Can Mr Saturday be Mr Thursday? We move on to some more great jumping on Thursday with some real highlights yet again after two exhilarating days. Today we have to look deeper in to the races to find those a little less obvious as this is one tough card – or will Paul Nicholls help us out today
1.30 JLT Novices Chase
Just the nine runners but maybe, for me, the race of the day. Its hard rule out any horse, with the possible exceptions of Tango De Juilley and Splash of Ginge who I fear may not be quite good enough, although anyone who saw the latter power up this hill in January may think otherwise. Im putting a line through The Tullow Tank on the grounds that his jumping isn’t good enough yet. Irish Saint is honest but perhaps not the type to win this race and Colour Squadron would be a surprise. So I have it down to Apache Stronghold, Valseur Lido, Vautor and Ptit Zig. I have been supporting Ptit Zig all year and was well impressed with his demolition job of Champagne West at Cheltenahm and I think he just might be something special so with his stable firing that’s my tip against the festival banker Vautor in a very open race.
They dont get any easier and this really is a toughy. Pineau DeRe, the national winner, ran brilliantly here last year and takes a similar route this year but shouldn’t be quick enough to win, I have a short list of about 6, who fit the bill and need to get this down to just two. They are Aqalim, The Tourard Man, Katkeau, Join the Clan, Big Easy, and Dawalan. Now the tough bit, two from this lot. i am not going to be put off by big weights and Im going for smooth travelling, tough horses from in form stables.
Another terrific race. 14 quality horses that you would be proud to own. The class acts to my way of thinking are, Balder Success, at this trip, Eduard, Foxrock, and Ma Filleule. I would be surprised if the winner wasn’t from within this group. I may have wrongly overlooked Ballycasey but I just don’t think he is up to winning this and Uxizandre doesn’t strike me as the most straight forward despite the application of headgear for this race for the first time, although this tactic at Cheltenham often has a dramatic effect – for the good!!. I am a huge Balder Success fan and given how poor the Champion Chase was I bet connections are sad they didnt go down that route. That said compensation is possible here and I fancy him to be too good for these.
3.20 The World Hurdle
I dont remember seeing this many running in this race for a long time. Normally that’s a sign that we have no outstanding horse, like Big Bucks, etc, which means its again an open race and this one certainly is. I see this being fought out by Saphir Du Rheu, Lieutenant Colonel, Un Temps Pour Tout, Zarkandar and Blue Fashion. I am going to back two in this race in what is not a vintage year for stayers – at least not yet!!!
4.00 Brown Advisory Plate
With just the 24 in this race it is simply the hardest race on the card on a day with lots of hard races. I like Rajdhani Express who is a course and distance winner and simply doesnt get 3 miles. I just wish the owner wouldnt insist on putting his son up on this horse – like Long Run he could be so much better and then I would be backing him. I really like Un Ace for Kim Bailey, who is in great form and has a talented young chaser on his hands. David Pipe has Monetaire lurking at the bottom of the weights as well. Bally legend could run a big race for Caroline Keevil and Edgardo Sol could well be primed for his inform trainer Emma Lavelle.
4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge
If we are in trouble when we get to this race then its a real problem. They go 9-1 the field and its tough to rule too many out or more definitely too many in. Gold Bullet for Tom Taffe is the obvious starting place as he looks to be laid out for this race by his master trainer. If he has a chink in his armour its inexperience. Champagne James must have every chance but again he doesnt have a huge amount of miles on the clock either. Garrahalish looks interesting and if he settles and then stays could give them a lot to do at a massive price. Ericht looked like he was coming back to form last time and maybe this is the right race at the right time. How about Just a Par for Mr Saturday – Paul Nichols, who seems to have loads of potential.