Thank you and stay safe

Monsieur Lecoq landed the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las.

Today Horse Racing Ireland have officially announced that the National Hunt season is over, meaning that the 2019/20 season has officially reached it’s premature conclusion. As always, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those who have followed and indeed supported this blog over the last 6 months. And, thankfully, those who have will be in profit once more.

We end the season with a overall profit of +195.7pts, with ‘antepost punts’ accounting for +59.88pts and day-to-day selections (mainly Saturday selections) adding a further +135.82pts. These numbers would read even better but for a torrid time in February. However, you have to take the rough with the smooth in this game and the majority of followers understand that.

Thankfully we bounced back with a profitable Cheltenham Festival, where the daily previews brought in a profit of +20.78pts, while the ‘antepost punts’ added a further +67.5pts, generating an overall 2020 Cheltenham Festival profit of +88.28pts.

There were many memorable moments including the success of Monsieur Lecoq (10/3) in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in October (image above). While the impressive victory of Vinndication (4/1) in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot, and the facile success of The Last Day (11/4) at Aintree in November, also spring to mind as highlights. (The first and last named also featured in the handicappers to follow blog last autumn)

The Conditional (20/1) kick-started a superb day at Cheltenham in October, with Saint Calvados (6/1), Ramses De Teille (9/4) and Slate House (10/1) three further winners on the card. While Golan Fortune (33/1) easily landed a small gamble back at Cheltenham in November.

Epatante (6/1), Top Ville Ben (10/3) and Aspire Tower (7/2) paid for the festive season when landing the Christmas Hurdle, Rowland Meyrick Chase and Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle respectively on Boxing Day. While Classic Chase day in January was another hugely profitable day as Erick Le Rouge (12/1), Burrows Edge (13/2) and Two For Gold (9/2) landed the Unibet Download The App Handicap Chase, Unibet Lanzarote Hurdle and Hampton Novices’ Chase respectively. (One follower won over £3000 that day!)

Many nice looking antepost bets went astray at Cheltenham. However, our old friend The Conditional (20/1) and the exciting Ferny Hollow (33/1) landed the Ultima Handicap Chase and the Champion Bumper respectively, which ensured a healthy profit. I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t taste further antepost success with Galvin (9/1), Minella Indo (12/1) and Dynamite Dollars (40/1) all finishing second, while A Plus Tard (20/1), Allmankind (20/1) and Lostintranslation (14/1) all placed third.

The Bossses Oscar (20/1) also hit the woodwork when placing fifth in the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Thankfully they were all advised each-way.

Those successes, and indeed narrow misses, were accompanied by the victories of Epatante (10/3), Honeysuckle (11/4), Envoi Allen (1/1), Simply The Betts (4/1), Concertista (5/1), Saint Roi (8/1) and Chosen Mate (7/1), many of whom ran out extremely impressive winners. While Third Wind (12/1), Ronald Pump (10/1 w/o fav), Plan Of Attack (10/1) and Shantou Flyer (15/2) all rewarded each-way support.

Indeed, I was surprised when a follower informed me that 23 of the 28 horses advised across the four daily previews had either won or hit the frame. Naturally, it is always nice to feel that you have had a run for your money, and I think that we can safely say that we did given that rather interesting statistic.

The last two season’s have generated an overall profit of +382.04pts, which is obviously a very pleasing figure. However, I feel that quality content is equally as important as profit and it’s nice to receive feedback concerning how informative, interesting and useful followers have found this blog.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my good friend Mike O’Toole for chauffeuring me to race meetings following my knee surgery in October. And also to Tom and Jack at JTW Equine Images (@JTWEquineImag), who have continued to supply me with fantastic images throughout the season.

Thank you again for your fantastic support and please stay safe in these uncertain times.

All the best

Stu

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Image supplied by JTW Equine Images (JTWEquineImag).

All Images Copyright ©JTW Equine Images. All Rights Reserved, please ask them if you wish to use the images. http://tomwilliams275.wixsite.com/jtwequineimages

Antepost Punting: 2021 Cheltenham Festival

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

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

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

1pt win Thyme Hill in the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at 20/1 (Bet365, Unibet)

1pt win Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at 25/1 (Coral, Betfred)

1pt win Ballyadam to win Any Race at 14/1 (William Hill)

Normally I wouldn’t advise antepost bets until the autumn. However, given the current racing blackout in both Britain and Ireland and having been asked about potential antepost bets by multiple followers on Twitter, I have decided to strike a few very early wagers at prices that should, I hope, represent value.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that the 2019 and 2020 Cheltenham Festival blogs generated an overall profit of +241.65pts, which included +175.25pts of antepost profit (2019: 107.75pts, 2020: +67.5pts). Hopefully we can successfully invest some of that sizeable profit on the 2021 Cheltenham Festival – that is the aim at least!

Naturally, there are many imponderables given the current state of affairs and it is impossible – albeit improbable – to know whether those advised will have the opportunity to either enhance or tarnish their reputation at Fairyhouse and or Punchestown this spring. However, we still have a solid body of information from October until mid-March, and I therefore feel that we have enough evidence to make some relatively informed judgements.

The first horse that I will put forward is CAPTAIN GUINNESS, who was in the process of running a big race in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle prior to being brought down as a result of the erratic jumping of Asterion Forlonge at the penultimate flight of hurdles.

Henry De Bromhead’s five-year-old comfortably landed a maiden hurdle at Navan prior to chasing home the well regarded Andy Dufresne in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. The scopey son of Arakan jumped superbly on that occasion and did incredibly well to go so close given how keen he was throughout, which is fairly understandable given his lack of racecourse experience (2nd run).

