THE Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase (5.15pm) was won in stunning fashion by Hunt Ball last year, and while it’s unlikely there is anything quite as progressive in the field this time around, it’s still a really competitive contest with just 8lb covering the field on official ratings.
Colour Squadron heads the market, and on a big day for his owner JP McManus, he will hope to end it in style. The Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old was a fairly smart hurdler last season and already boasts some useful chasing form behind the likes of Module and Fago. However, he is yet to record a victory in three starts over the bigger obstacles and I’m concerned about his jumping.
The Druid’s Nephew is interesting on the back of his 10-length demolition job over Grandioso, who has gone on to land back-to-back races in grand style. But he’s another who is prone to throw in the odd shocker and there’s nowhere to hide at Cheltenham if you make an error.
Venetia Williams has a great record in Festival handicaps and it’s her runner, Shangani, who I like. The seven-year-old ticks all the boxes – he will have no problems with the ground, is on a hat-trick and his form has already been bolstered by the likes of Brace Spartacus and Arctic Ben – both of whom he beat out of sight last time at Catterick. He looks to be very well-handicapped.
The step up to 2m3f brought out further improvement on Shangani’s last outing and the extra furlong and a half here should prove no barrier. The 8/1 with Coral looks a smashing bet as it’s difficult to see my fancy out of the top four.
SHANGANI e/w 5.15pm Cheltenham