* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
At the moment I have 39 horses (flat and national hunt) in my tracker and when I saw the initial entries for this class B handicap hurdle, three qualifiers showed up! However, only one remains at the 48 hours stage. He’s off a light weight in this ground and is a must bet to see off a field – which contains no less than five last-time-out winners, three of which have yet to reach their peak. However, I want two strings to my bow here in this cracking contest.
With Jack Wildman taking 7lbs off his back, top weight COLUMN OF FIRE looks sure to be involved off a rating of 138. He has run in some top-quality handicap hurdles and looked sure to play a part in the finish when he departed at the final flight at Cheltenham last time out. He will have no problem with this deeper surface and the longer his young partner can hold him up, the better. He is the class act here.
Silver Sheen made great strides last year, winning a maiden, novice and then a handicap hurdle off 132. Only 3lbs higher here, if Jessie Harrington has him ready to roll, he should run well. He needs to take a rise in the weights to make the Coral Cup field, so I suspect he won’t be short on fitness here – although an extra half mile may suit him better.
I’m going to add to my top weight selection with relative light-weight CALL A CAB, who has plenty of potential off a mark of only 114. Forget his run last time as he was badly impeded by a first hurdle faller at Fairyhouse and was on the back foot for the remainder of the race.
However, his seasonal debut at Navan promised much over a trip too sharp and granted better luck in running this lightly raced seven-year-old (only his 13th start under rules) remains with potential. I suspect he could be a major market mover here in receipt of bundles of weight from the other fancied players.
There may well be plenty of quantity in this class three staying handicap chase, but for this level it contains little quality. You could make a strong case that Yaltari is the best handicapped horse in the race and he has been given some tough assignments Venetia Williams during a stop-start last two years.
At the height of his career the son of Kayf Tara was rated as high as 147, but now finds himself off a mark of 135 and his last run behind subsequent Welsh National hero Secret Reprieve was a whole lot better than the end result suggests.
He could be the main danger to my light-weight selection ENQARDE. Richard Newland’s charge has a moderate strike rate of one from seven over the larger obstacles, but has run well in defeat on several occasions. The best of which was a neck second to Tide Times on his seasonal debut at Ascot following a year on the sidelines.
That was followed by a fluent success at Newcastle and he was still travelling with menace in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock Park before departing at the 13th. With Charlie Hammond (3lbs claim) taking over from a 7lbs conditional, he is now 4lbs higher. But, he will once again get his conditions here and an end-to-end gallop on deep ground should be perfect for him.
Of the remainder, course and distance winner Favorito Buck’s is well treated on his course and distance win, but a slog around here isn’t sure to suit and a better each-way alternative could be Townshend. He was a winner over C&D last year off a lower mark too.
- CHECK OUT OUR BRAND NEW SNAZZY RACECARDS FOR EVERY SINGLE RACE TODAY
- … THEN GET ALL THE WINNERS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE WITH OUR FAST RESULTS
- Check out all the latest Horse Racing tips and previews now
Espoir de Guye was my first port of call when I saw the declarations for this competitive event. He patently didn’t stay the 3m last time out after travelling well up the side of the course and this looks the logical pathway to take with him. However, he is going to need a career best by some way to even play a part here, in what looks a race with plenty of strength in depth.
The same remark applies to Dashel Drasher. He has few miles on the clock and is a recent course and distance winner to boot. But, if you have a look at that three-runner race, the odds-on favourite simply didn’t act on the ground and the runner-up Itchy Feet put in what can only be described as a very ordinary round of jumping.
It will be interesting to see how Jerrysback fares in the market place after 399 days off, but the safest suggestion, especially with his yard in red hot form, has to be the top weight BENNYS KING. A winner of four of his nine starts over fences, his last victory epitomised his run style as he once again jumped with great fluency and then gave plenty when asked to go and win his race from the home turn.
A career high mark of 154 obviously asks a great deal more of the 10-year-old, but he is now at the peak of his powers. As long as Harry Skelton doesn’t help force the issue in this bigger field and leaves something in the tank turning for home, he could be up to defying this elevated mark.
- Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey reveal antepost picks for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
- Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey reveal antepost picks for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
- Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey reveal antepost picks for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
- Cheltenham Festival: 8 course specialists to keep onside for March
- Cheltenham Festival: 5 horses to note as the countdown continues