Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Cheltenham on Saturday. View selections below.
TIDAL BAY (2.25) can further underline his remarkable renaissance at the tender age of 12 by lifting the Argento Chase on a bumper eight-race Cheltenham card.
This will be Tidal Bay’s fourth attempt to scoop what was formerly known as the Cotswold Chase, finishing second last year and also 2010 (behind Midnight Chase and Neptune Collonges respectively), while also running third to Joe Lively in 2009. It’s hard to credit that the winner of the 2008 Arkle Trophy is still mixing it with the very best and his thrilling, but improbable, victory in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown was form right out of the top drawer. Given that his earlier second to Bobs Worth, trying to concede 6lb, in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury was hardly shoddy either, Tidal Bay is the one to beat.
At the other end of the spectrum, a number of top juveniles continue their education in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial and it may pay to concentrate on the big two trainers, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. The former’s ex-French hurdler IRISH SAINT (12.10) beat McVicar by a wide margin on his UK debut at Kempton’s Christmas bash and may hold the edge over Henderson’s Gallic import Rolling Star.
BOLD SIR BRIAN (1.15) puts his Gold Cup credentials on the line in the 2m 5f Murphy Group Chase and arrives unbeaten this season after wins at Carlisle and Sandown. The last Scottish-trained horse to be placed in the Gold Cup was Earls Brig back in the mid-80s so Lucinda Russell’s classy chaser has a weight of expectation resting on his shoulders north of the border. Bold Sir Brian made mincemeat of his rivals last time and although there remains the suspicion that he may prefer going right-handed (Punchestown might be his ultimate destination this season), he has won the other way round and is normally a spectacular jumper. Navida De La Vega lost Tony McCoy at the third fence on his last visit to the Cotswolds but his earlier third to Al Ferof and Walkon in the Paddy Power Gold Cup puts him in the frame.
In the always competitive Cleeve Hurdle, OSCAR WHISKY (3.35) takes another stab at three miles after flopping behind Big Bucks in last season’s World Hurdle. Nicky Henderson remains convinced that Oscar Whisky wasn’t at his best that day and stamina may not have been the reason for his eclipse. This should tell us more and his class may see him through.
Jonjo O’Neill has an exciting hurdler in the headstrong MR WATSON (4.10) and McCoy’s mount might have got in lightly here on 10st 3lb on the evidence of his easy Plumpton success wearing a hood for the first time. Mr Watson takes a fierce grip and racing from the front his only style of running. He could well blow-out if charging off too fast, but wasn’t stopping at Plumpton. Fasten your seat-belts!
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