BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE REMAINDER OF DAY ONE
THE TOBY Balding National Hunt Chase (4.40pm) is run over four miles and only amateur riders can take part. I always keep a close eye out for the jockeys in this contest, as the better ones will have been offered loads of rides.
Without doubt the leading amateur pilot is Derek O’Connor who last month became the first jockey to ride 1000 point-to-point winners. He has opted for Michael Hourigan’s THE JOB IS RIGHT and I think the duo have a huge chance.
O’Connor was successful in this race four years ago with Chicago Grey and his mount this afternoon has shaped like a real stayer in his career.
The seven-year-old has plenty of experience for a young horse. He was the only one who could lay it up to the super impressive Djakadam in the Thyestes Chase in January.
He unseated Mark Enright at the last that day when a clear second, but his trainer Hourigan has always been very shrewd.
The Job Is Right was just over two lengths behind Foxrock in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas. That is really solid form, while he ran a promising race in the Boyne Hurdle over too short a trip last time.
Take the 8/1 available with Betway, who are refunding all fallers at the Festival up to £25 as a free bet.
Gigginstown House Stud have confused everyone in the build-up to this race, as on Friday it was announced that Very Wood would run in the RSA rather than this race.
However, they’ve had a late change of heart and Noel Meade’s runner has to be respected under Nina Carberry. He won well last time out and beat my selection at Galway in October, but he’s no bigger than 7/2 and that’s short enough in a race like this.
Alan King won this race for the second time 12 months ago and his Sego Success should go close. He did really well to beat Grand Vision at Warwick on his last start and, prior to that, got the better of the impressive Sky Bet Chase winner If In Doubt at Wetherby.
Cause Of Causes is another with strong claims. He was very unlucky in the Kim Muir last season and Jamie Codd is another excellent pilot.
The Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase (2.40pm) is always one of the most competitive handicap chases of the season.
Charlie Longsdon’s Pendra has been the one for money over the past week and he is undeniably well-handicapped. The step up to three miles will suit, and he may even have won the novices’ handicap chase if he hadn’t made a mess of the final obstacle at last year’s Festival.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he won, but I’m not willing to back him at just 6/1 with Betway. The same applies for Ned Stark and The Druids Nephew, who are both attractively weighted but are short enough in the betting.
The first horse that stood out for me when I saw the final entries was Tony Martin’s GALLANT OSCAR lurking down the bottom of the weights.
It had been expected that he would run in Thursday’s Kim Muir, but connections are coming here and have booked top jockey and Racing FX ambassador Bryan Cooper.
This nine-year-old was fourth behind Djakadam in the aforementioned Thyestes last time out and he looks to be on a potentially lenient mark. Sky Bet offer 14/1 which is more than fair.
I’m also going to have a few quid on Evan Williams’ BARRAKILLA. He was second to Niceonfrankie in the big December handicap chase here, and the form of his third at Sandown in November is also very strong.
He has to prove his stamina for three miles, but I think that’s what he wants and he has a solid each-way chance at 14/1 with Betway.
We’re going to be in trouble if we haven’t backed a winner by the time the runners are circling for the CHAPS Restaurants Novices’ Chase (5.15pm).
Although he doesn’t have the nicest name, I’m pretty sweet on the chances of THOMAS CRAPPER here off just 134.
He has some excellent Cheltenham form, having won here twice last season and he then ran a stormer to be second to tomorrow’s hot RSA Chase favourite Don Poli in the Martin Pipe hurdle.
Yet to win in five chase starts, this will have been the target all season and I’m taking the 8/1 with Betway.
GALLANT OSCAR e/ 2.40pm Cheltenham
BARRAKILLA e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
THE JOB IS RIGHT e/w 4.40pm Cheltenham
THOMAS CRAPPER e/w 5.15pm Cheltenham