Bookmakers have gone as short as they dare on La Vaticane in the Cheltenham opener.
Pond House has been synonymous with this fixture for decades, so all of their runners must be given the utmost respect. Bookmakers have certainly done that by going as short as they dare withLA VATICANE (best price 7/2)
in the curtain raiser to the Open meeting, but even the top price 7/2 on offer could still turn out to be a generous quote given how much potential this French-bred has in his locker. The way he tanked his way through his only start over hurdles at Kempton last season suggests David Pipe’s charge has a serious engine underneath the bonnet, and having had plenty of experience jumping fences back in his native land, the son of Turgeon has all the tools to make a mockery of his current mark.
La Vaticane - 1pt @ 7/2
Ben Pauling can do little wrong at the moment, so armed with the knowledge that all his horses are fit and flying, a chance is worth taking that A HARE BREATH (best price 6/1)
can defy a 695-day layoff on his first outing for the Bourton-On-The-Water handler. A former point-to-point winner, the son of Alkaadhem put up a couple of excellent performances in above-average novice hurdles when trained by Nick Gifford two seasons ago, but he’s clearly had his problems in the interim - hence the huge absence from the racecourse. Good enough to get with four lengths of Irving on his first outing under rules at Ascot, he followed up that effort with an equally promising display behind Josses Hill in a white-hot contest at Newbury when last seen, and considering that pair are now recognised as genuine Grade 1 performers, it just shows the level he was running at until injury intervened. Whether he’s capable of running to a similar standard after the long sabbatical is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, but there’s no denying that he’s potentially very well treated on the pick of his old form if somewhere near his best.
A Hare Breath - 1pt e/w @ 6/1
PORT PARADISE (best price 10/1)
ran a good deal better than the bare result suggests in a valuable sales race at Newmarket last time out, so there’s more than a fair chance he can figure prominently in a race of this nature off his current handicap mark. Disorganised and badly hampered going down into the dip as the tempo was increasing at HQ, it was encouraging to see William Jarvis’ inmate pick up as strongly as he did in the closing stages and he certainly left the impression he would have finished on the heels of the main protagonists had he not met that interference. Being a tall, gangly type, it could be debated that today’s undulations at the Surrey venue might not prove ideal for the son of Paco Boy, but the positives far outweigh the negatives at his double-figure quotes.
Port Paradise - 1pt e/w @ 10/2
TUCO (best price 9/4)
has always had the look of a potential money-spinner on the all-weather and following a ground-breaking victory at Thirsk, he returns to action on the synthetics with his confidence at an all-time high. Placed on all three starts on the polytrack, Jamie Osbourne’s best performance on the figures came when he chased home the useful Aldayha in a strongly-run contest at Salisbury two starts ago and a repeat of that level of form should be good enough to see him make a bold bid on his handicap debut.
Tuco - 1pt @ 9/4
QUATRIEME AMI (best price 9/4)
could have done without being housed in the outside box, but the son of Equiano has so much quality that he should be capable of overcoming some an impost. A big eye-catcher on his first two starts, Charlie McBride’s inmate got off the mark with the minimum of fuss at Windsor last time - showing a smart turn of foot - and with the prospect of even more to come from this hugely promising individual, he remains a horse to keep on side.
Quatrieme Ami - 1pt @ 9/4