Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe preview

A year on from Aidan O’Brien’s brilliant 1-2-3 in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, we are back at Chantilly for the 2017 renewal. Last campaign, the contest was run on much better ground than we can expect tomorrow. While the case, as long as too much rain doesn’t fall in Paris goingforward good to soft ground should be a fair playing field for most.

Below is my horse-by-horse guide. Good luck with your bets!

1. Zarak (25/1)

Impeccably bred son of Dubawi out of 2008 Arc heroine Zarkava, connections finally saw sense in stepping him up to 12f last time out when he was a ready winner of the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud in a useful time. That form is still some way short of winning an Arc however; the close proximity of the out of sorts My Dream Boat letting it down. Likely to be dropped in from stall 18 meaning he’ll need a great ride and some luck. Outside place prospects at best.

2. Doha Dream (150/1)

A 150/1 shot in the care of Andre Fabre, Doha Dream simply doesn’t look good enough and is a possible pace-maker for the owners Brametot. Look elsewhere.

3. One Foot In Heaven (100/1)

Not a straight-forward character as he can sometimes get behind and race keenly, but granted his ideal conditions – a strong pace and ground with some juice it – he’s a solid horse. It looks like he’ll get his ideal set up here which makes him well overpriced at 100/1 especially when you consider his excellent 6th behind Found here last year. He comes into the race fresher than most and is reportedly in good form. While not classy enough to win, he is one at a huge price in the place market to consider.

4. Ulysses (10/1)

Exceptionally bred son of Galileo, Ulysses lacks nothing on paper with regards his pedigree and trainer. More importantly however, the highly progressive four-year-old has done it on the track this season, winning the Eclipse and International. Despite being stretched over 12f at Ascot in the King George behind Enable, on a less demanding track under quicker conditions he can still have a major say.  Why? Quite simply, there are few horses in this field that can match his ability. His draw in one will mean he needs plenty of luck in running, but he’s good enough to win this. No doubt.

5. Cloth Of Stars (28/1)

Shaped with distinct visual promise in his Arc Trial when far too keen and in a poor early position with regards the pace. Given his trainer (Andre Fabre), there is likely to be significant improvement fitness wise, but he simply doesn’t look good enough. Likely has to prove his stamina for a strong-run 12f, too, and every drop of rain will be a negative. Vastly overpriced compared to the German raider and his Prix Foy nemesis Dschingis Secret, mind.

6. Silverwave (100/1)

Closely match with Zarak on his Grand Prix de Saint Cloud effort (2nd) and his Arc prep in the Prix Foy screamed just that, prep. Wasn’t given a hard time on softish ground and will likely improve significantly for the run, but he doesn’t look good enough to trouble the judge.

7. Idaho (33/1)

Quite simply not an American type track horse and his progressive look has been halted by being poorly placed in North America last time out. Second in an average Derby in 2016, but has improved this campaign; his third to Enable in the King George a career best. Probably has more to offer, but while the case, this strapping son of Galileo won’t enjoy the sharpish nature of Chantilly and he’s likely to be outpaced before running on. Outside place prospects.

8. Dschingis Secret (16/1)

Can’t say I know too much about this German raider, have only seen him race once, when winning the Prix Foy. Visually, he was a ready winner and clearly goes well on soft ground, but I think that form is pretty poor. Cloth Of Stars is not a genuine Group 1 horse, was pretty keen and highly likely had that race as a prep on ground he’d want much faster. Looks an awful price.

9. Satono Diamond (33/1)

Japanese raider who came to Europe with a big reputation before flopping in the Prix Foy. He’s hard to recommend on that evidence despite the fact he’s likely to improve. Wouldn’t want any more rain.

10. Satono Noblesse (250/1)

Stable mate of Satono Diamond and his likely pacemaker.

11.Iquitos (125/1)

Another German raider I know little about, but beating Best Solution like he did in July is not Arc-winning form and it’s best to look elsewhere.

12. Order Of St George (10/1)

Top-class stayer as his 2015 Irish Leger and 2016 Gold Cup victory at Royal Ascot indicates. Robbed of the Gold Cup double this season by a poor ride, but a change in tactics since that defeat to Big Orange has seen him destroy an Irish Leger field by 9 lengths. Despite having the stamina for 28f, there is little doubt Order Of St George has the class to be competitive in an Arc over 12f. He was a fine third to Found in last year’s race despite being a touch unlucky on ground that saw him vulnerable. On sod that is sure to be much slower, once given a prominent ride off good fractions, he has strong each-way claims especially with last year’s first and second not back to take him on.

13. Seventh Heaven (50/1)

A proper 12f Group 1 filly against her own sex as wins in last season’s Irish and Yorkshire Oaks suggest. Looked like she could potentially improve to take on the colts this season when bolting up in the Jockey Club Stakes, but suffered a setback soon after. Her prep run for the Arc was horrendous (ran to about 76) and while she’ll likely take a huge step forward, it won’t be good enough on ground that’s likely to be softer than ideal on a track that won’t play to her strengths.

14. Brametot (22/1)

French 2000 Guineas and Derby winner that fluffed his lines badly last time out. Subsequently found to have had a back injury and now in better form. Has a bad habit of starting slowly and should he do that from stall 4, he’ll need a fair amount of luck. Has stamina to prove over 12f, but his French Derby victory and pedigree suggest it’s well within his compass. Stamina may not beat him, but class might – not quite sure he’s good enough and his slow starting habit is undesirable up in class.

15. Capri (20/1)

Irish Derby and St Leger winner who is progressive. The former race fell in his lap a touch, but in the Leger he made no mistake in an event where there was no hiding place. He’s going the right way and should enjoy underfoot conditions. While the case, I’m not sure this track will bring out the best in him and he backs up two weeks after a gruelling victory at Doncaster.

16. Plumatic (80/1)

Lightly-raced, well-bred French contender that has yet to win at Group level. Tough ask to do it here.

17. Enable (11/10)

One of few horses to brighten up a rather dull 2017 Flat campaign. The daughter of Nathaniel has done nothing but improve this season; running to 97 in April and as high as 124 when winning the King George (late July), on my figures. Her latest Yorkshire Oaks victory was a step back in numbers, but in truth, there was nothing in that race to challenge her and she won easily, doing it the hard way from the front, something she’d never done before. The runner up, Coronet, ran well in the Leger and all her form looks incredibly strong. Obviously the one to beat.

