BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE HANDICAPS
GORDON Elliott has an excellent record in handicap hurdles at the Festival in his relatively short training career. He won the Coral Cup in 2011 with Carlito Brigante and then landed the Fred Winter 12 months ago with Flaxen Flare.
He has just the one runner in this afternoon’s Coral Cup (2.40pm) and BAYAN looks to have been laid out for the race.
Formerly trained by Brian Meehan on the flat, Bayan ran a cracker at this track in October to finish second to Sametegal. He hasn’t run over hurdles since then, but had a spin on the flat in early November in a hot handicap at Leopardstown.
All ground comes alike to him and I’m sure he will end up rated much higher than his current mark of 138. The 12/1 with Star Sports is a fair price.
I would also advise having a few quid on Willie Mullins’ INDEVAN. There is no way a Mullins-Walsh horse will go off 25/1 and that is the price Paddy Power are offering.
The six-year-old was disappointing at this course at the Paddy Power meeting, but he has had a long break since then and he just looks over-priced.
The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.40pm) looks a really complex puzzle to solve with only 12lb separating the entire field.
Nicky Henderson’s horses were in fine form yesterday and he saddles the likely favourite Dawalan, who has some fair form this campaign.
I’m not sure he’s particularly well-handicapped, though, and I’m leaning towards Elliott’s CLARCAM who has been second to the smart horses Broughton and Guitar Pete on his last two starts.
Those two runs were on soft ground and he will be better suited to the quicker conditions he will face today. The stable won this event last year and the 20/1 available with BetBright is worth taking each-way.
Graham Wylie has a strong hand in this with Ivan Grozny, trained by Mullins, and Katgary and Solar Impulse, both from the Paul Nicholls stable. The most interesting of those is Katgary on his first start for his new handler, but this is a tricky race and I’m happy to stick with Clarcam as the sole selection.
You’ll struggle to find a more challenging circuit for a horse than the one used for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (4.00pm). This had got almost every obstacle known to man in the way and over 3m 7f it’s a real test of both rider and horse.
Big Shu is Paddy Power’s market leader at 4/1 as he bids for back-to-back victories in this contest. But he’s running off an 11lb higher mark this year and this looks a really competitive renewal.
Peter Maher’s horse can carry big weights and the ground is fine. Yet, like his main rival in the betting, Balthazar King, he might be vulnerable to better handicapped horses.
The one I like at 12/1 is Martin Keighley’s ANY CURRENCY. He’s been second and third on his two trips around this course and is better off at the weights with both those winners, who reoppose today in the shape of Balthazar King and Sire Collonges.
The last four winners have all carried under 11st to victory and, with 10st 8lb on his back and conditions fine, the 11-year-old is worth each-way support.
BAYAN e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
INDEVAN e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
ANY CURRENCY e/w 4.00pm Cheltenham
CLARCAM e/w 4.40pm Cheltenham