The Showcase Meeting: Saturday Preview

1pt each-way Goodbye Dancer in the 3.15 at Cheltenham at 20/1

2pt win Cobra De Mai in the 3.50 at Cheltenham at 8/1

1pt win Minella Encore in the 4.25 at Cheltenham at 7/2

1pt win Osca Loca in the 5.00 at Cheltenham at 10/1

1pt win Seymour Promise in the 5.35 at Cheltenham at 10/1

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2.05 – MASTERSON HOLDINGS HURDLE (Class 2) 2m87y

Allmankind tasted Grade 1 success at Chepstow last December and perhaps paid the price for going toe-to-toe with Champion Hurdle hopeful Goshen when placing third in the Triumph Hurdle in March.

Both Harry and Dan Skelton felt that the Sea The Moon gelding ran flat that day, so it is too his credit that he still hit the frame following the extremely unfortunate departure of the favourite at the final flight of hurdles.

The front-running four-year-old defeated the re-opposing Botox Has, who was successful on his only subsequent outing at Cheltenham, over this course and distance last November, and his impressive racing engine could make him extremely hard to reel-in if granted an uncontested lead from flag-fall

Gary Moore’s above-mentioned gelding also achieved a good level of form last season, cruising to an 18 lengths victory at Fontwell and a 5 lengths success at Cheltenham either side of his clash with Allmankind.

Absent since December, the market may prove the best guide as to how he will perform.

Paul Nicholls has a second string to his bow in the form of Stratagem, who was beaten on his British debut before getting off the mark next time out.

Interestingly, the french-bred son of Sunday Break defeated his stablemate Solo on his solitary start in France, which looks decent form given how impressive the Johnny de la Hey owned gelding was in winning the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton in February, posting a performance that had some talking about a potential tilt at the Champion Hurdle.

That effort aside, his third placed finish at Bangor was a solid effort against older, more experienced opposition, and he couldn’t have won more easily at Kelso in February.

Harry Cobden will take over in the saddle following the injury suffered by owner/amateur jockey David Maxwell, and Stratagem remains a fascinating proposition going forwards.

The Neil King trained Nordano was a solid yardstick in juvenile hurdles last winter and was last seen taking advantage of a lenient handicap mark, and indeed weight for age allowance, in a competitive handicap hurdle at Ascot in February.

A 16 lengths winner on that occasion, the Jukebox Jury gelding has form that ties in with many of these, as he had Sir Psycho back in third when successful at Chepstow last October, and placed fourth behind Allmankind and Botox Has at Cheltenham in November, before again chasing home Dan Skelton’s runner when filling the frame in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.

Now rated 140, Nordano has already proven his ability to handle quicker ground. However, he is comfortably one of the most exposed contenders in this field, and he may be playing for minor honours if those towards the head of the betting have further improvement to come.

Irish handler John McConnell often targets this meeting, and tomorrow he will saddle the progressive filly Anna Bunina, who arrives here fit following a productive summer campaign in Ireland.

A daughter of Poet’s Voice, Anna Bunina placed third behind Paul Nicholls’ impressive recent Chepstow scorer Thyme White on her hurdling debut in the Listed Scottish Triumph Hurdle at Musselburgh February, before understandably finding Grade 3 company at Fairyhouse, behind subsequent Triumph Hurdle victor Burning Victory, and the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival too-much-too-soon.

Not seen again until July, as a result of the lockdown, Anna Bunina was in the process of launching her challenge when coming to grief at the penultimate flight of hurdles, however, none the worse for that tumble, she justified favouritism at Cork two-weeks later, and duly followed-up at Sligo in August.

A runner-up on her most recent outing a Listowel 5 weeks ago, this race-fit filly clearly needs to improve again in order to make her presence felt. However, she is here for a reason and should not be immediately dismissed.

The Pink’n posted a career best effort when chasing home the aforementioned Thyme a White at Chepstow two weeks ago. However, he will need take another step forwards here.

British debutant Zurekin is a intriguing contender for Sophie Leech given that he landed a Listed Handicap Hurdle at Auteuil three-weeks ago.

Previously trained by Guillaume Macaire, this son of Martaline achieved a respectable level of form in France – winning twice and placing three times – and simply could be anything at this stage.

The French-bred is hard to access in comparison to his rivals. However, Sophie Leech is superb at placing those in her care, and she doesn’t send horses to Cheltenham merely for a day trip.

Zurekin placed seconds over hurdles at Auteuil on Thursday and may not be a certain runner as a result. However, he warrants a market check if he does indeed take his chance.

SUMMARY:

Botox Has looked like a promising juvenile hurdler when bolting up on his British debut at Fontwell last October, and he will have a handy 4lbs pull at the weights with ALLMANKIND for his 2 and a half lengths defeat over this course and distance last November. However, Dan Skelton’s four-year-old was impressive that day and he took his form to a higher level when landing the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in December. Reportedly flat when placing third in the Triumph Hurdle, Allmankind perhaps paid the price locking horns with Champion Hurdle hopeful Goshen, but showed a determined attitude to hold on to a place when could have easily weakened away. He could prove very hard to reel-in if allowed to trail-blaze from flag-fall. Stratagem, who defeated stablemate Solo on his solitary start in France, could also be competitive.

1. Allmankind 2. Botox Has 3. Stratagem

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2.40 – BEST ODDS AT MATCHBOOK NOVICES’ CHASE (Class 2) GBB RACE) 2m3f166y

Eleven time champion trainer Paul Nicholls will saddle Southfield Stone, who was only narrowly touched off by Alan King’s wonderfully versatile campaigner Who Dares Wins when last sighted in the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton in February.

A 24 lengths winner on his penultimate outing at Musselburgh – in the fantastically named ‘Frodon Novices’ Chase’ – this grey son of Fair Mix enjoyed a consistent debut season over fences achieving form figures of 22312, including a runner-up effort behind Olly Murphy’s talented performer Brewin’Upastorm last November.

All five of Southfield Stone’s previous victories have been achieved on ground officially described as ‘good to soft’ or quicker, and he has also proven his ability to win first time out. Therefore, with experience on his side, he is most definitely a serious contender on his first start since undergoing wind surgery.

Not That Fuisse is another contender who brings a wealth of experience to the table, and his smooth success at Perth last month will have done his confidence the world of good.

Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old split Al Dancer and Getaway Trump on his chasing debut at Prestbury Park last October. However, he failed to get off the mark in three subsequent outings, which included a sixth placed finish in the always competitive Caspain Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham’s International Meeting in December, and a respectable runner-up effort behind the hugely progressive On The Slopes – who chased home Cheltenham Festival winners Simply The Betts and Imperial Aura on his previous start and also followed-up at Kempton in March – on his next outing at Kempton in February.

Not That Fuisse’s experience is a firm positive and the decent ground will be in his favour.

Pileon looked set to land the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in March before being cruelly denied by the fast finishing Indefatigable in a head-bobbing photo-finish. Connections will be hopeful that he can make amends for that agonising defeat this winter, and a bold showing against more experienced rivals would certainly provide reason for optimism.

