After bagging 12 points profit from day three of The Cheltenham Festival, Andy Holding has six tips for the final day.
The Betfair Handicap Hurdle run at Newbury last month could well turn out to be one of the key form lines for this similar prize and having run well for totally different reasons, the two Nigel Twiston-Davies representatives SIR VALENTINE (best price 22-1) and STOLEN SILVER (best price 14-1) are worth playing against the field.
The former lacked a little bit of experience having gone into the race at the Berkshire venue with only three completed starts over hurdles under his belt, but that didn’t stop him from running an absolute blinder. Always going nicely just behind the speed, the son of Cacique looked a major threat going down to the last only for a faller to slightly impede his course and although he kept on well enough on the run-in, he couldn’t quite get to the eventual winner. That said, it was still a fair return for a novice against the more established handicappers and with that effort likely to have taught him a thing or two, the seven-year-old should know more this time around.
The latter got a well-documented troubled passage in the same race 34 days ago and he’s worth a small interest to show himself in a better light. The chief sufferer from another one of these unnecessary and infuriating standing starts (Cheltenham also plagued by them this week), the five-year-old grey was soon on the back foot, but to his great credit, he managed to run on strongest of all to finish a never-nearer eighth. Indeed, his closing sectionals were the best of the entire field that day and with the form of his Rossington Main win advertised by the run of Edwardstone in the Supreme here on day one, a much more prominent display looks on the cards.
Nicky Henderson has enjoyed a memorable week so far and it could get even better if THE CASHEL MAN (best price 33-1) runs anywhere his best.
Hugely impressive when landing a competitive handicap at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance, the son of High Chapparall posted a very slick time in the process and off the back of that useful effort, his sights were raised significantly into the Grade 1 company. Well-backed to justify that bold stance in the Challow Hurdle back at the same track, the eight-year-old gelding looked to have the hot favourite Thyme Hill in trouble turning for home, but a bad blunder three out allowed Philip Hobbs’ inmate to regain the initiative and in the end, he couldn’t quite muster up the finishing kick of the winner. Unsuited by very heavy ground at Bangor last time when awarded the race in the stewards’ room, The Cashel Man is clearly much better than that performance, and with the ground continuing to dry out, he might well prove the joker in the pack if he gets into a good rhythm up front.
Once again, it’s been another memorable week for Gordon Elliott and the Co Meath handler looks to have another big chance in this competitive heat with the ever-consistent ÉCLAIR DE BEAUFEU (best price 15-2).
Not quite good enough for the likes of Notebook and Tornado Flyer in Graded races on home soil, the six-year-old gelding was sent to Leopardstown to contest his first handicap chase last time out and in what turned out to be a well-run affair, he came through with flying colours. Impressing with the way he went through the contest, the son of Monitor Closely stayed on strongest of all up the hill and having proven himself well suited by a race of that nature at the Dublin venue, he should be well clued-up when it comes to facing the likely brutal examination which this cavalry charge often provides.
Willie Mullins has a tremendous record in this race since its inception and the Closutton handler looks to have another ace up his sleeve here in the shape of FIVE O’CLOCK (best price 11-1).
Not overly impressive when justifying short odds on his seasonal debut at Limerick, the Cokoriko gelding was allowed to go off 7-1 when upped in class at Thurles last time out and that price turned out to be all wrong as he proved way too good for his eight opponents. In a race run at a true gallop thanks to the exploits of French Dynamite, the five-year-old readily pulled clear of the well-fancied Front View in the style of a horse going places and, with stamina seeming to be one of his major weapons, he should be well-suited by the rigours of this race. Either way, it makes little sense how he can be chalked up at a significantly bigger price than the runner-up that day on their return clash and this future chaser can go close to replicating the feats of similar types, Sir Des Champs and Don Poli.
Another who appears to be slightly overpriced is FLASH THE STEEL (best price 18-1), especially if you ignore his last run and concentrate on his victory at Chepstow earlier in the campaign.
Held up in what turned out to be a furiously-run affair, Dan Skelton’s inmate travelled conspicuously well throughout the contest before being delivered with a knockout blow approaching the last and in staying on strongly on the run-in, he gamely held the chasing pack at bay. Looking at the vanquished that day, they include the likes of Imperial Aura, Ballyandy, Indefatigable, Greenateen and Bold Plan to name but five, and with all of those going on to advertise the solid nature of the form many times over subsequent, it’s clear the son of Craigsteel beat a stellar field. Too keen and receiving no cover when disappointing over three miles on his only other outing this term, he arrives here fresh having been saved especially for this contest and with the drying ground likely to suit, it’s easy to see him running a big race.