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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cavalier to stake Ryanair claims

Saturday brings us “Trials” Day at Cheltenham and, as I’m going there for the day’s racing, this blog is being written mainly on Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, we had no success with the selection yesterday, Denali Highway, who was well supported to start the 4/1 fav – but he struggled on the soft ground, as did all the early leaders of whom too much effort was asked too early-on.

Along with Cheltenham today, there are meetings at Doncaster and Uttoxeter so, hopefully, we should be on for a busy, enlightening and profitable day.  We did well on this day last year finding 2 winners at Cheltenham and making some decent profit. Overall, the Cheltenham meeting today is usually very informative with regard to the Cheltenham Festival in March and, last year, 4 winners at the Festival ran at this meeting. The races to concentrate on for Festival pointers are the Juvenile Hurdle at 12:40pm; the Novices handicap chase at 1:15pm; and the Novice hurdle at 3:00pm.  These races have had the greatest impact on the Cheltenham Festival.

Although currently advertised as soft ground, heavy overnight rain will mean the ground is heavy at Cheltenham.  The Juvenile hurdlers are not my speciality, so I’ll be watching but not wagering on the opening race of the meeting. Only 6 go to post and it looks a high-class entry.

The 2m5f Novices Handicap Chase at 1:15pm is, for me, the highlight of the meeting as it always brings together some of the best novice chasing talent in the UK. This years’ entry looks no exception and there are a couple amongst the entries that are already on my alert list: Javert and Waldorf Salad. The top-weight Un Temps Pour Tout does not look well handicapped as a chaser so far, and on 2nd-glance the form of Javert looks flimsy despite 2 wins from 3 chase races. Viva Steve had some good horses behind him LTO and will not lack stamina, but will he have the pace? With winning form on heavy ground, and able to lead and set a good pace, Waldorf Salad has plenty going for him to suggest 14/1 is a generous price.

The feature race of the meeting is the Betbright Chase, a Grade 2 event over 3m1f run at 1:55pm.  This brings Djakadam, runner-up in the last Cheltenham Gold Cup, back to the UK for his final preparation race before the in one in March.  If he’s up to that form then he will take some beating, but I reckon that trainer Mullins will have left something to work on over the next 6-weeks.  Many Clouds won this race last year, but then put in a relatively poor effort in the Gold Cup before running-out an exceptional winner of the Grand National carrying 11st 9lbs. Clearly, had he ran to the level of his Grand National form in the Gold Cup he may well have come close to winning that race.  Smad Place was 2nd in this race last year, but he was receiving 8lbs from Many Clouds that day and, despite him winning the Hennessy Gold Cup since then, this looks a much tougher race.  The is nothing much to split Sam Winner and O’Faolains Boy on my ratings, and my abiding memory of Sam Winner is seeing him jump the final fence in the Dec-2014 “Lexus” Chase in front before losing the lead on the run-in to finish 3rd to Road To Riches (who went on to run 3rd in the Gold Cup). I’d favour O’Faolains Boy as he has a 4lb advantage in the weight.  The only other horse to consider is Wakanda who has been followed by this blog for all 3 of his wins this season and has done us proud. On his latest form, he needs to find 10lb to be in the mix in this race but, as we haven’t seen him bottom-out yet, he may well find that. This is a tricky race given the quality of the field, but I would not be wagering on Djakadam at odds-on – he should be about 9/4 for this race.  The value in this race, in my opinion, lies with Many Clouds (8/1), O’Faolains Boy (9/1) and Wakanda (20/1).

The 2:25pm Class 1 Handicap Chase over 2m5f looks a cracker!  I managed to find the winner of this race last season in Annacotty, and altho’ this horse comes here again in top form, he’s possibly needing some respite from the handicapper now as he’s rated 7lb higher at OR151. This looks a competitive field, and few can be discounted. However, there are a couple from the alert list that stand out: Irish Cavalier and Salubrious. The soft ground is a worry with Irish Cavalier, but I think he’s a 160+ horse who could have a realistic chance in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival.  So, running off OR154 he should hold an outstanding chance at odds of 11/2 at this trip, which is perfect for him. A big danger will be Champagne West, who is also on OR154 and should be expected to improve again for his seasonal debut in December, but his odds of 9/4 offer no value at all. That Salubrious runs again just 7-days after his last run suggests that his trainer means business. This horse acts well at Cheltenham, and the soft ground will be favourable.  He is rated well below his hurdle rating of OR153, and while not a true 3-miler he won’t lack for stamina over this trip of 2m5f.  Backed from 12/1 last night to 8/1 this morning, the eachway value has gone.

At Doncaster there is a Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile at 1:30pm that looks interesting; but it is the Skybet Chase over 3-mile at 3:15pm which is the focus of my attention.  With Holywell running, there are a few in this race on interesting weights; the likes of Coologue and Le Mercurey for instance.  Dolatulo also looks fairly handicapped on OR146 despite winning the “Rowland Meyrick” at Wetherby in December 2014, which was his last handicap chase over regulation fences (has run over hurdles and the National fences at Aintree in his 4 races since then). If this was being run on a right0handed track then I’d seriously consider Le Reve, but his form on left-handed tracks is awful. For me, the form of Buywise suggests this 3-mile trip could be just what he wants.  He’s won over 2m5f-2m7f and he’s always a strong finisher in his races.  The ground should be suitable too, as he’s won on soft and heavy ground; and odds of 8/1 look good eachway value to me.  I feel that Holywell will not be at his peak till March in the Gold Cup so altho’ on a useful mark of OR159, he’s overlooked by me.  The only other horse I’m considering is No Planning who unseated early on LTO when running over the National fences at Aintree but, before that, ran well on unsuitable heavy ground at Haydock. He’s slipped from a high of OR147 to OR137 for this, yet he’s not lost any ability – in fact he’s won over hurdles and been well-placed in competitive chases. He runs in this race off 10st4lb, which is 14lb less than Buywise, and Sue Smith (who runs Wakanda at Cheltenham) has secured the services of Paddy Brennan for the ride. Odds of 16/1 look very attractive.

I cannot bring myself to have a wager in the Betbright Chase at Cheltenham.  Either Djakadam will win easily or, more likely, he will be beaten – but who will do it? I’m fully expecting Irish Cavalier to catapult himself into the Ryanair picture with a good win and, at Doncaster, after seriously considering the chance of Buywise, on reflection the odds about No Planning look huge.

Cheltenham 1:15pm WALDORF SALAD, £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Cheltenham 2:25pm IRISH CAVALIER, £10 win @11/2 (BetVictor, William Hill, Stan James)
Doncaster 3:15pm NO PLANNING, £5 eachway @ 16/1 (BetVictor, William Hill)

Total staked = £30

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