What a superb card at Cheltenham for the opening of the Paddy Power meeting…
I have spent some time immersed in the form and my thoughts and have drawn up a series of tips. The Major needs some winners, the last couple of Saturday Sermons have delivered misery to the masses.
Here is my whirlwind tour of tomorrows Prestbury Park card… Good luck to those good folk I know are there. Mr McGerr I might see you for a sneaky quick one at the close. Krish and the gang… do some damage.
1.10 Amateur Riders Handicap Chase
£10k is not bad prize money for this handicap chase for amateur riders and highlights the sheer decency of this card.
I am always a fan of backing horses with good amateurs up and since we have the Gold Cup winning jockey riding an unexposed chaser, I expect Time for Spring to start clear favourite. A capable hurdler, his debut and breeding suggest he will go on as a chaser. That said his round of jumping at Carlisle was not perfect and Cheltenham will provide the usual searching test of jumping accuracy so overlooked.
You have to respect the Pipe yard targeting ten-year old Swing Bill back at this but I would be surprised if he can cope with his mark. He needs an upwards surge in form to be involved.
In second place on the selection stakes is in a field of potentials is the horse making the trip from County Cork, Barel of Laughs. This 7/1 shot is another who seems to be significantly on the improve and who knows if the best part of a stone up in the weights is enough to stop him. Joint second would be co-favourite Stewarts House whose last race was probably the best recent form on offer. Tim Vaughan is in decent touch with his string and 6/1 seems reasonable.
The tentative selection though is Bescot Springs who acts on most goings. He is one of those that the handicapper also has applied a prohibitive rise to on last running. I still think he is a very interesting 12/1 shot. His Kelso win was worth at least the 13lb rise and he had been performing well in novice events over both obstacles. He has some very interesting form in the book including a two length defeat to Mad Moose. Very interesting, make an investment.
1.45 2m Handicap Chase
Some great familiar names take part in this 2 mile handicap chase.
The race revolves around whether Crack Away Jack can return to old form. In his earlier days he looked top class but after a season on the sidelines, he seemed to have lost the plot last year.
I have lost track of the Nicholls inmates that have risen back to glory following the magic wind op and if it has the trick, 7/2 could be the best value you see for the rest of this year. The ground is in his favour and given he is shooting for a £25k pot, perhaps we should take the hint and invest. He is one of the old favourites of the Major but on balance best watched.
I am opting for second favourite Haventascoobydo at 8/1 though who is also suited by conditions and is surely a horse on the significant upgrade. The slight concern is his jumping has let him down on occasion and that is a trait in a horse that would normally get the Majors red line at Cheltenham but I am willing to give this one a chance on his third chase start.
Money for Oh Crick could be significant.
1.45 Cross Country
If you are there, get yourself over to the middle of the course, the cross country is a special watch from there. I am not a massive fan of the cross country but it is a decent spectacle up close.
The day Garde Champetre retires is the day he will stop being a thorn in the Majors side, I relentlessly back against this one but each time it is a folly.
Here I go again though…. At 12, he is knocking on. I also think Uncle Junior has decent enough form. Sod it 6/1 here I go.
2.55 Novice Hurdle
Steps to Freedom is a 6/4 hot favourite and the Major had a fantastic day at Aintree on Grand National Da when this raider won the hurdle at 12/1. He looks a very useful sort having proved his worth over obstacles already but there is a magic formula to follow here….
Novice Hurdle = Nicky Henderson.
I am all about Ericht at 5/1. It looked a decent Champion Bumper and so 6th in that sphere reads well. From a stable with an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdle stakes, it is telling that Henderson lines this one up for the Grade 2 feature of the opening day of the Paddy Power.
Have a chunky slice and send me the postcard.
3.30 Conditional Jockeys
Henderson has a fine record in this race and so Semi Colon has to be respected on that alone. The lightly raced mare will come into it on previous Cheltenham form, highly respected.
The Paul Nicholls Tigre Daron is also a danger to all and the Ditcheat team are in splendid form. Probably no fun in the price though in a race like this.
There are reasons that I believe Architrave is a well priced 25/1 and trainer form is one of them. For those that like a price, take a slice.
As tempted as I am by Architrave, it is 16/1 shot Suburban Bay I like the most. Stopped on a hat-trick bit at Worcester, I think there is still more improvement to come. He will like conditions and generally is a sound jumper. Alan Kings season has started fine….
4.05 Steel and Plate Novice Chase
They have saved the best for last. Cue Card versus Grand Crus… fascinating.
Is it a two horse race? Well Champion Court is a decent shout but given the way he walked through a few fences in the small field at Aintree latest, you would have to question the suitability of Cheltenham.
The only other runner of appeal is the entirely unexposed Dualla Lord who is bought into a race Nicholls once targeted with Denman. Dualla Lord would have to be very fine to take this though and is over-looked.
Zaynar seems in permanent decline although a glimmer of hope could be taken from the last run.
Of the two market favourites, I am going to opt with Cue Card. Grand Crus would be staying hurdle champion if it was not for the might Big Bucks, there is nothing wrong with that form!
Known chase form is a boost though for my selection Cue Card. Of the two, he is also the one probably to prefer the ground. 6/4, go large, go long and drink hard!
Good luck to all of you at Cheltenham tomorrow. I hope the tips pay off or at least give you some excitement.