Thursday’s nap Checkitout fell four out when, seemingly, having the race under control at Ludlow, but he is not one to give up on. A more galloping track such as Haydock or Newbury will surely see him in a better light although the cat may be out of the bag.
The ground was described as good to soft at Cheltenham on Thursday morning ahead of today’s six-race card – remember them – and do note there is now the prospect of further showers today and more significant rain on Saturday.
David Pipe has saddled the winner of the conditional jockey’s 2m 5f handicap hurdle four times in the last nine years and Induno (1.15) can improve that excellent record in the opener. The selection – 3/1 at William Hill who are betting 6 places – has not seen the track since a beaten odds on favourite at Sedgefield on Boxing Day.
The 6-year-old had previously won over a Bumper and moderate Novices’ Hurdle on soft ground and an opening mark of 115 looks attractive especially when you consider Fergus Gillard takes off a valuable 6lbs. Yes, he looked a non-stayer at Sedgefield over today’s distance, but I am convinced that was not his true running and the Pipe yard have been in excellent form in recent weeks.
Magic Saint failed to get home in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on his reappearance and he will appreciate the return to the minimum trip in the competitive 2m handicap chase. The handicapper has seen fit to drop him a couple of pounds and leading conditional Bryan Carver takes off a further five. He will be a tough nut to crack.
On The Slopes (1.50) might just have needed his reappearance here last month and today’s softer ground should suit Chris Gordon’s six-year-old who is likely to give it a bold bid from the front under Richard Johnson. With that run under his belt he is taken to reverse recent form with Beat The Judge. Alan King’s Ballywood looked a threat to all coming to three out last time and he certainly has the talent to take a hand, but he is becoming frustrating. The selection is 7/2 with BetVictor.
I was disappointed with the chase debut of Mossy Fen here at the Showcase meeting last month and he will have to improve his jumping if he is to take advantage of the 5lbs he receives from Protektorat (2.25) who will appreciate the return to a left-hand track having jumped out to his left when making a winning chase debut at Carlisle last month. The selection – 11/8 with Unibet – made all in Cumbria but does not have to lead. He is one of two exciting novice chasers’ – also Shan Blue – that Dan Skelton can go to war with this winter.
It is hard to get away from Easysland in the X-Country Chase having beaten Tiger Roll by 17L off level weights at the Festival in March and the French raider – now running in the colours of JP McManus – is 4lbs better off this afternoon. Potters Corner won the Welsh National – and virtual Aintree Grand National! – last season and has his first start over these unique fences. It will be interesting to see if there is any support for the 10-year-old.
The Bees Knees had a straightforward opportunity at Musselburgh last week with The Navigator not giving his running. A 7lbs penalty still sees him 8lbs “well in “as the handicapper has seen fit to raise him by more than a stone.
The each way vote, however, goes to Art Approval (4.05) who was hampered two out in a Maiden Hurdle here last month and was not knocked about when his opportunity had gone. The selection will get further in time, but I hope he is ridden more prominently this afternoon than was the case last time. It looks sure to be run at a decent gallop and at a double figure price – 12s with William Hill 5 places – I hope to see Paddy Brennan swoop fast and late for the Fergal O’Brien stable who had their 50th winner of the season earlier in the week.
In the Southwell opener I felt Classic Escape (12.02) ran a terrific race at Sedgefield last week and has been raised 4lbs for finishing second to Carrick Roads in what I thought was a better race than todays. He can race from his old mark this afternoon and will be tough to beat if in the same mood. The recommendation is 15/8 with William Hill.
Diol Ker (11.55) only got as far as the fifth on his chase debut when he overjumped at Galway, but he has the scope to make up into a good chaser for Noel Meade and he can get his career back on track in the Fairyhouse opener. There was 5/2 available early but he is into 13/8 with 10bet.
First View went off market leader for the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival and is a fascinating chasing debutant for Joseph O’Brien.