Our racing expert gives his verdict on the four Cheltenham races being shown live on ITV4 this afternoon.
1:55 2m5f (2m4f166y) (New) CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Mares’ Handicap Chase (Qualifier) (Class 3) (4yo+ 0-125)
Likely favourite Ms Pafois jumped well when third on her chase debut last month and she’s rated higher than today’s 123 over hurdles. However, her trainer Anthony Honeyball described her as having ‘no tactical speed’ in a recent Stable Tour and thinks she will do best at 3m plus, so I’m inclined to take her on. Theatre Territory is next in the betting and she’s entitled to go well on just her second start for Warren Greatrex having finished a promising second to a talented mare on her chasing debut/reappearance.
But at the odds I just prefer the chances of Michael Scudamore’s TWENTY EIGHT GUNS, who can be backed at 10/1 with bet365. She went up in the weights after winning three times on soft ground over fences last season, but has been dropped a few pounds since and wasn’t beaten far into fourth off 1lb higher at Wetherby last time on ground faster than she likes. With conditions ideal for her this afternoon, she can at least outrun her price tag under the red-hot Richard Dunne (5-11 in the last fortnight) and reward each-way support.
2:30 3m2f (New) Unicoin Group Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Scudamore and Dunne could well land a double as they combine in this race with MYSTEREE, who looks something to bet on at the 4/1 on offer at Boylesports, which was standout at the time of writing. The nine-year-old is the joint oldest runner in the line up but don’t let that put you off as he’s relatively lightly-raced and was most progressive last season when winning twice before signing off with second place behind Chase The Spud in the Midlands National This is his first run back and he’s up another 5lb higher, but he’s now won first time out in all three previous jumps campaigns and his near bottomless stamina will be a huge asset in the testing conditions.
Bookmakers prefer the chances of Harry Fry’s Wotzizname who was making it third time lucky over fences at Exeter last time and is surely progressing enough to cope with a 5lb rise. However, a novicey error two out almost cost him on that occasion and his lack of experience might be found out here. Colin Tizzard’s Robinsfirth remains unexposed over staying trips and may give the selection most to do.
3:05 3m6f (3m6f37y) (X-Country) Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (Class 2) (5yo+)
More Of That and Tiger Roll, previous winners of the World Hurdle and National Hunt Chase respectively, are interesting recruits to the world of cross-country chases and have the class to make an impact if taking taking to this unique challenge. However, this is a handicap and as a result they are conceding weight to more experienced course regulars, which makes them opposable on balance.
Last year’s winner Cantlow must have a good chance of a double off just 2lb higher and he reportedly lost a shoe when fourth behind Kingswell Theatre in the November cross-country race. In which case, he may well reverse the form with the winner, who tends to be a bit in and out and is perhaps best caught fresh, but whether he can cope with stablemate and 2015 winner JOSIES ORDERS is another matter. The latter horse is 3-3 over track and trip, albeit he needed the help of the stewards at the 2016 Festival, and looked to be working his way back to peak form when second over the banks at Punchestown last time under today’s pilot Mark Walsh. He’ll do for me at Ladbrokes’ 9/4.
3:40 3m (2m7f213y) (New) Citipost Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+)
A tricky finale for punters with eight of the 11 runners holding decent claims, but there was a lot to like about the return to action of ROCKY’S TREASURE on the Old Course here in November (3m1f) and normal improvement on his second run back should see him go close. The winner of two of his four starts over hurdles last season, he gave the impression the run was needed when finishing third behind the smart Thomas Campbell and is weighted to turn the tables on the re-opposing runner-up, Anteros. He was due to go novice chasing this autumn but as that’s on hold it’s clear connections think he can win a decent handicap like this one off his current mark (134) and we know he handles soft ground and stays a little further, which is going to be a big help in the conditions. At 15/2 with Betfair, he can be another winner for the in-form Kim Bailey (5-22 in the last fortnight).
All odds were correct at time of posting.