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It would've been profit if one of the horses on Friday was a winner but for all three to come was something which hasn't happened for a long time. The treble paid 145/1+ depending who you bet with, so hopefully some of you got on that. There were some lovely performances in there, especially Mouheeb who looked to have sprouted wings turning for home and flew past a decent field.
Apologies in advance about the number of selections for today. Saturday's can be brutal and over the years I've toned down my selections on the weekends as it can so often go wrong. However, there could have been a couple more but the value wasn't there for me, so it's just SIX for me today. Good luck if you're following, and be sensible.
Cheltenham 12:40 – Es Perfecto 6/1 (1pt EW, Bet365 4pl)
I think Es Perfecto will be vying for favouritism come off time as he's already been held in high regard by his connections and that has shown by him being well-supported on his two starts over fences, and I expect nothing different today.
With him being at the bottom of the weights I think he has a great chance of winning this race. I thought that he wasn't suited by Kempton last time out, he went through the race alright at the back of the field but became a bit outpaced in the home straight before staying on again and I think the strong gallop which is likely to be set on the new course at Cheltenham will bring out the best of him and I can honestly see him swinging on the bridle turning for home before Gavin sends him for home jumping two from home.
Cheltenham 1:15 – Hitman 9/1 (0.5pt EW, PaddyPower 4pl)
This won't be an easy task for Hitman to win this competitive handicap off top weight, but he has the class to do it and gets the services of the smart young jockey Freddie Gingell who takes off 5lbs.
It's not mission impossible to win this off a heavy/top weight as we've seen it happen with Cepage in 2020 and Wishful Thinking in 2014 both winning off top weight of 11st 12lbs and Frodon won this race with Bryony Frost taking 5lbs off his weight of 11st 12lbs, which is the same approach Paul Nicholls has taken with Hitman this year with Freddie Gingell getting the ride on Hitman.
In races like this, I think it's a tough decision to make on whether you go with an improver who has something to prove at this level, the class dropper, or the well-handicapped one. For this race, obviously, I've gone with the class dropper which is going to massively help Hitman as on his day he is a proven Group 2 performer at the very least. To put it into perspective, Hitman finished 3rd in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last year and was also 2nd in the Old Roan Grade 2 handicap off a mark of 159 which is 8lbs higher than today's mark with Freddie's claim, and he was only beaten by a head.
He has had his fourth wind surgery, yes you read that correctly, his fourth! On the back of his previous three, his next run has seen him 1st, 2nd and 2nd, so if he follows that trend, he should be bang there for today's race.
Cheltenham 3:35 – Paisley Park 11/4 (1pt, Bet365)
I've never managed to catch Paisley Park right. Every time I've backed him he's never won, so it's a bit wary for me to go for him in this race, but even at the age of 12, I think he is better than this bunch.
He has won this race 3x in the last four renewals, and last year he did bomb out massively when underperforming, but that wasn't a true showing as he won a Grade 1 the time before that at Kempton, which is not his ideal type of track. This year he has looked in decent form. He finished 2nd to Dashel Drasher at Newbury, and at the time I thought that form was very poor as Flight Deck was in a close 3rd place and he was rated in the 140s, but Paisley Park pushed Crambo to the limit at Ascot in the Long Walk Grade 1 and that cements him as a real contender for landing his fourth win in this race.
I think he holds all of the horses who carry the same weight and it's just about whether he can concede weight to the unknown hurdlers in Noble Yeats and Strong Leader and I think he can. Noble Yeats has only raced twice over hurdles, and there's probably a reason for that, and that would've been he was always going to be a better chaser, so it's weird that they've opted for him to go back over hurdles at the age of 9, and it feels like a sign of desperation that they've run out of ideas. Strong Leader is interesting up in trip, but he couldn't beat Blueking D'Oroux when they met over shorter, and that horse was convincingly put to bed by Paisley Park in the Long Walk.
Paisley loves the new track at Cheltenham and I think the quicker ground will play into his hands.
