We’ll be jumping for joy, this weekend, as attention finally switches fully to races over obstacles and where better to get started than Cheltenham? Seymour Biz has picked out another quartet of nags for your Saturday Lucky 15 bet and includes one of Stuart Edmund’s charges that was a little unlucky, last term. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
Well as as we say goodbye to the flat season which has put Gosden and Dettori into the same class as the greats such as Piggott and O’Brien, and Hern and Carson, we seem to be finishing on a low with this week’s Doncaster meeting. This year’s Futurity at Town Moor has descended into farce with Aiden O’Brien having all the runners bar one. Where are all the class milers and next year’s Classic hopefuls? It looks like they have been put into hibernation, or is it just the UK trainers are turning their backs on the Doncaster course. On Leger day in September, the six races after the Portland Handicap managed to rustle up just 28 runners with only 8 in the Leger itself. It seems to me our top trainers are spurning the course in favour of Ascot, Goodwood, Newbury and Newmarket and except for York the north is being bypassed. So this week with jump racing coming to the fore and television cameras taking in Doncaster, Newbury and most of all, Cheltenham, I am able to concentrate on the winter game and use that to supply this week’s Lucky 15.
The first race on the Cheltenham card is the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase at 2.00 over 3m 1f. Dan Skelton’s Cobra De Mai tops the handicap, he won here last April when he beat Rocky’s Treasure. That was his third win of last season and he was consistent throughout the year but may have too much weight to carry here. Sue Smith has Vintage Clouds in the lineup, he won first time out at Haydock last season so goes well fresh but he had a poor run of form at the end of last season. White Moon is from Colin Tizzard’s yard, he won at Exeter on New Year’s Day but was unable to follow up that win on his last two runs. Back To The Thatch comes out for his seasonal debut after falling in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter in March. He was fancied that day but tired and fell at the last, the drop back in trip should be a help and he may well take a place. The one that really interests me is Neil Mulholland’s The Young Master who won his first two races last season one of which was here in November over this distance. He has had a prep run on the all-weather recently and will be spot on for this.
At 2.35 we have the Masterson Holdings Hurdle, a two mile half a furlong Class 2 race. Favourite is Nigel Twist-Davies’s Torpillo who won his first two starts at the beginning of last season, both races at Sandown. He came out for his first run this season at Chepstow a fortnight ago where he cruised clear two out and will take all the beating here. But Paul Nicholls has his top class Quel Destin in the lineup and he will definitely give the favourite a race. He won six of his nine outings last year but was well beaten here in the Triumph, a race won by Coeur Sublime. Gordon Elliot sends his charge to the scene of his victory but his form went backwards later in the season and Quel Destin can get his revenge.
The Randox Health Handicap Chase is at 3.10 over 2 miles. Paul Nicholls has the favourite here in Capeland, he had a really busy season last year winning three times and he was consistent throughout. But when it came to it he ran poorly here in the JLT after being supplemented. McGroarty has won four times since May, the latest win was at Kelso where he beat Forest Bihan into third. But Brian Ellison’s charge has a 5lb pull after that defeat and he will come on for that run. He ran well in the Grand Annual here at the festival finishing fourth and can go well after that prep run. One place in front of him that day was another Nicholls horse Brelan d’As but Forest Bihan is 6lb better off than he was that day so should reverse those placings. Phillip Hobbs’s Master Work deserves a mention after his recent victory at Fontwell, he really has got the stable firing again and with Richard Johnson on board he may well run into a place.
Finally at 3.45 is the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle over 3 miles. Top weight here is Debra Hamer’s Tobefair who won over the course and distance in April, his first victory for two years. He may have too much weight here. Aye Right from Harriet Graham’s yard won at Kelso on his seasonal reappearance but this is a much tougher assignment. I think Two Taffs is best watched, Dan Skelton’s charge was second here two years ago and has not been seen since, but if fit he is very capable. Gunfleet is fancied since reverting to hurdling after failing as a chaser. He ran fourth in his last race and will be fit for that outing. In that race the second horse was Neverbeen To Paris and I would expect Harry Whittingham’s gelding to confirm the placings here. Henry Daly’s Stoney Mountain jumped poorly here in the Albert Bartlett here at the festival and was pulled up, he can redeem himself here by being placed. But my fancy is for Theclockisticking, one of last year’s 12 To Follow. Stuart Edmunds ‘s gelding won just the once but ran some fine races in defeat. He has had a couple of runs in the summer and a run at Warwick last month, he will be fit for that outing and can go well here.
Saturday Cheltenham Lucky 15
2.00 The Young Master
2.35 Quel Destin
3.10 Forest Bihan