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.