Day 1 of the two day meeting at Cheltenham goes ahead as planned, despite the best efforts of the weather Gods, with the going on the soft side, which should suit all.
We are doubly represented this afternoon with Attest in the 1.20 and Shantou Bob in the 3.40, so let’s cover those races first, shall we?
Favourite for the Catesby Handicap Hurdle at 1.20 is the beautifully named Okotoks, an ex-Irish trained 7-y-o, now trained by Fergal O’Brien and available at 4-1. Frankly, we have no idea why this horse is favourite and, although it may become evident by 1.28, we recommend an each way bet on the aforementioned Attest at a more palatable 9-1.
After a spin on the Flat, our 4-y-o contested the Class 2 handicap hurdle won by the classy Verdana Blue at Ascot, three weeks ago and was beaten just 8 lengths into sixth. For much of the race, Attest looked sure to take a hand in the finish and it was only after the last that it ran out of puff. Now at the top of its game and a couple of pounds lower in the ratings, there is every chance that ‘Dickie’ will be there at the business end.
‘Bob’ is shouldered with top weight in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle at 3.40 and, having been beaten more than 40 lengths in his comeback race, it’s no wonder the price of 14-1 is freely available. However, not much went right in that event, which was also run over the wrong trip and mega improvement is expected today. Whether he can actually win we have to wait and see, but a small each way investment is suggested, to do the ‘Dickie’ double.
Also in this race, we recommend a proper each way bet on the Kim Bailey trained Rocky’s Treasure at 15-2. This 6-y-o did not stop improving last season and showed in its first run back that that improvement is being maintained with an excellent third on this course 4 weeks ago. Off the same mark today, it will be there or thereabouts.
The CF Roberts Electrical & mechanical Services Mares’ Handicap Chase at 1.55 is a race we have completely sussed.
Favourite is Ms Parfois, trained by Anthony Honeyball, which made an excellent start to her chasing career by finishing 3rd in a fairly hot novice event at Uttoxeter. She makes her handicap debut today off a mark of 123 and this winner of her only ‘Point’ could be well in here, so a win bet is advised.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Timeforwest must also be backed in this race, each way at 11-2. Winner of three hurdles in a row last season, this 5-y-o was a huge ‘eyecatcher’ last time out when 5th of 16 at Exeter, travelling all over the field until running out of steam after the second last. That race was over 3 miles and today’s 2m 5f should be ideal. We also recommend a reverse forecast on the two.
The most valuable race of the card is at 2.30, when the Unicoin (no, not a typo) Group Handicap Chase is run over the Gold Cup distance and in this race we have to go for the favourite Robinsfirth, which is trading at 9-4. Very unlucky not to win last time out at Haydock, being badly hampered at the start, this Tizzy trained 8-y-o can make amends today under Robbie Power.
Back tomorrow with an attack on the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Attest 1.20 Cheltenham e/w @ 9-1 Betbright
Shantou Bob 3.40 Cheltenham e/w @ 14-1 SkyBet (4 places)
Rocky’s Treasure 3.40 Cheltenham e/w @ 15-2 Paddy Power (4 places)
Ms Parfois 1.55 Cheltenham win @ 4-1 Ladbrokes
Timeforwest 1.55 Cheltenham e/w @ 11-2 William Hill
(Reverse forecast the two)
Robinsfirth 2.30 Cheltenham win @ 9-4 10Bet