Sky Sports’ Alex Hammond marks your card on penultimate day of the Cheltenham Festival: Preview | Skybet Bet £5 Get £20 Free
JLT NOVICES’ CHASE
I think this race is hard! Vautour is trained by Willie Mullins who must have been disappointed to see him beaten in Racing Post Novice Chase. However, he won last time out in small field and showed a little bit more of what we hoped for given his hurdle career. He was so impressive when winning the Sky Bet Supreme last year, so he has top class festival form.
The Paul Nicholls trained Ptit Zig is not a horse I’ve ever really taken too, but his record speaks for itself. It was unfortunate he tipped up in the Ascot Chase last time out when taking on established chasers. Apache Stronghold beat Valseur Lido in Grade 1 Leopardstown last time, but despite that you’d have to be seriously worried about his jumping here. Like the favourite Valseur Lido is also trained by Willie Mullins and he’s my idea of the winner. He jumps really well and this trip might be his optimum for now.
PERTEMPS HANDICAP HURDLE
Like many of the handicaps at this meeting there are a shed load of horses that come into the race looking well handicapped. Tony Martin’s Edeymi could be one of them and I also like the look of the Anthony Honeyball trained Regal Encore. The latter suits this trip and the drying ground brought out the best in him at Exeter in the qualifier. He has top class festival form as he was second to Briar Hill in the 2013 Bumper here. Another horse that makes the shortlist is Brother Brian for trainer Hughie Morrison. The ground will be right up his street and it’s lucky his third in the Relkeel Hurdle didn’t ruin his handicap mark. This trip will suit him and he just about gets my vote.
I really fancy Don Cossack in this. Gordon Elliott expected loads from this horse, but he was disappointing last season. However, he’s really got his act together now, winning his last four including the John Durkan & Kinloch Brae latest (left clear by fall of Champagne Fever). I think he’ll appreciate this better ground and will be hard to beat.
A horse that could run well at a reasonable price is Ma Filleule for Nicky Henderson. She’s a smashing mare and jumps really well. She’s a spring horse and conditions will be in her favour. Hidden Cyclone is also a danger now that trainer Shark Hanlon has decided to run here rather than in the Champion Chase. He was second in this race last season and is at the peak of his powers at the moment.
LADBROKES WORLD HURDLE
Paul Nicholls has got a decent chance of adding to his good recent record in this race with Zarkandar and Saphir Du Rheu. The former has been trained for this race and comes here fresh. He was last seen finishing second in the Long Walk at Ascot in December where Sam Twiston-Davies admitted he would have held on to him longer given the chance to ride the race again as he pulled up in front. He was 4th in this last year and is a better horse this year; Noel Fehily rides. Having said that, I fancy stable-mate Saphir Du Rheu,who will be ridden by stable-jockey Sam Twiston-Davies. This horse was flagged up as a potential star novice chaser at the start of season, but fell Kempton over Christmas (race won by Coneygree) and reverted to hurdles in the Cleeve where he beat Reve de Sivola.
David Pipe’s UnTemps Pour Tout will strip fitter for his run in the Cleeve. That was his first run since May and he was well backed for that reappearance.
The Nicky Henderson trained Whisper ran over fences last time, but won the Coral Cup and Liverpool Hurdles last spring and could run a big race reverting to hurdles.
At a bigger price, I’ll be backing Cole Harden. Warren Greatrex thinks he’ll be better on this type of ground. I thought this horse would run a big race in this earlier in the season, but wasn’t impressed with him in the Cleeve, but he has had a breathing operation since then and he could run a big race.
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