1.30 JLT NOVICES’ CHASE
Vautour – Mightily impressive novice hurdler last season culminating in easy victories at Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals and after smooth start to chasing career at Navan disappointed in Leopardstown Grade 1. Confidence booster over same course the following month and probably best to ignore that one blip. A tremendous chasing prospect.
Ptit Zig – Possibly not as good a hurdler as Vautour but some high-class form all the same including a respectable sixth in last year’s Champion Hurdle. A faultless start to his chasing career including impressive victories at Ascot and Cheltenham before falling when taking on more experienced rivals in the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase. Apart from that one mistake jumping has been very impressive and just like Vautour another exciting prospect.
Advised at 6-1 in the ante-post market - https://www.freebets.com/tips/16552/ptit-zig-looks-great-value-for-jlt-novices-chase-at-cheltenham-festival
Apache Stronghold – Good novice hurdler ( three and a half lengths behind Vautour at Punchestown ) and two from four in novice chases finishing second in the other two behind a couple of good prospects in Don Poli and Valseur Lido. Gained revenge on the latter with a hard-fought Leopardstown Grade 1 win last time and sure to expose any faults in the front two.
Valseur Lido – Closely matched with Apache Stronghold where the score is one all and possibly not at best when going down by half a length to that horse last month. Only tenth in last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle so yet to prove his ability to act on the course.
Irish Saint – Stablemate of Ptit Zig and not as good over both hurdles or fences to date and will need the principles to underperform to have a chance.
Splash Of Ginge – Betfair Hurdle winner last year and mixed form over fences this season. Looked the only possible danger to the eventual winner when falling in a valuable Cheltenham handicap in December before taking a similar race on New Year’s Day on the course. Probably best of the bigger priced runners.
Conclusion: Hard to look past Vautour and Ptit Zig although Valseur Lido looked very impressive when winning at Fairyhouse and result could boil down to which horse puts in the best round of jumping on the day. Despite falling at Ascot Ptit Zig has looked a natural and is taken to win a fascinating contest.
Recommendation - 1 Point win Ptit Zig 7-2 ( Generally ) Already advised 2 Points win 6-1 ante-post
2.05 PERTEMPS NETWORK FINAL
Call The Cops – Looks well-in with 5lb penalty following smooth Doncaster victory last month although could have been flattered as only six runners and 6-4 favourite finished tailed off.
Edeymi – From the shrewd stable of Tony Martin and finished an eye-catching fourth at Musselburgh last month off the same mark. Looks to have been laid out for this for some time.
Regal Encore – Form has been in and out since finishing runner up in 2013 Cheltenham Bumper but stepped up in trip to win Exeter qualifier last month and this course and trip could be just what the seven-year-old needs.
Big Easy – Winner of the Cesarewitch last year and consistent form over hurdle since without winning and may be in grip of handicapper but looks sure to be thereabouts.
Brother Brian – closely matched with Call The Cops on Kempton form last November and looked out of depth behind Rock On Ruby in Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle the following month. Lightly-raced and probably not seen the best of yet.
Dawalan – Started the season racing off a mark of 130 so despite winning last
two faces a difficult task 20lb higher and may struggle to confirm Musselburgh
form with Edeymi on 8lb worse terms.
Join The Clan – 17lb higher than when winning at Warwick in January although did follow up at Wetherby despite being put up 11lb and in the form of his life for a stable who won this with Gold Cup hope Holywell in 2013.
Unique De Cotte – Landed gamble with gutsy win at Cheltenham’s Open meeting and proved next disappointing run all wrong with an easy victory at Ascot latest. Up 10lb for that win but would have struggled to get in with anything less, and another leading player for owner JP McManus.
Conclusion: The Tony Martin-trained Edeymi is respected for a stable that loves to plunder the festival handicaps but owner JP McManus has a great chance of taking this. His Unique De Cotte and Join The Clan are both capable of going close but the selection is Regal Encore who looked a different horse for the step up in trip at Exeter in a qualifier last month.
Recommendation – 1 Point each-way Regal Encore 11-1 ( Skybet )
2.40 RYANAIR CHASE
Balder Succes – Started the season as a possible for Champion Chase but has looked vulnerable over minimum trip and much better since stepping up with wins at Kempton and Ascot. Yet to prove this is his course however.
Don Cossack – Four from four this season and leading Irish challenger but will find this much different from winning small field races on soft ground and opposable at current price despite being respected.
Eduard – Talented northern raider who may not have been at best in Huntingdon’s Peterborough Chase but very progressive otherwise as when running Gold Cup hope Many Clouds close at Carlisle when trying to give that horse 6lb with Holywell well back in third.
Foxrock – Supplemented for this following creditable second in Irish Hennessy and plenty of improvement to come from this seven-year-old.
Hidden Cyclone – Switched from Champion Chase as connections feel last year’s runner up can go one better with the defection of the last two winners, Cue Card and Dynaste, and while the gelding has plenty in his favour this looks an open renewal.
Johns Spirit – Stepped up from decent form in handicaps to finish sixth in King George and while a bit of a course specialist may just lack the class to win at this level.
Taquin Du Seuil – this winner of the JLT last year has been out of sorts for most of the season but should relish the better ground and if in the same form as 12 months ago has big chance.