I was pleased to see Captain Guinness settle much better at Cheltenham, which will undoubtedly have been aided by the searching gallop from flagfall, and he was travelling as well as anything prior to his unfortunate, and indeed unavoidable, demise.

That run proved his ability to handle the undulations of Prestbury Park and a nice long summer at grass will afford him the time to mature both mentally and physically. While the switch to fences should also bring significant improvement given the scope he has shown over timber.

Henry De Bromhead is a master at training two mile chasers and was responsible for both this year’s Arkle favourite Notebook, who has improved 23lbs over fences following a brace of Grade 1 victories, and the winner Put The Kettle On, who has improved 32lbs and is 5-6 over fences. The County Waterford based handler is also responsible for two Champion Chase winners in the last 10 years, namely Sizing Europe (2010) and Special Tiara (2017).

It’s not often that a horse oozes class in defeat. However, that’s exactly what Captain Guinness did at Punchestown in January, and he was also impressive at Navan when carrying 1lb more and clocking a 4 seconds quicker time than impressive bumper scorer Uhtred managed over the same trip.

Therefore he is worth chancing in the Racing Post Arkle at 25/1.

My second antepost selection finished second on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and perhaps hit the front sooner than ideal.

Davy Russell turned for home with a double handful on ABACADABRAS and he was only beaten a head by the clearly high-class Shishkin, with the pair pulling 11 lengths clear of the 147 rated Chantry House.

Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old followed up a smooth debut success with a cosy 3 lengths defeat of subsequent Grade 1 scorer Latest Exhibition in Grade 3 company at Navan. After which, he chased home his unbeaten Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winning stablemate Envoi Allen in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, with subsequent Irish Champion Hurdle runner-up, and indeed Cheltenham Champion Hurdle third, Darver Star, which gives the form a very solid look.

A Grade 1 winner at Leopardstown over Christmas, Abacadabras has always displayed plenty of speed and he would undoubtedly be a very strong contender in a strongly run Champion Hurdle, which is a highly plausible target given that Michael O’Leary elected to keep Samcro back for the race two years ago, and the Ryanair supremo might not get a better opportunity to land the 2 mile hurdling showpiece again prior to his self-imposed departure from the sport.

Fourth in the 2019 Champion Bumper, the Davidoff gelding clearly handles Cheltenham’s Old Course very well, and he has perhaps been unfortunate to bump into two hugely talented rivals this term. There is no doubt in my mind that he would be half the price that he currently is had he won by a head two weeks ago, therefore it’s hard to argue that 10/1 doesn’t represent good value.

Abacadabras is at currently rated 158, which is just 1lb below the mark that reigning champion hurdler Epatante carried into the 2 mile showpiece two weeks ago. Therefore, any further progression would put him right in the Champion Hurdle mix.

This season’s batch of novice hurdlers have looked well above average and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle also looked like a very strong renewal. The winner, Envoi Allen, is perhaps the most exciting prospect in National Hunt Racing at present. However, it was hard to miss THE BIG GETAWAY in the pre-parade ring (video above) given his towering frame, and I was hugely impressed by his performance on the track.

Paul Townend was clearly keen to ensure that the emphasis was placed on stamina and he briefly had everyone else at work when skipping 2 lengths clear upon rounding the bend for home. It’s clear for all to see that The Big Getaway couldn’t match the finishing speed of Envoi Allen and Easywork thereafter. However, it once again suggested that three miles and fences would a match made in heaven going forwards.

The talented son of Getaway has boasted a reputation that mirrors his imposing frame ever since his hugely impressive point-to-point success and subsequent £230,000 purchase. And, while he has clearly performed with sufficient credit to date, he was very much acquired with a chasing career in mind.

It will come as no surprise that Willie Mullins has a plethora of potential packed inmates to go to war with next winter and obviously there are multiple races that the The Big Getaway could be aimed at. However, on the body of evidence that we have thus far, I want to back him for the RSA Chase, which, in my opinion, is tailor-made for the strapping six-year-old.

At 25/1 I am prepared to take the risk.

The Albert Bartlett is a notoriously tough race for novices and it is often a race where the cream fails to rise to the top. Indeed, both Cheltenham 2018 Gold Cup winner Native River and last year’s Stayers Hurdle hero Paisley Park were well beaten in the this race before going on to greatness, and I am hopeful that THYME HILL can continue that trend next term.

Favourite backers were left wondering what may have been at Cheltenham after Paul Townend and Monkfish closed the door on Richard Johnson and Thyme Hill just as Philip Hobbs’ charge was about to launch his effort upon approaching the final flight of hurdles, which resulted in the four-time champion jockey having to go around his rivals not once, but twice, as Davy Russell and Fury Road drifted right in a driving battle to the line.

How you saw this incident most likely depends on whom carried your money, as backers of the winner may consider it good race-riding, while those on the eventual fourth will inevitably have felt hard done by. It should be noted that Paul Townend, who perhaps had Tuesday’s defeat on Benie Des Dieux fresh in his mind, was handed a 4 day ban for careless riding, which is a clear indication of what those in charge made of the incident.

Thyme Hill boasted an unblemished record (over obstacles) heading into the Festival having landed a brace of Grade 2 victories at Chepstow and Cheltenham respectively, prior to success in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury.

Philip Hobbs recently revealed that Thyme Hill has schooled well over fences with a view on what to do in the future. However, the master trainer also confirmed that he was ‘very likely’ to stay over hurdles for the 2020/21 campaign with the Stayers Hurdle his likely target.

Third in the red-hot Champion Bumper won by Envoi Allen 12 months ago, the gutsy son of Kayf Tara boats solid form in the Cotswolds and he embodies all of the required attributes to develop into a top class three miles hurdler in open company next winter. Therefore, he is well worthy of support at 20/1 given how this race can often cut up.

