Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Cheltenham, Wetherby and Punchestown. View selections below
The feature race on the middle day of the Open Meeting at Cheltenham is the Paddy Power Chase one of the great handicaps of the jumps season and my two against the field are David Pipe’s Ballynagour and Irish raider Hidden Cyclone (2.30) and the nod goes to the latter although there are doubts about his ability to jump at speed on ground, probably, faster than ideal. That said he has some engine and has always promised to make into a top class chaser. This is the acid test and at 14/1 with BetVictor he can reward each way support.
There is a wonderful novice chase; AP McCoy holds Shutthefrontdoor in the highest regard but the chasing debutant African Gold (1.15) gets the vote for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Runner up to At Fishers Cross at the Festival in the Albert Bartlett he promises to be at least as effective over fences and, given he is out of a Presenting mare, there should be no excuses with the forecast good ground.
Spring Heeled will love the ground and must go close in the 3m 4f handicap chase having been mugged close home in the Munster National last time, but Knockara Beau (1.50) was a revelation at Kelso last time and, despite never winning, has run some cracking races at Cheltenham in the past and is taken to follow up his Borders .
I am a big fan of Edmund Kean (3.00) representing David Pipe and hope to see him over fences sooner rather than later, but the hope is that he can take the stayers’ hurdle before making the transition to the larger obstacles. A winning pointer he landed two of his four starts over hurdles last season and ended the campaign finishing third in a valuable handicap at Sandown from a 2lb lower mark.
Creepy (3.35) was no match for Kings Palace over 3m 2f last time and I am not surprised to see him back down in trip having scored at Chepstow over 2m 4f previously; he finished fourth in the corresponding race last year but the stable’s horses were out of sorts at the time and, as long as he settles, he can make the most of the weight he receives from many of the principles including Timesremembered winner of both starts this term.
At Wetherby I’m looking forward to the Chase debut of Supreme Asset (12.55) a dual hurdles winner over the minimum trip and one who has always suggested he would relish the larger obstacles; the stable are in very good form and Jason Maguire, who was on board for both wins over timber, takes the mount.
You could argue No Planning (2.05) is not certain to stay the extended 3 miles but the same can be said of Denali Highway and with a recent course run under his belt I give the nod to the Sur Smith runner especially with the drying ground a positive.
There is a terrific card at Punchestown including the eagerly awaited chase debut of Champagne Fever (1.00) who is hard to oppose in an outstanding Beginners’ Chase; winner of the Festival Bumper in 2011 and the supreme Novices’ Hurdle twelve months later he is ante-post favourite at 5/1 for the Arkle and 12/1 for the RSA in March.