STAR PREVIEW: Cheltenham Day Three

Less success yesterday, with only Urgent De Gregaine managing to get a place. Bleu Berry didn’t run poorly in what was an extraordinarily competitive Coral Cup, but there were a couple who were just better on the day in what ended up to be a stronger race than last year.

The Pertemps (2.10) is the first port of call, and the presence of Sire du Berlais makes the market for a number of each/way chances, and one of the most tempting of them is Abolitionist, for the always respected Dr Richard Newland. The Doctor is sending this 11-year-old to the National if all goes well, but that was the plan with Pineau De Re who almost won the Pertemps before taking the big race itself, and a solid case can be made for Abolitionist perhaps doing the same.

Back in November on his first start for Newland, he won an Aintree qualifier for this by 10 lengths, with The Organist left trailing in second. That is a very reasonable level of form – The Organist was fifth in the Coral Cup last year – and his National aim might well have helped him, as he’s only had one run since – when fifth at Newbury in a Veterans Handicap Chase. He made an eye-catching move into second that day but he was having his first run since and should strip fitter for that, leaving him with every chance of showing more over hurdles on his third start for current connections. A previous winner of the Leinster National on soft to heavy ground, hopefully the surface doesn’t stop him.

We have seen wind surgeries prove to be a useful guide for big handicap runs in the week – Vintage Clouds ran second for us in the Ultima and William Henry won the Coral Cup after a wind operation – and it could be an angle into the Festival Plate (4.10), where Eamon An Cnoic already looks a different horse for his wind surgery.

Last season he tanked through the Ultima for much of the three miles before hitting a stamina wall (indeed few were going better at the top of the hill bar the winner) but in that context his ninth there wasn’t a terrible effort in a strong renewal of the race. One of the few horses to finish the Bet Victor Gold Cup, he was never a threat there at the finish but travelled well enough before making a mistake and going backwards at the third last.

Another weak finish at Exeter convinced connections that wind surgery was the right option and sure enough, only a couple of weeks ago he was bolting up at Chepstow in a good race for the track, beating the very consistent Capeland with something in hand. He only went up 7lbs for that, handles all ground, and David Pipe’s three wins have been in the last nine years – in that time he has also saddled the second, third and fifth.

I also can’t resist a short go on Doitforthevillage, who was sixth in the Grand Annual last year after being absolutely bodied by the falls of Dresden and Bouvreuil at the second fence, leaving him last of 22 well off the pace, and he did well to get into sixth at the end, finishing as close as 16 lengths after his challenge petered out.

He has since kept on running well despite suffering some bad lick but a step up in trip has brought three great efforts from him, including a seven-length romp at Chepstow on Welsh National day when the ground was very deep and then he ran into the behemoth that was Cryname at Ascot.

Remarkably in hindsight, he tried to give a start to the subsequent Ascot Chase winner Cryname but he was best of the rest and the only horse in the first five who was held up. He was half a length ahead of Happy Diva, who has since won a Mares’ Chase and had been in fine form all season. One can forgive his defeat at Warwick last time, when the course was in all likelihood not stiff enough in a small field. This ought to suit much better.

Dan Skelton has already had a great Festival moment, thanks to the sheer luck that Roksana had in the Mares’ and he might have a better chance than the layers give him in the Kim Muir (5.30) with Captain Chaos. The application of blinkers before December has given him a complete revival, with a pair of runner up finishes behind Lake View Lad in the Rehearsal and Rowland Meyrick Chase.

Lake View Lad ran a stormer when third in the Ultima earlier in the week, and the form of the Rowland Meyrick has worked out wonderfully, with fourth Wakanda winning the Peter Marsh and fifth Crosspark winning the Eider afterwards. That is some of the best form in the race and he’s only 2lbs higher than he was on Boxing Day – surely he is worth chancing at 20/1.

The rest of the racing is as enticing as ever, but it’s impossible to find an angle ‘in’ to the JLT, with not much more than 10lbs between the 10, and the same is true of the front few in the Ryanair Chase. It would be a surprise if Paisley Park and Faugheen weren’t the 1-2 in the Stayers’ Hurdle which means just one each/way place and the Mares’ Novices should be a great contest but the market has found the right prices.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)

2.10 – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
BACK Abolitionist 1 pt each/way at 14/1 with

4.10 – (New) Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase
BACK Eamon An Cnoic 1 pt each/way at 10/1 with
BACK Doitforthevillage 1 pt each/way at 18/1 with

5.30 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
BACK Captain Chaos 1 pt each/way at 18/1 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 221.41 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post and Six Nations ante-post)