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Archive for March, 2017

One of the benefits of the Flat Season is the 48hr declaration rule. Despite the ground sometimes changing by the time the race is run, the positives outweigh the negatives in my view and gives us a good chance to get stuck in early to some of the big Saturday races. Bet365 normally price these races up early and you still get the benefits of Best Odds Guaranteed if you play in those markets. See below for my summary of the 6 early price rices with them tomorrow.

150 Doncaster – Betway Cammidge Trophy Stakes

A competitive renewal with Birchwood heading the market. Richard Fahey’s 4YO has obvious claims with ticks in all the boxes and even at 3/1 has some appeal. Mobsta likewise has plenty going for him but a chance is taken that ABSOLUTELY SO is ready first time up to put his best foot forward. He is admirably consistent, has conditions to suit and appeals at the 6/1 on offer.

205 Kempton – Betfred Mobile Magnolia Stakes

A tricky race with plenty of unknowns and the market seeming pretty much in line with my thoughts. I would personally have Absolute Blast edging favouritism but the 3/1 seems about right. The admirable Fire Fighting is sure to run his normal race but the selection is Charlie Appleby’s 4YO VIREN’S ARMY. He has fitness on his side having just returned from a successful stint in Dubai and may well be the improver in this field. At a generous enough looking 9/2 he is the value.

225 Doncaster – Betway Spring Mile Handicap

The first of the day’s cavalry charges and obviously hideously competitive. I never like to pay too much attention to the draw and pace bias in these races and tend to side with what I believe are the most likely winners and hope to find some value in their price. Again unfortunately my prices would be pretty much in line with the market with Nimr and Ballet Concerto both marking my shortlist. At the prices though, the slight preference is for John Gosden’s SACRED ACT. He is very lightly raced having only his 6th run as a 6YO but has a good level of ability. How he handles the big field will need to be taken on trust but he can reward an interest at 6/1.

300 Doncaster – Betway Doncaster Mile Stakes

At last a race where I think there is a clear value edge. That is often the case if you can identify a horse that you feel is just too short towards the top of the market and I think there is one in Stormy Antartic at a skinny looking 3/1. Although I can see the claims of Crazy Horse he too seems short to me so we can look elsewhere. Cymric is of interest and looks overpriced as does Custom Cut but the 9YO TULLIUS (NAP) should be contesting favouritism here in my book. Although on the old side which is reflected in his 8/1 price, he is very consistent. He is an 11 time winner, 7 times at this distance and in this class and has a win and placed effort in his only 2 runs at the track. All types of ground come alike to him and he is defintiely the value selection.

315 Kempton – Betfred Roseberry Handicap

Similarly to the previous race, I think the 4/1 favourite Big Country can be taken on here leaving some potential value. General Hazard looks overpriced at 10/1 but I have a gut feeling he may find a couple too good. Wild Hacked on the other hand looks to have strong claims and the 8/1 is too big. The selection though at a generous looking 10/1 is GAWDAWPALIN (IWAC). He looks a bit more straightforward than he is to spell, has lots in his favour and is overpriced.

335 Doncaster – Betway Lincoln Handicap

And finally, it doesn’t get any easier with the Flat Season’s opening highlight. At the front of the market both Donncha and Yuften have obvious claims. Of the two despite the skinny looking 4/1 I would prefer the latter. However, as we have seen at Cheltenham 4/1 favourites in big field handicaps doesn’t normally pay the bills. My clear value preference is for Richard Hannon’s OH THIS IS US (NB). With the obvious benefit of Ryan Moore in the saddle this 4YO could well have plenty of improvement to come. Like most of the Hannon string he has been kept busy already and is a 5 time winner. A recent trip to Dubai will have done his fitness no harm, has ticks in plenty of boxes and he can outrun his generous looking odds.

NAP      – TULLIUS – 8/1 B.O.G B365

NB         – OH THIS IS US – 12/1 B.O.G B365

IWAC   – GAWDAWPALIN – 10/1 B.O.G B365

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150 Newbury – Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Chase

Shotavodka heads the market and has lots of ticks in boxes but has won once in his last twenty one races – he is of no appeal at the prices.Vieux Lille represents the Hobbs / Johnson team and can go well along with Dawson City who will stay all day but the ground may be an inconvenience. CALL ME VIC (IWAC) has had a nice break and has some decent form – despite shouldering top weight he may well be the answer here. Although a chance is taken on his fitness off the break, if he is straight I would have him at half the price he is today and he can go well at a big price.

