Our racing pundit has some strong fancies at Cheltenham and Newmarket this afternoon.
As the speed figure suggested, the race won by Road To Respect at the Cheltenham Festival is top-class handicap form, but the trouble we face here is trying to work out which one of the five that finished in behind Noel Meade’s subsequent Grade 1 winner that day will come out on top 34 days on. The market seems to suggest Starchitect is the one to be with having done extremely well to finish fifth after being badly hampered two, the only slight negative with him is he did have a hard race over three miles at Aintree and with just 11 days to recover, he makes little appeal at 7-2. The value, therefore could lie with THOMAS CRAPPER (best price 6-1) and ART MAURESQUE (best price 8-1) who in their own way both came out of that festival race with great credit. The former looked to be going better than anything turning for home but in trying to match strides with the winner he paid dearly for those exertions up the hill. Prior to that smart effort, Robin Dickin’s inmate routed a decent field at Newbury in a fast time and with today’s drying ground very much in his favour, a big run looks on the cards at a track where he excels. The latter, although ultimately well beaten in the Brown Advisory, shaped a little better than his final finishing position suggests and, he, too, can also be given a big chance now on a much quicker surface. Runner-up to Voix D’Eau (again another big player here) in this race last year, Paul Nicholls’ inmate has an unblemished record on genuine fast ground and likely to be all the better for that first run for 124-days, he looks slightly overpriced at his top morning odds.
The key form-line to this concluding contest looks to come directly from the race won by Bin Battuta at Doncaster on the second day of the new turf season and in the shape of the runner-up on Town Moor, FIRST NATION (best price 9-2) is taken as the value call to turn around the tables on account of today’s quicker ground. In a race run at a very strong gallop 17 days ago, the Dubawi gelding pushed his fellow Godolphin-owned rival all the way to the line but in the end, he just couldn’t quite live with Saeed Bin Suroor’s charge in the final 100 yards. With the pair pulling well clear of subsequent winner Khalidi (won here yesterday), the form looks pretty watertight and with the Charlie Appleby team in cracking form courtesy of two winners here yesterday, it makes perfect sense to play this improving three-year-old each-way given that Bin Battuta’s only poor run came over today’s course on similar good-to-firm ground.
Not high enough rated to get into his intended target at the festival, POKER SCHOOL (NAP) (best price 4-1) is strongly fancied to gain some sort of compensation reverting back to hurdles. Impressive on his last outing over timber at Sandown back in November, Ian Williams’ inmate has surged through the chasing ranks subsequently with victories at Ascot and Kempton, and with the form of both races working out well in the interim, he would have no doubt been a big player had he managed to creep into the weights of the novices’ handicap at Cheltenham. A lover of genuine fast ground, the son of Gold Well will be well suited by the nature of the New course and likely to be stalking his prey as the field turn for home, hopefully his stamina borne out of many races over 2m 4f will prove the telling factor on the long run to the last and up the hill.