BetVictor’s Jack Milner looks at Friday’s cards and picks out a few for us
Entries for the four novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival were announced yesterday with 33 runners at the latest declaration stage for the G1 Novices’ Chase on the opening day of the festival, with last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Altior the even money favourite with BetVictor to maintain his yet unblemished record. Min, second to Altior in the festival curtain raiser 12 months ago, remains his closest market rival and is 11/4 to reverse the form with Nicky Henderson’s gelding and 2/5 to maintain his likewise unbeaten record over fences in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown on Sunday.
There will be plenty of festival clues up at Doncaster for their two-day SkyBet Chase meeting, that kicks-off with a seven-race card this afternoon. There will be a precautionary inspection on Town at 7.30am however, I expect them to pass with flying colours on ground currently described as ‘good’ I expect Behind the Wire (1.55) to make light work of a 5lb rise at the weights. The selection was well-punted when scoring last time out at Taunton and remains open to much further improvement.
There’s a cracking 3m Novices’ Chase where Paul Nicholls’ Aux Ptit Soins (3.55) appears to have been well-placed to score for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls. He jumped beautifully when shedding the maiden tag over fences up at Kelso earlier in the campaign and is a 20/1 chance with BetVictor for the RSA Chase at the Festival.
At Huntingdon, I’m willing to give Midnight Maestro (12.30) another chance after a run last time out at Cheltenham that looked too bad to be true. Alan King’s gelding was previously impressive on his hurdles debut at Doncaster and should get back to winning ways under retained pilot Barry Geraghty.
Nick Gifford’s Theo’s Charm has been the model of consistency over fences and is respected bidding to make it third time lucky after his two excellent runner-up efforts behind Theinval and Robinsfirth but Winner Massagot (1.30) was a massive eye-catcher when second last time out at Doncaster and can go one better to complete a quick-fire double for trainer Alan King. The selection has just 2lb to find on Theo’s Charm on official ratings but appeals as the more progressive animal and gets the nod to score under the excellent Noel Fehily.
Oliver Sherwood’s Icingonthecake (2.00) was the outsider of the field when scoring last time out at Newbury but there was no fluke in that success and he is taken to follow-up from a 2lb higher mark. He should appreciate the step up in trip and is a confident selection to claim a second chase success under Leighton Aspell.
Ascot’s G2 Mares’ Hurdle fell victim to the weather last week but has been rescheduled for this afternoon’s card and has a cracking field with six brilliant mares taking their chance. Willie Mullins sends Whiteout in search of the £20,000 first prize but I’m personally a big fan of Nicky Henderson’s Kotkikova (2.30) who made an eye-catching debut for the Seven Barrows yard last month at Punchestown. The 6yo was a G1 winner in her native France and can win this en-route to a first trip to the Cheltenham Festival; 10/1 with BetVictor for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle in the spring.
With the David Pipe yard in much better form, Mr Big Shot bolting-up in a Wetherby bumper to complete a treble for Tom Scudamore on Tuesday, and Celestial Path (1.15) chanced to make it second time lucky over hurdles in the Taunton opener. The well-bred son of Footstepsinthesand was rated 100+ on the level with Sir Mark Prescott and was pitched into the deep end on his hurdles debut, when pulled-up in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown. He travelled well before tiring in the testing conditions and back in calmer waters must go close in a first-time hood.
Paul Nicholls’ Garo de Juilley has been popular in the market for both starts for the Ditcheat handler but has disappointed at both Cheltenham and Chepstow and is opposed for the division 2 of the 2m Novices Hurdle with preference instead for Percy Street (1.45) under Andrew Tinkler. Nicky Henderson’s ex-flat recruit was rated 100 on the level and after a pleasing debut over timber last month at Newbury should make it second time lucky back down in calmer waters.
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