The dreadful British weather has hit racing hard and we can only hope that horses will be good to go, on Saturday afternoon. Seymour Biz focuses on Cheltenham, where some fantastic encounters will take place if the elements don’t put a stop to it. Here are his (updated, due to many withdrawals) Lucky 15 tips. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
The jumps caravan rolls on to Cheltenham this weekend with the Gloucestershire track holding it’s second most important meeting of the season. ITV are covering all three days but the big day at Prestbury Park is Saturday with the BetVictor Gold Cup being the highlight. This is backed up with a couple of handicap hurdles and another handicap chase over 3m 3f. These four handicaps give us a great betting opportunity to find some value and I have laid out my thoughts for this week’s Lucky Fifteen below. Saturday’s programme is backed up with a couple of Listed races at Lingfield on the polytrack and I expect Lord North and Corinthia Knight to put up bold shows for John Gosden and Archie Watson respectively.
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The first televised race at Cheltenham is the 1.50, the BetVictor Smartcards Handicap Chase over just over 3m 3f. The going is current described as good/soft so this will be a gruelling exercise for these chasers. David Pipe has the favourite and top weight here in Ramses de Teillee who won here last month, but with a stone extra on his back and three and a half furlongs more to carry I’m afraid I cannot rate his chances highly. Pop Rockstar from Jonjo O’Neill’s stable has started his 2019/2020 well with a victory at Carlisle. He will relish some give underfoot but I think he is still work in progress and as he is only a 7-year-old his best years are to come. Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Cogry has run well on his only outing so far this season. That run was here at at Cheltenham last month when he ran third on soft going. The second horse that day was West Approach but Cogry is a couple of pounds better off and I expect those placings to be reversed. Down at the bottom of the handicap is Venetia Williams’s Achille but the grey is stepping up both in class and distance here. Lucinda Russell has had a cracking start to the season and I expect that run to continue with Big River who ran a good fourth here at the festival then went to Ayr for the Scottish National finishing a good fifth. He will love heavy going and can put up a bold show.
The main race of the day is at 2.25, the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase over 2m 4f and there is a warm favourite here in Slate House. Colin Tizzard’s charge won here last month on heavy going but is meeting a better class of animal here. Top weight is carried by Saint Calvados who also won here last month, he carried a big weight to victory that day and is fancied to do so again. However the third placed horse that day was Knocknanuss trained by Gary Moore who was only two and a half lengths behind the winner. He will have 3lbs less on his back than he had that day and must have every chance. He won a couple of nice races last autumn so he knows how to win. Casablanca Mix can put in a good run for Nicky Henderson but he has gone up in the weights and won’t want it too soft. Ian Williams’s sends Siruh Du Lac for his first run of the year after winning four from four last season including when winning here at the festival but he has plenty of weight to carry and may need the run. As Gary Moore won this last year I’m certain he would love to repeat the feat with Knocknanuss.
We have a top class Listed Hurdle race at 3.00 with the Spinal Injuries Association Big Bucks Handicap Hurdle. Top weight and current favourite comes from Debra Hamer’s small stable, Tobefair, and he is proving something of a star here at Cheltenham. He found one too good at the festival in March but has won twice here since, carrying big weights to victory on both occasions. But this is a major step up in class for him and I think he can be opposed. Smackwater Jack from Olly Murphy’s yard is fancied after his fighting second at Aintree in October but he did run around under pressure and I’m not sure he can be trusted. Eva’s Oscar and Anterous have both won their last three races and are down at the bottom of the handicap, that is because they are both taking a massive step up in class here and either of them would do well to claim a place in this company. Nicky Henderson sends Colonial Dreams for his seasonal reappearance, he ran consistently well last year finally getting his head in front in his final race at Sandown but that was over 2m 4f and this step up to 3m worries me. One that does interest me is Phillip Hobbs’s Dolphin Square who is making his handicap debut. A winner twice already in novice company this season and his latest win, when carrying a big weight at Wincanton, was particularly satisfying for trainer Hobbs. He can put in a good run here from the bottom of the handicap.
The final televised race from Cheltenham is the BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at 3.30. There are some very interesting runners here not least the favourite, Jatiluwih, from Phillip Hobbs yard. He is favourite for this contest after winning a couple of novice hurdles already this year which have added to his tally after two victories at the end of last season. I would have some concerns about the weight he has to carry in this, his first handicap. Another who has won her last two is Rebecca Curtis’s Legends Gold and this mare’s attempt to step up into handicap company looks very interesting, she may well take a place. Irish raider Conron from Jessica Harrington’s yard is a proven handicapper but has plenty of weight here. One I like is Olly Murphy’s The Wolf. He won a novice hurdle lat time at Fakenham by 17 lengths and looked really impressive. He ran consistently well without winning last season but appears to have grown during the summer and may well have the ability to take this.
Cheltenham Saturday Lucky 15*
1.50 Big River
2.25 Slate House
3.00 Smackwater Jack
*Updated due to withdrawals