Festival Trials day at Cheltenham is the feature on another wonderful day of racing and their card gets underway with the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial. Third Intention (12.55) wouldn’t want the ground too soft but he was very impressive at Newbury on debut and is taken to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles. If Maoi Chinn Tire follows up his Wetherby success for Staffordshire based trainer Jennie Candlish you can be sure his Starting Price will not be as big as the 200/1 he was returned on that occasion!
The enigmatic Tidal Bay could win the Argento Chase if on a going day but he was bitterly disappointing over the smaller obstacles on his seasonal reappearance and basically he can’t be trusted. If he is anywhere near Punchestowns (2.30) coming up the hill the northern challenger is likely to outstay the selection, but the Henderson trained runner is unexposed over fences and is given the nod.
There are many who believe Punchestowns is not suited to the Cheltenham undulations and he would be better off waiting for Aintree as his primary spring objective, but in my opinion his two seconds here behind Big Buck’s over hurdles are career best performances and he is taken to boost his Gold Cup credentials. He narrowly failed to give 3lbs to Pride Of Dulcote at a foggy Newbury on his reappearance but I am a big fan of that Paul Nicholls-trained animal and Punchestowns is taken to get his chasing career back on track.
The Neptune Novices’ Hurdle is a genuine Festival trial and Backspin (3.05) can maintain his unbeaten record having looked a potential star when winning the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle last time. Rock On Ruby has done his winning at the minimum trip so far but this extended 2m 4f should be well within his compass and he is taken to follow the selection home.
There is plenty of dead wood amongst the 16 to post for the Cleeve Hurdle and the progressive Grand Crus (3.35) is taken to maintain his upward curve. Whether David Pipe’s 6-y-o is a credible threat to Big Buck’s World Hurdle crown is another matter, but for the moment the grey can make a successful transition from handicapper to pattern race performer.
At Doncaster Join Together (2.45) can break his maiden tag at the third attempt for the Champion trainer in a below par River Don Novices’ Hurdle. A thorough stayer he would not want the race to become a tactical affair and the form of his Cheltenham second last month looks suspect, but he is held in some regard at Ditcheat and receives weight from many of the principles.
The SkyBet Chase is one of the big betting races of the day and again it looks a sub-standard renewal of this famous race. Paul Nicholls has a very good record in the event and his Fistral Beach is the one to beat having been raised only 9lbs for a facile win at Wincanton on his reappearance. Preference, however, is for Khachaturian (3.20) who will appreciate the forecast good ground and has always suggested that a decent staying chase was within his grasp.
Sky Bet Chase ~ Outright Prices-Nr No Bet, (place terms: 1/4 the first 4)
4 Fistral Beach
8 Blazing Bailey
9 Calgary Bay
12 Take The Breeze
14 King Fontaine
16 Chief Dan George
At Uttoxeter Supreme Plan (3.45) returns from a two-month layoff for Kim Bailey; a winning point-to-pointer on heavy ground the selection has yet to win a race and has been called a few rude names in the past but today’s conditions look ideal and he can oblige.
At Lingfield Professor John (3.30) has finished third in his last four starts but if getting a decent pace he can land the 10-furlong handicap for Lambourn trainer Ian Wood. His draw in stall 1 should be ideal if he can sit in off the pace.
For all your sporting odds this weekend check out StanJames.com
Be lucky and stay warm