Cotswold Chase Winner

It is a huge day in the National Hunt calendar this Saturday, as Cheltenham hosts its Trials Day, which is the last stop at Prestbury Park before the four-day meeting kicks off in earnest in less than two months time. 

With a high class nine-race programme set in place, it is a great opportunity for possible Cheltenham Festival contenders to put their preparations to the test. Here are my tips for the Cotswold Chase.

Paddy Power Cotswold Chase Runners & Preview

The Cotswold Chase should provide a clear insight as to who will head into the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March as second-favourite. Whilst five of six runners are rated at least 160, I don’t actually think this is a particularly strong renewal and one horse in particular stands out as a really solid bet here. 

I am happy to overlook Nicky Henderson’s Dusart, who was below form over hurdles here last time and that’s now twice he has been well beaten at this course. He is the lowest rated of these, scrambled home to best Sounds Russian at Ayr last season and I think some others in this field have more pressing claims who are proven at this level. 

Noble Yeats won the Grand National at Aintree and then won at Wexford before winning the Many Clouds Chase back at Aintree, where he produced a really nice turn of foot. However, with all due respect to him, he has never crossed my mind as a Gold Cup horse and this will be a much sterner test than the last two wins, which wouldn’t be good enough form to win a Gold Cup on the face of it. 

He was well beaten in the Ultima last season, though he has improved a lot since. That said, he will need to find more than his latest Aintree success and that isn’t exactly the sort of form to be considered a potential Gold Cup winner. Emmet Mullins’ charge could improve to win this but I have reservations about him being seen to best effect this weekend.  

Lucinda Russell’s stable star Ahoy Senor was second in his sole appearance at the track when chasing home L’Homme Presse at last year’s Festival which is a quality bit of form and he then went on to reverse that form when taking Grade 1 honours at Aintree. He confirmed himself to be one of the best novices in Britain last season and the return to this left-handed track should suit. 

However, his three performances this season have been well-below the requirement to be considered a genuine Gold Cup winner and in my eyes, he has yet to make the transition to open company. I think he might be found wanting in this race. Still, if he gets into a good rhythm, he is dangerous to discount. 

Sounds Russian needs more in this company, whilst Frodon is back at his favourite course but isn’t getting any younger and it would come as a minor surprise if he were to dominate this field and succeed.

Cotswold Chase Tips & Prediction

Normally I will shy away from the obvious but this just seems a perfect time for the Dan Skelton-trained PROTEKTORAT (best price 13/8) to come out on top and book his return ticket for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

Frodon and Ahoy Senor might take each other on for the lead and they could easily set this race up for a closer, such as Protektorat, who ran a stormer when third in the Gold Cup last season and would have finished second without making a bad mistake at the final fence. He did well to hold onto third, which was a testament to his metal and quality to be able to overcome that and make the frame. 

He was evidently done for the season when well beaten at Aintree on his final start of the campaign but he made a triumphant return in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, where he had the likes of Bristol De Mai, Frodon and Eldorado Allen all beaten in behind. They went a good gallop in that race and he relished it, as he cruised through the race, jumped well, and won with any amount in hand at the finish. 

He should get a similar set-up here, has proven form at the highest level at this course and seemingly handles all ground as well. He is the highest-rated in the field at 170 and ticks nearly all boxes for this race based on stats and trends. Given his latest career-best performance, he has far less to prove than the majority of these and therefore gets a confident vote to showcase his qualities here. 

Protektorat - 2pts @ 13/8