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Thedevilscoachman ran a nice race but didn't have the gears to go with the odds-on favourite. His jumping wasn't as good as it has been in the past and that didn't help, and he looked very tired after the last hurdle, but fair enough to winner, but I was never backing him at that price and felt that he had to be taken on.
Cheltenham 12:55 – Petit Tonnerre 11/4 (2pt)
I had this race between Fine Casting and Libberty Hunter at a first glance, but the more I looked at it I thought Petit Tonnerre was the one to back.
Fine Casting made an encouraging chase debut at Ffos Las over 2m 3f, his jumping was great but I thought with how keen he was the drop back to a stiff 2m would be better suited as he evidently got tired in the last few furlongs and I think that was due to his early excertions taking a toll. He was a decent hurdler from last season which saw him finish 4th/16 in the Sandown Imperial Cup which was won by Iceo, but he was staying on strongly on heavy ground that day. His form seems best over a stiff 2m rather than over a longer trip which saw his form tail off after that Sandown run when he finished 3rd/9 and 6th/8, which is another reason why I think he will be better over today's trip. He isn't as classy as the others higher than him in the weights, but knowing that he stays slightly further and handles heavy ground and should have a good pace to aim at to help him settle with Matata likely to go from the front, he looks a player in this.
I do think Libberty Hunter is on a good handicap mark, he was unlucky on chase debut when falling at the second from home, he won off 12st 2lbs last time out at Wincanton and put in a big RPR figure, but he didn't exactly beat much. I'd be more concerned over his jumping at a tough jumping track like Cheltenham where one bad mistake can cost you a race, and I think he is prone to an error, especially if Matata goes off hard.
Matata won nicely and the form has worked out okay with the runner-up winning since, but this is a sterner task running on heavy ground and giving away a decent chunk of weight to some improving horses. Petit Tonnerre has the best form in the race and I think he is being slightly overlooked in this contest considering he has proven Graded form over fences when finishing 2nd on chase debut at this track and finished 4th in the Grade 1 at Sandown last time out. His jumping wasn't as good as it was on chase debut last time around but I think he is worth a chance on that debut race at Cheltenham where he warmed to the task nicely and showed he is proven over the fences. He finished 7th/24 in the County Hurdle in March 2023 and was staying up the hill strongly, that is the best form over hurdles that any of these horses have shown, which emphasises he is the classiest horse in the race. He might need slightly further than today's trip, but given the ground is testing and Jonjo will sneak him into contention, I think he could still be on the bridle jumping the second last and stay up the hill strongly.
Cheltenham 1:30 – The Wolf 16/1 (1pt)
I think The Wolf is far too big of a price for this contest given that the ground is testing and that we know he handles this ground and stays very well.
This horse has always had the ability to win decent pots like today, but his jumping is his worst asset which is a huge problem in the world of jumps racing as that's the aim of the game. However, if he can be accurate over his fences then I think the 16/1 or odds similar to that are a bit insulting to his chances as there are question marks over the others in the field.
The Wolf has run in this race two years in a row prior to today and that has seen him finish 8th and 2nd, so he is capable of going close if minimising the faults in his jumping. Cloudy Glen will more than likely run from the front, but whether he is going to manage off 11st 12lbs, I'm not so sure. Angel's Breath has to prove he stays this far on heavy ground, as does Inch House and even though I really do like the latter, his wins have come on flat tracks on good to soft, so this is a totally different scenario. Stumptown will stay this trip and handle the ground, and has to be very respected for a trainer who has been winning nearly everything from the horses he brings over, but this horse's form of late has tailed off massively.
I'll be playing a straight win on this lad as if his jumping is poor, he's going to struggle and with only 2 places on offer, I'd rather be a bit greedy and play for the win.
Exeter 12:25 – Good Friday Fairy 6/1 (1pt, skybet)
Like everywhere over the country and in Ireland, the ground is heavy at Exeter, so you're going to need a specialist for the ground and I think Good Friday Fairy has a great chance of following up his easy success at Fonwell off just a 5lb higher mark.
He made all at Fontwell, and there's a decent opportunity to do the same here at Exeter and he pretty much was far too well-handicapped for those in that field as they all pulled up before jumping the last fence, which is crazy considering they all turned into the straight with a decent chance, but the way he sliced through the heavy ground at Fontwell was very nice to see as he'll need to be doing the same in today's tougher graded race.
Many in this race haven't raced this season, so having the fitness edge is going to be a major plus in my eyes and that's why I opted for Good Friday Fairy over High Game Royal who ran a nice race last time out at Chepstow, but the way he was tired in the final furlong of that race suggests Good Friday Fairy is the stronger stayer of those two, and despite the 7lb claimer being onboard the Hobbs horse, I think Tom Bellamy will get a great tune out of GFF.
Musselburgh 1:10 – In This World 5/2 (2pt)
I'd say the majority, if not all of the horses in this race are on tough handicap marks apart from In This World who appeals most now put back up to a suitable trip.
He outran his odds of 40/1 at Cheltenham last time out around two weeks ago, he was staying on strongly up the hill that day and caught the eye so it's no surprise to see him installed as the favourite now he's up to 2m 4f. This race is tough, but they don't seem to be the best-handicapped horses in the world, so I'm more than happy to side with the unexposed horse in this lineup who ran well in a good handicap at Cheltenham last time out and should prefer this step up in trip, even though it is a speedy track.
Cheltenham - 12:55 pm
11/4 @ Bet365
Cheltenham - 1:30 pm
16/1 @ Bet365
Exeter - 12:25 pm
6/1 @ The Pools
Musselburgh - 1:45 pm