Clearly I have great faith in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle form this year as my next antepost selection is CHANTRY HOUSE, who

Nicky Henderson has already expressed his opinion that an extra half-mile may see the JP McManus owned six-year-old to best effect, and I would certainly concur with the Seven Barrows supremo in light of that run as Chantry House appeared to be on his limit the whole way around, yet still managed to claim a highly respectable third placed finish.

Chantry House wasn’t always fluent at his obstacles and indeed lost ground at one of two, therefore his final placing is a further nod to the ability that he possesses.

We didn’t learn much on his penultimate outing at Newbury when comfortably kicking inferior opposition aside. However, the form of his debut success at Cheltenham looks particularly solid as the runner-up, Stolen Silver, progressed to land a Grade 2 contest at Haydock, while the fourth placed Pileon won his next two starts before going agonisingly close in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Clearly his form reads well thus far. However, I get the impression that connections have been marking time over hurdles and fully expect their charge to develop into a Grade 1 novice chaser next term, and understandably so given the promise that he displayed between the flags – which includes a sound success at Tattersalls Farm following an unfortunate departure when leading at three from home on his debut at Stowlin 8 months earlier – in a race that contained Albert Bartlett winner Monkfish (first), dual novice hurdle winner Opposites Attract (third), Albert Bartlett third Fury Road (fourth), and Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle scorer Fiddlerontheroof (fifth).

Like the aforementioned Stayers Hurdle, this too is a race that often cuts up and Chantry House could be a mere fraction of his current price should he turn up fit and healthy on the day.

The final horse that I will put forward is BALLYADAM, who was punted into 8/1 (from 33-1) for the Champion Bumper prior to his racecourse debut at Navan, when beaten fairly and squarely as a red-hot 1/4 favourite.

There had been strong vibes emanating from Cullentra Stables in the build up to that race, and understandably so given how impressive Ballyadam was at Portrush in October – when posting a performance that prompted Cheveley Park Stud to part with £330,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November Sales.

The exciting son of Fame And Glory displayed a high cruising speed and sizeable engine at Portrush and, after getting off the mark at Downpatrick last week, it was interesting to hear Jamie Codd describe the the five-year-old as potentially the best horse that he has ever ridden, which is some statement to make given the quality horses that he has be associated with in his career – not least Envoi Allen, who he partnered to land the Champion Bumper 12 months ago, in recent times.

It’s possible that he didn’t enjoy the hock-deep ground when placing third behind Champion Bumper seventh Julies Stowaway at Navan in February, and it’s fair to say that he looked much more at home on better ground last week – albeit in a much weaker race.

I would suggest that the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle may be his most likely destination at present given his seemingly potent blend of speed and stamina. Gordon Elliott has won two of the last three renewals of that race with Samcro (2018) and Envoi Allen (2020), who were both sent off as Irish bankers and clearly didn’t disappoint.

That said, Cheveley Park Stud have a number of exciting novice hurdle prospects to go to war with next winter, with Champion Bumper victor Ferny Hollow and the returning Malone Road just two that readily spring to mind. Therefore I am going to suggest backing Ballyadam to win ‘Any Race’ at Cheltenham, which is currently available at 14/1.

Many were left counting the costs after his name failed to feature amongst the entries for Cheltenham this year. However, i am hopeful that he can recoup those losses next spring.

Saturday Selections

2pt win Jetz in 2.10 Thurles at 4/1 (Generally)

2pt win Sizing Pottsie in 3.10 Thurles at 5/2 (Generally)

0.5pts e-w At Your Ease in 3.40 Thurles at 12/1 (Generally)

The BetVictor Hurdle is a competitive contest on paper and it may pay to side with JETZ, who is well suited by the conditions of the race and was only denied by a rejuvenated character in the form of Charli Parcs at Leopardstown three weeks ago.

That was Jetz first outing over hurdles since April 2018, and he achieved a good level form as a novice hurdler that season having placed second in both Grade 1 company at Leopardstown and Grade 2 company at Fairyhouse.

Jessica Harrington’s charge has competed at the top level over fences this winter and he appeared to relish his return to hurdling, which could easily see him rediscover something like his best form.

Soft ground will be no issue and Robbie Power will be in the saddle. Therefore he has solid credentials in a wide open contest.

Conceding weight to all of his rivals won’t make life easy for SIZING POTTSIE in the Grade 3 Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase. However, the promising six-year-old has clearly improved markedly for the switch to fences and he may prove tough to beat if jumping fluently over this trip.

The Kapgarde gelding cost connections a cool £220,000 as a three-year-old and, barring a bumper success on debut, had done to justify that price tag. However, chasing was always going to be his game and manner of his latest success suggested that he could develop into a graded performer in the fullness of time.

Sizing Pottsie jumped well out of the heavy ground on that occasion and he surged clear of Cut The Mustard when asked for his effort. That rival, who is 2-4 over fences this season, will reoppose on 7lbs better terms tomorrow. However, Jessica Harrington’s charge is open to further improvement and is capable of upholding that form.

The following handicap chase is a tricky puzzle to solve and it may be worth having a speculative punt on AT YOUR EASE, who was returning from 303 day absence when placing fourth over this course and distance two weeks ago.

At Your Ease placed third behind the high class Chacun Pour Soi and a subsequent dual scorer at Naas last March, and he too was victorious on his next outing at Limerick, which gives that form a very a solid look.

Clearly not at his best when a beaten favourite next time out, the JP McManus owned gelding has scope for improvement after just five starts over fences and he will have a 7lbs pull at the weights with his conquerer of two weeks ago Kavanagh’s Corner, which can only aid his prospects.