18. Winter (10/1)

Over a mile, she has been the outstanding three-year-old filly of 2017, winning both Guineas and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. She showed she stayed 10f well enough when in winning the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood before being turned over last time out in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. Connections gave excuses for the defeat – she missed a week’s work due to a stone bruise – but visually she didn’t look too far below her best. While the undoubted class act over 8f against her own age group and sex, her level of form makes taking on older horses and colts a big step up in class. Factor in the doubts about her staying this trip and others appear better value.

Verdict

Of those to the fore in the market, Winter is the horse I can’t have at the prices. 10/1 looks a bit skinny about a horse I feel has plenty to prove against colts over a trip she may not stay. To my eye, Order Of St George holds the best chance of winning the Arc for Ballydoyle although it’s hard to fancy him for win purposes in terms of having a bet and he doesn’t offer much value each-way. The two three-year-old colts set to line up are Brametot and Capri. I’m not sure we have a good bunch of Classic middle distance colts this season, Cracksman is the best of them but he’s not here. Brametot’s habit of starting slowly on the back of an interrupted prep means I can swerve him. Capri is a tougher dodge as he is clearly progressive, but backs up quickly after a tough Leger victory. If you’re feeling lucky, One Foot In Heaven may be worth a small each-way play at 100/1 or a straight bet in the place only market (four places) may be better. He’ll come up short, but it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise to see him sneak into the places.

This sees me down to Enable and Ulysses, the two horses with by far and away the strongest form on offer in this year’s Arc, hence their market positions. That said, a ten-point difference between them looks far too wide. Enable is an even-money shot; that is a fair price. Ulysses is now a 10/1 play; that looks generous to my eye.

Sir Michael Stoute’s stable star has 4 ½ lengths to make up with Enable on their King George clash back in late July. On a less-demanding track, likely to be on better ground and on 4lb better terms, ULYSSES can close the gap. Furthermore, I think he has improved since they last met, hopefully strengthened up, too, as he’ll need to be at his very best to turn the form. On what we’ve seen so far, 10f is undoubtedly the selection’s best trip, but as stated above there are reasons that can allow him to stay this distance stronger later in the season.

Advice

1pt win Ulysses @10/1 (Betfair, Bet Victor, Paddy Power)

2.5pts win Ulysses ‘Betting without Enable’ @5/1 (Bet Victor), @9/2 (Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power)

 

 

 

 

Royal Ascot 2017 – Day Four (Friday)

2.30 Royal Ascot – Albany Stakes

At the prices, I simply can’t resist a bet on 66/1 shot ARMUM. Formerly trained by Jamie Osbourne, but moved to Ed Dunlop’s yard after being bought at the sales on Monday, this well-bred filly looks grossly overpriced.

The daughter of Society Rock has got a quality bloodline being a half-sister to last year’s Royal Ascot winner Ardad. In a pair of starts this season, she has improved nicely and, two characteristics of her game, are breaking quickly from the stalls and travelling well.

She did both last time out when winning nicely at Chester, but the most eyecatching element of the victory was how much she found off the bridle. Her former trainer said the ground last time out was too soft for her so if she improves again for today’s quicker surface, she could run huge. She’s a likable horse.

Advice

1pt each-way Armum @66/1 (general 1,2,3,4)

3.05 Royal Ascot – King Edward VII Stakes

I couldn’t put anyone off Crystal Ocean, he is without a doubt the one to beat, but in a race potentially being run at a lacklustre gallop, he may struggle on this ground if the race turns into a sprint.

At a much bigger price, without Crystal Ocean, GLENCADAM GLORY may be able to sneak into the places, now his habit of starting slowly from the gates appears to be cured. That inability to break on terms has cost him this season, but last time out in the Derby, he jumped on terms, only to be stuck out wide for the entire race.

To his credit, he ran on late, albeit past beaten horses. With circumstances highly likely to fall much better for him today, he can hopefully run well.

Advice

1pt each-way Glencadam Glory ‘betting without Crystal Ocean’ @18/1 (Betfair, bet365, Paddy Power)

3.40 Royal Ascot – Commonwealth Cup

One of the races of the meeting, featuring Blue Point, Caravaggio and Harry Angel. This will be brilliant. I won’t be having a bet, but shall be on the edge of my sit watching.

Advice

Go to the bar

4.20 Royal Ascot – Coronation Stakes

Aidan O’Brien’s Winter is obviously the one to beat, as the prices tell you, but as we saw with Churchill and Order Of St George, albeit for different reasons, there is no such thing as a certainty.

I can’t fathom the price of the French filly PRECIEUSE who should easily be half that on the back of her classy French 1000 Guineas victory. The form of that contest wouldn’t be as strong as the Guineas Winter won, but it was still a quality race and she won well.

The daughter of Tamayuz impressed with how she travelled into contention and how she saw it out. There was no fluke about the victory and it came in a decent time. She’s a bonkers price and worth a go.

Advice

1pt win Precieuse @12/1 (bet365, Paddy Power),

5.00 Royal Ascot – Queen’s Vase

Three high-class handicappers I really rate take each other on here, Desert Skyline, Stradivarius and Time To Study. Desert Skyline is the only one I’d have a worry about staying this 14f trip so it makes sense to concentrate on the other two.

With the ground potentially being quicker than ideal for Time To Study, STRADIVARIUS gets the nod. From early in his juvenile days, he has looked a proper staying animal and today’s step up in trip could unlock further improvement.

He bumped into a well-handicapped and nice-bred type last time out at Chester, when pulling clear of the remainder. If he is in the same form, he’ll go close.

Advice

2pts each-way Stradivarius @7/1 (Sky Bet 1,2,3,4)

5.35 Royal Ascot – Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes

The Queen’s Mainstream could bolt up here if he is in the mood, he looks a well-handicapped horse to my eye, but the problem is, he doesn’t win too often. He’s not straight-forward, but has so much ability. He’s one for your placepot, for sure.

Wadigor and Sixties Icon were the two I liked, but with lingering doubts about the latter seeing about a potentially strong-run 12f race, WADIGOR gets the nod. Roger Varian’s colt remains unbeaten in three runs, a trio of efforts which are highly progressive.

Essentially, I feel he is a Group class horse in a handicap. He’s got a top-class staying pedigree, albeit his sire is not as fashionable for some. His dam is from a classy 12f family and with today’s trip bound to bring out further improvement, he can hopefully send us home happy.

