* 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.
* UPDATE: Sunday’s meeting at Thurles has been abandoned after failing an inspection.
JANIKA has a good record fresh over the last two years and looks to have been let in on a fair mark of 147 here. He ran well on his last hurdles start at Cheltenham last year, but was undone by a slow pace there.
Having had a wind operation since he was last seen, I can see him going well for a trainer who looks like he’s starting to hit form in Nicky Henderson. I’m slightly worried about the ground though, with very little rain forecast between now and the race, so I’m hoping he’ll get away with it.
Two wins in December have added a stone to THIBAULT’s mark, but he still looked decent value for the second of those at Hereford. He missed the last hurdle badly and looked to be idling before that, so I reckon there was a fair bit left in the tank.
He’s had a run on the flat since, which he never got into from the rear, so it’s worth overlooking that appearance. He’s back over hurdles here, right down the bottom of the weights and looks capable of going on to make it three in a row over hurdles.
FANION D’ESTRUVAL is open to improvement after only four starts for the Venetia Williams yard and there are clear signs that he has got the talent to make his mark at this level. He has less to find than ratings would suggest as it would be a big surprise if his official mark of 154 was the limit of his ability, and this trip should prove to be his optimum given he travels extremely strongly through his races. The standard being set by the market leaders isn’t insurmountable and providing his jumping holds up, he should give his supporters a good run for their money at rewarding odds.
The third edition of the Pegasus Turf is a pretty poor affair and lacks a standout horse or anything close to one. I’m staying well clear of the front of the market and will play CROSS BORDER at a nice price in a race we are paying four places.
With nine wins and nine places in 30 career starts he is very consistent and given he doesn’t quite get home over 1m 4f and is just too slow for a mile, today’s trip should be perfect. Trainer Micheal Maker and jockey Tyler Gaffalione both had north of 250 winners in 2020 and team up together with a strike rate of 23%. I’d expect him to be placed just behind the leaders in a race with not much pace on.
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It’s hard to think that the inaugural Pegasus race had Arrogate vs California Chrome. Knick Go despite being the Breeders Cup dirt winner, does not have the same draw. If Knicks Go can run to his current form without Lasix he will win given the pace of the race is set up for him, but these reservations remain so I would much rather play JESUS’ TEAM. The market has consistently underestimate him, but his form is solid – placed in the Preakness and the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. The pace of the race isn’t ideal for him, but he has much more in hand against the other horses priced similarly him in the market.
GENTLEMANSGAME caught many an eye the last day at Cork when absolutely bolting up and he could be a very nice type for trainer Mouse Morris and owners Robcour. His task was made a bit easier by the favourite playing up and pulling for the first half of the race, but it was hard not to be impressed by Gentlesmansgame. That race was ran over 2m and it is interesting that Mouse steps him right up in trip to 2m 7f. That may be a pointer to his Cheltenham target being the Albert Bartlett.
Saturday 13:50 Ascot – Janika
Saturday 14:45 Taunton – Thibault
Saturday 15:35 Ascot – Fanion D’Estruval
Saturday 21:59 Gulfstream – Cross Border
Saturday 22:44 Gulfstream – Jesus’ Team
Sunday 15:00 Thurles – Gentlesmansgame
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