Arthur Moore’s charge has bled previously and that may explain his ‘in and out’ form. However, he doesn’t look too harshly treated on the pick of that form and he could reward each-way support if on a going day.

The 2020 Cheltenham Festival: Profit/Loss

The Conditional landed a 20/1 ‘Antepost Punt’ in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

As always, I would like to start by thanking each and every person who has supported the blog with likes, retweets, shares and kind feedback during this fantastic festival week. I can’t stress enough just how greatly appreciated your continued support is, and it’s incredibly nice to know that many found the Cheltenham Festival previews both “insightful and entertaining.”

It certainly wasn’t plain sailing as the daily blogs shows a loss of -8.92pts at the halfway stage. However, a strong Thursday (+19.5pts) preceded a solid Gold Cup Day (+10.20pts), which resulted in a weekly profit of +20.78pts.

Indeed, our ‘antepost punts’ proved to be day savers on Tuesday and Wednesday as The Conditional (20/1) and Ferny Hollow (33/1) landed the Ultima Handicap Chase and the Champion Bumper respectively. However, I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t taste further antepost success with Galvin (9/1), Minella Indo (12/1) and Dynamite Dollars (40/1) all finishing second, while A Plus Tard (20/1), Allmankind (20/1) and Lostintranslation (14/1) all placed third.

The Bossses Oscar (20/1) also hit the woodwork when placing fifth in the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, which produced an overall antepost profit of +67.5pts.

Those successes, and indeed narrow misses, were accompanied by the victories of Epatante (10/3), Honeysuckle (11/4), Envoi Allen (1/1), Simply The Betts (4/1), Concertista (5/1), Saint Roi (8/1) and Chosen Mate (7/1), many of whom ran out extremely impressive winners. While Third Wind (12/1), Ronald Pump (10/1 w/o fav), Plan Of Attack (10/1) and Shantou Flyer (15/2) all rewarded each-way support.

Indeed, I was surprised when a follower tweeted to inform me that 23 of the 28 horses advised across the four daily previews had either won or hit the frame. Naturally, it is always nice to feel that you have had a run for your money, and I think that we can safely say that we have had that given that rather interesting statistic.

There are always a few bets that fall by the wayside and the most frustrating this year was undoubtedly the 0.5pt each-way bet struck on Allaho (33/1) for the Marsh Novices’ Chase. I am convinced that he would have taken all of the beating if lining-up on Thursday – especially given the performance that he put up in the RSA Chase on Wednesday.

Chacun Pour Soi (5/1) was another hard one to take and more-so given how the race planned out. While Marie’s Rock (8/1) and Wolf Prince (25/1), who shorted significantly prior to being ruled out with injuries in the build-up to the Festival, would surely have run respectably in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle respectively.

Clearly a good week (+88.28pts overall) could well have been a great week with a touch more luck. However, this game is built upon tales of wonder and woe and you have to take the rough with the smooth. I have included some profit/loss figures below, and also some feedback that has made me smile at the end of a very long week!

Thank you for sharing yet another Cheltenham Festival with me and hopefully we can continue to flourish throughout the spring.

Be lucky,

Stu

Envoi Allen was a very popular winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

The Numbers:

Daily Profit/Loss: +20.78pts

(Tuesday: +0.08pts – Wednesday: -9pts – Thursday: +19.5pts – Friday: +10.2pts)

Antepost Profit/Loss: + 67.5pts

Overall Profit/Loss: +88.28pts

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The Feedback:

Saturday Selections

2pt win On The Slopes in 1.30 Kempton at 7/4 (Bet365)

2pt win Downtown Getaway in 2.40 Kempton at 9/2 (Bet365)

2pt win Legal Eyes in 3.15 Kempton at 11/2 (Bet365)

Grand Annual absentee ON THE SLOPES will head to Kempton tomorrow and he could take some pegging back given how the form of his third placed afford at Cheltenham in January is working out.

The winner, Simply The Betts, landed the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate on Thursday, while the runner-up, Imperial Aura, ran out a commanding winner of the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase on Tuesday. Therefore it is entirely possible that On The Slopes can overcome a 7lbs rise for his smooth success at this venue last month.

Both Chris Gordon and Tom Cannon remain amongst the winners and the ground should prove ideal. Therefore the sound jumping six-year-old makes plenty of appeal.

Nicky Henderson has enjoyed a fine week at Cheltenham and the master of Seven Barrows can enjoy another winner tomorrow with the progressive DOWNTOWN GETAWAY, who has gone up 5lbs for his course and distance success in a warm contest last month.

The scopey seven-year-old had clearly benefitted for wind surgery on that occasion and it’s fair to presume that he has plenty more to offer – especially as he was far from fluent at the final flight of hurdles, yet still managed to battle back and defeat a similarly progressive rival in the form of Palmers Hill.

Downtown Getaway defeated the 142 rated Champagne Well when getting off the mark at Ascot last season, and he was sent off an 8/1 chance in Grade 1 company at Aintree last spring. Therefore it’s easy to make a case that he could prove much better than a mark of 136.

Ben Pauling has overcome a sticky start to the season and will hopefully enjoy a decent spring, and I am hopeful that the lightly-raced LEGAL EYES can contribute tomorrow.

The progressive Court Cave gelding had Kim Muir Challenge Cup runner-up Kilfilum Cross (second) 11 lengths in arrears when scoring over 3 miles at this venue last month, and he remains open to plenty of improvement on just his fourth start in this sphere.

His pulled-up effort at Sandown in December may have had something to do with the issues in the yard, and he demonstrated that he had the pace to handle this drop back in trip when running out a comfortable 5 lengths winner at Plumpton in October.

Legal Eyes could easily prove better than a mark of 137 and he can hopefully do so tomorrow with track, trip and ground in his favour.