The promising son of Yeats placed fourth behind Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Chantry House, Haydock Grade 2 scorer Stolen Silver, and the intriguing Pipesmoker on his hurdling debut last December, before easily landing a brace of novice hurdles at Catterick and Ffos Las respectively.

Despite failing to triumph in two starts between the flags, Pileon rate an interesting prospect this winter, and he could easily run well in such an open contest.

Coole Cody didn’t take to chasing when first tried in the autumn of 2018, however, he got off the mark in fine style at Newton Abbot in August, before bumping into a highly progressive rival who was bringing-up a four-timer over 5f further at the same venue last month.

Evan Williams’ charge will arrive here fit and well with those outings under his belt, and he could easily go much better than the market would suggest now dropping back in trip.

SUMMARY:

Pileon is an interesting prospect for novice chasing this winter and could easily make the most of the weight that he will receive from both Not That Fuisse, who has plenty of decent form to his name at Cheltenham, and SOUTHFIELD STONE, who was narrowly touched off in the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase when last seen in February. However, preference is for the latter, who has undergone wind surgery since that narrow defeat and will return to action with his yard in red-hot form. Paul Nicholls grey would have give Not That Fuisse 10lbs if this were a handicap, and his experience may be enough to see off the aforementioned Pileon. The good ground and intermediate trip rate ideal conditions.

1. Southfield Stone 2. Not That Fuisse 3. Pileon

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3.15 – PERTEMPS NETWORK HANDICAP HURDLE (Class 2) (PERTEMPS HURDLE SERIES QUALIFIER) (GBB RACE) 2m7f208y

The ever-burgeoning operation of Tom Lacey continues to gain traction as indicated by the victory of Tea Clipper in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow two-weeks ago, and the Herefordshire based handler has a standout contender here in the form of Neville’s Cross, who hasn’t looked back since stepping up to three miles, landing his last two outings by a combined distance of 21 and three quarter lengths.

Those victories have seen the Stowaway gelding rise 21lbs in the handicap, and he will obviously face much sterner opposition tomorrow, which will be a true test of his progression.

Both of his victories have been achieved on good ground and connections will be hoping that the rain stays away. If conditions are suitable, he could easily go well from the foot of the handicap with fitness on his side.

I’d Better Go Now has won three of his last four starts culminating in a successful return to action at Perth four-weeks ago, a success that earned the seven-year-old a 7lbs rise in weights.

All three of those victories were achieved on good ground, therefore the less rain, the better his chance.

Last years’s victor Tobefair will compete from a 3lbs higher mark, but can count on the assistance of talented 5lbs claimer Jack Tudor. While Honest Vic, who was last seen placing fifth in the Grade 3 Coral Cup in March, also holds sound claims with Tom O’Brien in the saddle.

The former was narrowly touched off by Sire Du Berlais in the final of this series in 2019, and he was far from disgraced when placing sixth in the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle in March.

While the latter has placed fifth in competitive handicap company on all three of his previous visits to the Cotswolds, and he will compete from a mark just 1lb higher than that from which lined-up in March, which may not be beyond him if improving for this longer trip.

Both undoubtedly possess the ability to make their presence felt.

Champagne Court placed fourth in the 2019 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, and he is an interesting proposition over staying trips.

Jeremy Scott’s seven-year-old hasn’t been seen over timber since splitting Flash The Steel and subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorer Imperial Aura in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow last October, and he could easily go well off an 8lbs higher mark.

The scopey Court Cave gelding developed into a decent novice chaser last winter culminating in a respectable eighth placed finish in the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Champagne Court is yet to run beyond two-and-a-half miles under rules. However, he twice placed second in Irish point-to-points and he would certainly rate an interesting contender if seeing out the trip.

Jonjo O’Neill appears to have found the key to Lock’s Corner, who will arrive here in search of a five-time following hurdle wins at Huntingdon and Chepstow and chasing successes at Southwell and Bangor.

The progressive son of Gold Well is finally beginning to fulfil the promise that he displayed in his solitary point-to-point – a performance that commanded a £215,000 price-tag at the sales – and he is well worth trying in this grade given how easily he has been winning his races.

He will compete from a rating 20lbs above that from which he was last successful over hurdles, however, he could be open to plenty of improvement over staying trips.

Fergal O’Brien has enjoyed plenty of success since the resumption of racing, and he continues to fire in winners left, right and centre. The Cotswolds based handler will saddle Goodbye Dancer in this competitive 3 mile contest, and he may be grossly overpriced if on a going day.

The experienced nine-year-old made a successful seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last December, and he will line-up tomorrow off just a 1lb higher mark. He may well have followed-up at Cheltenham in January had he successfully negotiated the last, as he travelled powerfully under Paddy Brennan to the final flight of hurdles when everything else was hard at work.

Goodbye Dancer carried a 10lbs higher mark (134) in January, however, four subsequent below-par efforts have seen his rating drop to 125, which would obviously make him well handicapped if bouncing back to form.

It would be no surprise to see a bold show tomorrow, and he most certainly warrants a market check.

The Devils Drop arrives here in search of a four-timer on his return from a 797 day absence.

Alan Kings’s seven-year-old was a progressive second season novice in the summer of 2018, winning at Southwell and Worcester by a combined distance of 55 lengths, before making a successful handicap debut at the former track off a mark of 132.

The Court Cave gelding will return to action off just a 2lbs higher mark, which seems very fair. However, the layoff and level of opposition will make his job here a hard one.

Flinck was a staying on third in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow two-weeks ago, and he could easily go very well now stepping up in trip off the very same mark. While Sirrobbie, who received a 6lbs hike in the weights following his 1 and a quarter length success at Uttoxeter three-weeks ago, could go well if in the same kind of form tomorrow.

The former could easily have plenty more improvement to come this winter and will have the assistance of Richard Johnson. While the latter will need to improve again in order to defy a career high mark.

Minella Warrior struggled to build upon a promising chasing debut at this meeting last year and reverts to hurdling a fair looking mark of 133.

The King’s Theatre gelding will enjoy the decent ground and he will compete from the very same mark that he defied on his last outing over timber.

Kim Bailey has his string in very good form and a bold showing is likely.

Kansas City Chief ran a huge race to place sixth behind Sire Du Berlais in the series final in March and could again outperform market expectations with claimer Miss Victoria Malzard taking a handy 7lbs off his back. While Cotswold Way, who will provide Philip Hobbs with a second string to his bow, is slowly creeping down the weights and ran a fine race to place sixth in the aforementioned Silver Trophy at Chepstow two-weeks ago.

Ballon Onabudget and Story Of Friends placed first and second respectively at Newton Abbott in September, and both will compete off 5lbs higher marks tomorrow. While Speredek, who is better know for his exploits over fences, has been well held on his last three starts over hurdles and therefore makes little appeal.