300 Newbury – EBF & TBA Mares National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Finale

A fiendishly competitive race and I’ll put three up against the field. Snow Leopardess can be competitive for Charlie Longsdon and Tara View even more so for the King / Hutchinson combination. The latter is on a real roll having won her last four and will make all of them go. But COPPER KAY (NAP) has to be the selection. She was a very good bumper horse and her performance in defeating Which One Is Which in November 2015 at Cheltenham always pointed towards her being a potent force in this sphere in my memory.  She ran solid races at last year’s Aintree and Punchestown Festivals, has gained plenty of experience over hurdles in good races this season, and looks to have a class edge in this to me – she is massively overpriced.

520 Newbury – Doom Bar Handicap Chase

Doitforthevillage heads the market and has been in good form but looks vulnerable to me. The admirable Pearls Legend is paying for his consistency but is a real trier and is a danger to all, but the 12YO SEW ON TARGET (NB) looks to have leading claims here. Despite top weight, he is still 4lbs below his highest winning mark, and in my eyes has a clear class advantage. He would head the market in my book and is good value at the prices.

NAP     – COPPER KAY

NB        – SEW ON TARGET

IWAC  – CALL ME VIC

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200 Newbury – Be Wiser Insurance Novices’ Hurdle

An intriguing opener albeit with only 4 runners, 3 of which have a chance. At the head of the market, Coastal Tiep sets a decent standard and ran well in defeat in handicap company last time out. Conversely, Strong Pursuit disappointed last time but that was a hot race and the winner franked the form at the Festival. However, receiving 6lbs from him, expensive purchase REIGNING SUPREME  can be forgiven his own disappointing run last time out on horrible ground and can get back on track.

230 Newbury – Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Chase

Howlongisafoot heads the market and has clearly benefited from a stable switch to the in form Chris Gordon – he is well handicapped on old form but still seems a short price to me. Global Dream comes here on a roll and will run his race but I think this is a race to chance a couple at bigger prices away from the front of the market. Rockchasebullet is on a handy mark and after a pipe opener over hurdles can be competitive for the Fergal O’Brien / Paddy Brennan combination. A chance though is taken on MIDNIGHT MONTY (IWAC) – Tom Lacey is a shrewd trainer and Nico De Boinville is an interesting booking. His fitness has to be taken on trust but he has the look of a well handicapped horse off a mark of 120.

305 Newbury – Smith & Williamson Handicap Hurdle

A competitive handicap with Malapie heading the market. He is very lightly raced for a 9YO and chances are he still has plenty of improvement to come. He seems a decent value proposition despite being well found in the market and is not passed over lightly. Ballyheigue Bay and Mighty Leader have obvious chances but there doesn’t seem much juice in them at the prices. The same can’t be said for MIDNIGHT GLORY. This 5YO Mare surely has plenty of improvement to come and from the powerful Hobbs / Johnson team can reward an interest at a sporting price. The key to her could be the step up in trip at a course where she recorded her sole victory and she seems to handle any ground.

340 Newbury – Oakley Coachbuilders Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase

Vinnie Red has been very popular in the early betting exchanges and now heads the market – at the prices though he can be passed over. Dueling Banjos has a decent strike rate winning 4 of his 13 races and off a mark of 130 will be very competitive. However, in my book WILD WEST WIND (NB) will take some beating here and should be favourite. He looked a natural on his first couple of runs over fences before seemingly a little disappointing last time. If we forgive him that disappointment, I think we have a well handicapped horse still who has been overlooked in the market. I would be surprised if he goes off the price he is now.

410 Newbury – Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Hurdle

I’m A Game Changer holds obvious claims and is improving quickly but will need to overcome a steep rise in the weights and this is a heat with some depth. He may well prove up to it but chancing horses at his price to do so isn’t going to reward us in the long term. Although proving a little frustrating, I’m convinced there’s a decent price in Zarib and he’s tempting at the prices to return to form. Dan Skelton’s other entry Optimus Prime is of similar interest – his Huntingdon run off today’s mark was really encouraging and with Noel Fehily up for the first time will be a danger to all. However, MAESTRO ROYAL (NAP) looks seriously well handicapped off a mark of 130. He was an impressive winner at Sandown two runs back and ran in a hot heat at Cheltenham last time out. The 3rd in that Cheltenham race Divine Spear has done plenty to frank the form recently and the selection is a solid bet at the prices to overturn the favourite.