SELECTIONS: The Cheltenham Festival (Friday)

Betfair Chase victor Lostintranslation has undergone wind surgery since pulling-up in the King George VI Chase.

1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m179y

This is potentially one of the best Triumph Hurdle’s in many a year with a handful of hopefuls who could easily be called serious contenders.

Solo was breathtaking in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton and Goshen clearly possesses a big engine. While Aspire Tower looked very smart prior to falling at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. However, my vote goes to ALLMANKIND, who was impressive when landing the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in December.

That was a fascinating race to watch as Dan Skelton’s keen-going four-year-old jumped out of the blocks like Usain Bolt and carted Harry Skelton, who simply had to hold on for dear life, into the back straight. As we know, actions such as these normally have dire consequences, therefore I was shocked, and indeed highly impressed, when Allmankind picked-up again in the final 2 furlongs and readily sprinted clear of solid yardstick Cerberus, who gave the form a boost when going close in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.

Allmankind landed a Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on his penultimate outing in November and the form of that race also looks strong as both the runner-up, Botox Has, and third placed Repetitio returned to the Cotswolds in December and landed a juvenile hurdle and handicap hurdle respectively

It will be interesting to see how much rope his main market principles will afford him tomorrow. However, should they get that judgement wrong, they not see him again.

1. Allmankind 2. Goshen 3. Solo

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2.10 – Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m179y

The County Hurdle is always hugely competitive and has proved a happy hunting ground for Dan Skelton and Willie Mullins in recent years, and I am hopeful that the latter can triumph this year with the lightly raced SAINT ROI.

The JP McManus owned five-year-old comfortably defeated a subsequent dual scorer at Tramore in January and the fact that we have not seen him since suggests that his master trainer may well have had this race in mind ever since.

Beaten at odds of 1/3 on his Irish debut in December, the drop back to 2 miles saw a vastly improved performance and the form of his solitary hurdles start in France looks solid, with both the first and second winning races subsequently.

Raised 4lbs by the British Handicapper, the manner of his Tramore success suggested that he may be more than a mere handicapper in the fullness of time, and the fact that Barry Geraghty, who is riding with extreme confidence following a hatful of winners already this week, has chosen to ride him over Betfair Hurdle runner-up Ciel De Neige speaks volumes in itself.

1. Saint Roi 2. Mohaayed 3. Aramon

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2.50 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m7f213y

It takes a talented, and indeed gutsy, horse to win this race and I am confident that THYME HILL encompasses both of those traits. Philip Hobbs’ Grade 1 Challow Hurdle winner demonstrated his ability to handle Cheltenham when defeating solid yardstick Champagne Well in Grade 2 company in November, and his style of running suggests that he will be ideally suited by this step up in trip.

1. Thyme Hill 2. Fury Road 3. Cobblers Way

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3.30 – Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m2f70y

I have long been a fan of LOSTINTRANSLATION for the Gold Cup and I am staying loyal to Colin Tizzard’s charge.

Pulled-up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, Lostintranslation had looked like a potential superstar when defeating Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai in November’s Betfair Chase. There’s a good chance that the scopey son of Flemensfirth was feeling the effects of the effort at Kempton and it is no bad thing that he arrives here fresh.

Lostintranslation demonstrated his ability to handle Cheltenham when defeating Defi Du Seuil in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase last season, and again when chasing home that same rival in last year’s Marsh Chase at the Festival. It is also worth noting that he will be having his first outing since undergoing wind surgery when lining-up in the blue riband contest tomorrow.

The bold-jumping eight-year-old will be suited by the drying ground and he could go very close if getting into a good rhythm under Robbie Power.

1. Lostintranslation 2. Delta Work 3. Al Boum Photo

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4.10 – St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) 3m2f70

Twice a Cheltenham Festival runner-up, including in this race 12 months ago, SHANTOU FLYER defeated two subsequent point scorers at Fakenham last month and is now 2-2 since joining Rose Loxton. The consistent tenyear-old arrives here in better form this year and his form figures at Cheltenham read 1F142222, which is very respectable given the quality of race that he contested earlier in his career. David Maxwell has enjoyed a good season thus far and the pairing look like a very solid each-way proposition.

1. Shantou Flyer 2. Hazel Hill 3. Minella Rocco

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4.50 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m62y

Gordon Elliott is enjoying a fantastic week to date and he may strike once more with impressive Gowran Park winner CHOSEN MATE, who looks to have been trained with handicaps in mind.

Third behind Marsh Novices’ Chase runner-up Melon on his chasing debut at Leopardstown in December, the Grade 2 winning novice hurdler overcome a lacklustre penultimate outing to score a comfortable 11 lengths success at Gowran Park, and it is interesting that connections have waited for this race instead of taking handicap company at the Dublin Racing Festival, where he did hold entries.

The runner-up, Capuccimix, readily franked that form next time out and The Well Chosen gelding is versatile in terms of ground. While his additional stamina will prove valuable in this race given the break-neck gallop at which this contest is traditionally run.

Handicap supremo Davy Russell will be in the saddle once more and significant improvement is a distinct possibility.

1. Chosen Mate 2. Lisp 3. Croco Bay

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5.30 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m4f56y

The chief of Cullentra Stables likes to target the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle given his previous association with Pond House. Indeed, he landed the race with Champagne Classic and Blow By Blow in 2017 and 2018 respectively and he went close to landing the hat-trick with Dallas Des Pictons last term.

While Column Of Fire and The Bosses Oscar have grabbed all of the attention in recent weeks, it’s possible that stablemate ESCARIA TEN has slipped under the radar. However, he looks well worthy of support under the talented Fergus Gregory.

