Paul Ferguson has one selection for us on Saturday; Milan Bound in the Cheltenham 1.50. Compare odds and bet.
Cheltenham stages a cracking card on Saturday and one that should provide us with plenty of future clues, as there are some fairly unexposed and improving types on show.
The novices’ chase, for example, is a tight contest, with the first three home from last month’s meeting taking each other on once again. Le Bec has done little wrong and could easily complete the hat-trick, though strictly at the weights, many will expect Shutthefrontdoor to reverse form.
He’s not Tony McCoy or Jonjo O’Neill’s only good chance on the card, with ‘The Champ’ taking the ride aboard Colour Squadron in the feature handicap chase, while the Jackdaws Castle trainer saddles Johns Spirit, who had less than a length to spare a the line when the pair met in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month.
With a 2lb pull, most firms have chalked up Colour Squadron as favourite overnight, but the winner was idling on the run-in for me and will be hard to kick out the frame; he was trading at 6/1 on Friday evening.
McCoy and O’Neill also team up with the progressive Eastlake and his more exciting full-brother More Of That in the concluding Relkeel Hurdle. The five-year-old is unbeaten in three starts and won a shade cosily in the end at Haydock last time, though if this turns tactical, the fact he appeared slightly outpaced there would be a concern.
That is, in fact, also a concern for Salubrious on this ground and, with market leader and French Champion Hurdle winner Gemix better over further and unproven on a decent surface, rank outsider Glens Melody is of slight interest, as she is the one with the turn of foot, should they go slow.
Willie Mullins’ mare is officially worst off at the weights, however, so I’d be hoping for a bit more than 7/2 (on offer last night) before considering her as a bet. She is of definite interest though, especially for in-running players, should there be a lack of pace in the early part of the contest.
The O’Neill/McCoy horse I’ve come down on as a bet on the card is Milan Bound (1:50) who needs to take a step forward in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, but looks to be progressing nicely.
His Irish bumper form is pretty strong and this persuaded JP McManus to shell out £145,000 for him at the sales in April and, despite jumping fairly moderately, he won a Carlisle novice hurdle on debut for current connections in October. The third home has franked that form by winning easily at Wetherby, before chasing home the smart pair of Ballyalton and Oscar Rock at Newcastle.
The selection then stepped up to this trip at Uttoxeter and bolted up against weaker opposition, but importantly put up a much better round of hurdling. With runaway course winner Kings Palace in opposition (his form has worked out really well indeed, so deserves his place at the head of the market) the selection has much more on his plate today, but he is definitely going the right way, while David Pipe’s charge showed a much improved effort last time in comparison to his earlier hurdles form.
Hopefully he won’t be given an easy time of it out in front and, at the odds, I’m prepared to take a chance on Milan Bound, who was trading at 11/2 with Hills last night. For those wanting to back each-way, there are sadly only seven going to post.
Elsewhere, I expect Karinga Dancer to make a winning chase debut at Doncaster, though 4/6 (overnight price) seems short enough, while Black Thunder should complete the hat-trick over fences at Lingfield, as long as the ground is soft enough.
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2013-14
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New for 2013-14:
Grade 1 winning jockeys Nick Scholfield and Jane Mangan provide readers with their horses to follow
Last years results included:
* Leading Prospects, Arvika Ligeonniere (x3), Boston Bob, Captain Conan (x3), Champagne Fever (x2 inc Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Glens Melody, Melodic Rendezvous, Simonsig (Arkle) & Un Atout won 13 Grade 1 novice contests between them
* My Tent Or Yours won 4 times including the Betfair Hurdle and the Top Novices’ at Aintree
* Stable Round-Up included Neptune winner The New One, Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Court Minstrel and David Pipe’s Dynaste of whom it read “could follow the Grands Crus path of last year, starting in the Steel Plate And Sections before he is readied for the Feltham” – he won both races and also scored at Aintree in April
* Across The Sea – Mount Benbulben 14/1 winner of the Grade 1 novice chase at the Punchestown Festival
* Under The Hammer – horses featured in this section included Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill (25/1) and The Liquidator, who won the equivalent Grade 1 at Punchestown – this section has been greatly increased for 2013-14