440 Newbury – BJP Insurance Brokers Open Hunters’ Chase

The least confident of today’s races being previewed but here goes! Man Of Steel hails from a strong stable in this sphere and will take some beating but looks short in the betting. Ballytober at least has a Hunter Chase victory to his name and looks better value than the favourite. However, TRIANGULAR had some decent form for Harry Fry under rules a couple of years back and is the selection receiving 10lbs from the favourite factoring in the rider’s claim.

NAP – MAESTRO ROYAL

NB – WILD WEST WIND

IWAC – MIDNIGHT MONTY

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130 Cheltenham – JCB Triumph Hurdle

A good quality renewal with long time favourite Defi Du Seuil making the market. He has rattled off 5 consecutive wins since coming over from France but will face a stern test today on different ground and I’m happy to take him on. Although the faster ground may not be ideal, Mega Fortune has drifted out to an attractive price and is worth consideration. Of more interest at an even bigger price is Landofhopeandglory – he was a decent horse on the flat and will love this quicker ground. His sire is Derby hero High Chaparral no less and he was close to being the selection. However, that fate goes to CHARLI PARCS – Nicky Henderson knows a good horse when he sees one and all the vibes are that he thinks this is one. I think it is highly significant that the money has come in the last day or so for him and expect him to take a lot of beating. Noel Fehily can only be a bonus in the saddle and he can strike a blow for the home team.

210 Cheltenham – Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle

An aptly named 24 runner cavalry charge and we could probably all do with one of their health checks after this busy week! I’ll put up three that I think can go well. Air Horse One boasts some solid recent form, will handle the ground, has a handy weight and a top jockey on board. Last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov has been mixing it with the big boys all year – the blinkers are on today, is another who will love the ground and he has the look of a horse laid out for this big prize. However, it is difficult to get away from the obvious chance of NORTH HILL HARVEY. The Skeltons landed this prize last year and this has obviously been the plan since his Greatwood win in the winter. He has a nice racing weight, would  have finished a hell of a lot closer in last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle bar a mistake two out and he is the selection.

250 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

This race has been a bit of a graveyard for the short priced horses in the last three years and on this quicker ground Death Duty has to be taken on at the prices. Wholestone has been a model of consistency all season and sets the benchmark for all. I have a gut feeling though that something will improve past him on this, his biggest test. Monalee has to be of serious interest – despite a lot of his form coming on softer ground he can only run on what he has been asked to and if his breeding is anything to go by (out of Milan), this quicker ground will bring out some improvement. The ground is the concern for THE WORLDS END (NB) but he is improving rapidly and showed an eye catching turn of foot last time out. That can prove a potent weapon in what can be a gruelling race and he is the sporting selection.

330 Cheltenham – Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup

An intriguing renewal of the showpiece race of the week with more questions than answers about most of the field. That certainly can’t be said for Native River who keeps doing what is asked of him and is sure to give this a bold shot from the front. He has many of the attributes that you look for in a Gold Cup winner and it will take a good one to beat him. The admirable Cue Card and Djakadam fall into the “they’ve had their chance” bracket for me and at the prices have to be taken on. They do though help to make the market for the likeliest improvers for me at decent prices. Outlander represents last year’s winning connections and his Lexus Chase win last time was solid form and he looks overpriced. He had Djakadam back in 3rd that day and is nearly four times his price. The vote though goes to SIZING JOHN (NAP). The concern in the racing press is his ability to last the the 3m 2f trip. To my eyes, he was certainly not stopping last time out and was a cosy winner. As we saw yesterday with Nichols Canyon in the Stayers Hurdle, yes staying is important but so is being the fastest horse in the race at the business end and if he can creep into the race and be delivered at the right time he can land the big prize at rewarding odds.

410 Cheltenham – St James’s Palace Foxhunter Challenge Cup

On The Fringe bids to land his 3rd win in as many years in this race and has an obvious chance but my theme all week has been to take on these short priced horses so we must do so again. By process of elimination, there seems only 3 realistic opponents. Paint The Clouds, like the favourite is 12YO now and has been placed in the last two renewals of this. I see no reason why he can reverse the tables today. Top Point to Pointer Ask The Weatherman  is an obvious candidate with the excellent Will Biddick on board and he can go well at a decent price. Biddick was in the saddle the last twice when WONDERFUL CHARM won and he may be seeing the back of him today. Paul Nicholls’ charge seems to have been around for an age but he is only a 9YO. He competed with credit in the 2013 Stayers Hurdle, the 2014 JLT Novice Chase, and the 2015 Ryanair Chase before missing last year’s Festival for a failed attempt at The Grand National. He was also an odds on favourite to beat Don Cossack no less during the 2014/15 campaign when 2nd to the future Gold Cup winner beaten 8L. Throw in the fact that he will relish the good ground and he has to be the play at the the prices – he’s no 11/2 chance in my book.