Advice

2.5pts each-way Wadigor @13/2 (Sky Bet 1,2,3,4,5,6) @7/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)

Royal Ascot 2017 – Day Three (Thursday)

2.30 Royal Ascot – Norfolk Stakes

Hopefully HAVANA GREY can get day three of Royal Ascot off to a flyer. Karl Burke’s speedy juvenile has been impressive in all three runs this season, improving with each start and now unbeaten in his last two.

His win in the National Stakes at Sandown last time out confirmed he is getting better and indeed, quicker. He’s a horse that jumps smartly, travels well and has a touch of class. His trainer thinks he has improved again, and if that’s the case, he’ll run well.

Advice

2pts each-way Havana Grey @8/1 (general – use 1,2,3,4 firms)

3.05 Royal Ascot – Hampton Court Stakes

Yet again yesterday, with Le Brivido winning the Jersey Stakes in great fashion, the French colts Classic form is increasingly looking top-class. With that the case, I’m hoping ORDEROFTHEGARTER can overcome his wide draw for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore.

The son of Galileo had first-time cheek-pieces applied last time out, and they worked well, as he travelled through the race kindly before having his path blocked in the straight, looking unlucky.

With a better run through today, he will go close.

Advice

1pt each-way Orderofthegarter @5/1 (Betfair, BetFred, Paddy Power 1,2,3,4)

3.40 Royal Ascot – Ribblesdale Stakes

I’m not sure this looks the best renewal of the Ribblesdale Stakes, albeit we are dealing with young, well-bred and lightly-raced fillies. ALLURINGLY sets a decent standard on what we’ve seen, I’m not sure anything, even with significant improvement, will improve enough to beat her if she runs her race.

I was slightly disappointed with her in the Oaks when a well-beaten third, but she was behind two classy fillies and to her credit, she beat everything off easily. Today’s less stamina-demanding test should suit her strong-travelling abilities.

I’m hoping she can back up relatively quickly after her Epsom effort, but she has had three weeks to recover and is obviously in the best of care with Aidan O’Brien.

Advice

1pt win Alluringly @4/1 (general)

4.20 Royal Ascot – Gold Cup

I’ll keep this short and simple, ORDER OF ST GEORGE is the best horse in this race and he should win. He was a good winner of this race last year and he appears to be coming here in better order. If he runs his race, he’ll win.

Advice

2.5pts win Order Of St George @1/1 (StanJames), 10/11 (general)

5.00 Royal Ascot – Britannia Stakes

Another huge-field handicap to contend with here, 29 runners look set to do battle. Those drawn low could struggle again today, in this race the better early speed, crucial for towing horses into the race kindly, looks to be drawn high.

With that being the case, my two against the field are the huge-priced LESHLAA and the improving COLIBRI. The former comes here on the back of a disappointing effort, but that came on soft ground and that simply isn’t his bag. He is best judged on his Newmarket win beforehand where he and a stablemate pulled 8 lengths clear of the third, showing a closing kick to get competitive.

Colibri ran a cracker in a warm Sandown maiden on his only start this season. Travelling kindly out wide for most the race, he then swung wide coming into the straight, making a decent move to get competitive before his run just flattened out close home. He should improve for that and can hopefully go close.

Advice

1pt each-way Colibri @12/1 (Paddy Power & Sky Bet 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt each-way Leshlaa @40/1 (Sky Bet 1,2,3,4,5,6)

5.35 Royal Ascot – King George V Stakes

A tough closing handicap, but I’m hoping the step back up in trip will bring out further improvement in TARTINI, who does plenty right in his races, but just looks a touched one-paced at times. I feel he is on a workable mark, and a strong-run 12 furlongs on this stiff track could prove ideal.

Advice

1pt each-way Tartini @14/1 (Sky Bet 1,2,3,4,5) @16/1 (bet365, Bet Victor, Coral, Ladbrokes)

Royal Ascot 2017 – Day Two (Wednesday)

2.30 Royal Ascot – Jersey Stakes

The day two Royal Ascot opener doesn’t look a race to get too clever with; the market leaders look to hold outstanding chances, those being Le Brivido (11/4), Dream Castle (4/1) and Daban (15/2).

Without a shadow of a doubt, Le Brivido has the best form on offer and is the correct favourite, but his brilliant French 2000 Guineas effort came on ground with cut in it over a mile and it remains to be seen if he will perform as good over today’s fast-terrain seven-furlongs.

Those conditions will hold no fears for Dream Castle and Daban who have a similar level of ability, but with the filly carrying a penalty, it’s makes sense to give DREAM CASTLE the nod. Saeed bin Suroor’s son of Frankel was unraced as a juvenile, but is now quickly making up for lost time.

A strong-run seven-furlongs on this ground will prove to be his optimum in the short-term and it remains to be seen if the favourite can give him a head start and a beating.

At the prices, I also can’t resist a bet on SOLOMON’S BAY who is now going the right way after a disappointing start to the season. The ability he showed to travel and quicken in winning at Epsom last time out was impressive. He will need to improve, mind, but I think he can.

A strong-run, quick-ground seven furlongs will see him travel into contention nicely, I just hope he can sneak a place late or maybe cause a shock.

Advice

1.5pts win Dream Castle @4/1 (general)

1pt each-way Solomon’s Bay @33/1 (general)

3.05 Royal Ascot – Queen Mary Stakes

As much as I want to take on Wesley’s Ward’s criminally short favourite Happy Like A Fool (1-1) here, I’m going to take my medicine and play in the without market. Ward has made no secret of how high he rates this filly and to be fair to him, he has a habit of being right at this meeting. Mentally and physically, she is likely to be streets clear of the home challenge so it makes sense to duck her.

Horses drawn very low could struggle here, so the two I want on my side are NEOLA and OUT OF THE FLAMES. The former is a progressive filly who appears to be getting quicker. The fact she is far more streetwise than a lot of these fillies, along with her ability, will hold her in good stead.

The latter, is another filly that looks to be going the right way. She is progressive and has the early pace to run comfortable when the gates open, her ability off the bridle just adds to her chance. The Hannon team report her in good order with more improvement to come; with that being the case, she should run well.

