No music-related headline today, as inspiration has failed us (who said: ‘thank goodness for that?’) but it’s great that jump racing from Cheltenham is back on our screens, with four races from day one of the two day meeting.

First race is at 1.50, the Ballymore Novices Hurdle for which the Paul Nicholls‘ trained Ask For Glory is favourite at 11-8. This is mildly surprising, as esteemed trainer has pointed out that his charge has been ‘minded’ and is not fully tuned up for its reappearance.

That being the case, we will take a chance on the proven form possessed by Finisk River, down from Donald McCain‘s yard oop North.

This 7-y-o was a facile winner of two novice events at Cartmel before just failing to give weight to Fugitives Drift at Bangor at the end of last month. That horse has gone on to win a handicap and is now rated 140, so, although ratings are not the be all and end all in these contests, at 8-1 this could be the value.

The Matchbook Novices Chase at 2.25 has a field of six, with the prolific Galvin heading the market at 6-4. Gordon Elliott‘s charge is 3 from 3 this season, all over shorter distances and, at that price, we’d want to be convinced this 6-y-o will get 3 miles round Cheltenham.

One runner with no stamina doubts is the other Oirish challenger Doctor Duffy, which finished third in the Kerry National off a mark of 145, a run that puts it in with a real chance here. At a tasty 10-1, let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

Two handicaps complete the TV coverage, starting with the quaintly named squareintheair.com Handicap Hurdle at 3.00.

Our main selection for this is Captain Tom Cat, trained by the good Doctor.

Having won two Novice hurdles in July and August and allotted an opening handicap mark of 121, CTC has been carefully put away and prepared for today. In the interim, its victims have been making hay and achieving ratings of up to 140, thus causing our medical trainer quietly to rub his hands in anticipation.

That, dear reader, is the theory and on the grounds that a good plan sometimes comes together, we suggest an each way bet at 6-1.

We also recommend a smaller each way punt on Up The Straight from the stable of Richard Rowe. This horse is closely matched with today’s favourite (Hijack) on last time out running yet is two and a half times the price.

11-1 is freely available to us.

The Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase at 3.35 completes the ITV set and we think that Ballywood is the stand-out bet in this.

Given a ‘prep’ last month, Alan King‘s 6-y-o is proven over this CD and has clearly had this race as its early season target. An each way price is available and we recommend a decent wager at 9-2.

ITV is also covering two races at Doncaster, starting with the Vertem Handicap at 2.40.

Worthy favourite at 3-1 is Jonah Jones, which was very unlucky not to win at Ascot last time out. Compensation surely awaits and Ed Walker‘s beastie should be backed.

We also give a squeak to Bernardo O’Reilly from the Richard Spencer operation. This 6-y-o, named after Charles Bronson‘s character in The Magnificent Seven, needs everything to fall right and at 12-1 we’ll hope that happens.

At 3.15 the vertem.co.uk Handicap looks a shoot-out between Ocean Wind and Opera Gift and we just can’t choose between them, so the advice is ‘no bet’.

Enjoy the thrills and spills.


Finisk River 1.50 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 8-1 (2 places)

Doctor Duffy 2.25 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 10-1 (2 places)

Captain Tom Cat 3.00 Cheltenham 2pts e/w @ 6-1 (6 places Hills/Skybet)

Up The Straight 3.00 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 11-1 (6 places Hills/Skybet)

Ballywood 3.35 Cheltenham 2.5pts e/w @ 9-2 (4 places)

Jonah Jones 2.40 Doncaster 2pts win @ 3-1

Bernardo O’Reilly 2.40 Doncaster 0.5pts e/w @ 12-1 (4 places Hills/Skybet)

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