With plenty of rain this morning the ground could be very soft by the time of the first race at Cheltenham and the testing conditions could throw up a few surprises.
Once again, Paddy Power are offering money back – as a free bet up to £25 per race – if your horse finishes second to the SP favourite in all races at Cheltenham today.
There is televised coverage of four races of The International meeting on Channel 4, starting at 1.50, 2.25, 3.00 and 3.35, plus two races from Doncaster at 2.05 and 2.40.
Back a winner of any of today’s races televised live on Channel 4 at odds of 4/1 or greater with Bet365 and get a risk free bet on the next televised Channel 4 race.
JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial
The first surprise may actually come in the opening race where we think the bookies have underestimated the chances of SKY LINO.
He ran a promising race on debut behind today’s favourite, Adrien Du Pont, at Chepstow in October and then ruined his chances at Bangor next time out by running loose for a mile before the start.
Martaline is proving to be a really progressive national hunt sire and if this gelding takes to the conditions he looks a massive each way player.
|Sky Lino (ew)||12.05 Cheltenham||14/1||Paddy Power, BetVictor|
Unicoin Group Handicap Chase
The Unicoin Group Handicap Chase over 2 miles looks a real conundrum as most of the field like better ground.
One horse who is proven on soft is BOLD HENRY and he is worth chancing despite uninspiring recent form figures. It may be that first time out is the time to catch him, and course and distance form is always a bonus around here.
At a much bigger price, OWEN NA VIEW is the other one to back as he ran a much better race at Newbury a fortnight ago, suggesting a return to form is imminent. He is slightly out of the handicap, but does have a top claimer on board to put him back on his right mark.
|Bold Henry (ew)||1.15 Cheltenham||11/2||Paddy Power, Betfair|
|Owen Na View (ew)||1.15 Cheltenham||66/1||Bet365, BetVictor, Ladbrokes|
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
The day’s big race is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and plenty of the runners here contested the Paddy Power Gold Cup over the old course here last month. The new course is a slightly tougher, more galloping track so stamina will be key.
A battle up the hill should really suit LITTLE JON, who has run well here in the past and looks ready for the step up in trip / class. He has a nice weight, with another good claimer taking a further valuable 5lbs off his back.
The unexposed Doctor Phoenix is interesting. He loves soft ground, and although his inexperience is a worry in a race like this he could prove ahead of a handicap for his progressive young trainer, but Paddy Power winner ANNACOTTY looks a more solid option.
He could easily improve for his effort when winning the big one as the ground and trip today will be even more to his liking.
Finally, with the blinkers back on, we can’t resist a small interest in Irish raider TEXAS JACK. He looks thrown in on the basis of his very best form in Graded company over the past couple of campaigns and travelled really well on his most recent outing to suggest there are still races to be won with him. If he can cope with the ground he should run well with the booking of Barry Geraghty an obvious plus.
|Texas Jack (ew)||1.50 Cheltenham||25/1||Bet365|
|Annacotty (ew)||1.50 Cheltenham||8/1||Bet365, Paddy Power|
|Little Jon (ew)||1.50 Cheltenham||8/1||Bet365|
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
The Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle will be a real slog in the conditions and that should suit FINAL NUDGE, who could give David Dennis a day to remember (Dennis also trains Doctor Phoenix). All this horse does is plough through the mud and he is worth another try at the trip.
WEST APPROACH could also be suited by the big step up in distance as he has a very stamina ladened pedigree. Colin Tizzard thrives with this sort of horse, so he could prove considerably over-priced here.
|Final Nudge (ew)||2.25 Cheltenham||13/2||Bet365, BetVictor|
|West Approach (ew)||2.25 Cheltenham||16/1||Bet365, Paddy Power|
Mares’ Handicap Hurdle
The closing contest for mares looks very competitive and we would suggest backing two at the foot of the weights – BRIERY BELLE and FLEMENTIME – in the hope that either or both can improve for running over this trip on this ground.
|Briery Belle (ew)||3.35 Cheltenham||11/1||Bet365|
|Flementime (ew)||3.35 Cheltenham||12/1||BetVictor|
bet365 December Novices’ Chase
As long as the ground doesn’t get too soft at Doncaster the most interesting runner on the card could prove to be RIVER MAIGUE, who has been overlooked by bookies due to his unfashionable yard. He was just about the best of this over hurdles on the pick of his form and has been rejuvenated by a move to Sophie Leech.
|River Maigue (ew)||2.40 Doncaster||22/1||Bet365|