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Saturday 26 January 2013

Cheltenham Trials Day

I had a look at today's Cheltenham meeting yesterday morning and posted-up my thoughts. I'm going to try and fix the impressions made then and see if there's any value to be had in what looks a highly competitive days racing. The ground at Cheltenham is "Heavy - soft in places".

The "Timeform" novice chase over 2m5f at 12:40 looks a cracker of a race. I feel the top-weight Radjhani Express is fairly priced at 4/1. Yes, he has certainly improved as a chaser and he could be well-in off OR142, but I got the feeling that Rajdhani revelled in the conditions LTO and he outclassed an ordinary field and appeared to look exceptional. John's Spirit will love the soft ground and the trip (he was just outstayed over 3m1f by a very good horse LTO in Katenko) but going left-handed on a course like Cheltenham will be a new experience for him. So far, he's done all his best work going right-handed, and his odds of 9/2 look interesting if he handles this track (not every horse does). I can't see Gullinbursti being involved on what he's shown so far this season, so next in the market is Ballygarvey.  This one is totally unexposed and could be the fly in the ointment following his LTO win. For him tho', it's a case of "the softer the better" regarding the ground. Tom O'Brien keeps the ride having won on him LTO, and that means Richard Johnson is on Sizing Santiago. I like Sizing Santiago and expect him to have a big future. He handles Cheltenham well (was 2nd here in November) and has won on soft ground, but I reckon he'll be a much better horse on better ground and over 3-miles - especially if he takes after his half-brother, Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Take The Stand. The race should be run at a strong pace and so stamina will be a premium requirement and as the market does not have much value in it I'm no having a wager. It was going to be Sizing Santiago, but the ground is against him now. 

Next up is another 2m5f handicap, this time a Class 1, Grade 3 - top class stuff! There are several horses in this that I have followed successfully over the past couple of seasons in Bold Sir Brian, Bless The Wings, and Fruity O'Rooney. Connections are talking of Bold Sir Brian as a Gold Cup horse and if he is then he'll take some beating as he has the ground in his favour. He's up against Katenko tho' who looked very impressive when winning LTO over 3m1f. At the weights, I'd have to favour KATENKO as on form I reckon there's is very little between the market leaders on my own ratings but the handicapper has Bold Sir Brian giving Katenko 8lb.  As the ground will be against Bless The Wings, even tho' he's won over C&D (won the novice handicap chase at this very meeting) he'll need to find plenty of improvement to win this. Pacha Du Polder looks held (by Bold Sir Brian), but Nadiya De La Vega has all in her favour again and if she runs up to here Paddy Power form then she'll be involved in the finish.  Our Mick is interesting as we last saw him coming 3rd in the Festival Handicap last March. If he's fit and well he could go close but, do we know that? As for Fruity O'Rooney, he always runs his heart out and never runs a bad race so it's in his favour that he's come down 6lb to OR139 since running well (but running-out of stamina) in the Hennessey Gold Cup. He's also dropped in trip for the first time in ages, and it could be his trump card. Fruity O'Rooney should be in the 1st-4 (it's a 16-runner handicap, so there are 4 places available), but the winner should be KATENKO on known form. Odds of 5/1 look fair value especially now the ground is heavy.

The Victor Chandler Chase looks good enough to be the Champion Chase, in fact the field looks stronger than last years Champion Chase by a long way. I don't think Cheltenham suits Sprinter Sacre and he may well be troubled approaching the final fence. I'm not going to wager against him, but he is not 12lb better than this field in my opinion. The horse I think will give him most to do is SOMERSBY as he'll be having his first run since moving to Mick Channon and all those that moved to him from Henrietta Knight's stable have improved, mainly in fitness. SOMERSBY goes well fresh and he's twice won on his seasonal debut. On his day, he was a 162-165 2-mile chaser with Knight so, if Channon has found a few pounds, he could be upsides Sprinter Sacre at the final fence and then, who knows? At 12/1 he's worth an eachway tickle.

The Argento Chase at 2:25 is another great race as this day turns into a classic. Tidal Bay is a non-runner. I do not think that Grands Crus is a proven 3-mile chaser at this level, and I don't think he'll stay. If Imperial Commander can run to his OR164 rating (which is about 20lb below his best) then he'll win with just 11st to carry, but that is a big ask. That brings us to Hunt Ball and as much as I admire this horse, I think he won't like the soft ground nor do I think he'll stay this trip. His 3rd at Aintree over 3m1f did not prove his stamina. The one I like the look of is CAPE TRIBULATION who is relatively unexposed as a chaser over 3-mile-plus and he won in a canter LTO on Boxing Day. As such, he comes here in the form of his life, racing on ground and over a course that he'll love. I took 14/1 last night with William Hill and now he's at best 9/1 with Ladbrokes. I reckon he'll be placed at least. 

Finally, KAUTO STONE in the Cleeve Hurdle over 3-mile looks very interesting. If this were a 3-mile chase at these weights he'd be odds-on. Even so, he was mixing-it over 2-miles with Sizing Europe last season, so he's no slouch. Getting 8lb from Oscar Whisky and Reve De Sivola puts him right in the frame and he'll love the soft ground. Paul Nicholls sounded bullish on Morning Line. Odds of 15/2 (Stan James , BOG) look huge!

Cheltenham 1:15, KATENKO, 1pt win @ 5/1 (Paddy Power, BOG)
Cheltenham 1:50, SOMERSBY, ½pt eachway @ 12/1 (Bet365, quarter-odds 1,2,3 BOG)
Cheltenham 2:25, CAPE TRIBULATION, ½pt eachway @ 9/1 (Ladbrokes – 5th odds 1,2,3)
Cheltenham 3:35, KAUTO STONE, 1pt win @ 15/2 (Stan James, BOG)
Total = 4pts staked

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