Flooring Porter and Danny Mullins [right] wins the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham for a second time from l-r Klassical Dream, Thyme Hill and Champ. 17/3/2022 Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

Cheltenham Festival 2024: Day 3 Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2024: Day 3 Preview, Tips

Day Three, Thursday, and it's out with the Old (Course) and in with the New (Course). Fresh ground then, but plenty of precipitation has tumbled over it so mud lovers aforethought perhaps...

1.30 Turners Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 2m 4f)

Previewed by Matt Bisogno. The Turners is an intermediate distance novice chase and one which, unlike other intermediate distance races, tends to detract from the Arkle and Brown Advisory without ever really establishing its own identity. For some that will be a harsh interpretation but, besides a couple of arguable exceptions (Vautour, Chantry House, Stage Star - I told you they were arguable), there's little on the roll of honour to get the pulse charging. No matter, for every race needs a winner, and I'd be better investing your reading time in that challenge than navel-gazing about the right for this contest to exist.

This season's renewal fits that 'not quite as good as it ought to be' bill to a nicety. The betting is headed by Grey Dawning, trained by Dan Skelton. A 14 length winner of the G2 Hampton Novices' Chase at Warwick last time, he was flattered greatly by that margin: Broadway Boy and Apple Away went at it from the get go, trading blows as though this was a mile and a half sprint. It wasn't, and they cooked each other allowing GD to plod past exhausted rivals.

Still, he must be a good horse, and his previous second to Ginny's Destiny perhaps holds the key to unlocking this race. That was here but on the other track, but Ginny's has run his last four races - all over fences - here, winning the most recent three including one on this exact track/trip. Paul Nicholls will saddle him and Harry Cobden will steer, and he's very likely to try to make all. But perhaps Grey Dawning handles really deep ground better? Certainly his more patient run style could be favourable.

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Pick of the Irish is expected (by the market, at least) to be Facile Vega. Trained by Willie and ridden by Paul Townend, he won the Champion Bumper in 2022 and was second to Marine Nationale in the Supreme last year. That form entitles him to win this, except that over fences he's been a couple of beats slower: having won his beginners' chase on soft to heavy, he's been turned over in a brace of Grade 1's on quicker ground. This will be a first run beyond 2m1f for him and, if he stays - the million dollar question - he's got a right chance.

Iroko was presumed out for the season but returns here for a first run since early November. He was a good winner of last year's Martin Pipe and made a highly promising chase debut on his sole spin this term; but that layoff is a big niggle for me.

Gordon Elliott sends Zanahiyr to this, having pulled stumps mid-season on a hurdling campaign and got two chases into him. The first was a novice-y round behind Fact To File, form which might not look too bad after the Brown Advisory - and, actually, doesn't look too bad anyway; and the second was a hard fought verdict over Aspire Tower over a trip too short. Both those races were beginners' chases and this is a big step up in class, for all that he's mixed it with the best hurdlers for three and a half seasons. His fencing inexperience is a concern and he might be slightly better on a sounder surface.

Venetia sends Djelo here. He started off beating Master Chewy in a handicap chase and then won two more chases, the last of which was a G2, before having no chance when completely buggered up by Matata's errant transit at Lingfield in January. Since then, Djelo ran second to the very talented (and probably under-rated) Nickle Back in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase: that was on good ground and he was ridden patiently, never able to reel in the runaway winner. But that form fits here, and he's probably a touch over-priced.

I'm struggling to make much of a case for the remainder.

Turners Novices' Chase Pace Map

Ginny's Destiny probably leads, with a few close up, but I'm expecting an even gallop.

Turners Novices' Chase Selection

Grey Dawning is clearly a talented horse and he migh just win, but I don't like his price. Similarly, Ginny's Destiny has a small question to answer on the ground for me and his price doesn't allow for that. I think Facile Vega could take a big step forward for the extra three furlongs, and he's a win only play in case he simply doesn't stay. But Djelo looks the one who will appreciate conditions and is a fat price.

Suggestion: Try Facile Vega win only at 10/3 or Djelo e/w at 16/1.

TIX PIX: 'A' banker and maybe couple of C's

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2.10 Pertemps Final (Grade 3 handicap, 3m)

Previewed by Rory Delargy. The first thing to look for in the Pertemps Final is what runs for Gordon Elliott. He’s had 19 runners since 2017 (including one putatively trained by Denise 'Sneezy' Foster) and has saddled three winners and three seconds in that time. All of those horses were priced at 10/1 or shorter, so we must have maximum respect for the Elliott first string, Cleatus Poolaw.

Cleatus Poolaw has the right profile for a handicap hurdle winner here, being an unexposed novice arriving on the back of a career-best effort when 3½ lengths second of 14 to Noble Birth in the recent Naas qualifier. He’s 9lb higher for that which seems fair given that was his first handicap outing and he ought to progress for it. He has a remarkably similar profile to Delta Work, who won this as a novice in 2018 before quickly proving himself a Grade 1 performer. I don’t think Cleatus Poolaw is in that category, but he’s certainly a must for the shortlists in a race with extra places on offer.

Gaoth Chuil is a second-season hurdler who has run really well upped to 3m on her last two starts at Leopardstown and remains unexposed as a stayer. The British handicapper hasn’t been harsh on her considering she may well have won last time but for a late error, and she is in shrewd hands with Ted Walsh as wily as they come. The one off-putting thing is that the only time she has travelled to the UK, she ran her only poor race at Aintree last spring. Plenty of horses dislike travelling and it’s possible that she’s one, for all a sample size of one is hardly enough to make a conclusion.

