Our racing has run the rule over this afternoon's card at Carlisle.
In the hope Carlisle passes a 7.30am precautionary inspection on Monday morning (fingers crossed!), here are my thoughts on all six races.
14:00 Racing UK Novices’ Hurdle, 2m3f61yds
Venetia Williams makes the long trip from her Herefordshire Base with Fionn Mac Cul and the five-year-old should go well in the opening novices’ hurdle. He’s a future 3m plus chaser but has already won over hurdles at Wetherby on his penultimate start. He was all out on that occasion, though, and I just prefer the chances of HOWABOUTNEVER, a dual winner over the smaller obstacles this winter and a highly creditable fifth in a decent Pertemps qualifier at Warwick last time. He doesn’t have much to find on the ratings, stays further than this and Toby Wheeler’s 10lb claim could prove decisive.
Back Howaboutnever @ 2/1 Ladbrokes
14:35 Racing UK Day Pass Just 10 Handicap Hurdle, 2m1f
Mixboy is the only recent winner in the field, having scored at Sedgefield on his penultimate start, and he perhaps found the drying ground against him when second off his revised mark at that track last time. That won’t be an excuse today but he is giving stacks of weight away and might struggle to give 16lb to VEINARD, who finished runner-up over track and trip just 12 days ago and is likely still improving. He was beaten a long way that day but the third Hartside has won since to frank the form. He gets a narrow vote, though this is not a race to go overboard on.
Back Veinard @ 7/2 Paddy Power
15:05 Weatherbys Hamilton Handicap Chase, 3m110yds
Both Alto Des Mottes and Courtown Oscar have been in cracking form this winter but have paid the price with career-high marks to overcome in the 3m handicap chase (3.05pm). They are not discounted lightly and seem sure to take a hand, but it’s hard to get away from WARRANTOR, who is Warren Greatrex’s only runner here this afternoon. The seven-year-old got no further than the first in a similar race at Catterick last time under today’s amateur pilot. However, he’s a well regarded sort who created a good impression when winning a beginners’ chase at Lingfield on heavy ground previously. The horse he beat, Jennys Surprise, won the Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown on Friday, so the form looks solid, and he’s worth another chance this afternoon with his stable 2-9 (22%) here since 2011.
Back Warrantor @ 9/2 BetVictor
15:40 Watch Racing UK On 3 Devices Handicap Hurdle, 2m3f61yds
A win for Veinard earlier would be a form boost for Pistol, who thrashed him by 26 lengths at the last meeting here. Even so, John Dixon’s charge has never been the most consistent of horses and off a stone higher mark he’s reluctantly swerved for SA SUFFIT, who has been showing he still has an appetite for the game at the age of 13 and has been given a chance by the handicapper. The veteran is able to run off a 4lb lower mark than when third in a better race at Ayr in January and his stable is in better form now, with three winners from a handful of runners in the last fortnight.
Any money for top weight Clondaw Kaempfer would be significant on his return to action after 319 days off, though the suspicion is he’s been lined up for another crack at the Coral Cup, a race he’s contested for the last couple of seasons, being well beaten on both occasions it has to be said. Maxie T is respected but may be in the handicapper’s grip.
Back Sa Suffit @ 10/3 Paddy Power
16:10 Cheltenham Free Bets At Bookies.com Handicap Chase, 2m4f
Sue Smith sent out Bennys Well to win the bookies-com-sponsored 2m4f handicap chase (4.10pm) 12 months ago and she fields the likely favourite this time round in the shape of Swing Hard, who is coming off a respectable third at Catterick and been running well for a while now without winning. However, the eight-year-old seems to reserve his best for that tight North Yorkshire track – he’s also a winner at the similarly sharp Musselburgh – and he’s opposable for that reason.
Anything Venetia Williams runs here has to be respected and her John Louis, a Bangor winner two starts back, is running over his best trip and is proven on heavy. However, he has to give weight away all round and narrow preference is for the 12-year-old TIPSY DARA, who gave notice that he was about to take advantage of a tumbling mark when third at Newcastle last time. A winner over track and trip on heavy and off 3lb higher, he is taken to roll back the years with Stephen Mulqeen’s 5lb claim possible making the difference here.
Of the rest, Martin Todhunter’s Pekanheim looks a real danger having shown something like his old form when third at Newcastle last time, showing the benefit of being treated for ulcers. He’s undoubtedly well handicapped again, being 3lb lower than when recording his sole chase win at Hexham, but he might want better ground than he encounters today. Abbey Storm will surely need his first run back after a 508-day absence.
Back Tipsy Dara @ 5/1 BetVictor
16:45 Expert Cheltenham Tips At Bookies.com Handicap Hurdle, 3m1f
The majority of the runners in the bookies.com-sponsored 3m1f handicap hurdle (4.45pm) are struggling for form and it makes sense to concentrate on the two last-time-out winners. Kieron Edgar is here for one ride on the Alistair Whillans-trained W Six Times and the ten-year-old escapes a penalty for winning at Ayr just six days ago as the race was confined to conditional jockeys. That was just his second success in 17 hurdle starts – the other coming in the same race in 2014 – and the suspicion is that this may come too quick as he had to grind in the testing conditions, and is up in grade besides.
On the other hand, Newyearsresolution has had 27 days off to recover from his Wetherby success and, while he too is up in grade, he is clearly at the top of his game and is well suited to a test of stamina in the mud. The Stewards enquired into his improved showing last time and connections were quick to point to a step up to this sort of trip as he finds things happening too quick over shorter. He should again take care of the third Cleve Cottage, who is just a couple of pounds better off, and he might just be able to send punters home happy, though it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if one of those not mentioned were to suddenly burst into form.
Back Newyearsresolution @ 5/1 bet365
Good luck all!