With his previews for the National Hunt campaign now all taken care of, Seymour Biz is able to give full attention to Saturday’s card at Cheltenham. He fancies Neil Mulholland’s inmate to lock-up victory. in the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase.
The television cameras are at Prestbury Park this week along with a couple of races on the all-weather at Lingfield. The jumps are really up and running now, there’s a crispness in the air and some give underfoot. Be careful of horses that are just out for a run to increase their fitness in preparation for bigger races later in the season. That said, there is some major prize money on offer this week at Cheltenham which is the first major meeting of the season so I think everyone will be out to try to claim victory. Just be careful of seasonal debutants who have not yet reached anything like their peak which their trainers hope will come here at Prestbury Park in March. So here are my thoughts for the meeting on Saturday.
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We start with the 1.50, the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase over 3 mile 3 furlongs. The race has attracted some classy entries including Mark Bradstock’s Gold Cup hero Coneygree. Allocated top weight here he was pulled up in his two races last year and has not run for a year. Unless Bradstock has worked miracles with him he can be discounted. At the head of the betting are Singlefarmpayment and Vyta Du Roc, both of whom are making their debuts this season, I would have preferred that they had had a run prior to this and that can be said of several of the entries. The Young Master has won already this season in a 3mile Chase at Chepstow where he had Rock The Kasbah twenty lengths behind him. But I am not sure he can repeat this feat in this company. Cogry was second here at the end of last month , he ran a cracking race but was just unable to sustain his challenge up the hill so these extra 2 furlongs may be a problem. Fourth that day was Calett Mad, some 15 lengths behind the winner, but he is 5lbs better of with Cogry here and has won over 3 miles 2 furlongs. Nigel Twiston-Davies will have him spot on for this meeting and he is the selection.
Next on the card is the big race of the day the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase at 2.25. Rather Be is the warm favourite for this after a fine season last time with wins at Towcester and Fakenham but he came unstuck against Mister Whitaker at the Festival in March going down by a head. He is 9lbs better off here but has not run since and that is a worry for me. On the other hand Mister Whitaker has been out and won well at Carlisle a fortnight ago, he is a Cheltenham specialist with two victories here but I have the feeling he needs softer going. A winner here last December was Kalondra who came back to run a good third to Traffic Fluide at the Festival. His trainer, Neil Mulholland, sent him to Galway in August where he fell two out when looking to take the contest. He has been kept with this race in mind since then. Last years shock winner Splash Of Ginge is back for another crack, he had a prep run at Newbury last week finishing a good fifth of fourteen runners, but I don’t think lightning will strike twice. At a big price is top weight Frodon who won at Aintree in October, he should be respected if trainer, Paul Nicholls, sends him here and he can run into a place.
At 3.00 we have the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap over 3 miles. Ian Williams has the favourite for this with First Assignment who won here at Cheltenham in October beating Vive Le Roi in the final strides. That was an excellent performance but the extra 3 furlongs may prove a problem for the young 5 year-old against some of the older and more experienced horses. Sweet Home Chicago has good form in Ireland and if Colin Bowe’s charge makes the trip across the water he should be respected but the good ground may be against him. Boyhood is entered for his seasonal reappearance but has not been seen out since his victory here on New Years Day, his form is excellent but I think he is best watched at present. The one I like here is Weebill from Olly Murphy’s stable who won his last race in May at Ayr. He has shot up in the weights for that win but Murphy said “he is still very competitive off that mark, when we get him out”. Could be Saturday is his day.
The final televised race is the BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle which has some exciting young horses entered. Top of the betting is Speedo Boy who needs a few to come out to get into the handicap. He won at Huntingdon twelve months ago then failed at this meeting two weeks later, he has been out since over hurdles but is fit from the flat. But as only a four-year-old I do not feel he yet has the strength to take this. Deyrann de Carjac is entered for his handicap debut after a good run at Chepstow last time where he finished second. Trainer Alan King said of him “We’ve given him all the time he needs. His owner has been patient and I hope he will be rewarded.” Another trainer with a strong hand here is Henry Daly who has two entries Whatmore and Lygon Rock – I particularly like the latter. The 5-year-old has improved considerably and ran a great race at Aintree at the end of last month but was caught on the long extended run-in by Paisley Park, he can make amends here.
Cheltenham Saturday Lucky 15
1.50 Calett Mad
3.30 Lygon Rock