12.15 Cheltenham 

There is plenty of quality jumps action in store for viewers on Saturday, with Trials Day taking place at Cheltenham and the Sky Bet Chase over at Doncaster. 

The opener at Cheltenham, the SSS Super Alloys Handicap Hurdle, looks a good race and while Lively Citizen will be tough to pass at his favourite venue, I have a strong each-way suggestion in the form of CORMIER (best price 5-1) with four places generally available. 

Brian Ellison’s charge was well-held in the latest edition of the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle in November but a bad mistake at the fourth and second last definitely contributed to his downfall in that event given how well he appeared to be travelling beforehand. The six-year-old looks to have the scope and potential to surpass a mark of 130 on all known evidence as it was only two starts back that saw him run well to finish fourth in a good renewal of the Welsh Champion Hurdle in October off 3Ibs higher, too. Furthermore, he was second off this exact mark in last year’s Grade 3 Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle on unfavourable ground so he’s certainly got some strong form in his back catalogue for a horse who’s had just eight starts in this discipline. The booking of Johnny Burke is really good and everything looks in place for this dropped-in-class performer to go very well in the opener. 

Cormier - 0.5pts e/w @ 5/1

13:20 Cheltenham

I have quite a strong view about two horses in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase who, on merit, have outstanding each-way claims at the very least off their current marks. 

It’s fair to say that OSCAR ELITE (best price 6-1) hasn’t had much luck since going chasing but he did not disgrace himself when fourth in the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase last time at this track and today’s drop back to handicap company makes it a much easier task for him off a mark that’s certainly within range on the balance of his top-class hurdles form. The seven-year-old developed into a classy operator over the smaller obstacles last term, where he proved his runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle to be no fluke when he backed it up with a good third in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at the Aintree Festival. 

His return/chase debut here in November looked to be going according to plan until disaster struck at the third last when taking a heavy tumble. He’s yet to match that form since but perhaps he needed to get his confidence restored and in that very event, he looked like was going to beat eventual winner

Threeunderthrufive and the form has been extremely well advertised since by the latter, who’s won a pair of Grade Two’s and is now rated in the mid 150’s. The Colin Tizzard yard back is amongst the winners and, off a lenient-looking mark of 137 on handicap debut, there’s a strong chance this two-time Grade 1 placed hurdler might be able to outclass this field.  

Paul Nicholls’ one-time exciting hurdler SOLO (best price 15-2) hasn’t lived up to his tall reputation and early promise but, while he has continued to find one or two too good, he’s performed really well in all three chase starts to indicate that he might be on the threshold of a first victory since his debut. 

He wasn’t able to scale the heights expected of him over hurdles but has proved consistent since switching to this discipline last term, finishing second in a pair of handicaps before a good third behind two good horses in a Grade 2 when last spotted over the minimum distance. He’s back down in class off the same mark and should appreciate the step up in trip to two and a half miles on better ground with Harry Cobden reunited. This six-year-old has become expensive to follow, particularly from a win point of view, but his strong-travelling and assured jumping should see him uphold his consistent chase form with a big effort in this middle-distance assignment. 

Oscar Elite - 0.5pts e/w @ 6/1
Solo - 0.5pts e/w @ 15/2

13:55 Cheltenham

The really likeable front-runner Coole Cody will no doubt ensure that this event is run at a good gallop but, he’s never won off a mark this high, and this could prove to be the ideal set-up for a closer, including SHE’SASUPERMACK (best price 25-1), who is surprisingly trading at double-figure odds which I find insulting for a mare who arrives here at the peak of her powers. 

Iain Jardine’s mare has won two of her last three starts and probably would be arriving here seeking a four-timer if she didn’t fall at the second last on her penultimate outing when looking the most likeliest winner. She showed no ill effects from that fall when producing a power-packed finish to land the spoils with a bit up her sleeve back at Ayr last time and, while she has a career-low mark to overcome, I think she’s open to further improvement. The drop in trip is something of a niggle, though clearly stamina is never a bad trait around here as she’s proven over three-miles and is likely to be held-up before showing her face late into the action. An interesting pointer about her chances is the fact that connections make the long journey with this thriving mare to the Cotswolds from Dumfries in Scotland with their only runner on the card, which is nearly a 550 mile round trip. With that in mind, her connections will not want to be going home empty-handed so, assuming she can hold it together over this tricky obstacles, she is likely to be coming with a late run if the pace starts to collapse and, that being the case, has a better chance of reaching the frame, at least, than her odds suggest.