Advice

1pt win ‘betting without Happy Like A Fool’ Neola @8/1 (Bet Victor, William Hill, 15/2 general)

1pt win ‘betting without Happy Like A Fool’ Out Of The Flames @9/1 (Sky Bet, 15/2 general)

3.40 Royal Ascot – Duke Of Cambridge Stakes

With Laugh Aloud out, this fillies and mares Group 2 has become easier to win. Her absence also means this race may not be run at a strong gallop, meaning those horses that need a well-run mile may be inconvenienced.

It could set up nicely for a horse with a strong-ability to travel. With this being the case, MIX AND MINGLE looks the value. Chris Wall’s filly is unbeaten in two starts this season and comes here at the top of her game.

Last campaign, she showed numerous glimpses of ability over a mile, without ever looking comfortable at the trip. She looked a seven-furlong filly in truth and maybe still is, but now she’s a year older and stronger, she may see out the mile better. The fast ground will be a big help, as will her ability to settle and straight-forward character.

On all known form, Qemah should be winning this, but she’s not straight-forward herself. She can be keen and today will be the fastest surface she has encountered. Usherette looked horse destined for the top last season before she bled. I’m not sure she has returned as good this season while Smart Call, to my eye, could be better over further.

Advice

1pt each-way Mix and Mingle @9/1 (general)

4.20 Royal Ascot – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes

The big race of the day and a cracker in store. On all known form, Highland Reel is the best horse in here. However, he is a proper 12f performer and today’s trip (10f) will surely be on the sharp side for the tough son of Galileo.

The fact he backs up relatively quickly after a gruelling Coronation Cup victory on fast ground, means he has every excuse not to be near his best today. Dropping in trip, he surely must set strong, even fractions to win, meaning he won’t have an easy race. It would be no surprise to see him completely flop in truth.

Jacks Hobbs is in a similar scenario to Highland Reel; in that he looks a proper 12f horse. Today’s trip and ground won’t play to his strengths.

The setup of today’s highlight looks likely to suit Decorated Knight and Ulysses, but I simply can’t understand the price difference between the pair, considering their form this season is similar.

Therefore, DECORATED KNIGHT is the undoubted value on the back of his recent Curragh Group 1 win. Roger Charlton’s son of Galileo impressed in that victory, travelling through the race like a class act, on ground that wouldn’t have suited, before getting to the front far too early, idling and winning readily.

He’s a hold-up performer with a change of gear and with Highland Reel and Jack Hobbs likely to take each other on early, once softened up, he could quicken by late. Whether he can fend off Ulysses is another matter, but he has a slightly kinder draw and that could prove telling.

Advice

2.5pts each-way Decorated Knight @9/1 (Bet Victor, bet365, Boylesports, Ladbrokes, StanJames)

5.00 Royal Ascot – Royal Hunt Cup

A huge-field handicap to get to grips with here, 29 runners going to post. Looking at the pace, those drawn very low could struggle, meaning Banksea and George William are ducked, despite looking ideal for this contest.

My three against the field would be REMARKABLE, HORS DE COMBAT and BALLET CONCERTO.

Remarkable is a risky bet, as last time out, he looked completely off mentally. He comes with risks, but I can forgive one bad day at the office, especially as he has plenty high-quality straight-track form.

Hors De Combat has been in good order this season, and is the most solid of the three bets. He was unlucky last time out, never getting a run, and granted better luck, can be in the shakeup.

Ballet Concerto looks on a winnable mark for a top-class team in Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore. I have small doubts about him on the ground, but his last two efforts have come on undulating tracks, and that may well be why he has been below par. His run last time out was a good effort considering how unlucky he was.

Advice

1.5pt each-way Hors De Combat @20/1 (general)

1pt win Remarkable @25/1 (general)

1pt win Ballet Concerto @16/1 (general)

5.35 Royal Ascot – Sandringham Handicap

Two against the field here are GRECIAN LIGHT and PROSPER. Both these fillies have top-class pedigrees and are sure to be suited by the quick ground.

The former ran a cracker on her 2017 debut when far too keen on ground that would’ve been too soft. It’s a credit to her ability that she still manged to see her race out well enough. A stronger-run contest here could be right up her street.

The latter is a big price on the back of a poor run, but that can easily be forgiven. She would’ve hated the ground at Newbury and the trip clearly stretched her. She shaped much better than the distance beaten suggests and back on quicker ground down in trip, can go well.

Advice

1pt each-way Grecian Light @22/1 (bet365, Ladbrokes, 20-1 Coral)

1pt each-way Prosper @22/1 (bet365, 20-1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power)

Royal Ascot 2017 – Day One (Tuesday)

2.30 Royal Ascot – Queen Anne Stakes

On all known form, RIBCHESTER should be winning the opening race of the Royal meeting. A good third in last season’s 2000 Guineas before bolting up in the Jersey Stakes – at last year’s Royal meeting – all Richard Fahey’s charge has done since is improve and improve. There is no question, on what we’ve seen, the son of Iffraaj is the best horse in the race and probably the top miler in Europe.

The only potential negative is his draw in stall one, but he’s better drawn than his nearest market rival Lightening Spear and he should be able to get a nice lead off Deauville. If that transpires, he should win, if it doesn’t, he is good enough to still win.

Advice:

3pts win Ribchester @1-1 (general)

3.05 Royal Ascot – Coventry Stakes

Eighteen juveniles go to post for the Coventry Stakes. I’m big on experience in these kind of races, so with DE BRUYNE HORSE also having some of the best form on offer, I’m sure he’ll run big for the Richard Hannon team.

He was far too green to do himself justice on debut, but since that start, he has done nothing but progress. After bolting up at Ripon, I thought he was a good winner of the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom despite being slightly slow away, and not looking totally in love with the track. He showed a good attitude to win, he’s a likeable horse.

At the prices, I also can’t resist a bet on AQABAH, who now looks the value. I loved his debut win, which came in an extremely solid novice event here at Ascot. Despite conceding experience and not being given too hard a time, he got up late to win. He has since flopped at the Curragh, but that was down to the ground.

Despite not enjoying the rain-affected terrain that day, for a large chunk of the race he still shaped well. Now he gets back on faster sod, he should show his true colours.

Advice:

2pts each-way De Bruyne Horse @6/1 (general – 1,2,3,4)

1pt each-way Aqabah @25/1 (general – 1,2,3,4)

3.40 Royal Ascot – King’s Stand Stakes

The three to concentrate on here are those to the head of the market; Lady Aurelia, Marsha and Signs Of Blessing. On what we’ve seen this season, this trio look to have a few pounds in hands of the rest of the field.

