Most pundits and punters like to focus on the Grade One events at the big festivals, but the handicaps are the medium that make money for me and I’m hugely interested in the famous Topham Trophy at 16:05. My first port of call in this one circuit cavalry charge around the National fences has to be Activial at 25/1.
Sixth in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after jumping superbly, this intermediate 2m5f trip looks perfect for the nine-year-old and his prominent racing style is also a bonus around here.
I am going to back him up with a saver on Call It Magic after he gave a superb exhibition of fencing in the Becher Chase over these obstacles in November. It was only in the final three furlongs that this lightly raced nine-year-old faded and this set-up looks perfect for another huge run over these famous obstacles.
I suspect the Sefton Novices Hurdle (16:40) is going to be a real slog, as it was last year, with the impending rain and that should suit the very lightly raced Trevelyn’s Corn.
The Paul Nicholls’ charge eased home to land his maiden hurdle at Wincanton last month.
He should simply relish this stamina-sapping challenge. Nicholls is not one to over face his novices and takes a long-term view, so the fact he runs here looks a huge tip in itself.
As far as the feature events are concerned, I believe Waiting Patiently will turn over last year’s winner Politologue in the Melling Chase (15:25). The more give in the ground the better for the Ruth Jefferson trained charge.
But, the best value bet of the day could come in the Mildmay Novices Chase at 14:50 where RSA Chase hero Topofthegame makes the market for the other six entries.
I was at Haydock when Mr Whipped won over two and a half miles and I hugely impressed by the way he travelled through the race and stayed on through the closing stages. But his ultimate domain has always looked like being three miles both on breeding (by Beneficial) and his style of galloping. He also has the added bonus of arriving here a relatively fresh horse compared to the opposition here.