Neil Morrice walks you through the front runners for Saturday’s racing at Lingfield Park, Uttoxeter, Doncaster and Cheltenham, including the feature race analysis for the Paddy Power Cotswold and Paddy Power 45 Sleeps to Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase.
Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade 2)
In one of the most open years in recent memory there should be Gold Cup clues emanating from this traditional trial at the last Cheltenham meeting before the Festival.
There’s an all English flavour to the contest, run over the Gold Cup distance, with the experience card being played by last year’s Gold Cup third BRISTOL DE MAI.
Challenging the Nigel Twiston- Davies trained grey him for outright favouritism is SANTINI. Nicky Henderson’s charge finished ahead of Delta Work, who defected from this, but behind Topofthegame In the RSA Chase here in March.
Santini has always carried a big home reputation, but having had to work hard to land a graduation chase on his reappearance at Sandown in November it’s fair to say he has a bit to prove.
Bristol De Mai showed with his creditable second to Lostintranslation in the Betfair Chase at Haydock that he’s a force to be reckoned with and, although he’s yet to win at this course, one of his best efforts came when he finished third in the 2019 Gold Cup. He likes to lead or be handy, and could easily get his own way in front.
With SLATE HOUSE, who like Santini remains a virtual novice, he must prove he has the stamina appetite for three and a quarter miles. His season was concentrated on two and a half mile races including the BetVictor Gold Cup (which he would almost certainly have won but for falling at the last) until he scored at Kempton on Boxing Day, but he seemed to be rapidly running out of gas at the finish on that easy course.
Sole northern raider TOP VILLE BEN impressed when landing the Roland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day. His connections should be applauded for upgrading him to this level but whether he’s progressing sufficiently fast to take the giant step in his stride is open to question.
1st BRISTOL DE MAI
3rd Slate House
4th Top Ville Ben
Paddy Power 45 Sleeps to Cheltenham Trophy
Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Not only do the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup 1-2 WARTHOG and SPIRITOFTHEGAMES renew rivalry but LALOR, who rediscovered his form here on New Year’s Day, is also in the field.
The latter went up 4lb for his troubles and his inconsistency worries me, while Warthog and Spiritofthegames were very tired at the end of an arduous battle in the Caspian, thereby tempering enthusiasm for similarly bold displays as that race could have left a mark on them.
If the requirement for freshness is a major one then HIGHWAY ONE O ONE could provide the answer. He has good form round here from his novice days and although unseating in the BetVictor Gold Cup has subsequently put in two very likeable efforts in defeat against Bennys King at Newbury and Just A Sting at Kempton. On that occasion he looked home and hosed for much of the way up the home straight only for the petrol gauge to flash red over the last couple of fences. With that in mind, it seems a good move of trainer Chris Gordon’s to bring him back in trip.
Philip Hobbs has a potentially rewarding attack on the prize with GARDE LA VICTOIRE offering up hope that it can head back down the M5 to Sandhill Stables.
While he might not appear an obvious candidate, Garde La Victoire makes a lot of sense.
The handicapper has given the former Greatwood Hurdle winner a definite chance and I liked the way he shaped under tender handling at the end of his comeback race at Ascot. That midfield finish behind Espour De Guye is there to be improved on and a give the gelding a big chance of getting into the first four.
Top weigh CEPAGE has run well here this season but seems to be in the assessor’s grip. The bold jumper has it in him to finish in the money, while at the other end of the weights MY WAY has claims.
1st GARDE LA VICTOIRE
2nd Highway One O One
Cheltenham Undercard Best Bets
Race 5: HOUSE ISLAND (2) (Each Way)
Trainer: Paul Webber – Jockey: Gavin Sheehan
HOUSE ISLAND has emerged as his trainer’s stable star and can advertise his claims for the equivalent of this Grade 2 novice hurdle at the Festival in March. After gamely scoring in what was a War of attrition at Ludlow, the gelding made a bold fist of leading throughout in a better race at Sandown, until eventually being reeled in by Enrilo. This is a very competitive heat, which explains the ‘Each Way’ recommendation, but my selection is in very good order.
Race 6: KILBRICKEN STORM (6)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard – Jockey: Harry Cobden
One time top novice KILBRICKEN STORM gave clear signs that he’s well on the way back at this course on New Year’s Day after a spell on the injury list. He travelled the best until his effort petered out up the final hill but at huge odds today he could get into the shakeup. Obviously, defending staying hurdle champion Paisley Park will be very hard to beat, but the Tizzard selection represents value.
Doncaster Undercard Bets
Race 5: LADY BUTTONS (1)
Trainer: Phil Kirby – Jockey: Sean Quinlan
As the darling of the northern circuit, LADY BUTTONS reverts to hurdles with a great chance of winning this Grade 2 mares’ hurdle for the second year running. She got up in the last stride to head Happy Diva in a chase here earlier in the month and should be forgiven her defeat in the ‘Fighting Fifth’ Hurdle at Newcastle. Her only problem this time is giving 4lb to Floressa, but I think she will be up to the task.
Race 6: BURBANK (4)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson – Jockey: Jerry McGrath
Nicky Henderson fields two in the featured Sky Bet Handicap Chase but BURBANK is readily preferred to Ok Corral following his spring-heeled jumping display at Newbury, where he powered clear of the useful Tidal Flow. What made the performance remarkable was that he surrendered his early lead but came again, looking better the further he galloped. This course should suit the blinkered 8yo who is in the form of his life.
Uttoxeter Best Bets
Race 6: ALL GOOD THINGS (7)
Trainer: Matt Sheppard – Jockey: Stan Sheppard
It’s fair to say that ALL GOOD THINGS has been a shade unlucky not to score at this course as he dominated a similar race last month only to get pounced on in the final strides. There are others in the field that like to get on with it but they could act as a boon in giving the 8yo a much-needed lead.
Lingfield Park Bets
Race 2: CLIFFS OF DOONEEN (3)
Trainer: Ralph Beckett – Jockey: Richard Kingscote
Considering it was his first outing since May, CLIFFS OF DOONEEN ran a cracker to chase home Battle Of Marathon in a Class 2 here three weeks ago which indicates he’s on the cusp of an overdue success. Injury has restricted his movements but he now seems to have put that behind him.
Race 8: KNOCKABOUT QUEEN (3)
Trainer: Tony Carroll – Jockey: Kieren Fox
There was a lot to, like about the way KNOCKABOUT QUEEN dispatched her rivals at Wolverhampton, and though now 3lb higher she’s competing in a lower grade. I gave her a confident shout that day, and am equally keen on her to go well from a good draw.