The day opens with the 7th running of this championship race for novice chasers.
· All 6 previous winners have been rated (at one time) at OR142 or better as hurdlers, thus meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners in being above-average hurdlers..
- All 6 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Stick with LTO winners (although last year’s winner Black Hercules was a faller LTO) and as this is a tough 2m4f, the selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative in my opinion.
· 17 of last 24 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb;
· 12 of the last 25 winners won LTO.
A difficult race, however the 6yo SUTTON MANOR has only run 6 times and never finished worse than 4th. He was 2nd in the qualifier in Ireland on 5th Feb, then won LTO on 23rd Feb. Trained by Gordon Elliot, he could have any amount of improvement left in him and early odds of 25/1 look mighty interesting.
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 11 of the 12 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 8 of the last 9 winners (since the Ryanair became a Grade 1 chase) had previously won a Grade 1 chase (Imperial Commander in 2009 was the only exception).
This race hangs on whether Un De Sceaux can stay the trip as he has only raced around this trip in France. The 2nd-fav Empire Of Dirt won over C&D last year in the Novice handicap, but needs to find at least 7lb to match the fav. Uxizandre won this race in 2015 and has been off since then with injury returning to chase home the fav over 2-mile here in January. If he could find another 7lb of improvement then he has a chance. I cannot see Sub Lieutenant winning, and I am more interested in JOSSES HILL who if repeating his latest winning effort (ignore his King George run) may not be far away. Odds of 9/1 look eachway value for a stable we know will have him fit to run to his best.
It is very likely that the winner will have run at last year’s Cheltenham Festival;·
4:10pm Festival Plate Handicap Chase (2-mile & 4½-furlongs)
· 20 of the last 24 winners carried under 11st;
· 21 of the last 24 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race twice (Empire Of Dirt won it for Ireland last year) since 1951.
If you look only at those rated at OR141 or below then you omit all those carrying 10st10lb or more, which leaves 11 of the 24. Take out those who last ran more than 39 days ago, and that drops to just 6 horses; Ballykan, Rock Gone, Champagne At Tara, Mad Jack Mytton, Katachenko, and Thomas Crapper. Of those, I prefer CHAMPAGNE AT TARA a LTO winner who is at 25/1.
4:50pm Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2m & 179 yards)
· Only 6 of the last 37 winners was a 7yo;
· There has been 2 Irish-trained winners in past 3 years (after a break of 31 years).