An easy winner of his last two starts in 3 mile novice hurdles, the form his hurdling debut third at Fairyhouse could hardy have worked out better as the winner, Diol Ker, is rated 142, the runner-up, Monkfish, has won both of his subsequent starts earning a rating of 152, the fourth placed Opposites Attract has also won twice since, and both the fifth and sixth placed horses, namely Marshalled and Eleazar Des Neiges, have also tasted success.

Form of that nature makes a mark of 136 look potentially lenient and he will be well suited by the stamina demands of this hotly contested handicap on the new course. Therefore he makes plenty of each-way appeal.

1. Escaria Ten 2. The Bosses Oscar 3. Front View

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SELECTIONS:

1.30 – Allmankind – 1pt win at 9/2 (Generally) (SL)

2.10 – Saint Roi – 1pt win at 8/1 (Generally) (SL)

2.50 – Thyme Hill 1.5pt win at 5/1 (Generally)

3.30 – Lostintranslation – 1pt win at 8/1 (Generally) (SL)

4.10 – Shantou Flyer – 2pts each-way at 15/2 (Generally)

4.50 – Chosen Mate – 1pt win at 7/1 (Generally) (SL)

5.30 – Escaria Ten – 1pt each-way at (Bet365, Paddy Power) (SL)

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All Images Copyright ©JTW Equine Images. All Rights Reserved, please ask them if you wish to use the images. http://tomwilliams275.wixsite.com/jtwequineimages

PREVIEW: The Cheltenham Festival (Thursday)

Paisley Park will attempt to defend his crown in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

1.30 – The Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m3f168y

2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen has landed back-to-back Grade 1 victories at Limerick and Leopardstown respectively and a third Cheltenham Festival success at the ripe old age of 12 would undoubtedly test the foundations of Cheltenham’s relatively new modifications.

The immensely popular ‘machine’ is 3-3 over fences and he displayed grit and determination to hold off the younger legs of his stablemate Easy Game, who had defeated high-class stablemate Allaho last time out, at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

This looks a fairly hot race on paper and Faugheen will need to jump slickly and travel kindly in order to prevail. However, clearly his engine and will to win remain intact and a bold showing looks highly likely.

Such is the death of the talent pool at Closutton, the Irish Champion trainer can also call upon dual Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon, who boasts Cheltenham Festival form figures of 222 having first chased home Labaik in the 2017 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The enigmatic eight-year-old has taken fences well and he actually clocked a marginally quicker time than Notebook in the previous day’s Grade 1 when getting off the mark at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Many from within the Mullins camp feel that an extra half miles will eke out significant improvement in Melon, and if that does indeed prove to be the case then he could easily go very close given his liking for the track.

Bapaume, who showed a real aptitude for jumping fences at Naas over Christmas, has plenty of class on his day and could easily outperform market expectations if returning to the form of his Naas romp.

Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase scorer Itchy Feet and Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase victor Mister Fisher are likely to spearhead the home team and they both hold sound claims given their achievements this winter.

Olly Murphy’s six-year-old effortlessly landed the odds at Leicester in December and again impressed when defeating Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase scorer Midnight Shadow at Sandown, which provided prominent owners Kate and Andrew Brookes a maiden Grade 1 victory.

The talented son of Cima De Triomphe stayed-on resolutely to place third in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and he app read to relish the extra yardage when victorious at Sandown. He did hang right when asked for his effort in Esher. However, he still ran out an impressive winner on the day and he rates a big player in this race given his sound jumping and potent turn of foot.

The latter recorded a cosy one and a quarter lengths success over the well regarded Good Boy Bobby over the Marsh course and distance at the International Meeting in December – prior to dropping back in trip and displaying a good range of gears at Doncaster in January.

The Seven Barrows inmate has shown himself to be a good jumper thus far and he would undoubtedly be a big player if Nico De Boinville can track those who will want to make this a real test of stamina and unleash his mount with a strong challenge after safely negotiating the last.

Midnight Shadow enters calculations by virtue of his course and distance success in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase – albeit he looked well held prior to the departure yesterday’s RSA Chase winner Champ.

Samcro was comfortably brushed aside by Faugheen at Limerick and he arguably has plenty to prove given his lacklustre finishing efforts.

Indeed, he has looked a shadow of the horse that dominated the novice hurdles ranks and ultimately landed the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2018. However, it is interesting to see that he has undergone wind surgery since Christmas, which may help him to see out his races much better. And there have certainly been much more positive vibes emanating from the Emerald Isle in recent weeks.

Dual Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Reserve Tank landed the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November, and the third placed Commanche Red boosted that form when landing a competitive handicap chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

That aside, it’s fair to say that the classy son of Jeremy has failed to live up to expectations thus far and his form, and indeed those closest to him, suggests that good ground may be the key to him. Therefore, he may be caught out tomorrow.

Annie Mc, who is 3-3 over fences, Tornado Flyer, who placed third behind Faugheen at the Dublin Racing Festival, Saint Sonnet, who was impressive on his British debut at Catterick, and Poker Play, who has plenty to find in ratings, complete the field.

SUMMARY:

There are strong vibes concerning Samcro following wind surgery. While success for Faugheen would undoubtedly test the foundations of Cheltenham’s relatively new infrastructure. However, preference is for course and distance scorer MISTER FISHER, who will represent the bang in-form Nicky Henderson. The promising six-year-old had the speed to land the Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase in January and, having already proven his stamina for this trip, he rates a big player with the drying ground in his favour.

1. Mister Fisher 2. Faugheen 3. Itchy Feet

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2.10 – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m7f213y

However, they are clearly well found in the market and I am minded to take take them on with the progressive THIRD WIND, who landed a traditionally good qualifier at Wincanton on Boxing Day and looks fairly handicapped off a 4lbs higher mark.

