RACING fan Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets from Saturday's action.
Cheltenham | mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase | 1:15 | Racing UK
Despite only three runners lining up the 3-mile novice chase looks a really interesting race. All three won last time out and thought it would be foolish to completely dismiss the outsider it does have all the hallmarks of a 2 horse race.
Ballyoptic was the best of these over hurdles and a horse I expected to achieve slightly more than he did. He had a wind operation last year which didn't bring out the improvement connections were hoping for and after his impressive first time out win, he went through the rest of the season without success. He won well on chase debut but he isnt one for maximum faith.
West Approach wasn't far off Ballyoptic over hurdles and I'm of the opinion he has more scope as a chaser than his market rival. Trained by Colin Tizzard he won a novice chase at Ffos Las on debut and like many of the yards runners looked like the switch to larger obstacles would bring out improvement and I've backed him to win this.
Cheltenham | The BetVictor Handicap Chase | 1:50 | Racing UK
The BetVictor Handicap Chase is just over shy of three and a half miles is a real test and over these fences takes some getting. Because of the presence of Minella Rocco some of the fields carry featherweights and it's quite a puzzle to solve.
Minella Rocco ran the race of his life in the Gold Cup and this distance will be right up his street. As I eluded to earlier he has a huge weight to carry, but it's weight he has earned. I hope he runs well but is this his target? No. I fully expect him to improve with each start and I'd imagine this is just another step towards his Spring targets.
Three Faces West is perhaps a fascinating runner on the card returning from just under a year off the track. He won his last 2 starts in really impressive style and is still a lightly raced sort. He has a nice racing weight, shapes although this trip will be ideal and will appreciate any rain. He may prove to be thrown in here, but I'm not backing him.
Perfect Candidate is no stranger to Cheltenham and this place is almost his second home. Pulled up in the Grand National on his final start of last season he returned with a tame effort here in October. He comes on a lot for his seasonal debuts and I expect him to be a different proposition here. Because of Minella Rocco, he has a great racing weight and he really appeals to each way proposition.