Ben Linfoot guides you through a superb Saturday at Cheltenham on Doncaster, where Festival trials and good handicaps dominate the ITV agenda.
1pt win Torn And Frayed in 1.55 Cheltenham at 8/1 (bet365)
1pt win Mahler Mission in 2.45 Doncaster at 6/1 (General)
1pt e.w Janika in 3.20 Doncaster at 25/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5)
A terrific day’s action at Cheltenham and Doncaster, complete with Festival trials and quality handicaps galore, begins on ITV with the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase at Prestbury Park.
It’s over the extended 2m4f trip, so obviously Coole Cody is in there for Evan Williams and this grand horse will no doubt attempt to make all under Adam Wedge once again.
At 11-years-old and off a mark of 147, though, things are tougher and there are a few more lightly-raced horses towards the bottom of the weights that are of interest.
Jacamar and Eden Du Houx will have their supporters, but preference is for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ TORN AND FRAYED.
The eight-year-old ran well here in October on his chasing debut in a novice handicap off 2lb higher then chased home Faivour and My Drogo at Ascot and back at Cheltenham, respectively, before he got stuck in the mud at Haydock.
He’s acted well at Cheltenham on both occasions and he might get the perfect tow into this sitting just off the shoulder of Coole Cody, so he appeals most off a light weight.
MIRANDA goes for back-to-back wins in the Sky Bet Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster and she can retain her title in the Grade 2 contest.
Even with a penalty she’s the best in at these weights and she’s look better than ever this season, finishing second to Molly Ollys Wishes at Wetherby before winning a Ludlow mares’ handicap off a mark of 143 in December.
She bolted up in this race last year, the better ground is of no hindrance and it looks like her season has revolved around this contest, so the short prices about Paul Nicholls’ horse look justified.
Sent off 3/1 favourite for the King George when last seen, it’s D-day for CHANTRY HOUSE in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
Nicky Henderson put his laboured effort at Christmas down to the Kempton factor, but maybe he was just unprepared for such a blood and thunder contest on the back of one run in a two-runner race in open company.
These are much calmer waters, we know he handles the conditions well and his Festival win in what was the Marsh Novices’ Chase, now Turners, which has worked out well, is evidence of his talent – especially relative to this company.
Simply The Betts is the danger, but the ground might ask questions of him and he’s unproven over the trip, so this really is a very good chance for Chantry House to get his season back on track.
John McConnell has a tremendous record with his hurdlers in the UK, winning 23 from 80 at 29%, so any raider of his has to be on the radar and that is certainly the case with MAHLER MISSION in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster.
This is his first ever Doncaster runner and he could well plunder this Grade 2 prize with this talented six-year-old, who absolutely bolted up at Sedgefield a couple of weeks ago.
The exciting thing about this former pointer is that he’s bred for further, so going up to three miles could well unluck some serious improvement.
He probably has a little bit to find on the bare form, but given that scope for improvement - and his trainer’s record on these shores – he’s worth a bet.
Of all the trials on Trials Day, the Welsh Marches Stallions At Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle has been the best.
Eight of the last 15 Stayers’ Hurdle winners ran in the Cleeve on their previous start, so this Grade 2 Cheltenham prize is well worth watching closely ahead of the Festival.
This year’s renewal looks at the mercy of CHAMP, who looked better than ever when returning with a controlled win in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last month.
He looks the best of these at this time, with both Paisley Park and Lisnagar Oscar looking unlikely to recapture past glories given their most recent form.
It looks a cracking renewal of the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster with Nicky Henderson’s Fusil Raffles heading the betting following his good fourth in the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham last time out.
Cap Du Nord looks dangerous, too, off a 10lb lower mark than when he was third in this last year, while Kapcorse is dead interesting if he has withstood the rigours of training after all his issues.
However, at the prices, I’d rather have an each-way play on Henderson’s second string, JANIKA, who looks big at 25s with the excellent Ben Bromley taking 7lb off.
Already looking well treated off 148 before taking into account the jockey allowance, Janika shaped nicely on his first start since wind surgery at Cheltenham and he could come on plenty for that.
Rated 166 nine starts ago, the handicapper has given him a big chance and three miles on good ground at a track like Doncaster maximises his chances of staying the trip.
The ITV action concludes with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Hillcrest looks the one to beat here on the back of an impressive win at Cheltenham last time out.
He’s a big horse who relished the soft ground that day, though, and quicker conditions make him vulnerable to a rival with more speed.
Alan King’s NORTH LODGE could be that horse after he knuckled down to win over 2m1f off a moderate gallop on debut at Aintree, where he very much shaped as though going up in distance would help him improve significantly.
The form looks good, too, with the third home, Richmond Lake, winning at Sedgefield subsequently before chasing home Jonbon at Haydock last weekend.
Published at 1515 GMT on 28/01/22
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