JUMP racing is back! We got Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) to give us his best bets from Saturday's Channel 4 racing.
The jumps season is really starting to take shape and the second day of the open meeting kicks-off with a Triumph Hurdle Trial over 2 miles. There are only five runners lining up but three of them look like genuine Triumph Hurdle candidates and I can see this being an informative race.
The ground is likely to play a major role in today's racing with rain hitting tracks round the country and if that is the case it's likely to go against the Alan King inmate Oceane. He's won both starts over hurdles so far and looks like he will more than pay his way over obstacles. However, his French bred rivals are more likely to enjoy today's conditions and he's up against it here.
This leaves Fingertips and Romain De Senam. Both started off their careers in France before being transferred to Paul Nichols and David Pipe respectively. They met in France where Romain De Senam came out on top by half a length and there doesn't look to be much between them.
Romain De Senam won on his British debut at Wincanton easily and looks like a juvenile who is on track for the festivals in the Spring. He will appreciate the soft ground and is the horse to beat here. However he is a short price and I'm prepared to oppose him.
Fingertips is yet to run in the UK but he is highly regarded by connections and the fact he is being introduced here shows he's seen as a high class recruit. Though he was beaten by the favourite on the previous meeting there was very little between them and he's now 2 lbs better off and I am prepared to take a chance on him.
Connections will have him fit for his seasonal debut and at the prices he is the bet for me in this race at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.
Another small field in the Mallardjewellery.com Novices Chase but it's another intriguing race. It sees the chase debut from Un Temps Pour Tout who won the French Champion Hurdle last season and is one of the more exciting chasing recruits for the season ahead.
Un Temps Pour Tout ran in some of the top staying hurdles in Britain last season without reaching the frame before winning the French Champion Hurdle on his final start under a fine front running ride. He's still a relatively unexposed type and could have more improvement in him and it's possible he will be back here in the spring as a leading RSA horse. However, this is a tough introduction over fences and though he is better than his rivals I'm not backing him today.
Blaklion from the Twisten Davies yard is the second favourite and I'm happy to take him on. He was a promising type last season winning a couple of Grade 2 races early on before going slightly off the boil. He made a satisfactory debut over fences but I'm not particularly excited by him any more. I don't see him winning here.
Vintage Vinnie fell last time out while travelling well and it's possible he would have went on to win there. Before that he had made a very impressive chase debut and he looks like a horse with real potential. Though it's a worry backing a novice after a fall, I expect him to run a big race here, but I fancy another in this.
Vicente was in the same race as Vintage Vinnie last time out where he came third. His jumping was sketchy on that occasion and he made two or three bad mistakes. However, he travelled like the best horse in the race that day and he was only really beaten close home.
If he brushes up on his jumping he will be hard to beat here and at 14/1 (Ladbrokes) I am backing him each-way. There are only five runners but bookmakers pay first two places and I expect him to be involved in the finish.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the first big handicap chase of the season and one of the biggest betting races of the year. It's fiercely competitive as you would expect from a 20-runner handicap and there are no shortage of candidates but I have found one that I am very excited about.
Buywise is a horse I have backed on numerous occasions and he's become too frustrating for me to continue backing. He came fifth in this race last year and has run big races at Cheltenham and Aintree since without winning. He always seems to get going too late in his races and though he will probably get competitive I won't be backing him here.
John's Spirit is a real standing dish round Cheltenham and his record in this race is fantastic. He won it two years ago and came second last season and is the horse to beat in my opinion.
His jumping let him down on his seasonal debut at Aintree but that was uncharacteristic and he will be spot on here. The big field and quick pace bring out the best in him and I expect him to go close again. I think he will get placed but I am very keen on one of his rivals.
Boondooma from the Dr Richard Newland yard ticks a lot of boxes coming in to this race and I'm very confident he will run a massive race. He is unexposed over fences and is a second season chaser. Seven of the last 10 winners have been second season chasers and unexposed horses seem to thrive in this race. He's won his last two starts over fences and is improving with every start.
His last two wins have been over two miles but he has won over this distance before. He is tactically versatile and will have the pace to travel easily in what is historically run at a break neck pace. I fully expect him to progress further through the season and at 12/1 (Betway) he's a great each-way bet here.
Cheltenham 12.40 – Fingertips (4/1 Ladbrokes)
Cheltenham 1.15 – Vicente (14/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
Cheltenham 2.25 – Boondooma (12/1 each-way Betway)
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