Vaniteux, who placed second behind subsequent Ryanair Chase runner-up Saint Calvados at this meeting 12 months ago, and Bailarico, who has been kept busy on the flat this summer, complete the field.

The former has been thoroughly consistent in France this year and could easily outperform market experience. While the latter placed ninth the Uttoxeter race won by aforementioned Sirobbie, and in which Kansas City Chief placed sixth. More is required here.

SUMMARY:

Last year’s winner Tobefair should go well with talented 5lbs claimer Jack Tudor in the saddle. While Flink’s staying on third in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow rates a good piece of form and this 3 mile trip could eke-out further improvement. However, GOODBYE DANCER is well suited to the demands of Prestbury Park and he is clearly well handicapped on last season’s form in the Cotswolds. Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan have enjoyed a stellar summer campaign and continue to fire in the winners, therefore everything looks set for a very big run.

1. Goodbye Dancer 2. Flink 3. Tobefair

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3.50 – MATCHBOOK BETTING EXCHANGE HANDICAP CHASE (GBB RACE) (Class 2) 3m1f

Manofthemountain has won four of his five stars over fences, with his solitary blemish coming at Taunton last November when unseating Nico De Boinville mid-race.

Emma Lavelle’s lightly raced seven-year-old clearly possesses a great deal of ability, and he returned from a 9 months absence to score at Bangor four-weeks ago, which should leave him spot on for this much more competitive prize.

Indeed, this represents a rise in class for Manofthemoutain, and both the second and third home at Bangor have somewhat let that form down by failing to justify favouritism on their only subsequent outings, which rather tempers enthusiasm.

That said, his progressive profile makes him hard to access, and another bold effort may well be forthcoming.

2019 Ryanair chase hero Frodon brings a serious class angle to this field, and he is a fascinating contender off the mark from which he landed the 2018 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

Indeed, the battle-hardened son of Nickname has an affinity with Prestbury Park, achieving form-figures of 0115021114, including a Grade 2 success in the Cotswolds Chase on his solitary start (at Cheltenham) over 3m1f.

Needless to say, this won’t be easy for Frodon given the burden of top-weight. However, this is the first time that he has competed outside of graded company since December 2017, and he could easily make his class edge count if jumping fluently at the head of affairs.

The ever popular eight-year-old could easily play a very big role in this contest if fit enough to do himself justice, which is fairly likey given the red-hot form of the Nicholls yard this autumn.

Cheltenham regulars Cogry and West Approach are also likely to prove popular given their past exploits in the Cotswolds.

The former is a standing dish in this contest, boasting form-figures of F123 in the last four renewals. His last three efforts came off marks of 133, 135 and 139 respectively, and the stout-staying eleven-year-old, who defied that latter rating at Cheltenham last December, has place claims once more off a mark of 142.

The latter has also contested this race more than once, placing third in 2018 and second last year, when bumping into subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorer The Conditional. However, he went one place better over an extra quarter mile at the November Meeting, and he doesn’t look too badly treated off a 5lbs higher mark.

West Approach placed third behind Cogry on his only completed chase start subsequently, and he will enjoy a handy 6lbs pull at the weights tomorrow, which should see him run well if fit enough first time out.

Bob Mahler and Cloth Cap placed third and eighth respectively in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The former, who landed the Edinburgh National on his penultimate outing, will compete from a 2lbs higher mark tomorrow. While the latter, who placed third in the 2019 Scottish Grand National, will go into battle off a 1lb lower rating.

Both possess the ability to go well. However, they are arguably seen to best effect over marathon trips, and may therefore lack the gears to get competitive tomorrow.

Captain Chaos, who routed his rivals when last sighted in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster, and Cobra De Mai, who placed sixth in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March, will represent the in-form operation of Dan Skelton.

The former will compete off an 8lbs higher mark following his 54 lengths success and he often needs to a run or two to blow away the cobwebs. Therefore he is perhaps best watched on this occasion. While the latter, who was dropped 2lbs following his seasonal reappearance at Fontwell three-weeks ago, is now 2lbs below his last winning mark and is starting to look well handicapped. He undoubtedly possesses the ability to go well from the foot of the weights.

Noel Williams is shrewd with those whom he sends to Cheltenham, therefore the presence of smart mare Sensulano commands respect.

Runner-up on her chasing debut at Ffos Las last October, the 138 rated daughter of Milan won her next two starts at Fontwell and Warwick respectively – the latter success coming in Listed mares’ company – before reverting to hurdles and splitting smart mare’s Magic Of Light and Papagana in Grade 2 company at Ascot.

Sensulano failed to land a blow in handicap company at Kempton on her final outing last season, and she will return to action this autumn off the very same mark. However, the form of her Listed success at Warwick reads well as the runner-up, Chilli Filli, won her only subsequent start, and the fourth placed Really Super landed the Grade 3 Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July.

The form of her other chasing success also reads well, as the runner-up, Midnight Tune, who won three of her next four starts and ended the season with a rating of 135.

Sensulano landed a mares handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in December 2018 and she is open to improvement over staying trips. Noel Williams’ mare has also proven her ability to go well fresh, and she could easily go well from the foot of the weights with Paddy Brennan doing the steering.

Perfect Candidate showed that age is just a number when scoring at Haydock last November, and his two subsequent outings, when chasing home the deeply progressive Lord Du Mesnil at Haydock in December and Colin Tizzard’s well treated Christmas In April in the Devon National at Exeter, demonstrate that the fire still burns brightly within.

The battle-hardened teenager may be in need of his comeback outing. However, Connor Brace will take a handy 3lbs off his back, and he could easily outperform market expectations if on a going day.

Vivas ran a decent race to place second on his reappearance at Warwick last month, and he will compete from the very same rating tomorrow, which also happens to be his last winning mark.

That said, this race is much more competitive than that Warwick contest, and it is hard to see Charlie Longsdon’s charge playing a major role.

SUMMARY:

Cogry and West Approach have a fine record in this race and will likely go well once more. While Frodon is also a standing dish in the Cotswolds and could easily take advantage of a drop in class. However, COBRA DE MAI should strip fitter for his reappearance effort three-weeks ago, and he is starting to look well handicapped once more. Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old ran a fine race to place sixth in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March, and he is now 2lbs below his last winning mark. That success came at Cheltenham in April 2019, and he should launch a bold bid from the foot of the weights, especially with the yard in good form.

1. Cobra De Mai 2. Frodon 3. Cogry

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4.25 – SHOWCASE NOVICES’ HURDLE (GBB RACE) (Class 3) 2m7f208y

Streets Of Doyen arrives at Cheltenham in search of a four-timer after picking up races at Roscommon, Gowran Park and Cork respectively.

Indeed, the rapidly progressive six-year-old hasn’t looked back since stepping up to 3 miles, and he looks set to encounter his preferred conditions, providing that the rain stays away, of course.

It’s hard to truly gage what his level of ability is. However, this is far from the strongest novice hurdle ever ran at Cheltenham and the Irish raider will have the assistance of Richard Johnson, which can only enhance his already promising prospects.

