Ah yes, how well we remember Flanders & Swann and The Hippopotamus Song, which is as true today as it was back in 1959. (“Woz ‘e on abart?” “Dunno mate, perhaps it’s on YouTube”)**
There’ll certainly be plenty flying around at Cheltenham today when the November Meeting finally gets under way, with the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase forming the centrepiece of the card at 2.25.
Our idea of the winner in this one is the Kerry Lee trained Happy Diva, which was going supremely well last year until being brought down 4 from home. Back for another try this afternoon, this 8-y-o tuned up with a solid second at Wetherby two weeks ago and, with better lick this time round, represents a solid each way punt at 12-1.
Televised coverage starts with the marathon BetVictor Smartcards Handicap Chase at 1.50, with a field of seven slogging it out over 27 furlongs.
The market is headed by the top weight Ramses De Teillee at 11-4, but humping 11st 12lbs all that way is a big ask and we prefer the chances of the out-and-out slogger Big River from the Lucinda Russell yard. Best when fresh, in receipt of a wind op and carrying just 10st 12lbs 4-1 will do for us.
Right at the bottom of the weights is Potters Legend, another mud lover, which came back after ages off to run a very promising 5th in a handicap hurdle at this track 3 weeks ago. The long break means that this 9-y-o is very well handicapped over fences, so we also advise an each way bet here at 6-1.
The Spinal Injuries Association Big Buck’s Handicap Hurdle over 3m at 3.00 could be at the mercy of Olly Murphy, who saddles two, both with big chances.
Of the two, we select The Butcher Said as the main bet at 9-2, with a lesser investment on Smackwater Jack at 13-2 and hope for a 1-2.
Final televised race is the BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at 3.30 in which the fav is the prolific Jatiluwih (easy for you to say), owned and ridden by Corinthian David Maxwell. This ex-French trained chaser is 4-4 over hurdles for Philip Hobbs and makes handicap debut off a workable-looking mark of 137.
However, Falco Blitz is 11lbs better off with Jatiluwih for just 3 lengths in a race back in March this year and looked a different horse when returning fro a summer break to hose home last time out. Not encountered this sort of ground before, but breeding gives hope on that score and, at 8-1, is the value bet.
This race also sees the return to action of the progressive Jacamar, which steps up in trip for the first time. Horses that always finish well from too far back are not always guaranteed to get further, but we think Jacamar might, so at 10-1 we recommend an each way bash at this one too.
Although not on telly, the best bet of the day could well be in the opening race (12.05) in the shape of Dancing On My Own, which is trading at 5-1.
Henry de Bromhead‘s Irish raider was ‘minded’ last season to preserve its Novice status and won by 28 lengths on seasonal reappearance at Wexford on bottomless ground. With the second horse winning next time to give the form some substance and the trainer talking of the Festival in March this is a ‘could be anything’ jobbie and we advise a decent each way bet.
Back tomorrow, mud permitting.
Happy Diva 2.25 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 12-1 (6 places SkyBet / PaddyPower)
Big River 1.50 Cheltenham 2pts win @ 4-1
Potters Legend 1.50 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 6-1 (2 places)
The Butcher Said 3.00 Cheltenham 2pts e/w @ 9-2
Smackwater Jack 3.00 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 13-2
Falco Blitz 3.30 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 8-1
Jacamar 3.30 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 10-1
Dancing On My Own 12.05 Cheltenham 3pts e/w @ 5-1