Betvictor’s Charlie McCann previews Thursday’s cards
Colin Tizzard announced yesterday that Cue Card will take his place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup field in March after connections dismissed speculation that the 11-year-old would bypass the race in favour of a tilt at a second Ryanair Chase – a race he won back in 2013.
Cue Card was still going well when coming down three out in the corresponding race last year and I am not convinced he is as good a horse going right-handed (King George) as left handed. Cheltenham clearly suits and this will surely be his last chance at Gold Cup glory – he remains 12/1 for the race with BetVictor and do note it will be seven years to the day (March 17th) since he burst onto the scene when winning the Champion Bumper.
Cue Card will bring the Cheltenham roof down on Gold Cup day if he wins and I believe it is a brave but correct decision.
There is a decent card at Wincanton this afternoon and I thought Floresco (3.55) ran a better race than his finishing position would suggest when beaten 20 lengths over 2m 4f at Newbury last time. The selection won this corresponding race last season, albeit from a 13lbs lower mark, and it is worth noting that he is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time this afternoon. Unison will ensure there is a decent gallop, which will suit the selection, and he can back up his win twelve months ago.
I’m looking forward to the British debut of Monsieur Co (4.25) for Paul Nicholls and the excellent conditional Harry Cobden in the finale having cost connects E155,000 when bought at auction back in November.
The feature race is the Somerset National and it promises to be a real test of stamina over the extended three-and-a-quarter miles. Top-weight Alfie Spinner returns from a 300-day lay-off but would be worth noting if the market spoke in his favour. Preference, however, is for Saroque (3.20) who finished fourth in the Welsh Grand National 12 months ago and hinted at a return to form when third at Bangor last time.
At Ludlow Amour De Nuit steps up in trip having finished runner up at Exeter on his hurdles debut for Paul Nicholls at Taunton. The former Sir Mark Prescott inmate was rated 100 on the level but, as a son of Azamour, isn’t guaranteed to appreciate the forecast soft ground over 2m 5f and preference is for Boagrius (1.20) who looked a real stayer when winning his Bumper at Catterick last month for Warren Greatrex.
Fille Des Champs (3.00) is 8lbs higher than when scoring at Ffos Las last time but she is less exposed than her six rivals in the mares’ handicap hurdle and can follow up for Evan Williams and Adam Wedge who keeps the ride. That success came over 2m 4f and she steps up to 3m for the first time today, but she suggested that stamina was her forte last time and gets the vote in what doesn’t look to be the most competitive of heats.
River Wylde (4.10) has to contend with softer ground than when scoring over C&D last month but he looked a horse of some potential last time and can defy his 7lbs penalty in the 15-runner novices’ hurdle, which closes the card for Nicky Henderson.
In the Group 2 7f Turf race in Meydan I hope to see Flash Fire (4.50) pick up the front-running Championship in the final furlong. The selection covered a lot of ground from his wide draw in stall 14 in a handicap last time but was well on top in the end of that competitive heat. The draw could have been kinder gain but William Buick can get the horse settled before striking down the outside for Charlie Appleby.
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