Hughie Morrison’s six-year-old landed a good renewal of the Grade 3 EBF Final at Sandown last season, with subsequent Aintree Grade 1 fourth One For Rosie and triple Grade 2 runner-up Champagne Well filling the places. While the re-opposing Sandiburg and progressive novice chaser On The Slopes were further back in eighth and tenth respectively.

Seventh in a well contested novice chase at Huntingdon in November – Third Wind travelled supremely well at Wincanton and was only shaken up to see off the six-timer-seeking Jatiluwih, who was sent off a 5/2 favourite.

That success suggested that a step up to 3 miles would suit the Shirocco gelding well. Therefore he is well worth chancing at a double figure price.

1. Third Wind 2. Sire Du Berlais 3. The Storyteller

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2.50 – Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f127y

A Plus Tard proved himself to be a graded horse running in a handicap when making a mockery of the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase last March, and the Cheveley Park Stud owned six-year-old looks tailor-made for the demands of this Grade 1 contest.

Henry De Bromhead’s classy operator put his fitness to good use when defeating subsequent Dublin Chase scorer Chacun Pour Soi in Grade 1 company at Christmas. That victory was achieved over the minimum distance. However, this race has been the plan since the season began, which is understandable given the manner of his Festival success 12 months ago.

This will be no penalty kick given the strength of opposition. However, he is arguably open to further improvement while many of his rivals have already reached their peak. Therefore he is undoubtedly a very strong contender.

The challenge is led by fellow Irish raider Min, who boasts Cheltenham Festival form figures of 225.

The Ricci Ricci owned nine-year-old may have won both the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and 2018 Champion Chase but for the presence of the all conquering Altior, and he warmed up for this race with a wholly respectable runner-up effort behind Stablemate Chacun Pour Soi at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

Perhaps better known for his exploits over 2 miles – the Walk In The Park gelding has landed the last two renewals of the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase and is therefore fully effective over this intermediate trip – as he again demonstrated when running out a hugely impressive 20 lengths winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree last spring.

Min rates the one that they all have to beat on official ratings.

Defending champion Frodon raised the roof 12 months ago and he bounced back to form with a cosy success in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January.

The popular eight-year-old wasn’t suited by the dolling-off of fences at Aintree in October and there’s no shame in finishing third, albeit beaten 25 lengths, by Gold Cup contenders Bristol De Mai and Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.

Paul Nicholls’ gutsy campaigner, who will be partnered by his trusty companion Bryony Frost once more, boasts from figures of 011502111 (over fences) at Cheltenham and he should not be underestimated in spite of the strength of opposition.

Last year’s gallant runner-up Aso found his stamina stretched in both the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and King George VI Chase at Kempton, and it would be no surprise should he outperform market expectations now dropping back in trip.

The deeply progressive Riders Onthe Storm has followed the blue print of Frodon and will arrive a Cheltenham on the back of Grade 1 success in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

Purchased for just £50,000 during the summer, Riders Onthe Storm was a faller in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase last March (his only previous visit to Cheltenham). However, the form of his facile success at Aintree in November has been boosted by both the runner-up Cepage and third placed Oldgrangewood (x2), and he has more than eared his place in this Grade 1 contest.

The only negative may be the extremely hard race that he endured at Ascot four weeks ago, which is less than ideal heading into a competitive Grade 1 contest at the Cheltenham Festival.

Saint Calvados came out on the wrong side of a three-way photo – that went the way of the aforementioned Oldgrangewood – over this course and distance on New Years Day. While Duc De Genievres, who won a weak Arkle 12 months ago, won a competitive novice chase over two and a half miles last February, but was soundly beaten (8/9) in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown in December.

Both possess plenty of ability . However, they would require career best efforts in order to feature.

Shattered Love, who landed the Marsh Novices’ Chase over this course and distance in 2018, completes the field.

SUMMARY:

Last years victor Frodon won’t give in without a fight. However, the drying ground is not in his favour. While Min, who looked special over this trip at Aintree last year, boasts solid Cheltenham Festival form. However, Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore have already landed two Grade 1 victories this week and A PLUS TARD can bring up the hat-trick. Chacun Pour Soi franked the form of his Grade 1 success at Leopardstown when scoring at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, and the manner of his success at this meeting 12 months suggests that this course and distance will bring out the very best in him.

1. A Plus Tard 2. Min 3. Frodon

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3.30 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m7f213y

This race undoubtedly revolves around reigning champion Paisley Park, who last tasted defeat in the 2018 Albert Bartlett and simply hasn’t looked back since.

Emma Lavelle’s stable star hit his customary flat spot before surging clear to record an impressive two and three quarter lengths success 12 months ago, and he did the same when crushing to success in the Cleeve Hurdle on Trial’s Day.

His nearest rival that day was Summerville Boy, who attempted to make all and ran well in defeat. However, Paisley Park more than had his measure after jumping the last and the fact that the former Supreme Novices’ Hurdle scorer is prominent in the betting here displays just how far Paisley Park is ahead of his opposition.

Tom George’s charge had the reopposing Emitom well behind when landing the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle on New Years Day, and does boast a particularly good record in the Cotswolds. Therefore he has solid each-way claims.

Lisnagar Oscar ran a huge race to place third on that occasion and he could easily outrun his price once more. While L’Ami Serge, who was four places further back in seventh, often travels well but finds little off the bridle.

Both hold place claims at best.

Emitom was making his belated seasonal reappearance that day and was undoubtedly in need of the run. It is also no surprise that he was outpaced over the two and a half mile trip.

Second behind RSA Chase winner Champ in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last spring, the Warren Greatrex trained six-year-old didn’t jump a blade of grass on New Years Day. However, he left that run behind him when bolting up in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock four weeks ago, and he is most certainly an intriguing contender if in the same form tomorrow.

