We have a bumper nine-race card on Saturday.
It’s Trials Day at Cheltenham, meaning lots of clues for the 2023 Festival which is indeed our next meeting, kicking off on Tuesday, March 14th.
After Ascot was called off however, some races have been saved and moved here including the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase which has now become not only a terrific spectacle, but a proper course and distance trial for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
We have a tip for all nine races, beginning with the Triumph Hurdle Trial.
11.40 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – SCRIPTWRITER
Four stand out against the field in the race otherwise known as the Finesse Hurdle, a four-year-old-only event serving as the top trial for the Triumph Hurdle in March.
Dixon Cove gets plenty of weight for the Paul Nicholls yard, while 66/1 shock winner Jupiter Du Gite was impressive last time and also gets 5lbs from the other two major contenders.
They are the solid Comfort Zone, and the one a chance can be taken on which is Milton Harris’s Scriptwriter.
He is unbeaten in two for the yard, though with form that isn’t quite good enough yet. The major point however is that over hurdles and on the Flat, he’s not yet had the ground he wants but gets it this weekend.
12.10 (Novices’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – STAGE STAR
Naturally, we can’t know everything about these novice chasers, but Paul Nicholls’ Stage Star really does stand out and so is a tentative selection.
Faced with only one rival last time out, he went clear to win his race easily meaning we don’t know what level he can truly reach. He also that day managed to offer speed figures that stand up with anything else in this race, achieved on soft ground and without a strong pace being set.
12.40 (Cross Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BACK ON THE LASH
Easysland is back for yet another go on the cross-country course, while last year’s festival winner and Grand National third Delta Work is bound to be a short price in the market.
One who knows his way around the cross-country course and who may be one of very few in the line-up who could be ahead of his handicap mark is Back On The Lash, and it’s Martin Keighley’s runner who is given the nod.
1.20 (Clarence House Chase – Grade 1) – EDWARDSTONE
Given that this race was meant to be run at Ascot, many have changed their minds this week on who they believe will win.
Thankfully we’re now up from three runners to six, but the two big dogs remain the ones to concentrate on in the shape of Champion Chase winner Energumene and Arkle scorer Edwardstone.
The latter really doesn’t have too much to find at all and the Tingle Creek winner has clearly matured. Both horses are Cheltenham winners of course so the track shouldn’t be a problem, with Edwardstone fancied to win this taking dual on the New Course.
1.50 (Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – IL RIDOTO
This is a very competitive event indeed and small stakes are advised. Any one of a number of the maximum 17 runners could land the money, the £56,000 prize for the winner tempting a number of hard-hitting trainers to get involved.
The selection, though not a confident one, is Paul Nicholls’ Il Ridoto in the hope that soft ground isn’t too much against him.
He ran well on it here last time and has been even more fluent on better going, but in any case he has both the class and the speed to remain competitive in this race.
2.25 (Cotswold Chase – Grade 2) – PROTEKTORAT
A most taking three-mile, one-and-a-half-furlong chase which is a fine event in its own right, but for once also a bona fide trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 17th.
Frodon has won this before and will no doubt set the race up to be a truly-run event, while Ahoy Senor and Sounds Russian are very well thought of at home.
Noble Yeats is the fascinating runner. Last year’s Grand National winner showed no ill effects from Aintree, returning there successfully when stepping down to this sort of trip in the Many Clouds Chase and a Gold Cup foray is definitely on the cards for him.
That being said, Protektorat is the class angle here and it’s nice to see him being given a proper run much closer to the festival this time. Last year’s Gold Cup third was hugely impressive on his seasonal return at Haydock and he really should have too much here under Harry Skelton.
3.00 (Cleeve Hurdle – Grade 2) – DASHEL DRASHER
Once again, this is a fine historic race in its own right but always gives us major clues for the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Past winner Paisley Park is a standing dish here and he may very well win yet again given the overall level of opposition isn’t that impressive, despite the numbers in this field.
Gelino Bello may struggle but is still young, while Botox Has doesn’t quite match up on known evidence.
The one who does get very close indeed at the weights is Dashel Drasher, so given that he is a much bigger price than the jolly, he is taken to be the value angle in the race.
3.35 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – PEMBROKE
This is a trial for the race of the same name at the Festival, though it’s still known to many as the Classic Novices Hurdle.
Henri The Second holds claims, as does Blenkinsop who is on a five-timer, but Pembroke really has been impressive for then Skelton team and he has been ready to run again for some time. He may outclass them here.
4.10 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – HACKER DES PLACES
In terms of known form and early betting market clues, this race is a bit of a basket case.
Many hold chances, but a stab is taken on another Nicholls horse here in the shape of Hacker Des Places who made a nice seasonal return and who has more to offer yet.
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