Former Closutton inmate Minella Encore made a successful stable debut for Dr Richard Newland at Uttoxeter last month, and although things didn’t work out with the Irish Champion Trainer, he could develop into a stable star for his very shrewd new handler.

Lightly raced for his age, this son of King’s Theatre won his first two bumpers before placing fourth in the well-contested Grade 2 Bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival in 2018. However, he was then absent for the best part of 21 months, and was sold after posting form-figures of 232 in maiden hurdles last winter.

Hopefully the new scenery will bring with it a change of luck, and the early signs are clearly promising. That said, we will have a much better idea of what he can achieve after this contest tomorrow.

The Macon Lugnatic arrives here in search of a hat-trick following a brace is victories at Doncaster during the spring.

Ben Pauling’s six-year-old caused a 33/1 surprise when getting off the mark in February, before confirming it to be no fluke 4 weeks later, when justifying 15/8 favouritism.

Yet to test his stamina beyond two-and-a-half-miles, the hat-trick seeking six-year-old remains an interesting prospect. However, the form of his yard does temper enthusiasm somewhat.

Polish is entitled to improve for his seasonal reappearance at Bangor last month, and he should enjoy tomorrow’s conditions as his solitary success last season came on decent ground at Ludlow.

Fergal O’Brien’s five-year-old will tackle 3 miles for the very first time, and he could play a role if improving for the extra yardage.

Another Stowaway reverts to hurdling in a bid to end a baron spell that stretches back to January 2019. While Poppa Poutine, who placed third on his hurdling debut at Perth four-weeks ago, will represent the father-son partnership of Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.

This is far from the strongest of races, therefore no contender can be ruled out. However, both will need to show an improved level of form to be competitive.

SUMMARY:

The Macon Lugnstic looked promising in the Spring but the form of his yard does little to inspire enthusiasm. While there are no such concerns surrounding the progressive Streets Of Doyen,!who should run another big race with Richard Johnson in the saddle. However, a tentative vote goes to MINELLA ENCORE, who has clearly had his problems but remains open to improvement. The lightly raced eight-year-old needed every inch of the 2 and a half mile trip when successful at Uttoxeter and he will be much better suited by stepping back-up in trip. Dr Richard Newland has his string in good form at present and he is a very shrewd operator when it comes to placing those in his care. Polish could also run well for in-form trainer Fergal O’Brien.

1. Minella Encore 2. Streets Of Doyen 3. Polish

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5.00 – RYMAN STATIONARY CHELTENHAM BUSINESS CLUB AMATEUR JOCKEYSHANDICAP CHASE (Class 3) 3m1f

The Nicky Henderson trained Jen’s Boy has every chance on form. However, he is getting a reputation for being a weak finisher, which is far from ideal at a track like Cheltenham.

Second on his last four starts after looking the likely winner on each occasion, he has been expensive to follow over the last 13 months (beaten favourite on three occasions), and may well prove so again tomorrow.

Lillington had the re-opposing Plantagenet back in third when successful at Newton Abbott in September, and he bumped into a progressive rival when placing second at Wincanton 9 days ago off a 1lb lower mark than he run off tomorrow.

While Plantagenet will line-up off a mark just 1lb higher than that from which he placed second in the corresponding contest 12 months ago, and he will again have the assistance of Gina Andrews in the saddle.

The form of last years race worked out well as the winner, Petite Power, followed-up at Uttoxeter three weeks later, while the third placed Fingerontheswitch and fourth placed Doing Fine both won competitive handicaps subsequently.

Both possess the ability to run well.

Fergal O’Brien has a fine recent record in this race and was responsible for the aforementioned winner Petite Power 12 months ago. This year the Cotswolds based handler will rely upon Call Me Vic, who hasn’t ran under rules since September 2018.

The 13-year-old has won 4 of his 7 starts in point-to-points in the meantime and he will return to the racetrack off a mark of 122 with Albi Tufnell, who has ridden Call Me Vic in all of his points, retaining his place in the saddle.

His latest outing saw him defeat Ballykan, Workbench and The Last But One at Cottenham last December, and you can bet that this race has been the target for some time.

Ballymalin has been absent since placing second at Carlisle last November, but he did have the re-opposing Boughtbeforelunch back in second when scoring at Worcester on his penultimate outing.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained ten-year-old is a stout stayer who has shown the ability to run well first time out in the past. He will return to the fray off a mark of 125, and could be competitive if fit enough to do himself justice.

Boughtbeforelunch also possesses the ability to run well if recapturing the form of his placed efforts last season, especially after being dropped 3lbs following a quiet seasonal reappearance.

Paul Webber’s seven-year-old will have the assistance of Jack Savage in saddle, who will be brimming with confidence after riding two winners from just two rides in the last two weeks.

Buster Edwards was only beaten 2 lengths off this mark at Fontwell three-weeks ago. However, the form of the Pipe yard would be a concern. While Bermeo, who remains 5lbs above the mark from which he was successful at Uttoxeter in July, perhaps holds place claims at best.

Alminar justified joint-favouritism at Chepstow in January before finding life tougher off a 7lbs higher mark in better company next time out. While Lough Salt placed second off this mark at Uttoxeter three-weeks ago and will line-up off the same mark tomorrow.

The former has won 2 of his last four starts and remains relatively lightly raced compared to some of his rivals tomorrow. While the latter is thoroughly exposed and is yet to score over fences after 14 attempts.

Osca Loca ran out a 13 lengths winner of a maiden Hunters Chase on her final outing in Ireland, which came on the back of a brace of victories between the flags.

Absent for 18 months subsequently, Osca Loca placed sixth on her stable debut for Tim Vaughan two-weeks ago (over hurdles), and she is naturally entitled to come on for that outing.

This lightly raced daughter of Oscar is sister to Red Devil Boys and Clondaw Castle, who have both been successful under rules. Therefore it would no surprise should she prove better than her current rating in the fullness of time.

Ecossais has undergone wind surgery since being soundly beaten at Bangor three-weeks ago. While Young Turk, who secured a 28/1 success at Tramore on his penultimate outing, will have his first start for Aytach Sadik after leaving Gordon Elliott.

Both look up against it here.

SUMMARY:

The stiff uphill finish is a concern for Jen’s Boy given how he has been finishing off his races. Last year’s runner-up Plantagenet could easily well once more and Call Me Vic rates an intriguing contender for last year’s winning trainer Fergal O’Brien. However, it may be worth taking a chance on Tim Vaughan’s lightly raced OSCA LOCA, who blew away the cobwebs at Chepstow two-weeks ago is open to plenty of improvement, unlike many in this field. Lillington and Ballymalin are others for the shortlist.

1. Osca Loca 2. Plantagenet 3. Call Me Vic

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5.35 – ROYAL GLOUCESTERSHIRE HUSSARS STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE (Class 2) 2m87y

Just a head separated Masteroftheheights and Shantou Melody at Fontwell six-weeks ago and the latter will enjoy a 4lbs pull at the weights tomorrow, which will provide Jonjo O’Neill’s charge with a good opportunity to reverse the form.

