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.