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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Nicholls ready's a novice chaser for Cheltenham

Small fields and heavy ground – when will we see the first dry days of Spring?
We should see some interesting horses entered for races in the next 2-weeks as trainers endeavour to “get a run in” with those entered for the Cheltenham Festival.  With time running out – trainers essentially need to race their horses on or before Saturday 20th February at the very latest – and the heavy ground that has dominated horseracing since Christmas Day preventing most racehorses from running; trainers will be seeking any opportunity that presents itself.

We have a couple of jump race meetings today at Towcester and Wincanton, and while Towcester’s card is low-key stuff, there are a couple of interesting races at Wincanton worth casting an eye over. In particular, the 2m4f Class 3 handicap chase at 3:40pm which has a field of 11 runners including the interesting trio Stilletto, Quite By Chance, and Gores Island.  I know the race-fav is the 10yo As De Fer, and he won LTO at Warwick only last week (so should be more than race-fit) and races today off a mark 11lb lower than his re-rating; but he’s not been the most reliable horse to follow-up in the past and it’s more a case of taking a view “in-running” as to whether he’s capable of running a winning race or not.

Paul Nicholls runs the lightly-raced novice chaser STILLETTO and I like this horse a lot.  I think he bumped into a good one LTO in Violet Dancer and he could be a lot better than his OR132 rating.  We also know that he handles soft/heavy ground and that he stays this sort of trip.  The 7yo Quite By Chance has a lot more experience and this will be his 15th chase race. He beat our selection LTO (Ballinvarrig on 21st Jan) into 3rd place, and also the Paul Nicholls trained Wuff into 2nd.  He’s up 6lb to OR129 for that win which I think is a bit harsh in the circumstances, and he may be found wanting today when push comes to shove.  Finally, Gores Island and although he’s a 10yo he generally holds his form well and is a fairly consistent performer. He was also in the race won by Quite By Chance LTO, but was brought-down by another faller mid-race and so is 6lb better-off with the winner today. I just think this trip stretches him as both his chase wins (from 20 chase starts) have come over the minimum trip of 2-mile.

I have to admit, while I did not think STILLETTO would be the fav for this race, I certainly expected him to be the 2nd-fav at about 4/1, and so it is a real bonus to see him priced at 6/1 – and those odds are available generally.  This looks a good winning opportunity and at generous odds too, and it would not surprise me to see SITLLETTO win today and then go on to run well at the Cheltenham Festival.


Wincanton 3:40pm STILLETTO, £10 win @ 6/1 (available generally)

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