The Olly Murphy trained Restandbethankful made a successful racecourse debut at Perth in September. However, the runner-up, Getalead, was only beaten and head and has done little to advertise the form in two subsequent starts over hurdles.

Major Robinson made a successful bumper debut at Thurles in March and will have his first outing for David Pipe. While Animal, who also made a successful debut under rules when scoring by 8 lengths at Market Rasen in February, is an interesting contender for Suzy Smith and Micheal Nolan.

Tile Tapper built upon a solid debut effort when scoring at Exeter in January, and he has since rejoined Chris Honour, who trained him to place third at Milborne St Andrew in March 2019. While Smurphy Enki, who failed to get his head in front in four Irish point-to-points, ran out an impressive 18 lengths winner on his racecourse debut for Chris Gordon and could be anything at this stage.

Both are worthy of a market check.

The Kempton bumper in which Seymour Promise placed fourth is working out well as the runner-up, Diamond River, third placed Es Perfecto, and the fifth placed Lord Baddesley, all made successful hurdling debuts next time out.

A half-brother to 2m hurdle/bumper winner Mahler’s Promise, the scopey son of Flemensfirth travelled into that race stylishly under Robbie Power and shaped with great promise in defeat, suggesting that a race such as this would not be beyond him, especially with that experience under his belt and with another summer grass to mature both mentally and physically.

Market support would be encouraging.

Fearless Fracas has been absent since impressively landing a point-to-point at Ballinaboola in November 2018, a performance that persuaded prominent owner Roger Brookhouse to part with £175,000.

The runner-up that day is now in training with Paul Nicholls and placed third on his solitary start to date. Clearly Fearless Fracas has been hard to train thus far, however, the fact that connections are heading to Cheltenham first time out is a positive sign, and he could easily possess the ability to run well if fit enough on his debut under rules.

Grand Lord placed sixth behind subsequent Champion Bumper sixth Ocean Wind in a Listed bumper at Newbury in February. While Jack’s A Legend, who is returning from a 503 days absence, placed third behind two subsequent hurdle winners at Perth in June 2019.

Both are open to improvement.

Calidad, who is a half-brother to Badger Ales Chase winner Drop Out Joe, Don Alvaro, who is a half-brother to Oliver Sherwood’s smart mare Papagana, I Am Maximus, who is a half-brother to flat winners in both Britain and France, and My Drogo, who is closely related to two winners over jumps, are unraced contenders for Harry Whittington, Philip Hobbs, Nicholls Henderson and Dan Skelton respectively.

Nicky Henderson won this race with a debutant 12 months ago, namely Time Flies By, therefore I Am Maximus will likely attract support tomorrow. However, the market may prove the best guide as to how all four will perform.

SUMMARY:

I Am Maximus will likely prove popular for last year’s winning trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Mike Grech. While Smurphy Enki was impressive when scoring by 18 lengths at Wincanton and could be anything at this stage. However, SEYMOUR PROMISE made a very encouraging racecourse debut at Kempton in February and will know much more about his job tomorrow. The form of that contest is working out well and, as a four-year-old, he will have almost definitely benefited greatly from a nice long summer at grass, which will have afforded him the time to mature both mentally and physically.

1. Seymour Promise 2. I Am Maximus 3. Smurphy Enki

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Monday Selection

2pt win Gateway To Europe in the 3.40 Plumpton at 7/2

Six will go to post for the William Hill Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Plumpton tomorrow, and I am keen to be with the Neil King trained Gateway To Europe, who split two subsequent winners in a three runner race at Fontwell when last seen 5 weeks ago.

The winner that day, Gaa Law, was equally impressive when scoring by 9 and a half lengths at Exeter 2 weeks ago, earning a rating of 137 in the process. While the third placed Getaway Trump went two placed better at Warwick, pulling 19 lengths clear of the field with the runner-up, Zoffee.

That was a fine debut effort from Neil King’s six-year-old, who jumped well and showed a pleasing attitude to regain second position after jumping the last in third.

Gateway to Europe reverts to handicap company tomorrow and looks fairly treated off a mark of 123. Indeed, he was third behind the hugely progressive Chapmanshype off the same mark at Fontwell in August (hurdles), and the form of his second placed effort at Uttoxeter earlier that month could hardly read better, as the third, fourth, fifth and eighth have all won races since.

Both of his career victories to date have come on quick ground, and one of those victories came at Plumpton (1/1 at the track), while both successes came over trips just shy of 2 and a half miles, therefore tomorrow’s conditions look ideal.

Antepost Punting: The Ladbrokes Trophy

Elegant Escape (pictured) has placed in the last two renewals of the Ladbrokes Trophy, while Native River and Sizing Tennessee have provided trainer Colin Tizzard with two victories in the last four years.

1.5pts each-way Copperhead in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at 14/1 (Generally)

The Ladbrokes Trophy has long been an early season highlight that has often provided Cheltenham Gold Cup hopefuls with an opportunity to demonstrate their blue riband credentials. This year’s contest will be no different, as the last two RSA Chase winners, namely Topofthegame and Champ, currently head the betting.

The form of the 2019 RSA Chase looks very solid indeed, with the runner-up, Santini, filling the same berth in this year’s Gold Cup, while the third placed Delta Work twice scored in open Grade 1 company last winter.

Obviously, given the shutdown post Cheltenham, we have no collateral form where Champ is concerned. However, he displayed a Rolls Royce engine when mowing down Minella Indo and Allaho in jaw-dropping fashion, and, in spite of his rather suspect technique of getting from ‘A to B’, he would undoubtedly prove popular if taking his chance, not least because of his unblemished record at Newbury (4/4).

Both Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have completed the Ladbrokes Trophy – Cheltenham Gold Cup double previously, and they therefore know exactly what it takes to triumph. However, Colin Tizzard has also landed those two races with the same horse, albeit in different season’s, and he has saddled the winner of the Newbury showpiece twice in the last 4 years courtesy of subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River and the hardy Sizing Tennessee.

The former Dairy Farmer turned top-class racehorse trainer has also saddled 2018 Welsh Grand National hero Elegant Escape to place second and third respectively in the last two renewals, and I am hopeful that he has another very lively contender this year in the form of COPPERHEAD, who would receive 11lbs from Topofthegame and 8lbs from Champ as things stand.

It’s fair to say that this scopey chestnut gelding attracted plenty of attention in the build up to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and understandably so given the giant strides that he made in such a short period of time. Fifth on his chasing debut at Chepstow last October, Copperhead won his next three starts with the bare minimum of fuss, climbing 30lbs in handicap and leaving connections with a tricky decision regarding his Cheltenham Festival target, with the RSA Chase coming out on top in the end.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be in the Cotswolds, as he could never get involved and gradually weakened before falling at the last. Now, it would be very easy to form the opinion that we have found his level and put a flag in the ground. However, history clearly demonstrates that it is foolish to write off any horse after one disappointing effort, and I am more inclined to believe that Cheltenham perhaps came too soon after his impressive 17 lengths romp in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot, a race that was contested on very soft ground, a theory that may be supported by Robbie Power’s decision to ride Slate House, who was four times the price of Copperhead, instead, albeit he had won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Slate House at Christmas.

