Known to those of a certain age (myself included) as the Mackeson Gold Cup from 1960 until 1995, Cheltenham’s first major handicap chase of the national hunt season on Saturday is now sponsored by Paddy Power for a second time, following a spell from 2003 to 2016.
The 2m 4f Premier Handicap is one of a quartet of races covered on ITV’s main channel and we have tips for all four races along with a couple of Listed All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifiers from Lingfield. With a fairly dry forecast, the going at Prestbury Park is expected to ride on the soft side of good.
“Tip of the Day” - Missed The Cut (3.10pm Lingfield) - 5/2 with Ladbrokes
George Boughey’s Royal Ascot winner should be suited by this all-weather surface and can get back to winning ways after failing to handle the soft ground at Deauville last time.
1.45pm Cheltenham, 2m - Banbridge
A fascinating Grade 2 novices chase in which the only contender to make his chasing debut is the Paul Nicholls-trained Monmiral, although Pentland Hills was not asked to jump a fence when walking over at Huntingdon two weeks ago.
Jumping is likely to be the major factor in the outcome of this early two mile Arkle Trial with the vote going to Joseph O’Brien’s runner BANBRIDGE. The Doyen gelding won four of his seven starts over hurdles, including the Martin Pipe at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and looks the type to make up into an even better chaser.
A below-par run at Aintree’s Grand National meeting was put down to the horse taking exception to being crowded. There was no danger of that on Banbridge’s first run over fences when the six-year-old never saw another horse, coming home on his own after making all of the running at Gowran Park last month. Similar tactics are likely to be employed at Prestbury Park and if the selection jumps as well as he did on that occasion, should take plenty of beating.
2.20pm Cheltenham, 2m 4f - Coole Cody (Each Way) (Longshot)
To say that the Evan Williams-trained COOLE CODY (e.w.) is a standing dish at Prestbury Park would be an understatement as only one of the 11-year-old’s last 14 runs came at a venue other than the home of national hunt racing.
Winner of this race in 2020 and still in with a big chance of recording back-to-back victories 12 months ago when disputing the lead 2 out only to take a crashing fall. However, the mount of Adam Wedge gained ample compensation four months later when running out a convincing winner of the Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Plate at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Dubai Destination gelding comes alive at this time of the year and despite a below-par effort over hurdles here last month, it would be no surprise to see Coole Cody return to that kind of form in a race that clearly suits.
Of course potential dangers come thick and fast, in particular Irish raider French Dynamite, David Pipe’s Umbrigado, Midnight River from a stable just running into form and if fit enough following a break of 19 months, the Kim Bailey-trained Happygolucky.
2.35pm Lingfield, 6f - Lucky Man (Each Way)
Ratings suggest that this 6f Listed sprint concerns Ayr Gold Cup winner Summerghand and Irish challengers Logo Hunter and Harry’s Bar. However, at a double-figure price and with some bookmakers going four places, the Richard Spencer-trained LUCKY MAN (e.w.) makes some each-way appeal.
With a mark of 96, the three-year-old has several pounds to make up on most of the field. But David Egan’s mount has done nothing but improve throughout the year, rising by 23lb since early January. An excellent fourth in the Ayr Gold Cup was followed by another decent effort in a 19-runner handicap at York on his most recent start.
The last time the son of Kodi Bear ran on an artificial surface resulted in a narrow victory for Lucky Man over today’s course and distance back in March. The each-way selection has improved significantly since then and is fancied to cope with the step up in class.
2.55pm Cheltenham, 3m - Annual Invictus (Each Way)
After winning two of his first three starts over fences, things didn’t go according to plan for the Chris Gordon-trained ANNUAL INVICTUS (e.w.) over the bigger obstacles. Rated 5lb lower over hurdles, the return to this sphere could prove a smart move about a horse who would take the world of beating if reproducing his fourth place in Newbury’s 2021 Betfair Hurdle with the likes of Buzz, Guard Your Dreams, Milkwood and Glory And Fortune behind.
The stable is enjoying an excellent start to the season and Tom Cannon’s mount, 3 from 6 over hurdles, can win a race which looks less competitive than is usually the case at this meeting. Paul Nicholls’ Shearer is on a hat-trick but probably beat very little when winning here last month, leaving Dan Skelton’s Padleyourowncanoe as the one most likely to trouble the selection.
3.10pm Lingfield, 1m 2f - Missed The Cut (Nap)
With an all-weather pedigree (sire Quality Road won four Grade 1′s on Dirt) George Boughey’s MISSED THE CUT should have no trouble running on an artificial surface for the first time and could prove the answer to this 1m 2f Listed contest.
Jim Crowley’s mount was one of the most impressive winners at this year’s royal meeting, pulling over four lengths clear of his rivals in the Golden Gate Stakes. The three-year-old was possibly unsuited by the soft ground when fifth at Deauville on his most recent start but can put that run behind him by getting his all-weather career off to a winning start.
Ballydoyle’s Bolshoi Ballet has to be a big danger, while best of those at a bigger price may be possible pacesetter Majestic Dawn.
3.30pm Cheltenham, 2m 5f - Unanswered (Next Best)
Nicky Henderson’s Wiseguy could well have been let in lightly on his handicap debut off a mark of 119. Nico de Boinville’s mount took the scalp of Henry Daly’s talented Hillcrest in a Doncaster bumper before breaking his duck at the second attempt over hurdles when winning a four-runner maiden on Town Moor last December. Despite the Seven Barrows stable hitting form recently, the promising six-year-old is passed over in favour of one of the Irish raiders.
Right at the foot of the weights, Tony Martin’s UNANSWERED returns to hurdling following a number of decent efforts on the Flat, including when fifth of 23 in a 1m 6f Curragh handicap last month. The last time the gelding ran over hurdles, the mount of Peter Carberry pulled over eight lengths clear of his 18 rivals in a Punchestown handicap back in May.
While the five-year-old runs off a much higher mark on this occasion, the selection still makes plenty of appeal from a stable always to be respected with their runners at this meeting.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.