TODAY’S card is full of interesting runners, but there are going to be a few short-priced ones.
The remarkable Standing Ovation, who is going for a quickfire five-timer, should be hard to beat in the first, as will Oscar Whisky, who is making his chasing debut in the 2.05pm. But I’m happy to leave those races alone from a betting perspective and focus on the more competitive handicaps.
Alan King is enjoying a purple patch at the moment and I have a sneaky suspicion that his 10-year-old OH CRICK is about to notch only his second win since 2009 in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase (1.35pm).
The former Grand Annual winner has dropped to a mark of 130 and was second in a similar handicap at last year’s Hennessy meeting with 12lb more on his back. It may be that he’s too long in the tooth now, but he likes it at Cheltenham and will love the decent ground.
David Pipe always targets this meeting and I’m sure he would love nothing more than to win the David Johnson Memorial Hurdle (2.40pm), run in tribute of his yard’s biggest supporter who sadly died earlier this year.
The Pipe yard is famous for lining up big gambles at this meeting and they could have an apt runner in this race in TOP GAMBLE.
The five-year-old has won two of his three starts, all on heavy ground, but his sire is Presenting whose progeny normally prefer quicker conditions.
I can see his price tumbling throughout the afternoon and he is a strong fancy, although the one for the forecast could be Charlie Longsdon’s Killala Quay, who is well regarded and is also going for a hat-trick.
Don’t miss the Tony Martin-Ruby Walsh combination in the lucky last as QUICK JACK could be another plunge horse. He ran a stormer to finish second in Leopardstown’s Movember Handicap on the flat earlier this month, a place in front of Gordon Elliott’s progressive hurdler Bayan.
Martin has his string in fine form at present and Quick Jack looks well-handicapped.
Looking at tomorrow’s undercard and the only other selection I’m going to put up is BRADLEY for another red-hot trainer in Fergal O’Brien. The nine-year-old runs in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase (1.50pm) where he was just touched off by Monbeg Dude last year.
He runs off a 3lb lower mark tomorrow, will love the decent ground and ran an eye-catching race on his seasonal reappearance here last month.
Finally, I was very impressed with BIG CASINO on his first start for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Carlisle last time. He was formerly trained by Keiran Burke and ran the promising Shutthefrontdoor very close at Wincanton last season.
He is entered in the opening conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle (1.00pm) on Sunday and should go well.
OH CRICK e/w 1.35pm Cheltenham (today)
TOP GAMBLE 2.40pm Cheltenham (today)
QUICK JACK 3.50pm Cheltenham (today)
BRADLEY e/w 1.50pm Cheltenham (tomorrow)
BIG CASINO e/w 1.00pm Cheltenham (Sunday)