It is very easy to presume that an easy winner takes takes very little out of themselves. However, we all know that isn’t always the case, and the effort required to score such an impressive victory at Ascot could easily have emptied the tank. While it should also be noted that Colin Tizzard’s horses simply didn’t fire at Cheltenham all week long, therefore Copperhead’s disappointing effort was no isolated incident.

A nice long summer at grass will have provided ample opportunity to refill that smart racing tank and, having been dropped 2lbs for his Prestbury Park effort, he will return to action with mark of 153, which is high enough in handicapping terms, but perhaps not too high to land a prize such as this, especially when he won’t have the burden of top-weight.

Copperhead ran out an easy winner of the Mandarin Handicap Chase over the Ladbrokes Trophy course and distance last December, and his progressive profile appeals very much in a race of this nature. While he is also versatile in terms of ground, which, as always, is advantageous when striking an antepost wager.

The manner in which the six-year-old effortlessly jumped and galloped three previous Grade 2 scorers into submission at Ascot suggested that he could be a Grade 1/2 performer in the fullness of time, which would make him look fairly well treated off his current rating.

We are safe in the knowledge that this race is his target, and i am very confident that he will be a much shorter price on the day, especially if Champ, whose participation is not guaranteed, doesn’t take his chance.

You can currently back the Sulamani gelding at 16/1 in a place, however, he is 14/1 generally and that seems like fair value given all of the factors listed above.

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Antepost Punting: 2021 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle

2pts each-way Edwardstone in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at 16/1 (William Hill)

Long-term blog followers may recall that I advised Edwardstone for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season, and Alan King’s charge was far from disgraced when placing sixth in the Festival opener.

I must confess, I thought that connections would elect to head straight over fences this season as the enthusiastic son of Kayf Tara should be some sight in that sphere. However, their decision to remain over hurdles clearly indicates that they feel he can win a valuable pot over timber first, and understandably so given his potentially lenient mark of 142.

Edwardstone achieved a good level of form last term, including a debut defeat of subsequent Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle scorer Fiddlerontheroof and recent dual scorer Flic Ou Voyou at Wincanton, before successfully conceding a penalty to subsequent Cheltenham Grade 2 scorer Harry Senior at Aintree. Those 3 rivals are now rated 152, 127 (to be updated next week) and 143 respectively, to put those efforts into context.

Beaten a neck on his penultimate outing in Grade 2 company at Haydock, a tactical four-runner race on bad ground was always going to be far from satisfactory for the keen-going six-year-old, who travelled like the best horse in the race and indeed looked to be in command prior to the fast-finishing Stolen Silver swooping by in the shadows of the post.

Alan King’s charge was slow away in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, however, he travelled well and was virtually upsides Shishkin rounding the bend for home, and although he couldn’t match strides with the front five thereafter, he still finished 8 lengths in advance of a Grade 1 runner-up, namely Heaven Help Us, and displayed a determined attitude that will undoubtedly serve him well in his future career.

Edwardstone was very keen to get on with things last year and will have hopefully matured and indeed mellowed over the course of his long summer break. His gears will undoubtedly serve him well in the helter -scelter environment of a big-field handicap, and the Greatwood Hurdle looks an ideal early season target, especially as the master of Barbury Castle has plundered the Grade 3 prize twice in the last 4 years, firstly with Elgin, who defied a mark of 145 in 2017, and latterly with Harambe, who scored from a mark of 137 last November.

He is perhaps seen to best effect on decent ground, but clearly handles soft ground perfectly well, as indicated by his Cheltenham Festival effort. Furthermore, his best run in bumpers came on soft ground at Warwick, when beaten only by the well regarded Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Chantry House.

I don’t know whether Alan King will look for a stepping stone to the Greatwood Hurdle, as he did with both Elgin and Harambe, or whether he will simply prepare him at home. However, Edwardstone beat a race-fit Fiddlerontheroof on his seasonal reappearance last term, therefore I wouldn’t be at all concerned to see him go there first time out.

Antepost Punting: The Paddy Power Gold Cup

Baron Alco landed the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2018.

2pts each-way Saint Sonnet in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at 10/1.

Those who read my handicappers to follow blog will be aware that I have high hopes for Saint Sonnet this winter, and I am hopeful that he can begin to show his quality in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November.

Paul Nicholls has enjoyed plenty of success with progeny of Saint Des Saints over the years, and he may have found another rough diamond in the form of Saint Sonnet, who has only been sighted twice since arriving from France, but has certainly shown enough promise to suggest that he could have a productive future in Britain.

Indeed, it speaks volumes that Paul Nicholls’ was prepared to pitch the five-year-old in at the deep end at the Cheltenham in March on the back of an impressive stable debut at Catterick three weeks earlier. And, while it is easy to suggest that he needed to get some experience into the five-year-old given the ticking time bomb of his novice status having won a steeplechase at Auteuil in August 2019, the 11 time champion trainer is well known for patience, and he will happily bypass the Cheltenham Festival if he believes that it will benefit the horse in the long run. Therefore, the fact that he elected to run Saint Sonnet in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, instead of taking baby steps in calmer waters elsewhere, is a clear indication of the regard in which the french-bred is held at Ditcheat.

Colm Donlon’s promising youngster ran a better race that his finishing position would suggest at Cheltenham, as he jumped like an old hand and was still in contention upon turning for home, only giving way up the hill. He certainly didn’t look out of place in his maiden outing in Grade 1 company, which is too his credit when you factor in that the winner, Samcro, was doubling up at the Cheltenham Festival, the second, Melon, is a three-time Cheltenham Festival runner-up (twice in the Champion Hurdle), the third, Faugheen, is a dual Cheltenham Festival scorer (including the Champion Hurdle), the fourth, Mister Fisher, was a Grade 2 winner on his penultimate outing, and the sixth, Midnight Shadow, landed the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase in January, albeit somewhat fortuitously.

A mark of 147 undoubtedly factors in his potential. However, he is unexposed after just three starts over fences, and his extra long summer at grass will have afforded him the time to both fully acclimatise and mature ahead of his first full season in Britain, which will hopefully see him take a big step forwards this winter.

Paul Nicholls has shown time-and-time again that he can plunder big pots with youngsters sourced from France, and although he has only landed the Paddy Power Gold Cup twice (Al Ferof in 2012 and Caid Du Berlais – same connections as Saint Sonnet – in 2014 – both of whom were second season chasers), the master trainer has landed December’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup 4 times in the last 11 years, including victories for Unioniste, who was only a four-year-old when successful in 2012, and Frodon, who was successful both as a four-year-old in 2016 and a six-year-old in 2018.