I couldn’t put anyone off Lady Aurelia and Marsha, but the value bet looks to be SIGNS OF BLESSING. His form, albeit his best effort came on much softer ground, is right on a par with the two fillies and in fact, I think it’s stronger.

Last time out, in the Prix de Saint-Georges, he beat last season’s King’s Stand winner Profitable by 2 lengths, giving him 11lb in weight. Now, no doubt Profitable wasn’t at is his best, but still, that is a phenomenal performance.

The only worry is the quick ground, but if he goes on it, he’ll go very close. Francois Rohaut’s horse has been to Ascot twice and both times ran crackers.

Advice

1pt win Signs Of Blessings @13/2 (general)

4.20 Royal Ascot – St James’s Palace Stakes

This isn’t a betting race, for me anyway, but it’s one I’ll look forward to watching. Barney Roy and Churchill look to set to clash again having filled the first two places home in the opening Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Churchill came out on top by a length that day when he had the ideal run through and the run of the race while Barney Roy got a little behind, running keen and didn’t handle the track. Ascot will suit him much better, especially if they go a proper gallop.

His fans should just hope that Godolphin’s error in not putting in a pacemaker to help set a gallop, doesn’t come back to haunt him. He’s a big, long-striding animal and a start-stop, or sedate gallop, will almost certainly see Churchill confirm the form.

Advice:

No bet

5.00 Royal Ascot – Ascot Stakes

Nineteen runners go to post for this marathon trip, and my two against the field are SHREWD and YORKIDDING. The former returned to action 66 days ago at Musselburgh with a fine effort to finish a staying-on 8th on a track and trip that probably proved sharp enough for him.

With a run under his belt and him now stepping up in distance we could see an improved performance from a horse that was a good second in last year’s Ebor at York.

Yorkidding is a big price in comparison to the race-favourite Who Dares Wins when you consider she finished just under a length-and-a-half ahead of him in the Chester Cup. She is now 2lb worse off for that effort, which isn’t a positive, but the price discrepancy is too big.

Advice:

1pt each-way Yorkidding @16/1 (Coral, Paddy Power, Sky Bet 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt each-way Shrewd @28/1 (Paddy Power, Sky Bet 1,2,3,4,5)

5.35 Royal Ascot – Windsor Castle Stakes

The vibes around Declarationofpeace winning appear to be strong, Aidan O’Brien’s horse has been strongly punted all day and is now heading towards the 9/4 mark. I don’t want to back him at the price having been as big as 11/2, so I’m happy to have a bet in the without Declarationofpeace market.

Wesley Ward’s NOOTKA SOUND impressed me when winning her sole start on dirt in Keeneland and with her trainer reporting she is better on turf, she could take a bit of catching on this ground today.

At the prices, the other one I like is SOUND AND SILENCE, a horse that has shown a lot of speed and class at home before he made a winning debut at Newmarket. I was disappointed with his finishing effort next time out at Sandown when fourth in the National Stakes, a race I like in terms of juvenile form.

The son of Exceed And Excel impressed with how he went through the first three-quarters of that contest, but didn’t get home. After the race, connections reported he scoped dirty and that explains the last furlong.

Based on the early speed he showed, I liked him. Hopefully he should finish his race out today.

Advice:

1pt win Nootka Sound ‘betting without Declarationofpeace’ @4/1 (Bet Victor, Sky Bet, 7-2 William Hill)

1pt each-way Sound And Silence ‘betting without Declarationofpeace’ @14/1 (Bet Victor 1,2,3,4), @12/1 (Paddy Power 1,2,3), bet365 @11/1 (bet365 1,2,3)

Saturday 20 May 2017

1.30 Newbury – Aston Park Stakes

Today is last chance saloon for MIDTERM. He’s getting the profile of a nearly horse, but in his defence, I think the key to him could be cut in the ground. He handles fast terrain fine, but as we saw in his sound win at Sandown last season, soft conditions hold no fears for him; in fact, it looks like he could excel in them. He finally gets to run on his favoured surface today, so with Ryan Moore aboard with a first-time visor on, there cannot be too many excuses should he taste defeat once more.

Advice

2pts win Midterm @7/2 (general)

2.05 Newmarket – Betway Fairway Stakes

Call To Mind is probably the right favourite here, but the son of Galileo was quite green in winning last time out and I doubt he’ll be the finished article today. With him running on softer ground, up in trip and on a different type of track, I’m willing to take him on with the more experienced DESERT SKYLINE. All he did last season was improve with racing and the step up in trip. He a likeable horse with a quality pedigree and looks a fair bet here.

Advice

1pt win Desert Skyline @4/1 (general)

2.55 Newbury – Al Zubarah London Gold Cup Handicap

I’m keen to get after the favourite, Mucho Applause, as I think he’ll struggle to get home over this trip in the conditions. The standout horse for me is CENTURY DREAM, a son of Cape Cross who handles cut in the ground well. He had progressive form as a juvenile and he made a highly encouraging comeback this season at Sandown when plainly doing too much too soon, having run keen. The fact he stuck around late in the race is probably a testament to his ability and today’s easier course should suit him better. I’d be much more confident on his chance if the Simon Crisford horses were running better, but he looks to have a solid chance.

At the prices, the well-bred TIME TO STUDY is also worth chancing, despite me having slight concerns about his fitness first-time out and a potential lack of experience. The strapping son of Motivator will have no problem with today’s ground and he looks on a fair mark.

Advice

1.5pts win Century Dream @6/1 (general)

1pt win Time To Study @9/1 (general)

3.15 Newmarket – Betway Sprint Trophy Handicap

A competitive sprint handicap here with a couple of horses well capable of winning off their current marks. While he hasn’t done anything on the clock just yet, EKHTIYAAR is a horse I like and a horse I feel is fairly treated. He’s got a progressive profile and strikes me as the type of horse that would enjoy good, even fractions, as he tends to be a touch keen. He should get those and with the excellent Silvestre De Sousa booked off a low weight, he will go close if handling the ground.

