Cheltenham Trials Day is the main feature of today’s televised fare and several clues may be had for the March race-fest, which is fast approaching.

Most valuable race by far is the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at 2.25, which has a select field of six, headed in the market by Santini at around 2-1.

Just beaten in the RSA at last year’s Festival, Santini reappeared to make very hard work of winning a four runner listed event at Sandown, scrambling home at rewarding odds of 1-3. That was early November, since when the 8-y-o has had a break and a wind op and it takes an act of faith to swan in today against the likes of Bristol De Mai and Slate House.

However, reports from Seven Barrows imply that we might see a different horse today and if the Gold Cup aspirations are to be justified, Santini has to win well this afternoon. Deep breath and back it to do just that.

The Paddy Power…Trophy Handicap Chase at 1.50 opens the show and if any horse deserves to win one of these it’s Spiritofthegames from the Skelton camp.

Three times this horse has been touched off over this CD in similar events, including last time out when nailed by a rallying Warthog, which we are happy to report was our pick.

However, if the missus (Bridget) hadn’t gone a bit too soon that day, the result undoubtedly would have been different and it’s up to hubby (Harry) to get it right today. Back it each way at 13-2.

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at 3.00 is full of promising young things, none more so than King Roland, trained (and loved) by Harry Fry.

On official ratings, King Roland will finish last, but such are the expectations surrounding this 6-y-o, it’s the favourite at 7-4. We believe, Harry believes and so we recommend a bash at the price.

The Cleeve Hurdle at 3.35 sees Paisley Park tune up for March and, at 4-5, we can only watch this one.

The cameras are also at Doncaster for three races, starting with the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle at 2.05.

This could be a match between the unbeaten Boss Man Fred and Champagne Well and, although having to give 3lbs to the Skelton inmate, we side with Fergal‘s jobbie and recommend a win bet on Champagne Well at 2-1.

The Yorkshie Rose Mares’ Hurdle at 2.40 also has a ‘match’ appearance with the entirely lovable Lady Buttons taking on Nicky Henderson‘s smart Floressa. Dangerous as it may be to oppose LB, especially on this track, we think that Floressa‘s form is rock solid and, getting 4lbs, will prevail. Have a decent bet at 11-10.

Most valuable race at Donny is the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at 3.15 and we will throw two darts at this, starting with Cobra De Mai, which came back to form last time out, with all the headgear removed and with William Marshall on board. Same again today, so each way at 14-1 please.

We will also have a go at OK Corral, ridden today by the last jockey to win on it, namely Mr Derek O’Connor and sure to come back to form soon.

At 8-1, we hope it’s today.

Well there we are, then. All done.


Santini 2.25 Cheltenham 4pts win @ 2-1

Spiritofthegames 1.50 Cheltenham 1.5pts e/w @ 13-2

King Roland 3.00 Cheltenham 2pts win @ 7-4

Champagne Well 2.05 Doncaster 4pts win @ 2-1

Floressa 2.40 Doncaster 6pts win @ 11-10

Cobra De Mai 3.15 Doncaster 1pt e/w @ 14-1 (5 places)

OK Corral 3.15 Doncaster 1pt e/w @ 8-1 (5 places)

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