Day two of the Cheltenham November meeting has the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase as the main event at 2.25, with a paltry £91,120 up for grabs and a field of 18 trying to grab it.
Favourite at 13-2 is Harry Fry’s new inmate Kylemore Lough , ex Kerry Lee, who appears to have committed the cardinal sin of failing to win with it last season. Perched on a mark of 154, top weight and without a run for 225 days this would be one hell of a training performance and, at the price, the Spanish Archer is brought into play.
Our idea of the winner is the Ian Williams trained Ballyalton at a much more attractive 11-1 and we hope to see Tom O’Brien bring this lightly raced 10-y-o home for his shrewd handler.
Somewhat fragile, Ballyalton won the Close Brothers Novices Chase at the Festival in 2016, but has only been seen on a racecourse twice since, suffering an injury in the Betfred Mildmay at Aintree in April 2016 and not reappearing until the end of October this year, again at Aintree, when a 6th placing in a hurdle hinted at its well-being.
The trainer has made no secret of the fact that this horse has been laid out for today’s race and the hint should be taken, each way of course.
There are two other runners worthy of an each way play, especially with most bookmakers offering 5 or even 6 places, starting with our old friend Guitar Pete, available at 22-1. This is the ex-Irish trained horse which was third in the Triumph Hurdle in 2014 and reached the lofty heights of 143 over the smaller obstacles. Re-invented as a ‘chaser by Nicky Richards, and still only seven, GP runs off just 134 today, after demolishing his field in a Listed Chase at Wetherby two weeks ago and could be right there in the mix at the business end.
Plaisir d’Amour, at a juicy 25-1 is our other pick. First time out need not be the best time to back one of Venetia’s horses, but this 5-y-o mare is already a course and distance winner in April this year, has no weight to carry apart from Aidan Coleman and is a likely big improver in her second season as a chaser.
After you have collected your winnings from the Gold Cup, the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle at 3.00 offers a good opportunity for re-investment in the shape of Nicky henderson’s Thomas Campbell, available at 13-8. May not seem much of a price, but this 5-y-o destroyed the opposition on seasonal debut, on this course, just three weeks ago, taking care of 5 of today’s rivals in the process. Hit with a 10lb rise for that effort, step forward James Bowen to take away half a stone of that, leaving the horse just 3lbs higher. Won’t be stopped, should be backed.
Also in this race, we recommend an each way punt on Solatentif at 16-1, This Tizzy trained beast is continually threatening to run away with a decent race and it makes sense to cover on it in case today’s the day. As for the reverse forecast – I couldn’t possibly comment.
The second most competitive race of the afternoon is at 3.30 when 17 runners contest the Martin & Co jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle over 2m 5f and we go two against the field with confidence.
Starting point is Diable De Sivola, trained by Nick Williams and available to back each way at 6-1. One of these days, Lizzie Kelly will get everything right on this horse, which has excellent course form including getting close to the superstar Defi Du Seuil a year ago, despite conceding it weight(!) A mark of 132 should be a gift, so let’s hope it is so.
If not, then Ben Pauling’s runner Red Indian is an able deputy. Last seen trying to give Golden Birthday 9lbs in a Warwick handicap in May and almost managing it, considering the aforementioned horse is now rated 147, Red Indian’s mark of 133 is almost an insult. Take advantage, each way, at 13-2.
Here endeth the lesson – back tomorrow.
Ballyalton 2.25 Cheltenham e/w @ 11-1 (5/6 places)
Guitar Pete 2.25 Cheltenham e/w @ 22-1 (5/6 places)
Plaisir d’Amour 2.25 Cheltenham e/w @ 25-1 (5/6 places)
Thomas Campbell 3.00 Cheltenham win @ 13-8
Solatentif 3.00 Cheltenham e/w @ 16-1
Diable De Sivola 3.30 Cheltenham e/w @ 6-1
Red Indian 3.30 Cheltenham e/w @ 13-2