Our ante-post tip at 16-1 - https://www.freebets.com/tips/16793/cheltenham-ante-post-tip-taquin-ryanair-value
Wonderful Charm – No show in Kempton’s King George on Boxing Day and while overall form does not look good enough capable of going well at a big price.
Ma Filleule – Subject of sustained support over the last couple of weeks and found only Holywell too good in handicap at last year’s festival but no reason why she should be as short as 4-1 and a likely drifter on the day.
Conclusion: A wide-open renewal in which many can be given a chance on one form line or another and while respected the principles are passed over from a value perspective. Our ante-post tip Taquin Du Seuil may still represent value at 14-1 but a chance is taken with northern challenger Eduard who is more than capable of holding his own in this company.
Recommendation – 1 Point each-way Eduard 16-1 ( Generally )
Already advised ante-post 1 Point each-way Taquin Du Seuil 16-1
3.20 LADBROKES WORLD HURDLE
Zarkandar – Fourth behind More Of That last year and winner of French Grade 1 over three mile in November. Just run out of it by Reve De Sivola when looking sure to win jumping the last and likely to be ridden with more restraint this time.
Saphir Du Rheu – Back over smaller obstacles to win Cleeve Hurdle after falling in Kempton Chase on Boxing Day. Still unexposed but plenty short at current price of what he has achieved so far.
Lieutenant Colonel – Chasing career put on back boiler after failing to justify favouritism at Naas in November. Appears a smart move as has gone on to win two Grade 1 hurdles, beating Jetson on both occasions but likely to find this much tougher.
Whisper – Another who disappointed on chasing debut and reverts to hurdling. Won at both Cheltenham and Aintree festivals last year but this will be much tougher than winning a Coral Cup off a mark of 153.
Un Temps Pour Tout – Four runs since coming from France and improved each time most recently when third in Cleeve Hurdle behind Saphir Du Rheu and Reve De Sivola looking like he would come on for the run. Haven’t seen the best of the six-year-old yet and one of several with a leading chance.
Monksland – Off the course for two years before encouraging comeback at Leopardstown in December. Followed that up with a narrow defeat by fellow rival Dedigout at Gowran Park. Asking a lot to win this after previous problems but hard to rule out completely.
Jetson – Progressed from being a decent staying handicapper to being on the fringe of Grade 1 level. Ground and course will suit and one of the most likely outsiders.
Blue Fashion – Only two runs for Nicky Henderson since coming from France but those were behind last year’s winner More Of That ( giving weight ) and Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen, finishing second both times. A massive player if the trip proves to be no problem.
Cole Harden – This thorough stayer is sure to be up with the pace from the word go but may be vulnerable from something with a bit more toe in the closing stages.
Conclusion: A wide-open renewal with doubts surrounding just about the whole field so could be worth chancing Blue Fashion who ran into two outstanding performers in his two British starts to date and would have a massive chance if staying the three mile trip.
Recommendation – 1 Point each-way Blue Fashion 18-1 ( Betway and Coral )
4.00 BROWN ADVISORY AND MERRIEBELLE STABLE PLATE
A competitive 24 runner two mile five furlong handicap in which the David Pipe-trained Monetaire is likely to be popular following two decent efforts towards the end of last year, ensuring he just makes the cut for this off a mark of 138. Buywise ran well to be fifth in Paddy Power Gold Cup and runs off the same mark here following a confidence-boosting win in a Ffos Las novice hurdle and has been laid out for this.
Un Ace ran well against decent novice Champagne West following a couple of easy wins and has the services of Tony McCoy while Attaglance could easily leave this season’s form behind on ground that will suit and for a stable that has hit form of late. At around the 33-1 mark it would be no surprise to see Aupcharlie, Dare Me and Champion Court run a lot better than their odds would suggest.
Conclusion: The stable of Malcolm Jefferson has been out of form for most of the season but has shown signs of a revival of late and if Attaglance could return to the kind of form that enabled him to win at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in 2012 he would take some beating off a mark of 141.
Recommendation – 1 Point each-way Attaglance 14-1 Racebets
4.40 FULKE WALWYN KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP HANDICAP CHASE
Another maximum field of 24 for this amateur riders handicap chase which probably lacks the class of many previous renewals. Top amateur Derek O’Connor has been booked for Irish raider Gold Bullet who is hard to weigh-up after just three chase starts but handicapper has taken no chances with a mark of 139. Masters Hill has been in excellent form of late but has risen 13lb since the beginning of the season while Champagne James has shown plenty of promise and has the services of Katy Walsh.
Tap Night has dropped 23lb since finishing second in an Ayr Grade 2 chase in 2013 and is dangerously well handicapped if returning to form, a staying on third at Cheltenham in January suggested the possibility. Grand Vision was third in the 2012 albert Bartlett and looked to be getting the hang of the chasing game with an excellent second to Sego Success last time and could go well from the front. The Nicky Henderson-trained Ericht has been waiting for this ground all season but has yet to race over this kind of trip while Benbens, Vintage Star and Benbane Head are all capable of going well at decent odds.
Conclusion: In a wide-open contest it could be worth chancing Ericht at 33-1 with most bookmakers. Unproven over the trip but runs off lowest mark since going chasing and will love the better ground. Irish challenger Champagne James and Katy Walsh are feared most.
Recommendation – 1 Point each-way Ericht 33-1 ( Generally )