Saint Sonnet’s lack of experience is naturally of slight concern. However, Paul Nicholls leaves nothing to chance, and the Saint Des Saints gelding will undoubtably have jumped plenty of fences at home in preparation for this race, especially given that this has been his nominated target for some time.

Missing his intended seasonal reappearance at Chepstow last weekend is also less than ideal. However, a racecourse gallop could easily be sufficient preparation, especially given how forward the Ditcheat inmates are this autumn.

Ground versatility is always advantageous when striking an antepost wager, and Saint Sonnet has already proven his versatility by winning on both ‘good to soft’ and ‘heavy’ ground in France, albeit he doesn’t want the ground too quick, as indicated by his withdrawal last weekend.

Success in this competitive Grade 3 handicap could easily propel Saint Sonnet back into the cross-hairs of Grade 1 company this winter, and as fanciful as that may seem at present, you only have to consider how masterfully Paul Nicholls has managed the careers of many promising young chasers over the years, not least the aforementioned Frodon more recently.

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Sunday Selection: Limerick

2pt win Walk Away in the 4.00 Limerick at 4/1

WALK AWAY kept good company on his three visits to the racetrack last winter, chasing home the mighty Faugheen on his chasing debut at Punchestown in November, before before bumping into subsequent Grade 1 runner-up Easy Game and his stablemate Allaho, who was third in the Grade 1 RSA Chase in March, at Leopardstown in December.

Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old then placed third behind the aforementioned Allaho and subsequent Kim Muir scorer Milan Native at Fairyhouse in January, and he could have been a big player in the Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March but for the interference of the British handicapper, who saw fit to add 12lbs to his Irish rating, most likely with the facile success of his stablemate A Plus Tard 12 months earlier still fresh in his mind.

Fourth behind subsequent RSA Chase scorer Champ and Stayers Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar (third) in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April 2019, this will be the first time that Walk Away has competed over 3 miles over fences (under rules – won a 3m PTP), and he is undoubtedly open to significant improvement given his unexposed status both over this trip and in this discipline.

The promising son of Black Sam Bellamy has won when fresh previously, and he will only have to carry 10-7 with Rachael Blackmore on his back. The De Bromhead yard are still in fine form at present, and there’s a very good chance that this race has been the target for some time.

It’s easy to argue that mark of 136 looks lenient given both his Grade 1 novice hurdle form and his respectable novice chase form against Grade 1 opposition last winter, and he could easily blossom during his second season over fences for the reasons I have outlined above.

Naturally, it is of slight concern that Walk Away has displayed a tendency to make a mistake or two in his races thus far. However, I am sure that he will have done plenty of schooling in preparation for this contest, and he could take plenty of stopping if putting in a clear round.

Saturday Selections

1pt win Friend Or Foe in the 2.12 Chepstow at 3/1

1pt win Secret Investor in the 2.47 Chepstow at 9/2

1pt each-way Khage in the 3.57 Chepstow at 25/1

2pt win The Bay Birch in the 4.32 Chepstow at 9/2

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FRIEND OR FOE hasn’t been seen since bolting up over this course and distance 537 days ago. That facile success served as minor compensation after the Walk In The Park gelding failed to make the cut for the 2019 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, much to the dismay of his connections.

Paul Nicholls felt that Friend Or Foe was very well handicapped in the Spring of 2019, and he will return to action tomorrow off an attractive looking mark of 125. He has also undergone wind surgery since his last trip to the racecourse, which may also bring about improvement.

The good ground will suit him well and his absence doesn’t overly concern me, as the master of Ditcheat has proven time and time again that he can prepare a horse to win first time out following a long period of time off the track.

Friend Or Foe will compete from the foot of the weights and hails from a yard that are already firing in plenty of winners. Indeed, Paul Nicholls has sent out 6 winners from his last 12 runners (221511411212), including 4 at Chepstow yesterday.

He is easily the least exposed contender in the field, and he could easily prove to be much better than his current rating.

Stablemate SECRET INVESTOR will line-up in the following Native River Handicap Chase, and he looks to have a fair chance with conditions set to suit.

The good ground loving eight-year-old made a successful seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting 2 years ago, and, like his aforementioned stablemate, he will return to action after undergoing wind surgery.

The Kayf Tara gelding only ran three times last season, chasing home Real Steel at Down Royal and Native River at Newbury either side of disappointing effort in Grade 3 company at Cheltenham on unsuitably testing ground.

The latter effort earned Secret Investor a 4lbs rise and it’s hard to make a case that he is incredibly well handicapped off a career high mark of 153. However, he does have plenty in his favour given his ability to go well fresh, his course form, his stable form, and with favourable underfoot conditions.

Indeed, Paul Nicholls charge has often threatened to land a decent prize over fences, and although he has been campaigned almost exclusively over intermediate trips over fences, he did win over 3 miles as a novice hurdler in 2018, and his best effort last term came over 3 miles at Newbury.

The presence of last year’s victor Ballyoptic means that Secret Investor will only carry 11-2, and he could prove hard to peg back if injecting some pace into the the race upon turning for home.

This year’s renewal of the Grade 3 Wasdell Group Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle looks as competitive as ever, as indicated by the current market. Indeed, at 7/1 the field you will be handsomely rewarded if finding the winner, and I will be rowing in with KHAGE, who could be overpriced if bouncing back to form for his new yard.

Christian Williams’ new recruit failed to land a blow in 6 visits to the racetrack last winter, however, all but one of those outings came on unsuitably soft ground, and he could easily rediscover his old form on a sounder surface tomorrow.

Indeed, all 3 of Khage’s career victories have been achieved on ground officially described as good to soft or quicker, while his form figures at Chepstow read 311, the first placing coming in a warm bumper (Mont Des Avaloirs and The Russian Doyen placed first and second respectively) on debut, while the latter efforts came over hurdles, winning by 8 lengths and 4.5 lengths respectively.

Obviously, tomorrow’s race will represent a much sterner test of the seven-year-old’s credentials. However, this race has most likely been the target all summer long, and Jack Tudor’s 5lb claim will only aid his prospects.

The Welsh duo teamed up to land the Welsh Grand National with Potters Corner in December, demonstrating their ability to pull off victories in competitive handicap company.

Khage is yet to score beyond 2 miles, but his best effort last season came over 2m3.5f at Wetherby, and he is a half-brother to Max Ward, who was also fully effective from 2m to 2m4f.

Yes, there are classier contenders in the race, but for the above reasons, I’m prepared to take an each-way punt at 25/1.

My final selection tomorrow is THE BAY BIRCH, who makes plenty of appeal from a handicapping perspective given that she won this race impressively off an 8lbs higher mark 12 months ago.

That success represented a career best effort and saw her mark skyrocket to 152. She will line up tomorrow off a rating of 137, and will have the benefit of a eye-catching pipe-opener at Warwick 19 days ago.

Versatile in terms of ground, the father and son partnership of Matt and Stan Sheppard have done a fantastic job with The Bay Bitch over the last few years, and she ran a fine race to place eight in the always competitive Grand Annual Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March over a trip that is short of her best.

