Horse Racing – Improving stayer to continue Cheltenham love affair


RACING fan Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bet from Saturday's action.

1:50 Cheltenham | Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase | ITV4

The Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase is a Grade 3 over just short of two miles and five furlongs and, as you would expect for the meeting, it's very competitive. Fourteen line-up but despite a lot of depth there is only one I'm interested in.

Kings Odessey loves this type of race and had good previous course form. He's likely to give you a run for your money and will be popular with each-way punters. He may be nine but there is scope for improvement and I think he will win a big handicap at some point.

Frodon is only six but he has lots of experience and a really good wins to races ratio. He never seems to run a bad race but this means he has no secrets from the handicapper. He is likely to run his usual honest race but I think he'll fall short.

Coo Star Sivola (7/2 Ladbrokes) has only won two of his 14 races but he strikes me as a horse to keep on the right side of. He ran a great race in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the Festival in March and seems to enjoy the course.

He remains unexposed over the larger obstacles and the stable is red hot just now so despite being short in the betting, I think he's a reasonable bet here.

2:25 Cheltenham | Cotswold Chase | ITV4

The Cotswold Chase is a Gold Cup trial and looks a good race in its own right. Unlikely to provide us with the winner of the big race, it's sure to produce a good winner nevertheless and there is one I think, despite being a risk, is worth taking a chance on.

Bristol De Mai is the best horse in the race and if this was at Haydock he would be odds-on. However his form at Cheltenham isn't as good and with a penalty to carry he is vulnerable. He ran well here in the JLT but I'm not sure a slog around Cheltenham brings out the best of him.

American was well fancied for the Ladbrokes Trophy last time and ran a terrible race ending up being pulled up. He was incredibly progressive before this and won his first three chases in good style.

He'll handle this ground, enjoy the smaller field and the stable is in better form. He remains capable of better and I think he's a good alternative to the favourite here at 5/1 (William Hill).

3:35 Cheltenham | Cleeve Hurdle | ITV4

The Cleeve Hurdle is a Grade 2 over three miles and is seen as a trial for the Stayers Hurdle. It's attracted a field of 10 and whoever wins this will head to the Festival full of confidence they can add the stayers crown to their win here.

Finians Oscar was a top novice and I expected him to take high rank as a chaser. However, that game just wasn't for him and he looks a little soft to me. Whether a battle late on against proven stayers is going to be ideal for him is up for debate and I currently sit on the ‘it's not for him’ side.

Beer Goggles landed the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last time out and is out to prove that was no fluke. He put up a great performance but the form lacks substance to me as he beat horses that look past their best or underperformed and I'd be surprised if he added to that.

The one I like is the Nigel Twisten-Davies-trained Wholestone. Never out of the places in six starts at the track he will appreciate the ground and the trip. He won well last time in the Relkeel where he looked strong at the finish. He seems to be improving still and I think he'll continue his love affair with the track in this.

Best Bets

1:50 Cheltenham – Coo Star Sivola (7/2 Ladbrokes)

2:25 Cheltenham – American (5/1 William Hill)

3:35 Cheltenham – Wholestone (10/3 Bet365)

About Author

I grew up watching Hearts games with my dad and playing football at every opportunity so betting on it was the logical next step! Football coupons became a Saturday ritual and it introduced me into the world of horse racing. I started watching it on a regular basis, and after Galileo's Derby win in 2001 I was hooked. I follow both flat and national hunt racing attending the northern meetings when possible.

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