DESPITE being upgraded to Grade One status in 2014, the JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30pm) doesn’t quite yet have the same pulling power of the Arkle or the RSA Chase.
The intermediary trip is attractive to those who feel they might not quite have the gears for the former or the stamina for the latter.
Last week I recommended an each-way bet on Kildisart as he was improving at a rate of knots and I felt the race would cut up.
With only 10 declared for the 2m4f contest, I’m happy to side with Ben Pauling’s runner who won a course and distance handicap here on Festival Trials Day.
The stable had a winner at the meeting on Tuesday and if he can brush up his jumping, he is sure to be competitive.
However, the rain that hit the track on Tuesday has ensured DEFI DU SEUIL gets his ideal ground and I am going to have to have a saver on Philip Hobbs’ runner at 11/4 with Ladbrokes.
Winner of the Triumph Hurdle back in 2017, he has bounced back after a disappointing season last year, landing the Grade One Scilly Isles at Sandown when last seen in action in February.
He was too good for old adversary Lostintranslation that day and I’m pretty sure he will emerge in front of that rival again this afternoon.
Colin Tizzard’s runner did beat my selection here on New Year’s Day, but I felt Defi Du Seuil was delivered to the front too soon that day and just idled.
The slight drop back in trip and more exaggerated waiting tactics should help him here and he looks the one to beat.
Owner JP McManus had the option of switching the horse to Tuesday’s Arkle when his original intended runner Le Richebourg was ruled out for the season.
Yet, connections have stuck by their decision to target this race as it’s his optimum trip and I’m hoping their faith in the horse will be rewarded.
Any more rain that falls will help Vinndication, but he certainly has to step up, while Real Steel is hugely respected based on his connections alone.
The Cheltenham Festival is packed full of impossibly hard handicaps to try and solve and there isn’t one tougher than the Pertemps Final (2.10pm).
It has paid recently just to follow Davy Russell in the race as he has ridden the last three winners of the three-mile handicap, but he has no ride so we will have to look elsewhere.
He did ride the favourite Sire Du Berlais when he caught the eye qualifying for this at Leopardstown over Christmas.
This looked the obvious race for him when he was fourth in last season’s Martin Pipe, but that is a fact not lost on the bookmakers and he is plenty short enough at a best-priced 11/2.
All the trends tell me you need to find a young unexposed horse like Delta Work 12 months ago who was the third novice to win the race in successive years.
Therefore, you might think I am crazy for recommending David Pipe’s nine-year-old CHAMPERS ON ICE at 20/1 with Ladbrokes.
He has only had three races since being pulled-up behind Tiger Roll in the National Hunt Chase two years ago.
After well over a year on the sidelines, he caught the eye when qualifying for this at Haydock when fourth behind Sykes.
He sneaks in here off a 1lb lower mark and a rating of 135 seriously underestimates the best of his ability.
Don’t forget he was third in a Grade One Albert Bartlett Hurdle here back in 2016 and even though plenty of water has gone under the bridge since, he remains lightly raced.
He handles bad ground really well and has a sporting chance in what looks a really wide-open contest.
Defi Du Seuil 1.30pm Cheltenham
Champers On Ice e/w 4.10pm Cheltenham
Kildisart e/w 10/1 Cheltenham 1.30pm