Doing Fine is a dour stayer and will be at home in this four-miler
Toby Balding National Hunt Chase (Amateur Riders’), 4m Old Course (due off 4.40pm)
After looking like he would be switched to the shorter RSA Chase, Very Wood takes his chance in the four-miler and it looks the right race for him as he’s all about stamina. He had that in spades when winning last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ hurdle over 3m and, while you can’t say for certain he’ll stay this marathon trip, you can say that about all of the runners. Noel Meade’s charge jumped and travelled great on his chasing debut at Galway in October, before losing the plot when pulled up twice. So, it was a timely return to form that saw him land last month’s Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan (3m) and his trainer has been making positive noises since. A worthy favourite. Top Price: 7/2 Paddy Power.
Who else is fancied?
Alan King has won this race twice, first with Old Benny in 2008 and last year with Midnight Prayer, so his sole representative Sego Success needs to be given plenty of respect. The seven-year-old has improved since going chasing this season and it’s clear stamina is his forte the way he galloped on relentlessly to score over 3m at Wetherby and Warwick on his last two starts. He might even go off favourite on the day, with top amateur Sam Waley-Cohen booked to do the steering.
While Very Wood is Ireland’s best chance, they have some worthy back-ups in Cause Of Causes and Job Is Right. The latter horse has some eye-catching form in the book, most notably fourth place in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and he will be ridden by crack Irish amateur Derek O’Connor. Irish amateur riders have won this race eight times in the past 13 runnings, although there have been only three Irish-trained winners in that period.
Any decent outsiders?
This race is starting to lose its reputation for producing shocks following a change in conditions, so it might pay to not look too far down the betting list for the winner. That said, it’s hard to ignore the chances of a couple of British-trained runners in Cogry and Doing Fine, who finished first and second respectively at Warwick last month. Just a neck separated the pair at the Midlands venue, where the going was testing, and better ground at Cheltenham would be in favour of the runner-up. Trained by Rebecca Curtis, who saddled 2012 winner Teaforthree, Doing Fine won at the first time of asking over fences at Ffos Las in October, getting the better of Carole’s Destrier by a neck. That looks very good form now as the second has gone on to greater things and is rated 152, while you can ignore his next two runs in November and December as the stable were struggling for winners during that time. Out of decent staying mare Howaya Pet (placed in the Irish National), he should get the trip doing handsprings.
Thunder And Roses needs to jump better than he did when third behind Very Wood last time, but he had looked a promising stayer before that, including when winning by 22-lengths at Fairyhouse in January, and he could well run into a place at big odds.
Trainer quote: “He’s had a good season and won his last two, he loves to be fresh and it was always the plan to come straight here after his win at Warwick. He worked really well on Saturday and he seems in top order
Best bookie offer
Get 3 free bets, each to the value of your stake (maximum £25, x3 per customer), when you back a winner at 3/1 or more on any race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Betfair.
A lot of punters steer clear of this race but it’s becoming easier to find the winner (three of the last four favourites have obliged) and the credentials of Sego Success look rock-solid, However, for the reasons given above, the vote goes to DOING FINE, who looks a cracking each-way bet.
Selection – Doing Fine each-way @ 12/1 Betfred (¼ odds, 184.108.40.206)