Advice

1pt win Ekhitiyaar @5/1 (general)

4.40 Newbury – Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes

There’s no surprise to see Natavia being well-backed this morning, but her contraction in price now sees GRACIOUS DIANA as a fair bet. The well-bred and twice-raced daughter of Foxwedge looked a different animal when bolting up in great style over this course and distance 29 days ago. She won like a class act and is entitled to improve for that effort. She’s a straight-forward filly and that could be the deciding factor here.

Advice

1pt win Gracious Diana @100/30 (General)

 

 

Thursday 18 May 2017

3.30 York – Betfred Dante Stakes

At 50/1, CONTRAPPOSTO is worth an each-way bet in tomorrow’s Dante Stakes at York. Having shaped with promise in this season’s Craven Stakes at Newmarket, his price is a little bit of a head scratcher.

This is no doubt due to his low-key trainer, David Menuisier, who wouldn’t be a household name like O’Brien or Gosden. While the case, he’s a trainer I have time for and in this son of Cacique, he has a classy operator.

It took the selection three goes to break his maiden last season, but in fairness to the horse, he contested plenty strong contests and always acquitted himself well. He then ran below par in the Racing Post Trophy at the backend of 2016, but horses can do that late in the campaign.

His seasonal return in a strong Craven marked him down as an improved horse, despite his effort coming on ground likely to be quicker than ideal. He only has two lengths to find with Benbatl, an 8/1 shot, and the Craven is as strong a form-line as any in this race. The one mile trip at Newmarket was also on the sharp side for him so with him returning to soft terrain over further tomorrow, he is of interest.

While it’s unlikely he’ll win, he could easily run into the frame and it’s in this part of the bet he offers great value.

Advice

1pt each-way Contrapposto @50/1 (Paddy Power), 40/1 (Betfair, Bet Victor, Sky Bet, StanJames)

Saturday 15 April 2017

This is the first flat blog of the season. It’s still very early and I’m still re-jigging the memory and going through bits and pieces of last year’s form. I can’t be too confident with today’s selections, but I feel they offer value and some are potentially well-handicapped. We’ll see how we fair.

2.10 Cork – Most Stylish Easter Sunday Handicap

PORT MOODY appeared to take a step forward in a warm Naas maiden last time out, so much so, the handicapper raised him 3lb despite the fact he was beaten nearly 20 lengths. That was maybe a touch harsh, but it now looks a career best and with him stepping into handicap company for the first time, he is of interest.

Having been quite green and slow away on his debut last year, he took a step forward on his second start before looking off his game at Tipperary in his third run. As I say, last time out was a step in the right direction and he is entitled to improve.

For a low grade horse, he has a useful pedigree as his unraced dam is a half-sister to a pair of French 10f Gr 1 winners Wavering and Mandaean. Hopefully it’s a case of him now getting his act together.

Advice

1pt each-way Port Moody @16/1 (general)

3.00 Musselburh – totepoolliveinfo.com Royal Mile Handicap

A competitive one mile handicap here with many in holding chances. While the case, the potentially well-handicapped SOMNAMBULIST could go close if he is ready to fire. This son of Rip Van Winkle is a fine big type with great scope for improvement this season.

A horse with a classy pedigree in parts, he looked to be improving with every run last year. On debut he was very slowly away and green before shaping with potential promise. On his next two starts on Newcastle’s all-weather surface he showed fine improvement despite trying to make the running on a tough track to do so.

His forward-going style will be much better suited to Musselburgh’s sharp nature. If he jumps and gets a nice early position and is fit, he’ll go close.

Advice

1pt win Somnabulist @11/1 (general)

4.50 Kempton – Over 2,800 Flat Races On Racing UK Conditions Stakes

RED ENSIGN takes on just three others in this conditions race and is the outsider of the field, but I don’t think he has that much to find, because I feel the handicapper has over-rated his trio of rivals.

There is also a chance his competitors could prove better over shorter in the immediate short-term, as they can be keen and on their first starts of the campaign, they may be more exuberant than the norm.

If this transpires, Red Ensign’s proven stamina over the mile may kick in. That guaranteed staying ability also came over this course and distance and his ability to handle this surface could be another deciding factor.

Trainer Simon Crisford has made a brilliant start to his new career and has his team in good early form. Hopefully the selection is as forward as Crisford’s recent winners.

Advice

1pt win Red Ensign @6/1 (general)

5.00 Cork – corkracecourse.ie Handicap

There is a chance the handicapper has given TI AMO a fair crack at winning this seven-furlong handicap. Running over a mile and sometimes on soft ground has seen this daughter of Holy Roman Empire slide down the handicap, having shaped nicely in a couple of three-year-old maidens last season.

Ti Amo is a lovely big filly who moves quite nicely so I’m not sure soft terrain ever showed her off in the best light. Having been slow away and clueless on debut, she quickly got the hang of the game on her next couple of starts; jumping from the stalls nicely and showing early pace.

The problem is she hasn’t been seeing out a mile on soft ground too well, but a drop to 7f on good-to-yielding going at Cork today could be the key. Sadly, the ground in the straight at Cork is softer than the round course, but the drop in trip, could be the real unlocking of her ability. If she is fit, she’ll surely outrun her price.

Advice

0.5pt each-way Ti Amo @18/1 (bet365, William Hill), 16/1 (Betfair, Betfred, Sky Bet)

2017 Grand National runner-by-runner guide

Forty runners to get through here as these magnificent thoroughbreds and brave jockeys bid to negotiate 30 fences around the greatest steeplechase course in the world. Any amount of luck will be needed, but whatever happens, let’s hope all riders and horses come back unscathed.

Here, I give a quick synopsise of each horse running in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National

1. The Last Samuri

An excellent second in this race last year when the ground was softer than ideal. Conditions will be more in his favour this time around, but he now races off a 12lb higher mark and must carry 16lb more in physical weight. Can run well given his good record over these fences, but looks booked for places at best.

2. More Of That

Former top-class hurdler who hasn’t scaled the same heights over fences. Built to jump fences, but physical problems have scuppered his career. He’s had bleeding and wind issues and this marathon test will put his body under maximum pressure. While the case, has shaped nicely in last two runs and is a class act on his day. Can’t rule him out, but comes with risks.

3. Shantou Flyer

A good winner at Cheltenham in January and generally been shaping nicely over two-and-a-half miles. Worth a crack at this trip, but mark does look a touch high and trainer not been inform of late.

4. Perfect Candidate

Comes here in good order on the back of a sound Exeter victory, but has paid the price in terms of going up the handicap. Could run well for a long way if taking to this test, but is potentially better served by softer terrain and smaller fields.

