the first time and is expected to improve, though that may still not get her to the level of Grand Roi of Nicky Henderson’s yard and he gets the nod.
A very, very easy Wincanton winner, we have no idea yet where the bottom of this horse is and as such, he brings the most potential into this event.