What are the best bets at Cheltenham on Friday?
It’s the first day of Cheltenham’s December meeting – known as The International – and our resident tipster has run the rule over the seven exciting races.
12.00: Harrison James And Hardie Novices’ Chase, 3m1f56yds
A cracking novice despite there being just six runners, all with chances. Vicente has the best form in the book having given 8lb and a beating to Un Temps Pour Tour at the Paddy Power meeting here, but I’d rather go with the potential of FLETCHERS FLYER. Harry Fry’s charge was one of last season’s best staying novices over hurdles and he promises to be even better over fences. He would have needed the run in his chase debut at Exeter, having been held up in the autumn, and is now 5lb better off with the winner Onenightinvienna for a length and a quarter beating. His shrewd handler rates him highly saying in a Stable Tour that he’d be disappointed if he wasn’t “very competitive” this afternoon, which clinches the bet for me.
12.35: theracingunion.co.uk Exclusively For Students Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase, 2m4f166yds
This is tricky but there’s a very good chance that SON OF SUZIE has been trained for it having fell four out in last year’s renewal when still travelling well. He’s got round safely in four starts since and there was a lot to like about his reappearance fourth at Haydock last month. He’ll come for that and given it was just his fourth start over fences, there may well be some improvement to come. Conor Shoemark, who gets on well with him, takes a handy 3lb off his back and the partnership are an each-way price in what is admittedly an open race.
1.10: CF Roberts Electrical + Mechanical Services Handicap Hurdle, 2m179yds
A HARE BREATH landed one of this season’s most spectacular gambles so far at the Paddy Power meeting, having been backed into 6/1 from an opening 25/1, and I doubt bookmakers will so generous this time. Still, a follow-up is distinctly on the cards given how well he won and I’m encouraged by some bullish comments from his trainer this week. He said: “He’s in good order. He went up 12lb for his win but I don’t think that was too bad and I think he’s still on the right side of the handicapper. If he’s as good as we think he is there’s still plenty of improvement in him.” With Barry Geraghty booked I can see no reason to look elsewhere for the winner and the horse owes me nothing after last time.
1.45: Ryman Stationery Handicap Chase (Grade 3), 3m2f
It was painful to watch Knock House win here last time as I’d backed him on his previous start in a weaker race at Fakenham, in which he could only finish second. He’s clearly still improving at the age of six, but good ground seems important to him and I’m going to take him on with another improving six-year-old, VIEUX LION ROUGE. He is chasing a four-timer over fences and the handicapper may have let him off lightly by raising him just 7lb for his latest success at Haydock as he was in command a long way out before idling. Given that was his first start since June, he’s fully entitled to come on for the run and he seems to go on any ground. He’s run well here previously, albeit over hurdles.
2.20: Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, 3m6f37yds
These type of races can be a great spectacle but I tend not to get involved for betting purposes. If you’re having a bet then JOSIES ORDERS is the token selection as he won the equivalent race here in November. Only seven, he’s going to be a regular feature in the cross-country races held here and Paddy Power’s 8/1 that he wins the big one in March is not the worse bet in the world – perhaps I will have to get involved after all!
2.55: Citipost Handicap Hurdle, 2m7f213yds
This is hugely competitive but it does feature one of my horses to follow this season, the Warren Greatrex-trained ONE TRACK MIND, and he might just be up to winning it. Twice a winner at Wetherby last season, he ran well in between when finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle behind Parlour Games despite looking very green. He’s seen as a future top staying chaser but will be kept over hurdles for this season and, while he’s having his first run back here, his shrewd handler is likely to have him straight enough for what is a valuable prize. He does have his stamina for 3m to prove but the way he was finishing off his races over shorter last season suggests he’ll relish every yard of the trip. If he doesn’t win today – and the market will be the best guide to his chances (very positive so far) – he’s definitely one to keep on the right side of.
3.25: British Stallion Studs EBF National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier), 2m179yds
Paul Nicholls unleashes exciting French import Politologue here and he could be anything. However, the stable is going through an unusual quiet spell and a 10lb penalty for winning a conditions hurdle at Auteuil in June makes his task all the more harder. Besides he’s up against some useful sorts and the one that makes most appeal is the Dan Skelton-trained NORTH HILL HARVEY. He was an expensive purchase at the sales after winning his only point-to-point start by a distance and he shaped very encouragingly on his stable debut at Huntingdon, finishing second to the highly rated Barters Hill. He can definitely improve on that and Skelton, who was very complimentary about him in a recent Stable Tour, looks to have found him a good opportunity to go one better. With the stable in flying form, I make him the bet of the day.
12.00 Fletechers Flyer @ 7/2 Hills
12.35 Son Of Suzie each-way @ 10/1 bet365
1.10 A Hare Breath @ 9/4 bet365
1.45 Vieux Lion Rouge @ 6/1 BetVictor
2.20 Josies Orders @ 4/1 Paddy Power
2.55 One Track Mind @ 10/3 Hills – NEXT BEST
3.25 North Hill Harvey @ 9/2 bet365 – NAP