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Pied Piper was rated 96 on the flat when trained by John Gosden. He made his debut at Punchestown on New Years Eve and won nicely from a well punted one of Willie Mullins’ called Vauban. The two of them were 15 lengths clear of the third, who ran really well in Punchestown last week. Pied Piper and Vauban looked well above average that day and both could well develop into proper Triumph Hurdle contenders.
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Where’s Frankie was on my radar for handicaps, as some of his point-to-point form suggested he was going to be well treated off a mark below 100. He attracted plenty of support on his second start in a handicap when winning nicely here over hurdles off a mark of 89. He goes chasing now off the same mark and should take a bit of beating.
Coole Cody might be tough to peg back from the front here, he is only 4lb higher than his Racing Post Gold Cup win in December, but he had a hard race there and it told on New Year’s Day when he was well beaten. I would be very worried about the decent ground for Farinet, who would appear best on proper soft ground. Whatmore hasn’t been seen on the track for 15 months and hasn’t won a race since May 2019. But last season, he started with an excellent (well backed) second in the Sodexco Gold Cup at Ascot over 3m, only being beaten a little over a length by course specialist Regal Encore (off a mark of 138).
He went off at 9/4 for the Rehearsal Chase and again was only beaten less than 2l in second that day behind Yorkhill. That was off a mark of 142. He was fourth in the Novice Handicap Chase at the 2020 festival off a mark of 138 and that was a very strong renewal of the race with Imperial Aura winning off 143 and Galvin second off 142. He returns off a fair mark and the decent ground is definitely in his favour. Henry Daly was quiet enough last season but he has had 14 winners since the beginning of November.
I backed Stormy Flight at Wincanton last Thursday when he was supported from 11/1 into 3/1 and was unseated at the first. The yard have come back into form after a quiet spell and Stormy Flight now returns to Uttoxeter for the first time since winning here in April off just 2lb lower.
I believe that Looks Like Trouble back in 2000 was the last horse to do the Cotswold Chase and Gold Cup double. Simply The Betts ran a cracker last time in a handicap here on New Year’s Day when only beaten a couple of lengths off a mark of 153. My worry for him is that I’m yet to be convinced that he wants three miles, never mind the extended 3m1f he will encounter here.
Chantry House has won eight of his 11 races under rules. In three starts at Cheltenham, he was third in a Supreme Novices Hurdle and won the Marsh Chase. He did look a little fortunate when winning the 3m Novices Grade 1 at the Aintree festival, but he did easily beat Shan Blue and Fiddlerontheroof. He was very heavily punted for the King George VI Chase at Christmas and went off 3/1 favourite, but never got in a rhythm and was pulled up. He is wearing cheekpieces now and this doesn’t look a deep race. I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win this.
Paisley Park has won the past two renewals of this but has a bit of ground to make up with Champ. He was well fancied in last year’s Gold Cup (went off 13/2) but his jumping didn’t stand up and he was pulled up. His only defeats over hurdles were on his debut when beaten a neck by Vinndication and when second in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle to City Island in 2019.
He has run twice over hurdles at 3m and has won both, the Grade 1 novice at Aintree and last month’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. He is 10 years old now, but he is relatively lightly raced with 16 career starts and just eight hurdles runs. He should be up to winning this but the Stayers’ Hurdle at the festival might be a more difficult test.
Storm Control had shown very little really since an excellent fifth in the Kim Muir last March off a mark of 142. He had won twice at Cheltenham last season off marks of 131 and 137, making all on both occasions (has he did at Newbury last time). While many will look at him under a 5lb penalty for a narrow win at Newbury, it was an excellent effort. Tango Bay was heavily punted from 14/1 down to 11/2 and travelled powerfully into the race to suggest he was well treated and Storm Control fought him off.
Storm Control has won his only previous run at Doncaster when beating Sky Pirate here over 2m 3f a couple of years back. Decent ground suits and that won’t be the case for many of these. I could see him getting into a decent rhythm in front and he could be tough to peg back. There doesn’t appear to be too many here to take on Storm Control from the front and considering he is one of the outsiders and Paddy Power are paying 5 places, he looks worthy of each-way support.
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A Different Kind is 3-3 over hurdles, Balco Coastal is 2-2 over hurdles, North Lodge 1-1 over hurdles and Hillcrest is 3-3 over hurdles. Hillcrest is a massive horse but that didn’t stop him travelling really nicely from the front. He beat four horses who had all won last time out and did it without getting a slap of the whip. I loved his jumping and he should make a magnificent chaser in time. Henry Daly said at this stage of his career, he is the best horse he has ever had.
Go back and watch Hidden Beauty‘s win on her debut at Ffos Las and how effortlessly she made up ground from the back. Fergal O’Brien won a listed bumper here at Cheltenham earlier this season with Bottnay and he had the second that day also. Hidden Beauty is said to have been working well with those, so she is the one to beat for me.
Frank Hickey’s best bets:
12:45 Cheltenham – Pied Piper
13:05 Fairyhouse – Where’s Frankie
13:55 Cheltenham – Whatmore (each way)
14:22 Uttoxeter – Stormy Flight
14:30 Cheltenham – Chantry House
15:05 Cheltenham – Champ
15:20 Doncaster – Storm Control (each way)
15:40 Cheltenham – Hillcrest
16:15 Cheltenham – Hidden Beauty
*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
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