Despite some questions on twitter, I stand by my selection FANION D'ESTRUVAL in the 2-mile handicap chase todat at 1:50pm at Cheltenham.
I think the Venetia Williams' trained horse looks well-treated on OR150 as the last time we saw him, which was only his 2nd chase in this country, he started the 6/4 fav in a tough novice chase. I think that he could be (just could be) 160+ and racing off OR150 today he may be thrown-in.
Saturday's racing is an absolute belter of a day. Not only do we have the "Paddy Power" handicap chase at Cheltenham, but we also have some great races at Uttoxeter and Wetherby, and if I get chance I will take a look at those before the day. Let's start with the feature race, and with 17-runners going to post it could take some working out which is the winner. The fav is Saint Sonnet, trained by Paul Nicholls who - tho' having won this race a couple of times in the past - sends so many to contest it his stats are poor. Having watched him in run in the Marsh Novices Chase last March in the Festival, where he was well behind Mister Fisher, he's going to have to have improved some in the summer to justify being the fav. I reckon the Nicky Henderson trained MISTER FISHER is a much better proposition, as he definitely stayed the trip better that day and soft ground on Saturday will make this a true test. Colin Tizzard has a couple in the race, and both look worthy of being in the places: Slate House fell in this race when going well off OR147 and then won his next 2 races, he also stays 3-mile so wont be far away. And The Russian Doyen recently ran in a hurdle race where he did well and went into my notebook, he was 4th in the Novice Handicap Chase at the Festival in 2019 behind A Plus Tard. Running off OR141 that day he looks a handicap snip on OR138 as he went lame in his only other chase run since that festival 4th, and we know he's fit and well.
At the odds, I'm taking MISTER FISHER @ 11/2 with BetVictor and with William Hill offering 6-places at 5th odds a place, the 16/1 about THE RUSSIAN DOYEN looks a decent play.
Earlier on the card at 1:05pm there's a 3m1f handicap chase for amateur riders and top-weight KILFILUM CROSS could take some beating. Twice he's been 2nd in the "Kim Muir" handicap at the Festival and with rider Alex Edwards in the saddle he should get round safely. The main danger will likely be Bermeo with likely only 9st 7lb to carry if jockey Angus Chelala can claim his 7lb in full. That will mean Kilfilum Cross is giving 34lb away to this horse, which will certainly tell after the final fence, but Bermeo is a slow old horse and he may find himself too far off the pace to catch up the leaders.
I will take a look at the hurdle races on Saturday's Cheltenham card a bit later on.
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