450 Cheltenham – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

Another impossible looking 24 runner handicap and the trusty pin has thrown up the following three!

Castello Sforza has been a beaten favourite in all his runs this season but a deeper look at his form reveals a 3L 4th in last year’s Champion Bumper (beaten 3L) the last time he could hear his hooves rattle rather than squelch in Yielding and Heavy ground in Ireland.He can go well at a big price. Runfordave had the former behind him on one of those occasions and hailing from the Gordon Elliot stable he will have a strong chance in a race that he his desperate to win being named in honour of his mentor – he will definitely be trying.However, BATTLEFORD is an intriguing runner somehow getting weight from those two. He was a top bumper performer last season (finishing second at the Festival and Aintree) and will make them all go back on a sounder surface.

530 Cheltenham – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup

The pin is required again to sort through the 24 runners in the finale – here’s my three.

In a race named after his father, Nicky Henderson’s runners are always worth a second look in this. The fact that he relies on just one is surely a pointer towards Theinval going well. Obviously aimed at this on the back of a three month lay off he is a big price.Dodging Bullets is another that seems overpriced. There’s no doubt that the former Champion Chaser is on the decline but the handicapper has certainly given him a chance off 151. Noel Fehily gets the leg up and he will love the ground.The vote though goes to VELVET MAKER (IWAC). He went off a well backed 8/1 shot in this race last year before fading but has had a much lighter campaign this time round and has the look of a horse targeted at this. He will love the ground and with a pipe opening run on soft ground just over a month ago being his only run since, he can round off a fantastic week for the Irish.

NAP – SIZING JOHN

NB – THE WORLDS END

IWAC – VELVET MAKER

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130 Cheltenham – JLT Novices’ Chase

An intriguing start to Day 3 sees another of the pre-festival talking horses take his chance in the shape of last year’s Neptune winner Yorkhill. It has been a week to forget so far for Mullins and Walsh and that may continue. There is no doubting his ability but he is far from straightforward and at the prices I think he is opposable. Top Notch has taken well to fences rattling off a four timer following an early reverse by Charbel, but POLITOLOGUE (NAP) has looked a real natural and can give Paul Nicholls his first winner of the week. Disko was impressive last time and can give the selection most to think about.

210 Cheltenham – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle

A fiercely competitive renewal sure to be run at a good pace on the prevailing ground. Impulsive Star has some solid form and can go well along with Isleofhopendreams for the under pressure Mullins and Walsh partnership. However, a chance is taken that last year’s winning connections can land this again with PRESENTING PERCY. This 6YO doesn’t have many miles on the clock, seems to be improving with experience and will not want for assistance from the saddle with Davy Russel aboard. The worry is that his hold up run style will need plenty of luck in running but at the prices a chance is taken that he can prevail.

250 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase

Tactics will be very important in this race with a strong speed duel likely between Uxizandre and Josses Hill. If either does get their own way up front, they have the potential to be very dangerous. I will take a chance that JOSSES HILL (NB) could win that battle and prove difficult to peg back – he has had a nice break, his jumping has improved with age, will be a strong stayer at the trip and could spring a surprise. Of the more obvious ones, Un De Sceaux is the clear danger in my view. This is his first try at 2 1/2M over fences which I think is sure to suit and he has a clear class edge over the remainder.

330 Cheltenham – Stayers Hurdle

Unowhatimeanharry has been well touted for this ever since routing the opposition at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting and is an obvious winner. He is plenty short enough in the betting but it would take a brave man to take him on. The best option therefore is to focus on the W/O the FAV market. Back in second at Newbury was Ballyoptic and he is a value price to follow him home again. The tongue-tie is on for the first time and I have a feeling the return to better ground may bring out some improvement in him. However, he will have to go some to repel NICHOLS CANYON (IWAC) if he is back on song. Although he has been disappointing so far this season he has only been given one chance to run at the trip when sent to America last summer and in my opinion is crying out for this step up and will relish the ground. He was a decent horse on the flat and granted a good round of jumping if he is within a length or so at the last they will all have to go some to repel his turn of foot.

