A tremendous day of racing this Saturday and - as I will be at Cheltenham on Saturday - this blog is being written on Friday afternoon (it should be online early Friday evening). I will also be posting via twitter (@wayward_lad) from the course should you want any up-to-the-minute thoughts on the racing and the odds available. Along with Cheltenham, we have a top-class meeting at Doncaster with the highlight being the Skybet handicap Chase over 3-miles. This is one of my favourite races in the calendar, but it’s a long time since I found the winner – maybe this year?
The Skybet Chase at 3:20pm is where I will start: there’s a good field of 17 going to post and there’s plenty of entries from top trainers. This is a 3-mile chase that is invariably run at a strong pace: stamina will be at a premium and this is no place to test a horse’s stamina. There are a number of entries that are untried at, or best at, trips under 2m6f such as Nuts Well, Midnight Shadow, Janika, and Kapcourse - as much as they are decent at their preferred trip, I’m passing them over. The likely fave is Fusil Raffles who I tipped LTO at Cheltenham over 2m4f and I do think he is well-handicapped on OR151, and he should stay this trip but I would have preferred him to have run at Cheltenham today over 2m4f. Cap Du Nord is another who is well-handicapped on OR129 (he was 3rd in this last year off OR139) but is tricky to catch right – it would not surprise me to see him win or come home last of the finishers! Although older horses have a fair record in this race (6 of the last 10 winners were aged 9yo+), I do not like betting on older horses in competitive races like this (I may be cutting my nose off to spite my face). This race could be good for Cloudy Glen but, pulling-up LTO, suggests he’s best fresh. Canelo was 4th in this last year (off OR148) and so looks well-in off OR137 but his recent form is poor. The pair sent by Kerry Lee – Demachine and Storm Control – are the ones who interest me. Storm Control is a bold front-runner who won LTO on 19Jan, but he does like to dominate and if challenged he has tended to chuck-in the towel; this level may be too much but he could well be in the 1st-5 home: current best odds are 14/1 (Bet365). The 8yo Demachine looks very interesting: he was a very promising novice chaser when just btn by Remastered at Ascot in Feb, and his reappearance in the Ladbroke Trophy (won by Cloudy Glen) was also promising, but perhaps stretched his stamina a tad – this shorter 3-mile trip could see him at his best. I managed to obtain 10/1 on Thursday evening, and the best available on Demachine is 8/1 offered by Bet365 (6/1 everywhere else).
Cheltenham has a cracking meeting, and it is disappointing that some of the races don’t have more entries. The day starts off at 12:15pm with a 2m1f Class 2 handicap hurdle (which I think in previous years was run later in the afternoon). I will give that a swerve, as I will the juvenile hurdle at 12:45pm, although with Nick Williams having won this race twice in the past few years from just 4 entries his Interne De Sivola needs close inspection. The Timeform Novices Chase handicap over 2m4f & 127yds at 1:20pm will be my provide first serious punt of the day. I think we could see an improved performance from Oscar Elite, who ran 2nd in the “Albert Bartlett” over 3-mile at the Festival last March. It was unfortunate that he fell on his chase debut, but he’s shown he can jump since even if he’s not graded class (was beaten a long way here in the “Dipper” on New Years’ Day): the best odds available are 9/2.
The Grade 3 handicap chase at 1:55pm could provide me my wager of day. The market reckons Galahad Quest will find improvement on his “Paddy Power” 5th in November to take this – however since then he’s fallen at Aintree and run poorly back here on 01Jan. The Venetia Williams trained Farinet needs soft ground (I reckon) and I’m happy to pass him over. If Paul Nicholls can bring Magic Saint to the course in a good mood then he will win this doing cartwheels off OR147 as he last won here off OR152, and ran a cracker when 2nd here in April off OR157 – but his 3 runs this season have been nothing close to that. For me, it’s JACAMAR: he won LTO on Boxing Day at Kempton, beating the Henderson-trained Mister Coffey and was raised just 3lb to OR133. He was a fairly reliable handicap hurdler and he looks more than good enough to win this. Currently 8/1 (William Hill & Corals) those odds look very fair to me.
The Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) at 2:30pm looks disappointing to me. Let’s be honest; if Chantry House turns-up he wins this by a street – but will he? If he doesn’t, who does win the race from the other 4 runners? I do not think Simply The Betts will stay 3m 1f; his only other run beyond 2m5f saw him weaken 4-out at Aintree and pull-up. That means to me, the only other horse to consider is AYE RIGHT, and he is absolutely guaranteed to stay the trip, and he will do it from the front. That could pave the way for Chantry House, but maybe it will expose any flaws in that one’s stamina. I’ve taken 5/1 to win about Ayr Right, and as I can only see Chantry House beating him I will be placing a straight forecast on the course: Chantry House to beat Aye Right to cover the win-wager on Aye Right.
The Cleeve hurdle at 3:05pm is another small, but top-class, field. The 10yo Champ is almost certain to win, bar an unfortunate fall. I think Paisley Park is just too unreliable to wager on, he always seems to flatter to deceive these days. As such, the horse I think who will follow Champ home is McFabulous who is very reliable, and this 3-mile trip may bring about a tad more improvement, although he did fail on his last attempt at the trip in Nov2020.
My advised selections (what I will used to measure my performance):