No, not the next Lynda La Plante offering, but the Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham, which promises to pose and answer several questions.
Kicking off proceedings is the JCB Triumph Trial at midday, which throws together the impressive JP McManus owned juveniles Charli Parcs and Defi Du Seuil, both unbeaten under rules, with seven victories between them. Safe to say that if these two had the same trainer, we wouldn’t be seeing them go head to head, but presumably someone has talked someone into something and both Nicky Henderson and Phillip Hobbs must fancy their chances.It’s 14-1 bar the two, with Charli (whatever happened to the ‘e’?) a shade of odds on and Defi available at 5-4. Personally, I have been much more impressed with the Henderson charge and, although it might sound odd, 4-5 represents a price for a decent bet.
At 12.35 we get the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase over 2m 5f and this time, it’s 11-2 the field, which brings in Ibis Du Rheu, Burtons Well and the winner, Singlefarmpayment. Much as I like the look of the Venetia trained Burtons Well, from what I saw when it won at Uttoxeter, it just doesn’t yet have the experience of a race like this on a course like this and Ibis Du Rheu’s two attempts at fencing have been distinctly underwhelming. Tom George’s 7-y-o, on the other hand has run three chases of immense promise, winning the latest one over three miles on this track. Dropping back in trip will not inconvenience this strong traveller and off 142, it can continue to progress and take this event en route to a return in March.Singlefarmpayment at 11-2 or better, each way is a confident choice.
The (deep breath) Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase at 1.45, re-routed from frozen Ascot, looks at the mercy of Un De Sceaux, which is heavy odds-on and unbackable, as is Thistlecrack in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at 2.15 and with the double only paying even money, we suggest you just watch and maybe admire.
Ignoring the Walt Disney job at 2.50, the Neptune Investment Management Classic Novices’ Hurdle at 3.25 has produced a cracking e/w bet in the Tom Lacey trained Kimberlite Candy, available at 8-1. Winner of sole Irish Point and both hurdles to date, this 5-y-o is set to become the stable star and flag bearer and can put the big stables’ representatives in their places under Barry Geraghty.
And finally, at 4.00, in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle, Harry Fry’s Unowhatimeanharry attempts to win its 8th race on the bounce and is very short so to do. Regular readers will no doubt remember we recommended an each way punt on Ballyoptic to turn this one over at Ascot in December, only for it to fall at the last when upsides. With a four pound pull today, it could be close, but with no each way price available this time (12-1 last time, 4-1 today) we can’t recommend a bet. We hope that Shantou Bob who is in the best form of his life will acquit himself admirably if the going is soft enough for him to take part and if it is then 33/1 is to big, but he is up against it at the weights.