With no FA Cup action to concern ourselves with it’s a good opportunity to sit back and enjoy Festival Trials Day from Cheltenham.
Whether or not this meeting will be a guide to The Festival, only time will tell, but historically it’s thrown up a few winners. In the last decade 21 horses that ran on trials day have gone to win again next time out at the big one in March. Of note, for the future…
- 3 of those 21 Festival winners were winning the Close Brother’s Novices Handicap Chase, including last year’s winner Mr Whitaker. It may pay to keep a close eye on how the 1.15 pans out this year.
- Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson… the two UK master jumps trainers have had 22 runners at the Festival (sent off 17.00 or shorter) that ran on Trials Day last time out, with 7 going on to win. £1 on each would have won you +£23 to starting price. So, keep an eye on … Adjali / Dogon / Janika / Brelan D’As / Frodon / Valtor / Terrefort / Birchdale… are any of these Festival winners in waiting?
To this weekend’s racing…
Do note that they will be running on The New Course (also used for the final two days of The Festival). This track is more galloping than the Old Course and a stiffer test of stamina. Pace is always important, and you can win from the front or further back, but you really do need to see out the trip well. There is no hiding place around here and stayers usually come to the fore…
1.50 – 2m4.5f handicap chase
The market could be a tip here, with all winners in the last decade returned 12/1 or shorter, but of more interest is that 7 of those were sent off 13/2 or shorter. The likes of Janika, Siruh Du Lac, The Kings Writ and Brelan D’As look well placed to improve on those stats.
Brelan D’As could be the each-way bet in this race.
Paul Nicholls won this race for the first time last year with Frodon, and had a second the year before that with Saphir Du Rheu. This looks like a target handicap for him now and this unexposed chaser could come into his own here. 20f on the New Course could be ideal and the form of his last three runs has been franked, with 7 subsequent winners coming out of those races. A mark of 136 could underestimate his ability and he looks to have a decent pot in him.
For those who like an even bigger price for interest, Casse Tete at 20s+ could be worth keeping a close eye on. The market may guide but he ran in this race last year when the going was heavy and he wouldn’t want it that testing. On the face of it he just looks out of form, which he could be, but he’s always been better going left handed. He is only 1lb higher than when bolting up at Warwick in February. He has more left-handed handicap chases in him.
2.25 Cotswold Chase
Frodon could well improve on Paul Nicholls’ record in this race, having won it twice in the last decade from just 11 runners. However, you are being asked to take a short price on a horse that hasn’t fully proven he stays this distance. He could win but is too short for me.
It could pay to look elsewhere and if you can forgive his abject run when last seen, Terrefort may offer the value in this race.
He certainly has the stamina and the class to play a hand in the finish and may benefit from a couple of these taking each other on.
I assume Daryl Jacob has picked him ahead of Valtor, which could be a tip in itself. At his best he would go close but it could be a prep for something else.
Nicky Henderson couldn’t be in better form though. In the previous 14 days he’s had 10 winners from 25 runners and anything he runs at the moment is worth a second look.
4.10 2m ½ furlong Handicap Hurdle
Again, historically at least, the market has got this right. 9 of the previous 10 winners were sent off 8/1 or shorter.
It could be as simple as focusing on the two last-time-out winners… Equus Amadeus and Flash The Steel, each-way.
Equus Amadeus… he’s still unexposed in handicaps and comes here on the back of a fine win LTO where stamina and guts won the day. With a fair bit of pace on he could creep into this and power home up the hill. He ran well to a point in The Greatwood Handicap Hurdle two starts back, his first after a wind-op, and that’s always a race worth following.
Flash The Steel… he’s even more unexposed and won going away when last seen, doing all his best work late. He could be up to this level and his trainer is in decent form, with 7 winners in the previous 14 days. The tongue tie made all the difference last time and there could be plenty more to come from him.
Three days after the great man’s 100th birthday, I thought I’d finish this maiden post with a quote from Bob Paisley, which always makes me smile…
“mind. I’ve been here during the bad times too. One year we came second.” Bob Paisley