It's Cheltenham and not Newmarket that provides today's best bets
While I’ll be watching the action from Newmarket with a view to the future, all of today’s bets are over the jumps at Cheltenham.
At least here we have plenty of form to go on and what’s more we’re not guessing on fitness levels at this stage of the season. Not that it makes the 3m4f handicap chase (2.40pm) any easier as a case can be made for all the 11 runners, and that’s reflected in the betting with some bookmakers going 6/1 the field. It’s the sort of race I like to have a crack at and I’m going to give one last chance to GOLDEN CHIEFTAIN, who is undoubtedly well handicapped on some of his old form and hinted he might be returning to his best when finishing fourth at Newton Abbot last time.
It’s been over two years since he last won but that did come in a handicap chase here off a mark of 132, and he is able to run off a 10lb lower today. The ten-year-old probably has his own ideas about the game now and he’s looked a reluctant character on more than one occasion. However, with a visor replacing the usual blinkers (to go with a tongue-tie) and with his stable in good form, he could consent to put his best foot forward and I’m prepared to take that chance at the 10/1 on offer.
The feature Grade 2 handicap chase over 2m5f (3.50pm) isn’t much easier, but it does look a decent opportunity for ATTAGLANCE to break his long losing run. Malcolm Jefferson’s charge last entered the winner’s circle over two years ago when successful over hurdles at the the big Aintree meeting, and that was following on from victory in the Martin Pipe race at the Festival. He also ran well at the following year’s Festival when finishing runner-up in the novices’ handicap chase off just a 2lb lower mark, and he arrives here after running respectably at this year’s meeting on the back of a break.
That will have put him spot on for this and, just as important, he will get the good ground he needs to show his best. With the stable also amongst the winners of late, he has an awful lot going for him and rates a solid bet at the 11/2 on offer, with just 4/1 available in a place. Of his rivals, Pepite Rose ran her best race for a while at Newbury last time and a reproduction of that effort would see her go close, but the 11lb she concedes to the selection can be decisive. Paul Nicholl’s Caid Du Berlais, winner of the Paddy Power here in November, is another to consider but he needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Cheltenham Festival and he too has his share of weight.
There are plenty in with chances in the 3m novices’ handicap hurdle (4.25pm), but NEW HORIZONS created a big impression when getting off the mark at Kempton last time, the form of which was advertised by last Friday’s Fontwell victory of runner-up Kublai. The selection was scoring at the fifth time of asking for Nicky Henderson and there should be plenty more improvement to come from a horse described by connections as a “big baby who has taken along time to learn.” The 2m5f trip at Kempton was probably the bare minimum for him and today’s extra three furlongs should therefore be ideal, as is the ground. He’s up 11lb and this is a better race, but I’m reasonably confident he can go in again under the in-form David Bass.