There are dangers aplenty starting with the Dan Skelton trained Spiritofthegames, who also held his own in good company last season. However, The Bay Birch looks to have been laid out for this race and is too well treated to ignore.

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Antepost Punting: 2021 Cheltenham Festival Selections

The Cheltenham Festival Antepost Selections have paid their way over the last two years, with a +107.75pts profit achieved in 2019, and a +67.5pts profit coming our way earlier this year, which contributed to an overall Cheltenham Festival profit – including the daily previews/selections – of +241.65pts.

Hopefully we can make it a hat-trick of profitable years in 2021, and to make following the selections easier, I will keep this blog updated with every selection that I advise between now and the Festival.

Thank you for your continued support and best of luck this winter.

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TUESDAY:

1.5pt win Ferny Hollow in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 12/1

1pt win Captain Guinness in the Racing Post Arkle at 25/1

1pt win Abacadabras in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at 10/1 (+ 1pt win at 7/1)

1pt win Saint Roi in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at 20/1

1pt win Aione in the National Hunt Chase at 33/1

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WEDNESDAY:

0.5pt win Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at 25/1

1pt win The Big Getaway in the RSA Chase at 25/1

1.5pt win Sir Gerhard in the Champion Bumper at 20/1

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THURSDAY:

1pt win Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at 25/1

1pt win Thyme Hill in the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at 20/1 (+ 1pt win at 16/1)

1.5pt win Queens Brook in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 12/1

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FRIDAY:

2pt win Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 14/1

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ANY RACE:

1pt win Bob Olinger to win any race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival at 16/1

1pt win Ballyadam to win any race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival at 14/1

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CURRENT OUTLAY: 18pts

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Antepost Punting: 2021 Cheltenham Festival

1pt win Saint Roi in the Champion Hurdle at 20/1

Regular readers will know that I have already advised Abacadabras for the 2021 Champion Hurdle, and I am very keen on his chances. However, I have been toying with the idea of adding SAINT ROI to the antepost portfolio for some time, and time of the essence as he is due to make his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 3 Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Tipperary tomorrow.

Willie Mullins’ lightly raced five-year-old did blog followers a good turn when running out a hugely impressive winner of the County Hurdle in March, when cantering to the final hurdle under a motionless Barry Geraghty and instantly kicking clear when asked to do so.

That performance was indicative of a graded horse in a handicap, and Willie Mullins revealed in his post race interview that connections elected to head down the handicap route because of Mullins’ depth of talent in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and the extremely attractive mark handed to Saint Roi by the British handicapper, which must have had JP McManus licking his lips.

The Coastal Path gelding was by far the easiest winner of the County Hurdle for many a year in spite of his lack of experience and, on occasions, less than fluent leaps. Clearly he was very well handicapped off a mark of 137, but the manner of his success is all the more impressive given the above mentioned points.

Naturally, Saint Roi will have to brush up his jumping and find further improvement in order to develop into a Grade 1 performer in open company this winter. However, I think that Mr Mullins is being smart by starting him off in Grade 3 company, as it will allow him to gain that all important experience and ensure that he will be fully fit when stepping up to Grade 1 level this winter.

Clearly very highly regarded at Closutton, Saint Roi could easily develop into a live contender for the Champion Hurdle this winter, and at 20/1 he makes plenty of appeal from an antepost perspective.

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Saturday Selections

1pt win Top Man in the 2.54 Fontwell at 9/1

1pt win Jacamar in the 3.29 Fontwell at 14/1

1pt win Pottlereaghexpress in the 5.10 Fontwell at 6/1

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TOP MAN performed to a respectable level over hurdles, running out a convincing 14 lengths winner on heavy ground at Plumpton before placing third and sixth respectively in a brace of competitive class 3 handicaps post Christmas.

The Milan gelding won his third start between the flags and could easily develop into an even better chaser this winter, as many in the care of Chris Gordon do. Indeed, he wasn’t given a hard time last season and enjoyed a nice break between each start, which indicates that connections wanted to gain experience without asking too much of their charge.

This looks a fairly open contest on paper and it’s hard to know exactly how fit many of the participants will be on their seasonal reappearance. However, Chris Gordon fired-in two winners at Fontwell today, which is a clear indication that his string is in rude health at present.

The ground and the trip hold no fears, and Adam Wedge is a fine jockey booking. Therefore Top Man makes plenty of appeal at 9/1.

JACAMAR has been on my radar since last November, and I was tempted to back him earlier this week when declared for a competitive contest at Warwick, however, he was pulled-out early on Thursday morning, and it’s interesting that connections have elected to run here, in a seemingly more competitive contest, instead.

The two-time hurdle winner ran a number of respectable races last winter, including a solid fifth placed effort in class 1 company at Ascot, and a fourth placed finish in class 2 company at Cheltenham. He will run tomorrow off a mark just 1lb above his last winning rating, which is 7lbs lower than that from which he competed at Ascot, and 4lbs lower than when placing at Cheltenham.

Both of those efforts came on soft ground and his last success came over a trip just shy of tomorrow’s distance. While the presence of Paddy Brennan – who will ride Jacamar for the first time having enjoyed plenty of success with Fergal O’Brien in recent weeks – in the saddle is further reason for optimism.

Brennan partnered Jacamar’s stablemate Aintree My Dream to a narrow defeat at Fontwell today, which indicates that, in spite of 20 days without a winner, Milton Harris’ Wiltshire based string are still running respectably.

It should also be noted that the yard have only sent out two runners at single figures prices during that time period, with 10 of their 15 runners boasting an SP of 14/1 or bigger.

The experienced five-year-old will strip fitter than some of his rivals having run over this course and distance 46 days ago. Hopefully he can make that fitness advantage count.

My third and final selection comes in a somewhat underwhelming class 5 handicap chase, that will hopefully go the way of Toby Lawes’ seven-year-old mare POTTLEREAGHEXPRESS.

Formerly trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Pottlereaghexpress made an encouraging stable debut at Fontwell last December when placing third over hurdles. Front-running tactics didn’t work out on her next outing at Wincanton, however, she shaped very well on her only subsequent start, when placing second on her chasing debut at Plumpton.

Pottlereaghexpress showed a real aptitude for jumping fences, meeting the majority of her obstacles on a perfect stride, and executing quick, neat leaps that soon saw her chasing the front-running winner in a clear-cut second place.

The Beneficial mare was lucky not to be brought-down at the fifth fence when cannoned into and indeed forced into a significant blunder. Many horses would have been shaken by such an incident, especially on their debut over fences. Therefore it is to her credit that she quickly re-discovered her rhythm and ran so well in defeat.

Having initially closed down the gap to the leader, McGrath perhaps allowed them too much rope from midway and couldn’t bridge the gap thereafter, despite making up around 11 lengths from the back of the last to the line, eventually going down by just 1 length.

Pottlereaghexpress will line-up tomorrow off just a 1lb higher mark, and, on the evidence of her debut effort, she could easily be much better than her current rating, which is more than can be said for many of her rivals.