Road to Cheltenham

Bill Esdaile
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PAUL Nicholls is having another excellent season and as long as Nicky Henderson doesn’t have eight Cheltenham winners, and then follows up in the Grand National, the master of Ditcheat is virtually guaranteed a ninth trainer’s championship in the past 10 years.

But a notable sub-plot to this year’s jumps campaign has been the continued emergence of two of Nicholls’ former pupils: Harry Fry and Dan Skelton.

Fry will go to the Festival with a number of live hopes and it would be no surprise if he breaks his duck. Rock On Ruby has been a wonderful servant and there won’t be a dry eye in the house if he takes the World Hurdle.

Skelton, on the other hand, wasn’t immediately blessed with a horse of Rock On Ruby’s talent when he took out his licence last term. However, he is building for the future and I have a feeling that VALUE AT RISK could turn out to be very good indeed.

For the reasons already mentioned, I fancy him to land tomorrow’s Neptune trial and I see no reason why he can’t go on and win the main event at the Festival.

Betway clearly fear him for the Neptune quoting 12/1, but you can get 16/1 in a place and he could be half that price if he wins impressively tomorrow.

At present the Neptune looks a far weaker race than the Supreme and I’m happy to take on Parlour Games, Shaneshill and Tell Us More at the head of the market.

■ Pointers…
VALUE AT RISK (16/1) Neptune Novices’ Hurdle