Wednesday was yet another day of maybes with Champ coming home second and Uradel running well until it really mattered before finishing in seventh. Others ran okay, but not well enough, and we did have not one but two winners in the 4.50pm, the winner to win and the second each way at 14/1, but I still needed an enthusiasm injection before writing Thursday's preview, also known as a beer as I lick my wounds and hope for a change of luck for the rest of the week. Read on if your patience is better than mine…
1.30pm JLT Novices’ Chase.
It may be my metal negativity but this looks far tougher now than it did a couple of days ago. Capeland looks a silly price when you consider he is trained by Paul Nicholls and may well outrun his price while Defi Su Seuil is a worthy favourite but looks to need to find a little bit more to come home in front – though that is as likely as not after just the four starts over fences. I have been looking for value all week and it hasn’t really worked so far but Mengli Khan gets his ground over fences at last and looks too good to resist at 16/1. His best form over hurdles all came on a softer surface and although he has a few pounds to find on what we have seen so far, he may do exactly that with the step up in trip looking just what the doctor ordered and he will carry my money for what that is worth. Suggestion: Mengli Khan each-way.
2.10pm Pertemps Network Final.
Less of a lucky pin and more of a lucky fork with this one and if it hit five horses I still wouldn’t be convinced I had found the winner. As I have a free hand I will have not one but two each-way selection to give me some kind of a sporting chance, starting with Jessica Harrington’s Not Many Left who fits the profile of recent winners off a mark of 141 and following a win at Huntingdon. He needs to do more here but that was only his second run of the season and he could go well though I narrowly prefer Aaron Lad for Dr Richard Newland. A course and distance winner here in mid-December he has been kept off the track since to protect his handicap mark and seems to have been aimed at this deliberately, and as the official handicappers seem to think he could be well in, who am I to argue. Suggestion: Aaron Lad each-way and Not Many Left each-way to small stakes.
2.50pm Ryanair Chase.
I love the look of the way this race should play out, but sadly the bookmakers seem to be thinking along the same lines and there is precious little value to be found. Footpad hits all the stats and if we assume Ruby Walsh had the choice of mounts he is hard to overlook but I just get the feeling that Frodon will be ideally suited by this trip and the slightly easier opposition than a Gold Cup. Bryony Frost gets on really well with the seven-year-old who has had a perfect preparation this year (unlike last), and at 5/1 or so there is plenty to like about his chances. Suggestion: Frodon to win.
3.30pm Stayers Hurdle.
Finding the winner may not be as obvious as some think but I am not willing to oppose Paisley Park regardless and hope to witness the unbridled joy in both the winners’ circle and the crowd if the seven-year-old comes home in front. Owner Andrew Gemmell has been blind since birth and has the race described to him step by step but is an example to us all and brings a tear to my eye whenever his horse comes home in front - he just loves every single second and deserves the winner of a race of this magnitude. I defy any true lover of this game not to join me in crying if he wins, but better still his form says he can and will after a Cleeve Hurdle romp here last time out. Wholestone is reported to be back to close to his best and could go well at a price but I won’t oppose the winner we all want to see, I have enough enemies already thanks. Suggestion: Paisley Park to win.
4.10pm Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Plate.
Lizzie Kelly seems pretty sweet on the chances of Siruh Du Lac who is a right battler and won’t go down without a fight, but I just get the feeling something may have that touch more class and finishing speed at these weights. The more I look at the line-up the less I like the race but I’ll have a small bet on Bigmartre who is jumping out of his skin at home and could run in to a place at a big price if our luck is in. Suggestion: Bigmartre each-way to small stakes.
4.50pm Dawn Run Novices’ Hurdle.
Three runnings of this race and all of them went to trainer Willie Mullins which looks like quite a clue to me. Epatante (the favourite) could be anything for Nicky Henderson and is hard to gauge but 7/4 is as skinny as it gets and at a double figure price I far prefer My Sister Sarah. The daughter of Martaline is reported to be in very good form at the Mullins yard and won’t be far away with a clear round. Lust For Glory is the other I will be watching with Nico de Boinville in the saddle despite being the alleged Henderson second string. Suggestion: My Sister Sarah each-way.
5.30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase.
I cannot remember the last time I found the winner of this race but I have a sneaking suspicion I had a full head of hair, it was that long ago. Gordon Elliott had two winners yesterday and has every chance of another here with Measureofmydreams at the age of eleven. Off the track from April 2017 until returning with a third in February we have to hope he comes on from that run as expected and if that is the case he has every chance. He runs off a mark of 137 again today having peaked at 147 just before a third here in the 2016 renewal of the four mile National Hunt Chase (Gold Cup winner Native River one place in front of him that day) and he wins this at these weights if back to that sort of form. Any Second Now looks a viable alternative and won’t be far away, but one horse will do me here and the likely favourite seems the one to be on. Suggestion: Measureofmydreams to win.
Altior winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Nico de Boinville on Wednesday, picture Cheltenham Racecourse