5. Saphir Du Rheu

Is on a very fair mark and comes here on the back of a career best, having finished fifth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Has always been a horse with a touch of class and a big reputation, but has never truly delivered. Maybe now the penny is finally starting to drop? All things considered, he must at least make your short/longlist.

6. Roi Des Francs

Not sure this test will bring out the best in him. He’s a horse that loves heavy ground, small-field races in his native Ireland. Teenage sensation Jack Kennedy rides and he’ll have to work his magic to trouble the judge.

7. Wounded Warrior

A horse that I’ve always thought could be a Grand National type. He has plenty form on very soft ground in Ireland, but nice terrain shouldn’t inconvenience too much. The worry with him is he hasn’t shown much spark this season.

8. Wonderful Charm

The drying ground and flat track will suit. He comes here in good order, but I’d have stamina doubts and a mark of 153 back in this company looks high enough.

9. Tenor Nivernais

He’s been in brilliant form this season, his runaway Ascot victory the highlight. A shame connections ran him at Kelso last time as coming here on the back of that previous win would’ve been a positive. I’d have serious stamina doubts about him, but he’s the type of horse that adrenalin could carry if he gets out in front and enjoys himself. Type to shape well for a long way, but ultimately will come up short.

10. Blaklion

Last year’s winner of a sub-standard RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Hasn’t gone on this campaign, but at his best he is a gritty, straight-forward and honest character. He tends to travel and jump well so must enter calculations for a trainer that has twice won this race. His run last time out was a step in the right direction.

11. Drop Out Joe

Type that has shaped like marathon tests could bring out the best in him, but can be in and out. Still lightly-raced for a nine-year-old, will enjoy the nice ground and his record fresh is useful. While the case, others look classier.

12. Le Mercurey

A horse with a touch of class, but is generally best served by small fields. Not sure he’s the type to take to this test and can be swerved.

13. The Young Master

Classy handicapper that has been trained for this day. Fell on his only start over these fences, but was never put in the race late and did go as far as the second last. One of the more likely ones to stay this trip and his form this campaign has been eye-catchingly progressive.

14. Cause Of Causes

A three-time Cheltenham Festival winner and still only nine, Cause Of Causes has a habit of winning on the big days. He was a sound, although well-held eighth in this in 2015, never able to land a serious blow. His overall profile along with him nearly being a guaranteed stayer over the trip means he is of interest.

15. Regal Encore

A horse with a very in and out profile, but on his day, he is useful. Softer ground would be better, but he represents an inform trainer and a jockey who is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment. There are worse 66/1 shots, but he just doesn’t fully convince.

16. Vieux Lion Rouge

Shaped with distinct promise at last year’s Cheltenham Festival before running well to finish seventh in this race, albeit, well held in the end. Has had two runs this season and won both, including a race over these fences. He has an obvious chance for a trainer that has won this contest before.

17. Definitly Red

Comes here at the peak of his powers and is officially “well in”, meaning, he should, in theory, be carrying more weight. Has shaped as if this kind of stamina test could bring out further improvement. Another with an obvious chance.

18. Ucello Conti

A sound albeit well-held sixth in this contest last year. Runs off the same mark and comes here in similar form. On that basis, he’ll need to improve, but this year’s race will be run under different conditions and the fact he has completed the course is a big positive. Runs for Gordon Elliott, who kick-started his brilliant career in winning this very race ten years ago.

19. Double Shuffle

Represents a trainer/jockey combo in Tom George and Adrian Heskin that have enjoyed a brilliant season together. Flat track and nice ground will play to his strengths, but slight doubts about him seeing out this trip.

20. Houblon Des Obeaux

Bits and pieces of high-class handicap form, but not the force of old. At ten, he still operates to a decent level, but outside place prospects look most likely. He will at least see out the trip better than most, but a surprise if at least a half dozen don’t prove to be better treated.

21. Pleasant Company

A lightly-raced nine-year-old who comes here in good order. Looks to be progressing, jumps, travels and has a sound shot at seeing out the marathon trip. Represents the game’s most feared duo. The only worry? Softer ground would probably suit.

22. One For Arthur

A good fifth in the Becher Chase over these fences before going on to win the Classic Chase in good fashion. This much-improved eight-year-old looks to have an excellent chance of staying this trip and I couldn’t put you off him. The concerns would be him getting too back early on lively ground.

23. Ballynagour

Historically a horse with problems and comes here in awful form. An easy duck.

24. O’Faolains Boy

A second horse to represent the Rebecca Curtis yard, this ten-year-old won the 2014 RSA Chase at Cheltenham, but has ultimately disappointed since. Classy on his day, but the yard struggling means I can leave him be.

25. Highland Lodge

He hasn’t run in 126 days, but that’s a positive as he is best fresh. His form figures over these fences on this track read 12 and he clearly comes to life on Merseyside. Maybe lacks the class of many ahead of him in the market, but he must be of interest with his record around here.

26. Bishops Road

Would be on interest on very soft and heavy ground, terrain he has shown himself to excel on. That concern along with jumping frailties mean I will look elsewhere.

27. Lord Windermere

A former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner meaning he has reached the pinnacle of the sport, to add this race would make him one of the most decorated. On old form his mark looks extremely feasible, but his hit and miss nature means I can look elsewhere. Pulled up in the 2015 running of this race.

28. Saint Are

Likes Aintree on a whole and has some nice form over these fences. Was second to Many Clouds two seasons ago before pulling up in last year’s contest, where, to be fair, the ground would’ve been too soft. Has held his form well since, but that means his mark is no more than fair. Of interest, again with his trainer in good form.

29. Vicente

Last year’s Scottish National winner who hasn’t sparked this season. Maybe connections have laid him out for this day and he’ll peak, if so, he deserves respect. Nearly sure to see out this trip which is a plus. He’s hard to weigh up.

30. Just A Par

Got plenty of quality form over regulation fences, but never convinced over the Aintree birch. Comes here in winning form, but quite simply, he’s not for me.

31. Measureofmydreams

Would be of interest of the basis of his third in last season’s National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but has been in poor form since. Another that looks best suited to smaller fields and I will look elsewhere.

32. Raz De Maree

Highly commendable 12-year-old who has been in good order this year. Would have stronger claims on softer ground and, in a race where the younger horses are taking on their elders more, this old boy may just struggle.

