A superb 9 race card at Cheltenham this afternoon will take place on predominantly soft ground after plenty of overnight rain at the Gloucestershire circuit.
Six of those races, plus three more at Doncaster, will be televised live on ITV4 – for which they have moved the start time of the show forward to 12.45pm.
JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
The action kicks off bright and early at midday with a Juvenile Hurdle, which is dominated by a pair of JP McManus runners.
There is a chance that favourite Charli Parcs might not run if connections deem the ground to have gone to soft, but if he does we think DEFI DU SEUIL is value to beat him as he has the more proven form to his name.
If Charli Parcs doesn’t run then it might be worth throwing a few quid each way at SIRUH DU LAC in the hope that he can be placed at least.
|Defi Du Seuil (win)||12.00 Cheltenham||6/4||Paddy Power|
|Siruh Du Lac (ew)||12.00 Cheltenham||66/1||Sky Bet, BetVictor|
Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase
There is a more competitive Novices’ Handicap Chase at 12.35, for which 7 of the 14 runners won last time out, and Singlefarmpayment looks a worthy favourite.
However, Amy Murphy has made a fantastic start to her training career and we think MERCIAN PRINCE can give her profile another big boost with a win here. This ex-French chaser is improving fast, stays well and loves soft ground.
The other one to back is the lightly raced THEO’S CHARM, who should enjoy stepping up in trip over fences. He was a decent handicap hurdler but has always looked likely to excel when going chasing.
|Mercian Prince (ew)||12.35 Cheltenham||12/1||Stan James|
|Theo’s Charm (ew)||12.35 Cheltenham||11/1||Paddy Power|
Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase
The Barbados Trophy is a typically competitive 2m 5f Cheltenham handicap. It has been won by Annacotty for the last two seasons and a hat-trick is possible. He has blinkers back on today and the underfoot conditions he relishes.
He has been freshened up by connections after a poor run last time out.
Preference, though, is for ASO as this looks a weaker contest than the two similar races he finished fourth and second in here earlier in the season. He has gone up in the weights after winning at Chepstow last time out but remains capable of further improvement.
The other one to back is course specialist THOMAS CRAPPER, who ran so well for a long way behind Shantou Flyer here last time out. He would have preferred the rain to have stayed away, but looks too well handicapped to ignore.
|Aso (ew)||1.10 Cheltenham||15/2||Bet365|
|Thomas Crapper (ew)||1.10 Cheltenham||10/1||Bet365|
Clarence House Chase
Un De Sceaux is the start attraction in the re-arranged Clarence House Chase, but we remain unconvinced about him over two miles at the top level and so would suggest taking him on with TOP GAMBLE, who has good course form. The ground has come right for him and he looks cracking each way value against the favourite.
|Top Gamble||1.45 Cheltenham||9/1||Bet365|
All eyes will be on superstar Thistlecrack in the day’s big race – the Cotswold Chase.
He should win, but won’t be much of a price and in the hope that the step up to 3 miles might bring about some improvement it could be worth chancing KYLEMORE LOUGH against him. He looked like he needed his first outing of the season when fading late on here in December.
|Kylemore Lough (ew)||2.15 Cheltenham||18/1||Bet365|
The Cleeve Hurdle is another cracker, with an unusually large field set to go to post. Despite that, Unowhatimeanharry is a very short priced favourite and must be worth opposing.
Top class French mare, KOTKIKOVA, should improve massively for her first recent run for Nicky Henderson, whilst SHANTOU BOB is also interesting in first time headgear for Warren Greatrex. He is narrowly preferred of that trainer’s pair as the ground may have gone against Cole Harden.
It is also interesting that connections are persisting with WEST APPROACH at this level – and they’ve booked Ruby Walsh.
|Kotkikova (ew)||4.00 Cheltenham||16/1||Bet365|
|Shantou Bob (ew)||4.00 Cheltenham||33/1||Bet365|
|West Approach (ew)||4.00 Cheltenham||18/1||Bet365|
Classic Novices’ Hurdle
The other horses to back at Cheltenham are TOPOFTHEGAME and KEEP IN LINE in the Novices’ Hurdle at 3.25.
|Topofthegame (ew)||3.25 Cheltenham||13/2||Bet365|
|Keep In Line (ew)||3.25 Cheltenham||12/1||Bet365|
Sky Bet Handicap Chase
There is a big race at Doncaster too – the Sky Bet Chase, for which the sponsors are offering 5 places each-way and Paddy Power have 4 places (just 3 places elsewhere).
We fancy another Greatrex runner here in the shape of OUT SAM. He looked a horse to follow last season when going off favourite for a big handicap at the Festival, but lost his way there and since.
However, there were signs of a return to form last time out and he looks very well handicapped. If his jumping holds up here he should run a big race and going left handed should suit.
The main dangers are ANOTHER HERO and CAID DU BERLAIS.
|Out Sam (ew)||3.40 Doncaster||15/2||Sky Bet|
|Another Hero (ew)||3.40 Doncaster||8/1||Sky Bet|
|Caid Du Berlais (ew)||3.40 Doncaster||14/1||Paddy Power|