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The second race of the day is one of the tough handicaps which are rock-solid to find a winner in, this time it's the BetMGM County Handicap Hurdle.

Dan Skelton built up a reputation when landing this race three times in four years between 2016 – 2019 and he won it again last year with Favoir.

Cheltenham 2:10 – Westport Cove 28/1 (0.5pt EW, Skybet 7pl) & Petit Tonnerre 22/1 (0.5pt EW, Skybet 7pl)

With the form of the Skelton yard and the fact he has won this race four times it's hardly a surprise to see L'eau Du Sud vying for favouritism. He is very short for a competitive handicap like this, and I'd say it's one of the hardest handicaps of the week and we've had a few already. If Skelton manages to get another in on Day 3, this horse is going to be very short and I think he is already an untouchable price. I think he has a very good chance based on the Betfair hurdle form and the fact he has been planned this race all season, but I'll be looking elsewhere, as just because he is trained by Dan Skelton, doesn't make him a certainty.

Pied Piper was second in this race last year, he is now 1lb lower as Danny Gilligan claims 3lbs. He has a shout based on his Cheltenham form and that he is a Grade 1 performer, but I think this race is tougher than last year and carrying a big lump of weight around is not ideal. Jack Kennedy seems to be on the fancied Gordon runner, King Of Kingsfield, but for me, I think he is a terrible price. He is a novice hurdler, which is something you should probably look at for races like this, and he has Graded form, but I really do not rate the Graded form at all. He was 2nd to Farren Glory in a Grade 1, but that horse has done nothing and the Grade 1 in the UK that he was probably going to win until he fell looks terrible as well. This lad beat Mirazur West, once again, done nothing, and yeah you can say he was 3rd behind Ballyburn at the DRF and Slade Steel won the Supreme, but come on, he was 14L behind and was 7L behind Slade Steel. Horrific price, but will probably go and win now I've said all of this.

Willie has a decent record in this race, and won this race with State Man in 2022. He sends a couple of novices for this race, with Absurde being the pick of Paul Townend. If this race was being run on good ground, I'd be all over this horse. He is a very high performer on the flat, he won the Ebor, was 2nd to Vauban at Royal Ascot and was 7th in the Melbourne Cup. He is a strong stayer on the flat and oozes class and chances are that he is well-handicapped off a mark of 138, but his runs on soft ground and worse is fairly honking. He was pulled up in a Grade 1 won by Caldwell Potter and was 17L behind Ballyburn at the DRF. He was 6th/9 at Galway in a Listed race on yielding ground and even going back to his first ever start on the flat, he was 10th/14 on soft ground. I might be talking complete nonsense, but everything points to him wanting quick ground.

My first dart landed on Willie Mullins' Westport Cove. This horse was once a favourite for the Martin Pipe, or at the top of the market at the very least, they decided to come to this race as everyman and his dog is raving about their chance in the Martin Pipe. Westport Cove pushed the favourite of the Martin Pipe to the line, so if they fancy that horse so strongly for that race, this lad must be on a very good mark too, especially considering they were close in the market for quite a while when both pitched into that race. I thought he was very gingerly handled last time out behind Tullyhill, granted the form hasn't worked out, but Michael O'Sullivan was hardly trying, he went through the race like he could contend, but with the handicaps in mind for this week, they obviously were told not to get close. Willie isn't a huge fan of running novices in handicaps like this at Cheltenham, so he's interesting that he is running here based on that.

The other horse I am chancing at bigger odds is Petit Tonnerre. This horse has been laid out for a Festival handicap all year long and Jonjo Sr has had me and many punters on strings with him teasing us over fences and with them evidently not trying. I was caught a sucker for him at Cheltenham two runs ago when I thought he had a great chance, but Jonjo Jr did Jonjo Jr things on a JP horse, and that was to sit cold and not even bother. That race was won by Libberty Hunter, who went close on Day 2 in the Grand Annual. He has run four times over fences, and somehow, his handicap mark has dropped 4lbs, which is rather convenient as he was running in this race last year off a mark of 140 (4lbs higher), and to say he was given a honking ride is an understatement. He was held up, like he is normally is, but in that specific race, if you weren't close to the pace turning for home you had no chance, and sure enough Petit Tonnerre had far too much to do, but was powering up the hill and finished 7th. Off a 4lb lower mark and if sitting closer to the pace, I think he has a great EW chance.

Last year's winner Faivoir deserves a mention. He is running off a 1lb lower mark than winning this race last year (has 3lb claimer on board), which is very convenient given what has happened to Langer Dan. He is in great form as well, finishing 2nd in the Imperial Cup just gone. Hard to leave out in a placepot and is handicapped to go in again.

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