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It was a bad day on the selections at Cheltenham, with not many running well, but it was even worse to see Gesskille go wrong during the X-Country Chase. This horse had bags of potential and would've been a lovely horse for the National for connections, so to see him go out like that was horrible to see.
The only returns on the day came from The Paddy Pie who got a place at Doncaster.
Cheltenham 12:40 – Everything'sontick 8/1 (0.5pt EW, Bet365 3pl)
I don't think the horses towards the top of the weights are anything special, so two horses at the bottom of the weights were the ones which caught my interest. Of the British two, I preferred Everything'sontick from the Lawney Hill yard.
I think it's very interesting that Gavin Sheehan has opted to ride this horse over Some Scope who he won on last time out and has ridden the last four times, both horses looked like improvers, so for Gavin to pick the Lawney Hill runner is probably enough to suggest that's the one to be on. On the form, you'd have to say that Everything'sontick is the one to be on considering he beat Animal into the second spot at Leicester and that horse has come out and franked the form by winning at Sandown in a competitive Class 3 event, winning with ease in the end and producing an RPR of +12 to his handicap rating at the time.
Everything'sontick was well-supported at Leicester for his chase debut, a fair bit of money came in for him and they were right to do so as he jumped nicely, came out of Gavin's hands at the final fence and stayed on strongly. He looked like he possibly idled in the final furlong, getting a bit lonely in front, but when he heard the runners in behind he knuckled down and won by an easy 2L. Today's step up to the extended 3m 1f will pose different questions, but based on that performance I don't think he'll struggle, especially carrying 10st 5lbs against a fairly average bunch towards the head of the weights.
Cheltenham 2:25 – Easy As That 9/2 (1pt, Bet365)
This is a very interesting race with Protekotorat turning up and carrying 12st, conceding a shed load of weight to every horse in this race. Malina Girl is probably the one to beat based on the performance of last time out, but I'm going to give a chance to Easy As That for Venetia Williams.
For an 8yo, Easy As That has been very lightly raced, with just 10 career starts, and five of them over fences which has seen him win twice and be runner-up once. This is a huge step up in trip, which is clearly a big gamble, but I don't think they've got a lot to lose with this horse as I think he will struggle to win races off his current handicap mark over shorter, as it proved evident in a Grade 3 at Sandown in March and his 6th/14 behind Stage Star at the November meeting. To be honest, I don't think the real version of him turned up on both of those days, he probably needed the run last time out and the Sandown run wasn't a true performance, but I do think the step up in trip could help him massively. Though he wasn't at the races last time out, he did finish off nicely and stayed on to a decent extent up the hill, and whenever Venetia sends a horse up in trip, I think she rarely gets it wrong, so for this horse to go up by 6f, I think there is some big confidence amongst connections that they fancy this race.
Venetia has won this race in the past, including last year with Commodore, so she evidently knows what type of horse is needed to win this race, and she'll know whether a horse has the required stamina. She had the winner back in 2015 as well.
Doncaster 3:15 – Forward Plan 5/1 (1.5pt)
It looks a very tough day as a whole, but nothing else stood out like a bet at Cheltenham so I've gone to Doncaster and I'm siding with an old selection to do me a favour, in the shape of Forward Plan.
I tipped this lad up when running on seasonal reappearance in the Badger Beer Chase at Wincanton which was over 3m 1f and it was fair to say I had doubts over his stamina for that race, but the trainer clearly targetted that race for all of his runners who turned up, so felt he had a nice chance. He travelled into the race like a really big threat to those challenging but his stamina didn't quite get him over the line, getting tired late on and sliding through the places slightly, but he ran with plenty of credit and finished a decent 6th/11. He was running out of the handicap for that race, which makes life even more difficult, but today he is back to 3m and the ground should be relatively quick as they aren't getting any rain at Doncaster, so it looks to be falling into place for Forward Plan to run a big race.
I thought he was progressing nicely last year, he won three times, finished in the places on his other three starts and I just think towards the bottom of the weights, he can put be very dangerous off his current handicap mark now he's not running out of the handicap.
Cheltenham - 12:40 pm
8/1 @ Bet365
Cheltenham - 2:25 pm
9/2 @ Bet365
Doncaster - 3:15 pm