A very entertaining day of quality racing. We have a total of six Grade 2 races from Cheltenham and Doncaster. This morning I want to have a look at two of them, both at Cheltenham. The course has passed an earlier inspection and the going is heavy after prolonged overnight rainfall.
1.50 Cheltenham BetBright Trial Chase (Grade 2)
Willie Mullins has just the one runner at Cheltenham today with Djakadam; the £56,000 winner’s purse squarely in his sights. He will be at short odds to carry on the progression most notably shown at Punchestown when comprehensively winning the John Durkan Memorial.
Many Clouds, Smad Place and O’Faolains Boy are all of a similar standard. I make these three 13/2 co-second favourites. Despite the favourite’s overly cramped odds there is an angle into this race.
Eight runners are declared and with three of those hard to fancy, this race has an each way look to it.
In contrast to the market, I just prefer Many Clouds over Smad Place and O’Faolains Boy. The former pair finished first and second in this race last year.
3.35 Cheltenham Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)
An odd race with four of the seven runners reverting to hurdles from chasing.
Ptit Zig is of interest but there is a doubt about him staying this 2m 7f trip. Unseated his rider two out when looking beaten at long odds-on last time. Similar conditions but 3f shorter.
Camping Ground confounded his more illustrious rivals with a strong display to land the Relkeel hurdle here on new year’s day. Prior to this his chase debut ended after jumping errors when he unseated in the Peterborough. Another for me that has to prove his stamina.
Thistlecrack is progressive as shown in his last two outings when taking the Long Distance and Long Walk hurdles by clear margins. With the doubts concerning the opposition, he deserves to be at short odds. My oods for the front three are:
Camping Ground 5/2
Ptit Zig 8/1
Finally a word for the evergreen Knockara Beau who continued to defy his thirteen years with a gritty performance when runner-up here at the new year meeting. He runs at Cheltenham today for the 21st time, including his 2014 victory in this race.