410 Cheltenham – Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate

Conditions will be perfect for last year’s Coral Cup winner Diamond King for the flying Gordon Elliott stable and he will be a serious danger to all. He has now been well found in the market though and in such a competitive renewal, it may pay to look for some value elsewhere. Bouvreuil has a superb Festival record with two placed efforts, has had a couple of sighters, this has obviously been the plan off a 3 month break and he rates a big danger. The main selection though has to be BARON ALCO. Dropped into handicap company Gary Moore’s admirable front runner is well weighted, is a superb jumper, has a touch of class and is over priced.

450 Cheltenham – Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Market leader Let’s Dance has been well touted for this but for me has doubts over the minimum trip. At the likely odds, she is easily passed over. The admirable Airlie Beach has rattled off a seven timer for the Supreme Racing Club but it is a surprise to me that we have not seen her for three months and that puts enough doubt in my mind to look elsewhere. La Bague Au Roi has also been a model of consistency and leads the home challenge and she is a strong contender. Slight preference, however, is for Jessica Harrington’s 5YO FORGE MEADOW. The drying ground will be key to her chances, she has lots of potential improvement and can go well at rewarding odds.

530 Cheltenham – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

A 24 runner amateur rider’s race is never the race you wanting to be finding your first winner of the day from so let’s hope that’s not the case – I’ll put up three at big prices though if required! Premier Bond will have good assistance from the saddle, has a progressive look and appears well treated for his handicap debut. Another Hero is bound to be well primed for the father and son O’Neill team and has been slowly coming to the boil with a progressive form profile. DOCTOR HARPER on the other hand boast three letters in his last five form figures but is trained by the shrewd Pipe team who were respsonsible for Junior and The Package winning this in fairly recent times and indeed was sent off 4/1 FAV for this last year.The rider will be on a high after her win in the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday and is a sporting selection to send punters home happy.

NAP – POLITOLOGUE

NB – JOSSES HILL

IWAC – NICHOLS CANYON

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130 Cheltenham – Neptune Investment Management Novice’s Hurdle

An intriguing start to day 2 of the Festival sees one of the big English hopes of the week put his big reputation on the line in NEON WOLF.

He is unbeaten under rules, was mighty impressive last time and this son of four times Irish St Leger winner Vinnie Roe will only improve for the step up in trip – he is a confident selection. His chief market rival Bacardys has obvious credentials but a deeper look at his form doesn’t read as well as it may have done before yesterday’s opener. I would be happy to take him on in the W/O the favourite market with MESSIRE DES OBEAUX and WILLOUGHBY COURT. The former was short of his best last time in preparation for this, but had previously shown a good level of form, whereas the latter was green as grass when an impressive winner at Warwick last time out and it is hoped that the experience gained there has helped him prepare for his biggest test – he has some engine.

210 Cheltenham – RSA Novices’ Chase

An open looking renewal and cases can be made for many. The nagging doubt is that Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite may be better on a flatter track and at the prices is passed over. The beneficiary of his final flight blunder at Kempton on Boxing Day was Royal Vacation and this admirably consistent gelding can go well at generous odds for the Tizzards. Henderson’s previous Festival winner Whisper boasts two wins at the track this season over 2m5f and the step up in trip will bring out more improvement in my opinion and he is not easily passed over. However, If you can forgive his run last time out, ALPHA DES OBEAUX looks to have a great chance at a trip and on ground he will relish. Mouse Morris is a past master at lining one up for the big day and with his 2nd to Thistlecrack reading particularly well in last years Stayers Hurdle he is the main selection.

250 Cheltenham – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle

Selecting a 4/1 favourite in a 26 runner Handicap Hurdle is not my normal approach, but in TOMBSTONE (NB) I think an exception has to be made for the red hot Gordon Elliott team. With the furore over the handicap marks allocated to the owner’s high class Grand National entries still making headlines, Elliott could not contain his delight at the handicap mark allocated to his charge at one of the many Festival Preview evenings. His 4th in last year’s Festival opener reads even better now with 3rd place Buveur D’air winning yesterday’s Champion Hurdle and with a step up in trip only being of benefit (he has won over 2m3f) he can keep the Elliott bandwagon rolling. Peregrine Run was an eye catching winner at the November meeting and back on better ground he can chase the selection home while at bigger prices Modus can reward each way support.