Doncaster 11:50 – War Lord 12/1 (0.5pt EW, Bet365)
Horses carrying big weights have had a decent record in this race for the last three years, with the winners carrying 12st and 11st 12lbs (2x), so looking towards the classier horses seems the way to go.
Off a mark of 140 I thought War Lord was of interest in a handicap back on a sounder surface. This horse has a weird profile, and he fits into the category of a lot of ex-colin Tizzard trained, now Joe Tizzard trained two milers who stay the minimum trip out very strongly but often struggle when going up in trip. This horse has finished 2nd in two Grade 1s over 2m and 2m 4f and was 4th in an Arkle, so he's definitely not a mug. He is now a 9yo and he last two runs have allowed the handicapper to drop him to a decent mark, and I think you can look past those runs as they were on heavy and soft ground, whereas if you focus on his first run of the season in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter which saw him staying on strongly at the finish to get 3rd/6, it shows he has the ability to win races of this nature. In hindsight, that run at Exeter was a very nice performance as he was only 3.75L behind Elixir De Nutz, was giving away 6lbs to that horse and that winner has since won again and was a good 3rd in a Grade 2 at Kempton over Christmas, now rated 10lbs higher than when he won at Exeter.
This is a rare runner at the track for Joe, and he has had a winner from his four runners at the track. Brendan Powell goes up for the one ride and I think the likely strong pace which will be set will set this up for War Lord who should love the long straight at Doncaster, which allows him to get into top gear (granted they jump every fence).
Doncaster 2:40 – Welcom To Cartries 9/4 (1pt, Bet365/WilliamHill)
No, I've not spelt this horse's name wrong, Welcom To Cartries is spelt without an E, and my autocorrect/spellchecker is constantly telling me to put an E on the end of Welcom 🤣. This race hasn't been kind to short-priced horses over the years, with just two winning favourites in the last 10 renewals, so the stats are against me with my selection today, but I have always been a big believer of this horse and this doesn't look like mission impossible.
This horse is all about stamina, so it didn't take a rocket scientist down at Ditcheat to put him up to 3m as he was lacking gears over the shorter trips he raced over on his first two starts over rules. This expensive purchase stayed on like a train at Ascot last time out after trading quite high in running when looking beaten, but he's not about pace and he grounded down those who were ahead of him and when he hit the front he pulled clear, doing his best work late on in this race. He is a lovely-looking horse, he has a big frame and will be made for chasing next year, but I do think he can do a job over hurdles now he's running at 3m, which was always going to be his trip.
This race saw last year's Albert Bartlett winner run in this (Stay Away Fay) so it's interesting that Paul Nicholls is opting for the same route, which clearly shows he holds this horse in the regard as his Grade 1 winning hurdler and I can see why. Both horses share strong stamina qualities and lack pace, and I believe once Welcom To Cartries wins this he will go for the Albert Bartlett, whether or not he's good enough to win at Cheltenham, time will tell.
Uttoxeter 3:08 – Thor De Cerisy 9/1 (0.5pt EW)
Coming away from the two big meetings on Saturday I've found a bet at Uttoxeter in the shape of Thor De Cerisy.
It seems like Uttoxeter is one of the only parts of the country to still have heavy ground in the description, but that will suit my selection. The handicapper has given Thor De Cerisy a real live chance of bouncing back to form as he dropped this horse 2lbs for his latest run which came over today's C&D and I think that is very surprising and generous from the handicapper as I thought this horse was given a shocking ride and probably should've been closer to winning than he did.
For me, Richie McLernon held on to this horse for too long, he was cantering all over them in the final straight but he wanted to play it cool and it ended up costing him as the field were closely bunched up. However, off a mark of 109 this horse is far too well handicapped to believe he can't win this and with my selection towards the bottom of the weights, he is the bet for me.
Cheltenham - 12:40 pm
6/1 @ Bet365
Cheltenham - 1:15 pm
9/1 @ PaddyPower
Cheltenham - 3:35 pm
11/4 @ Bet365
Doncaster - 11:50 am
12/1 @ Bet365
Doncaster - 2:40 pm
9/4 @ Bet365
Uttoxeter - 3:08 pm