Chris Day takes an early look at the weekend markets and he has three ante-post bets for Cheltenham on Saturday.
1pt win The Hollow Ginge in 2.05 Cheltenham at 6/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes)
1pt win Clear The Runway in 3.15 Cheltenham at 9/2 (General)
1pt win An Tailliur in 3.50 Cheltenham at 8/1 (General)
1pt win Do Your Job in 2.40 Aintree at 5/1 (Coral)
With the sun setting on a terrific Flat season at Ascot last weekend it’s fitting that Cheltenham’s first meeting of the season takes place this Friday and Saturday.
There’ll be some informative novice action, particularly Friday’s maiden hurdle which has such a great tradition of throwing up Festival winners, but the betting action takes place on Saturday with some superb handicaps for which the track is so well known.
The one with the best betting shape is the 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Handicap Chase over 3 miles 1 furlong and reminds us that the Irish love to tackle our Saturday races all season now, not just in March.
From what I’ve seen in Ireland, True Faith has loads of ability and comes here on a hat-trick but he has made mistakes in winning his last two races which he would be lucky to survive here.
That said, if Henry de Bromhead thinks he’s ready for this, I wouldn’t want to argue but he’s already favourite so passed over.
Kim Bailey, who usually has his horses ready to go quite early, has Does He Know entered, a horse who won three times as a novice and he must be respected on ground he enjoys. He can go well fresh and a win here would presumably put him spot on for the Coral Trophy.
At the other end of the weights, Sam England’s Kinondo Kwetu has won his last five races and didn’t look like his improvement was coming to an end when a comfortable Uttoxeter winner last Friday, but he’ll need to show a different side to win this race which will be completely different to anything he’s run in before.
Mister Malarky is still only nine despite seeming to have been around forever and could go well here from a mark of 147 although perhaps Ascot could be where he is heading next and Captain Cattistock also comes here in top form so this is clearly quite a deep race.
Gordon Elliott clearly needs to be taken seriously whenever he visits Prestbury Park and his Tullybeg could have plenty of mileage left from his mark of 136, although he was beaten favourite at this meeting last year over hurdles off a 4lb higher mark.
Elliott won this race last year with Definite Plan, who is also entered again from just a 2lb higher mark although he has shown very little since.
Last year he beat THE HOLLOW GINGE by a head getting 6lb but this year will be 8lb worse off and I think there are solid grounds for backing the Twiston-Davies nine year old to turn the tables.
The yard had a fantastic season last time around but their record at the Cheltenham meetings was superb and he’s certain to have had this race as his aim having regularly shown good form on his seasonal debut at this time of year.
No jockey rode the big handicap chases round here better than Sam last year and I find it hard to not see him running very well here off a 10lb lower mark than last season as a horse who has also finished fourth in a Ladbrokes Trophy.
As always there’s a great entry for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle with last year’s winner, Kansas City Chief, primed to defend his crown after a sighter round Wetherby last week.
He’s 13, though, and 12lb higher than last season where he won here again in December before going in again at Plumpton in March.
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However he runs I’d be surprised to see him able to contain the Jonjo O’Neill trained six year old Authorized gelding AN TAILLIUR, who is a winning machine having won seven of his last nine completed starts and who will presumably be having just this run before reappearing in the spring as he’s not really a winter ground horse.
The stable have really been going well in the last week and it seems likely that he’ll be very hard to beat with loads of untapped potential still to come.
Another horse who won on this card 12 months ago, Before Midnght, will try to defend his crown from an 11lb higher mark after a very good season last year and he could improve again for the Sam Thomas stable in the 888Sport Handicap Chase over the minimum trip.
Dual course winner, Editeur Du Gite, who won at the November and December meetings, finds himself on a lofty mark of 153 but he wears his heart on his sleeve and will ensure whatever beats him knows it’s been in the race for a stable who also have a likely sort in Nassalam entered here.
I’ll take a chance here, though, on the Laura Morgan-trained CLEAR THE RUNWAY, who began his current run off a 44lb lower mark at Musselburgh in February. There have been signs on a few occasions during his seven victories of real brilliance and I think we could see a big run at the weekend with something still in hand.
The other big chase of the weekend, Aintree’s Jewson St Helen’s Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase, has a rich history and Paul Nicholls will be expecting big things of Hitman this year, a horse he holds in high regard.
I think Kempton on Boxing Day could be his big aim and he’d therefore need to go very close here from his mark of 159 over a course where he’s twice run well in Grade Ones at the National meeting.
He obviously sets the standard on that form but DO YOUR JOB, who goes well fresh and also nearly won a Grade One here as a novice hurdler, will be a big opponent in receipt of 13lb.
He looked really good in winning at Ayr’s big meeting in April and won at Warwick first time up so there is plenty to like about his chances on Sunday.
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