IF YOU are still searching for a winner when they are lining up for the Grand Annual (5.30pm), just remember that it isn’t over until the fat lady sings.
This is the traditional ‘get out of jail stakes’, although it’s one of the hardest races of the week to try to break free – six of the last seven winners were 16/1 or bigger.
Horses that have run well in this race tend to come back and do so again and I’m going to adopt that strategy this afternoon.
In 2015, Next Sensation landed the prize when a relatively unfancied 16/1 shot, a year after finishing fourth at 7/1.
Regular readers may remember that 12 months ago I tipped Arthur Moore’s DANDRIDGE.
The Irish raider made a hash of the first fence, so he did remarkably well to finish second under Davy Russell.
Although he is slightly higher in the weights now, this will have been Moore’s plan all season long and there is no finer target trainer either side of the Irish Sea.
He was put up in this column a couple of weeks ago at 10/1 with 188BET and, if you haven’t already backed him, I wouldn’t put you off the 8/1 with Star Sports.
The ground should be absolutely perfect for him.
I also like the look of ROCK THE WORLD for Jessica Harrington at 12/1 with Sky Bet.
The yard have already had a successful meeting and this nine-year-old was third in the race last year off a very similar mark to this afternoon.
Decent ground is key for him, so connections will be hoping that the rain stays away until after racing.
As is always the case in this race, there are plenty of others in with a chance.
Paul Nicholls’ Le Prezien could well go off favourite. He has some strong form this season, including a third behind Top Notch in a Grade One at Sandown last time.
He has to be respected, while stablemate Dodging Bullets, the 2015 Champion Chase winner, drops back to handicap company and has man of the moment Noel Fehily in the saddle.
The opening Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm) looks really hard. Defi Du Seuil is very solid, but the vibes around Charli Parcs have forced his price into as short as 3/1 with Paddy Power.
I’m happy to give that race a miss and will instead take a chance on MICK JAZZ to continue Gordon Elliott’s incredible run at this year’s Festival in the County Hurdle (2.10pm).
He’s only had four runs for Elliott since moving from Harry Fry in the autumn, but has won two of those, including a Listed novice hurdle at Punchestown last month.
The most interesting piece of form is his second to Tuesday’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner and stablemate Labaik at Navan in November.
That obviously looks a whole lot better now and this horse has always promised to land a big handicap hurdle.
Jack Kennedy, the 17-year-old jockey who is coolness personified, takes the ride which is a big positive. Star Sports’ 9/1 is a good price.
The Skelton brothers combined to win this last year with Superb Story and they go to war this time with Greatwood Hurdle winner North Hill Harvey.
He has followed exactly the same path as his stablemate and is sure to be well backed.
However, with the way Elliott’s string are running this week, I’d be happy to take him on in a Sporting Index match bet with Mick Jazz.
On The Fringe looks impossible to oppose as he goes for a hat-trick in the Foxhunters, so my final selection is going to be in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle (4.50pm).
And it’s that man Elliott again, as I think his RUNFORDAVE has a huge chance to win the race that is very close to his heart.
Elliott spent a number of years with the Pipe family and this is a race he always targets.
The Storyteller was the strong ante-post favourite but he suffered an injury and I’m sure Runfordave will prove a more than able deputy.
He has plenty of experience, which is always important in this race, and bolted up at Clonmel last month.
Mick Jazz e/w 2.10pm Cheltenham
Runfordave e/w 4.50pm Cheltenham
Rock The World e/w 5.30pm Cheltenham
Dandridge (already advised e/w at 10/1) 5.30pm Cheltenham