13:50 Cheltenham

There are a lot of chances in the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase with 17 runners set to go to post. II Ridoto has shaped well in both starts over track and trip and has a good chance of making the frame again with more to come. His price does seem a bit on the skinny side though, especially when he seemed to be beaten fair and square last time.

Fugitif returned a good winner at Chepstow last-time-out and is improving with each start but I am drawn to the claims of the horse who was back in third that day, SILVER HALLMARK (best price 16/1) who is better off at the weights with the winner here and makes plenty of each-way appeal from a mark that is within range.

This nine-year-old has been lightly campaigned in his career and there are some key pieces of form that certainly bring him right into the equation. Limited to just two runs over hurdles, he beat McFabulous off level weights by four lengths in his sole victory in that sphere and the runner-up is now a 153-rated chaser, who won a Grade 2 on his penultimate start for Paul Nicholls.

He made his chase debut at Exeter, where he met Fiddlerontheroof off level weights and was just denied by a head to Colin Tizzard’s charge, where he looked the likeliest winner until headed in the final strides. The winner has since placed in various Grade 1 events and also made the frame in the Ladbrokes Trophy and Grand National off marks of 150 and 155 respectively, which is high-class form.

In essence, Fergal O’Brien’s Silver Hallmark is extremely well-treated off 140 here. He even went and won a Grade Two comfortably at Haydock as well, proving his capabilities at a higher level. He didn’t really cut much bread in his next three starts but he ran well for a long way on his return over hurdles at Carlisle and then built upon that return when an eye-catching third at Chepstow back over fences last time.

The second was in receipt of 13 pounds, whilst the winner was in receipt of eight pounds, and he gets an essential 11 pounds turnaround with the winner in this race. Fergal O’Brien has seemingly plotted a carefully-approached route with him this term and that latest run over fences with his return hurdles effort under his belt should have put him at peak-fitness. He has yet to run at Cheltenham but unlike most of these, we haven’t seen the best of him and he has more to offer.

It is also interesting to see connections have retained Jonjo O’Neill Jr, who rode him last time, and his mount ticks a lot of boxes for this such as weight, mark, add in the additional fact he has grade-winning form to his name as well. He should be suited to this race, as he is likely to race prominently, and remains unexposed in the handicapping scenario, so the 14/1 on offer definitely underestimates his chances with five places generally available and advised.

15:35 Cheltenham

Later on, in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, the Paul Nicholls-trained Henri The Second and Dan Skelton-trained Pembroke have obvious chances over this trip and are towards the top of the betting but the step up in trip could really suit CRUZ CONTROL (best price 11/1) who might have slipped under the radar at double-figure here with four places generally available and advised.

He was fairly useful in bumpers, finishing second on debut before going one better at Exeter next time. He only scrambled home by a head that day and the second hasn’t exactly boosted the form since but he still got the job done in game style and he shaped really well when seventh of 18 in a Grade 2 bumper event at Aintree.

Not seen again for the remainder of the season, this son of Saint De Saints made his hurdles/seasonal debut in a maiden hurdle event at Newcastle and while that was a pretty weak-ish race, he travelled powerfully and won in a canter by eight lengths. Despite a couple of scrappy leaps, he had a lot left in the tank, as he hit top gear after the last hurdle, looking better the further he went.

This weekend’s race is a huge step up in grade but connections clearly feel as though he is worth his place in the line-up. He could have been found an easier opportunity elsewhere to get more experience into him but connections waste no time in tackling this Grade 2 assignment. He looks like a big powerful unit, who will probably get three-miles in time, and he should be well-served on this galloping course which will bring his stamina into play.

Tom Lacey and Stan Sheppard are enjoying a productive campaign and have also been amongst the winners of late. This six-year-old seems sure to progress and, on just his second start over hurdles, with conditions looking perfectly-ideal, I wouldn’t put his past him improving enough to give the market principles plenty to think about.

Silver Hallmark & Cruz Control  1 pt - E/W double