City Island proved 2 lengths too good for the aforementioned Champ when landing the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago, and the Martin Brassil trained seven-year-old reverts to hurdles following an underwhelming spell over fences.

The Court Cave gelding is yet to compete beyond 2m5f. However, this race was mooted as a potential target last spring and he possesses the ability to run well if seeing out the trip.

2018 victor Penhill has already had four runs this season and has slowly been coming to the boil.

Beaten no fewer than 20 lengths on his first three outings – the 2017 Albert Bartlett winner was beaten only 4 lengths in the Grade 2 Boyle Hurdle at Navan last month. However, his profile is regressive and he would need to bounce back to his very best – and perhaps even better – in order to play a role here.

Apple’s Jade had Bacardys back in fourth when landing the Grade 1 Frank award Memorial Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The former has looked well below her brilliant best this winter and was pulled up behind Benie Des Dieux in the Galmoy Hurdle in January. While the latter, who defeated the multiple Grade 1 winning mare on his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle, is capable of hitting the frame on a going day, but is virtually impossible to predict.

Ronald Pump bumped into a deeply progressive rival, to whom he conceded 29lbs, at Leopardstown over Christmas and he does rate an intriguing contender.

The winner that day, namely Treacysenniscorthy, had won both of his previous starts and indeed his only subsequent start. Therefore the form looks rock solid and he could easily run well at a double figure price.

Talented rogue West Approach enjoyed a productive first half of the season over fences. However, he was no match for the aforementioned Emitom when placing fourth in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.

That said, he does go particularly well in the Cotswolds and he could easily improve on last year’s ninth placed finish.

The Jam Man, who was narrowly beaten by the hugely progressive Treacyenniscorthy at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, and Tobefair, who was a gallant runner-up in the Pertemps Final 12 months ago, could easily run respectable races. While Ask Dillon and Donna’s Diamond need to find improvement in order to feature.

SUMMARY:

It’s virtually impossible to oppose PAISLEY PARK on all known form. However, Ronald Pump finished well behind a hugely progressive rival, whom received 29lbs and is now rated 19lbs higher, at Leopardstown in December and he boasts a rating that would make him competitive in this contest. Summerville Boy can full the frame.

1. Paisley Park 2. Ronald Pump 3. Summerville Boy

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4.10 – Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m4f127y

Imperial Aura’s success in the Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase on Tuesday was a huge form boost for SIMPLY THE BETTS, and he therefore boasts strong claims in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.

Harry Whittington’s progressive novice gave Kim Bailey’s charge 4lbs and a one and a half length beating over this course and distance in January, and the third placed On The Slopes adds further substance to that form by virtue of his comfortable 5 lengths success at Kempton last month.

Simply The Betts also defeated a subsequent dual scorer in the form of Espoir De Guye on his chasing debut at Chepstow in November and, like the aforementioned A Plus Tard, he is far superior going left-handed.

Track, trip and ground are obviously in his favour and he will compete off a nice racing weight of 11-4. Therefore he looks the one to beat given his scope for further improvement.

1. Simply The Betts 2. Deyrann De Carjac 3. Ben Dundee

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4.50 – Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m179y

Minella Melody has to concede 5lbs to many of her rivals and may lack a gear or two over the minimum trip – albeit she has the beating of some of these already. Floressa also has to concede weight but is of interest given how well she acquitted herself againt vastly more experienced opposition when placing third behind Lady Buttons in Grade 2 company at Doncaster. However, preference is for last year’s runner-up CONCERTISTA, who ran an eye-catching race to place third behind yesterday’s Coral Cup runner-up Black Tears in a valuable handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. The chestnut daughter of Nathaniel made her hurdling debut in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and Willie Mullins landed this race with a second season novice in the form of Let’s Dance in 2017. The drying ground will be to her liking and a bold bid is expected.

1. Concertista 2. Floressa 3. Minella Melody

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5.30 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (Class 2) 3m2f

The concluding Kim Muir Challenge Cup may not be a Grade 1 contest, however, Henry De Bromhead has another fine chance in the form of PLAN OF ATTACK, who will be partnered by three time point-to-point champion jockey Barry O’Neill.

The progressive seven-year-old ran a career best race when placing third in the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and he remains open to further improvement after just four starts over fences.

Plan Of Attack defeated the 144 rated The Hollow Ginge on his penultimate outing at Aintree, and it is interesting that Barry O’Neill was in the saddle for the Court Cave gelding’s for his first two starts over fences – which suggests that this race has the the target for quite some time.

A mark of 140 looks fair and the drying ground will be to his liking. However, he has also won on soft ground so there are no concerns on that score.

Gordon Elliott has won the Pertemps Final in each of the last two years and he holds a strong hand once more with both The Stroryteller and defending champion Sire Su Berlais.

1. Plan Of Action 2. Le Breuil 3. Deise Aba

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SELECTIONS:

1.30 – Mister Fisher – 1pt win at 11/2 (Generally)

2.10 – Third Wind – 1pt each-way at 12/1 (Skybet)

2.50 – A Plus Tard – 2pt win at 7/4 (Generally)

3.30 – Ronald Pump w/o fav – 1pt each-way at 10/1 (Bet365)

4.10 – Simply The Betts – 2pt win at 4/1 (Ladbrokes)

4.50 – Concertista – 2pt win at 5/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)

5.30 – Plan Of Attack – 1pt each-way at 10/1 (Bet365, Ladbrokes)

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Image supplied by JTW Equine Images (JTWEquineImag).

All Images Copyright ©JTW Equine Images. All Rights Reserved, please ask them if you wish to use the images. http://tomwilliams275.wixsite.com/jtwequineimages