13:45 Cheltenham

This is an open affair to start the second day of Cheltenham’s showcase meeting in which I like the look of two participants in the shape of BLACKO (best price 9-1) and SMALL BAD BOB (best price 16-1) with five places generally available for the event. 

The former, who has now joined Evan Williams, looked a smart juvenile in 2019/20 when trained by Alan King and although he never quite scaled the heights his former boss had expected, including when well beaten in two chase starts, he looks extremely well-treated back over hurdles and was actually sent off favourite for last year’s Grade 3 Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. He didn’t fire for some reason but better was clearly expected and he now finds himself twelve-pound lower in the handicap in this much easier assignment and that’s without taking Isabel Williams’ three-pound claim into account. He’s still only a five-year-old so has plenty of time on his side and clearly holds a better chance of reaching the frame, at the very least, than his odds suggest in the opener. 

The latter, trained by Paul Henderson, has come of age since joining the yard earlier this year, collecting form figures together of 2211 from four outings and made most of two small-field affairs the last twice. This race is clearly a much sterner test of his credentials, but this lightly-raced progressive youngster probably hasn’t reached the ceiling of his ability and his proven stamina over further could potentially draw the sting from these rivals if let-loose on the front-end. 

Blacko - 0.5pts e/w @ 9/1
Small Bad Bob - 0.5pts e/w @ 16/1

14:20 Cheltenham

An excellent turn-out for this handicap chase and I’m pretty optimistic that either STORM CONTROL (best price 4-1) and GO ANOTHER ONE (best price 10-1) have the credentials to go close here and will be my each-way candidates with the four places on offer. 

Trainer Kerry Lee has her team in great form at present and course-specialist STORM CONTROL has a lot going for him on his seasonal reappearance. This bold-jumping front-runner goes really well round here and enjoyed a productive last campaign when winning twice here, including over today’s course-and-distance, too. He ran very well to finish fifth of 21 in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival when only weakening in the closing stages having dictated matters and ran well to finish tenth of 26 at Aintree next time. The handicapper has eased his mark three-pounds so he’s back on the same mark as when winning a Grade 3 here last year and holds strong claims with his yard heavily among the winners.

The Irish raider, GO ANOTHER ONE, battled gamely when scoring at Perth last time and has the course form given he’d finished sixth in this year’s Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival where his stamina reached its limit. The nine-year-old has actually ran well on all three visits to this venue and has only gone up a couple of pounds for getting back to winning ways last-time-out. Sean Bowen maintains the partnership and, on the assumption he is produced late onto the scene, likewise to his sixth here when last spotted until the last furlong stretched his stamina, that alone besides his smart form might be enough to see this lightly-raced chaser follow-up his most recent success at Perth with more to come. 

Storm Control - 0.5pts e/w @ 4/1
Go Another One - 0.5pts e/w @ 10/1

16:05 Cheltenham

The Irish have a good record in these sort of handicaps at Cheltenham and the one who appeals most is the Peter Fahey-trained BORN PATRIOT (best price 6-1) who was conceding match-fitness to Tullybeg when eight-lengths behind that rival last time. He’s five-pounds better off here and should be better suited to the return to this longer distance. He’ll need further improvement from a six-pound higher mark but this race is lacking any strength in depth and I’m sure connections will be left disappointed if their runner doesn’t figure prominently here especially being Kevin Sexton’s only ride on the card before heading off back to Ireland for Sunday’s racing. There is, of course, a list of dangers but he should be more than capable of reaching the frame with five places widely available. 

Born Patriot - 0.5pts e/w @ 6/1

16:29 Kelso

DUKE OF NAVAN (best price 15-2) has been a fantastic servant for connections over the years and, now taking a drop down in class for the first time over fences following a sequence of placed efforts this year, he might be able to get his head in front or, at the very least, reach the frame once more. 

This admirable teenager is clearly not the force of old and hasn’t won since early 2018 but it’s a testament to trainer Nicky Richards that he’s consistently delivering good efforts in defeat which has been the case this term. He’s yet to finish outside the top-four all year in better races than this and the last time he tasted victory was from a mark of 140. Today’s conditions will be in his favour and now that he’s operating from a new career-low mark in a race that is well within his capabilities, Nicky Richards’ charge might be able to outclass this field. 

Duke Of Navan - 0.5pts e/w @ 15/2

17:35 Kelso

Sam Coltherd’s DEQUALL (best price 10-3) likes it around here and only found one too good when second in a strong course-and-distance event last time and is taken to potentially add a second course-and-distance victory to his CV having also impressed here back in March when winning by five-lengths. 

His form figures here now reads 132 and it’s interesting that connections have left the cheek-pieces off that were worn the last day, while his record fresh isn’t too bad, either, having won at Hexham on his reappearance last year. This race is much easier than last time, taking on lesser-rated opponents and we know he likes it here so given the substance of his form at this course, he looks a step of the handicapper and should go close with plenty in his favour.

Dequall - 1pt @ 10/3