Few surprises in the entries for the Cheltenham Festival handicaps which were announced on Wednesday. We put up Good Risk At All – NRNB – for the Coral Cup earlier in the week at 8/1 and a 10lbs rise looks fair for his fluent Ascot success at the weekend. He is not guaranteed a run from a mark of 137 but he has the Martin Pipe on the Friday as a back up.
Soft ground at Huntingdon for this afternoon’s six-race card I do feel Manucci and Hillfinch will take plenty of beating but they make little appeal at their forecast odds.
Step To The Top (1.00pm) had useful Bumper form foe Noel Williams and she had not been asked a serious question when coming down two out at Market Rasen on her handicap debut when well supported earlier in the month.
The selection is trained in north Yorkshire by Craig Lidster who is still looking for his first winner under rules, but I do feel the selection will appreciate underfoot conditions and Tom O’Brien, who was in the plate for her best run in Bumpers, returns to the saddle this afternoon.
Pilsdon Pen is a worthy market leader for the inform Jeremy Scott stable, but I do expect a big run from the northern raider who remains potentially well treated.
Recommendation: Step Up To The Top at 3/1 with Betfred
Heavy ground at Sedgefield and Gameface (2.20pm) has his first start for 282-days for Ben Haslam and is chasing a hat-trick having scored over hurdles at the Durham track and over fences at Hexham back in the spring. He looks a dour stayer and should appreciate this marathon trip and it is worth noting that he was only beaten half-a-length by dual Festival winner Monkfish in a point-to-point in his native Ireland.
The selection has no history of going well fresh, but he looks a thorough stayer and there are more races to be won with the 8-y-old going forward. The market should give us valuable clues as to stable expectations, but I am a big admirer of Haslam who does so well with castoffs from bigger yards for patron and leading owner JP McManus.
Recommendation: Gameface at 7/2 with 888sport
Passing Secrets (3.30pm) remains a maiden after eight starts and is proving frustrating to follow having finished runner up in his last three starts but he is only 2lbs higher than when runner up to subsequent winner Rostello on his penultimate start.
Trainer Tom Gretton has booked champion jockey elect Brian Hughes for his 6-y-old who steps back up in trip this afternoon. The selection receives weight from his six rivals and will have few better opportunities to lose his maiden tag.
Recommendation: Passing Secrets 7/2 with William Hill
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publication.