Meanwhile, MAGIC SAINT (best price 13-2) looks an ultra-solid each-way proposition in this event under Tom Buckley. Paul Nicholls’ talented eight-year-old regularly goes well at this track and ran a huge race to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase here last time. He also finished runner-up over today’s course-and-distance last April off a 10Ib higher mark, 157, so he’s undeniably well-treated off 147 whilst continuing to perform admirably well. He already has the beating of a few of these so, with Tom Buckley claiming his valuable five-pounds, this high-class handicapper has excellent claims with conditions very much in his favour.

She’sasupermack - 0.5pts e/w @ 25/1
Magic Saint - 0.5pts e/w @ 13/2

14.57 Uttoxeter 

EMMA'S JOY (best price 4-1) has been set some stiff tasks in a pair of listed events since going chasing but she acquitted herself very well in each of them and can make the most of today’s ease in grade. The nine-year-old is closely matched with Vienna Court and given that mare is now rated in the 140s, Dan Skelton’s top-weight is extremely well-treated off a mark of 125 on handicap debut. She’s raced mainly on softer ground or worse, including when successful in a Grade Two on heavy but has won on good and now that she has her sights lowered, I think she’s got an excellent chance under Bridget Andrews.

Emma’s Joy  - 1pt @ 4/1

15.20 Doncaster 

The feature race at Doncaster is the Sky Bet Chase in which it’s worth taking a chance on a couple of runners who have the capabilities to go really well with up to five places widely on offer. 

The talented six-year-old FUSIL RAFFLES (best price 6-1) returned a rather fortunate winner of the Charlie Hall Chase on his penultimate outing when left clear due to Shan Blue’s departure but showed his trademark fine attitude to see off the remainder and, while the form has taken a few knocks since, last year’s Marsh runner-up has a good chance under James Bowen. He was travelling smoothly in the Racing Post Gold Cup until his chances almost went up in smoke mid-race when making a serious mistake at the tenth, taking off far too early and ultimately ending up on top of the fence. 

This sort of mistake would tend to put a horse out of reach for win purposes so his performance deserved a great deal of praise considering how he somehow got himself back in contention to hold every chance turning into the home-straight, briefly looking like he would go close, before finishing a respectable fourth place. It would be fair to say that he didn’t jump with the same panache as he normally can but, essentially, the assessor has dropped him a handy pound, suggesting he slightly underachieved. The better ground this afternoon will ensure he’ll have no trouble getting today’s stiff three miles and his jumping will be put under less pressure so he must be there or thereabouts in such an open affair with just about the strongest form on display. 

I can't resist the odds about JANIKA (best price 18-1), who shaped well at Cheltenham last time and is nicely treated with Ben Bromley claiming 7Ibs. Unproven this far but hasn't carried a low-weight in a good handicap for a long time and this will be his first crack at three miles in this sphere which I think will suit despite having to prove his stamina. The nine-year-old was rated as high as 165 a couple of years ago and has won/placed off higher marks than today’s 148 in the past, including the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup so he’s well-treated on old form and that’s without taking his riders seven-pound claim into account, effectively putting him down to 141. Now that he has finally been given some relief by the assessor over fences, that should be one of the contributing factors to him going well at a double-figure price here. 

Fusil Raffles  - 0.5pts e/w @ 6/1
Janika - 0.5pts e/w @ 18/1

15.40 Cheltenham 

The Grade Two Ballymore Novices' Hurdle trick is armed with significant potential and a chance is taken on the unbeaten A DIFFERENT KIND (best price 9-1), who appears to have been underestimated here for the Donald McCain/Brian Hughes combination. 

This undefeated five-year-old won both his bumper starts by an aggregate twenty-five lengths and made it five-from-five when winning a warm-up event for this just over two weeks ago by eleven-lengths. This race will of course be a much stiffer ask of his credentials but he’s done nothing wrong, winning on a wide range of conditions whilst carrying penalties and has won them all with a bit to spare, including when beating Lanzarote favourite, Green Book. He does need to take another big step forward here, but he remains open to improvement and I have been really impressed with his performances so he could be the value against the big pair in the betting as he bids to remain unbeaten for his in-form handler. 

A Different Kind  - 0.5pts e/w @ 9/1

16.15 Cheltenham 

This listed event to conclude a great day’s racing at Cheltenham has attracted some really promising mares’ and I really like the claims of Kim Bailey’s penalised FLIRTATIOUS GIRL (best price 6-1), who brings the strongest form to the table, and can make a major impact in the finale. 

She displayed a gutsy attitude when seeing off a host of subsequent winners in a listed affair at Sandown ten months ago and, while it’s not ideal carrying a four-pound penalty on her return, the six-year-old must have an outstanding each-way chance on reappearance with David Bass and Kim Bailey teaming up for their only ride and runner on today’s card. She’s two-from-three, has conditions in her favour, loves a battle and, based upon her bumper evidence so far, she's the one to beat and makes plenty of each-way appeal. 

Flirtatious Girl  - 0.5pts e/w @ 6/1