330 Cheltenham – Queen Mother Champion Chase

Much like Altior yesterday, barring accidents Douvan will outclass these but we’re not going to get rich at 2/7! The obvious play is to look in the W/O the favourite market and a couple make appeal. GOD’S OWN is the obvious one and should be favourite in that market ahead of the likeable Fox Norton. Tom George’s 9YO boasts a second in the Arkle and 4th in a better class renewal of this race last year on his CV and comes alive in the spring. At a bigger price, Garde La Victoire may be worth an interest – his jumping needs to be taken on trust but granted a clear round he will be running home when others have cried enough.

410 Cheltenham – Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase

Year in year out, previous form over the course is the first part of the selection process. Whether a hunt round at January’s trials meeting to finish a never nearer 5th counts as form is open to question but in CAUSE OF CAUSES we are dealing with a two time Festival winner trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by crack amateur Jamie Codd that looks laid out for the race. The fact that Elliott has returned since for a further school on a non race day only adds to the confidence that this is the plan. Travelling well when unseating rider at the 26th fence in the same race on Trials Day was Auvergnat and he is suggested as the alternative. Trained by the Cross Country expert Enda Bolger he will be ably assisted by the impressive Adrian Heskin this time and appeals more than the enigmatic Cantlow.

450 Cheltenham – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Traditionally one of the hardest puzzles to solve with 4 winners at 25/1 plus in the last five years, but it is hoped that DIVIN BERE (NAP) can buck the trend again following last year’s shorter price winner. Nicky Henderson’s French import boasts the scalp of leading Trumph Hurdle fancy  Master Blueyes on his only run in the UK and that form may look even better by Friday evening. The assistance of Noel Fehilly can only be a positive and he has obvious claims. There have been positive recent vibes for Tony Martin’s Long Call and he can follow the selection home while at bigger prices Project Bluebook is admirably consistent and can hit the frame.

530 Cheltenham – Weatherbys Champion Bumper

With very little form to go on, small stakes are advised here but the last two winners have come from near the front of the market. With that in mind, I would suggest splitting stakes between CAUSE TOUJOURS (IWAC) and Someday with slight preference for the former. He was an impressive winner last time out – what the form amounts to is anyone’s guess, but the fact he is so prominent in the market for this can only be a positive sign as to his chances in my book. Jessica Harrington’s entry is maybe a more obvious contender having shown a good level of form in his two runs in native Ireland – he has been well touted for this in recent weeks and can go well. Another British challenger, Western Ryder is fancied to follow the selections home at bigger prices.

NAP – DIVIN BERE

NB – TOMBSTONE

IWAC – CAUSE TOUJOURS

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410 Cheltenham – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle

With Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag taking each other on and Apples Jade completing the trio, this has to be the best class and most competitive Mare’s hurdle run to date. From a betting point of view, I’m happy to have a play in the W/O Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag market and take on Apple’s Jade as the favourite in that market though. COLIN’S SISTER is the suggestion at rewarding odds for the Fergal O’Brien team. This admirable mare has won her last four and can lead home Lifeboat Mona who has won her last three. Briery Queen and Indian Stream are also quietly fancied to outrun their odds.

440 Cheltenham – JT McNamara National Hunt Novice Chase

The 4 miler is always an intriguing contest and it can again pay to focus on the front end of the market with the last 6 winners starting at no bigger than 8/1. There’s no doubt that Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor are worth a few pounds but this is no secret and Edwulf and Genie In Abottle have been well found in the market. Roger Quinlan and Sam Waley-Cohen are no back numbers though with the latter landing the biggest prize of all in 2011 and CHAMPERS ON ICE (IWAC) and Beware The Bear can fight this out. Champers On Ice’s 3rd to Unowhatimeanharry at last year’s festival reads well and David Pipe’s charge has the look of a horse that will relish this endless trip. Beware the Bear has run up a four timer, is improving rapidly and can follow the selection home. Arpege D’Alene and Haymount appeal outside the front four.

530 Cheltenham – Close Brothers Novice’s Handicap Chase

Day 1’s getting out stakes is particularly competitive but a chance is taken on Dan Skelton’s ITS’AFREEBEE. His 3rd in last year’s Neptune behind Yorkhill and Yanworth reads particularly well in the context of this race with today’s trip and ground likely to suit – he looks to have been primed for this. Foxtail Hill produced a career best last time and is likely to make a bold bid from the front to continue his progress – he rates the danger for the same owners of Ballyandy. At sporting prices, Mixboy and Zamdy Man complete the shortlist.

NAP    – BALLYANDY

NB       – BUVEUR D’AIR

IWAC – CHAMPERS ON ICE

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