33. Stellar Notion

Keen-going sort that likes to get on with things. Could be a sight over the first three miles, but he will probably struggle to see out this trip.

34. Rogue Angel

Last season’s Irish National winner when having a pretty charmed run through the race. Hasn’t been anywhere near that level since and is hard to recommend on that basis.

35. Cocktails At Dawn

Next!

36. Thunder And Roses

The 2015 Irish National winner who has been in good form this season. While the case, I just can’t warm to him, I’m not sure he has the class.

37. Gas Line Boy

Looks too high in the handicap on the back of a good Kelso win where he had everything go right. Will probably struggle against this grade of horse.

38. Goodtoknow

Another horse of Kerry Lee’s that would be best served by much softer ground. I’ll pass.

39. La Vaticane

An inconsistent mare that jumps well. She is hard to catch right and it’s hard to see her troubling the judge.

40. Doctor Harper

Of those to the bottom of the handicap, he looks the most likely to run well at a big price. Is a winner on the hurdles course here and is trained by a man who has won this race in these very colours. Could creep into late and maybe hit the frame.

Verdict

I think it makes sense to keep a class horse on your side in the National and that horse this time around will be Saphir Du Rheu. It could’ve been More Of That, but with him finishing ahead of the Jonjo O’Neill horse in the Gold Cup having had a worse trip – and now meeting him on 1lb better terms – he has to be included.

Others who made the shortlist were Blaklion, Vieux Lion Rouge, Definitly Red, Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company.

I like horses having experience over these fences and with that being the case, Vieux Lion Rouge gets the nod. He’s a fine stamp of a horse, but he impressed with his agility and stamina here when winning the Becher Chase back in December.

Blaklion may have won a sub-standard RSA last season, but he is a Grade 1 winner in a handicap and a really likeable horse. He is honest, jumps well and will love getting back on some nice ground. His second last time out was a step in the right direction.

I’m not a big man on stats, but of the two nine-year-olds remaining – Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company – I’ll just edge towards the latter. Ucello Conti was well held in this last year off the same mark and I’m not sure he’s improved whereas, Pleasant Company is certainly a progressive horse on the up. I’d prefer softer ground for him, but hopefully he gets away with it over this trip.

Of those remaining on the shortlist, Definitly Red has to be of interest given he comes here in top form, but I’m not sure about his jumping around here. On value grounds, Saint Are should be included on your list. He finished second in this race in 2015 on nice ground. He’ll get similar terrain again today and with the Tom George team in great order, he looks the value play.

My advice would be to do your bets soon because nearing the race the bookies will slash everything. Good luck!

2017 Grand National picks

1. Blaklion

2. Pleasant Company

3. Saphir Du Rheu

4. Vieux Lion Rouge

5. Saint Are

Thursday 16 March 2017 – Cheltenham Festival day three

13:30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices’ Chase

Yorkhill is the most talented horse in this race, but he’s not a straight-forward character and while I think he’ll win, I’d rather back something at a bigger price to finish second to him. FLYING ANGEL (7/1 without Yorkhill) was a sound runner-up at the Festival last season and while he has had a start-stop novice chase career, his win last time out maybe suggested he is on the improve and now in a better place. Plenty of his main opposition have form on soft ground and he may be able to handle today’s quicker conditions better.

14:10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle

Twenty-four runners are set to compete in the Pertemps Final and I’ll take two against the field in GAYEBURY (25/1) and Golden Doyen. The former was a 13 lengths winner at Chepstow last time out and comes here at the top of his game. GOLDEN DOYEN (20/1) was visually impressive winner here 145 days ago when he looked beaten, only to rally in impressive style and get back up to win. He’ll love the decent ground on offer, competitive pace and this stamina demanding course.

14:50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase

I’m just not sure whether Empire Of Dirt wants this drop in trip on today’s ground having been running well over further on soft terrain. Un De Sceaux is without a doubt the best horse in this race, but these conditions won’t prove ideal for him and it may put extra pressure on his jumping. Uxizandre was a brilliant winner of this race two seasons ago, but this is his second run back from injury and it’s hard to know what way he will go.

An each-way chance is taken with the smooth-travelling, slicking-jumping SUB LIEUTENANT (15/2) who I’ve been itching to see on this nice ground. Henry de Bromhead has his team in good form, fresh from landing yesterday’s Champion Chase, so hopefully he can strike again.

15:30 Cheltenham Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle

UNOWHATIMEANHARRY is my banker of the week, of the horses that weren’t odds-on. He’s been in the form of his life this season and is already a Cheltenham Festival winner, having taken last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. He’s improved since and as long as the ground doesn’t ride too quick, he should win.

At the prices, I’ll also be going in again on LIL ROCKERFELLER (33/1) whose is grossly overpriced. He’s been in good order this season and his second to the race-favourite at Ascot two runs back is some of the best form on offer. He could easily run into a place and is worth a bet in the without market, too, where you can get 20/1 if you shop around.

16:10 Cheltenham Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase

Another big field handicap to get stuck into now, 24 runners go to post for this contest over two-and-a-half miles. TANGO DE JUILLEY (20/1) and Road To Respect are my two against the field. The former was a good second in this race last season to a well-handicapped horse who is now competing in Grade 1s. He comes here off the same prep as last year and with the Venetia Williams team among the winners in general, he can run well off just a pound higher mark.

The well-bred novice ROAD TO RESPECT (20/1) looks to be on a workable mark and is reported to be in top form by his trainer, Noel Meade. The six-year-old has shaped well in some good Grade 1s this season and could run well if his jumping holds up in this big field.

16:50 Cheltenham – Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

It’s not ideal LET´S DANCE (6/4) drops in trip given she has improved over further this season, but the combination of a strong end-to-end gallop and the stamina-sapping New Course may see her overcome the distance worries.

17:30 Cheltenham – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase

I’ll have to stick to my guns with MALL DINI (8/1) here who has been campaigned with Cheltenham in mind again this season. He won the Pertemps Final at the Festival last year and now he steps back up in trip on decent ground, he can show his full worth.

ANOTHER HERO (16/1) is a horse who appears to have been campaigned with this race in mind. He was a big eyecatcher on his seasonal debut at Chepstow and has since run well in two good races. Time and time again, Jonjo O’Neill has shown he can produce horses to peak here and the selection has that profile.