Le Milos may prove best of the Brits, with Dan Skelton clearly feeling the return to hurdles could pay dividends with last season’s Coral Gold Cup winner. Of similar merit over hurdles and fences when with Tim Vaughan, he has improved markedly for Skelton and is lower in this sphere than over the larger obstacles, opening up the possibility that he could be well treated. He qualified with a low-key run at Market Rasen and was given a strangely (!) negative ride at Ascot last time. There is no better trainer at playing the handicap system at this meeting than Dan Skelton, and Le Milos is following a typical Skelton route of keeping under the radar before the big meeting.

Cuthbert Dibble is a really likeable sort for Nigel Twiston-Davies, and the trainer has won this race twice before, but the last time was in 2008 and his record of a win and six places from 52 handicap hurdle runners in the last two decades is slightly off-putting. Cuthbert Dibble has won both starts over hurdles this term, but that is not a positive historically, with only Presenting Percy since 2010 having won more than once in the current season (and that wasn’t by design!). It’s also unusual for the winner of this to have won a qualifier with only one of the last 22 winners having done so. In short, Cuthbert Dibble’s connections have been too honest in his campaigning, which is why I’d love to see him win.

Kyntara is one to consider at bigger odds, for all he’s shown his hand to a greater extent. Well suited by soft or heavy ground, he has only had nine starts over hurdles and has looked most reliable, only finishing out of the frame once. Second in the Warwick qualifier, he improved again when runner-up to Emitom last time, and while he’s not had his handicap mark minded, he could still run well for Mel Rowley, whose horses are in good nick at present.

Nicky Henderson has a good record at getting his horses into the frame in handicap hurdles at this meeting, but the abject form of the yard suggests that his runners in this may be pulled out; that said, he’s kept some in on Wednesday, and it’s possible that those (housed away from those who have been running poorly, perhaps?) will perform better, which would shed a new light on things. In the meantime, they need to be left alone.

Pertemps Final Pace Map

Plenty of pace on, as you'd expect.

Pertemps Final Selection

Shortlist: Those highlighted in bold, with Le Milos just getting the nod at current prices.

Suggestion: Try Le Milos at 12/1 each way with extra places.

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2.50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1, 2m 4 1/2f)

Previewed by Matt Bisogno. One shy of a dozen very good, but maybe not great, horses line up for this year's Ryanair. The best of them is probably Banbridge, but he's got a problem: the celestial taps appear stuck in the 'on' position and that's simply no good for him. In fact, he probably won't run. If he does line up and it's wet, he's a lay.

The reigning Ryanair champion is Envoi Allen, and he's back to defend his crown. Last season he won a G1 at Down Royal before a no show in the King George en route to this gig; this time he flunked in a Gowran pipe opener and was pipped in the Down Royal G1. His trainer, Henry de Bromhead, will have him at concert pitch now and the long absence wasn't an issue twelve months ago. Now ten, he's not getting any younger, mind.

Stage Star looked to have assumed the mantle vacated by the same yard's Frodon this season. He runs most of his races at Cheltenham, mixing handicaps with Graded chases and winning them all... until New Year's Day, when he pulled up on heavy ground. He'd won the Turners last season and the Paddy Power Gold Cup (handicap) this season, so if you can forgive that P last time he's a player.

Gordon Elliott brings Conflated to this party, dropping back from three miles after two last fence unseats in a row. He also fell in this race two years ago, his most recent attempt at the trip, but he wasn't out of the reckoning at that point. A clear round makes him a win only player, but he's obviously a risky conveyance in that regard.

Winning the 3m1f Cotswold Chase is an unorthodox prep for a tilt at the Ryanair, but that's the path plotted by Capodanno's connections. He'd previously been third to Galopin Des Champs in the G1 Lexus (three miles) and ran in last year's Grand National. Eh? Turning back the clock a little further, Capodanno was 2nd to Bob Olinger over this trip in a soft ground Punchestown novice chase, and if it's really testing ground and they go quick, it could bring him into calculations. There are quite a few if's there, however.

Fil Dor, another for Gordie, has the opposite range problem: he's been racing at two miles since his very high class juvenile days, two sorties beyond 17f yielding a couple of clunks, in the Coral Cup and a Grade 2 hurdle at Fairyhouse. Although he finished well on the first of his two chase starts this term, he just doesn't look to have the requisite stamina.

If you're starting to see a pattern whereby horses that are too slow for the Champion Chase or not stout enough for the Gold Cup drop in here, the presence of Protektorat will do little to disabuse you of that notion. He's run over at least 2m6f on his last ten racecourse visits, and beyond three miles in eight of those. Two and a half miles it is then... To be fair to him, he's been third and fifth in the last two Gold Cups, but he's not an obvious Ryanair winner to my eye.

Jamie Snowden has Ga Law, winner of the Paddy Power a year before Stage Star and, therefore, similarly proven in today's conditions. Stage Star was rated 155 to Ga Law's 142, though. This fella had a quintet of clunks on his CV post-Paddy Power but arrested the decline in style with a win on Trials Day here in January. He's never quite convinced as a Grade 1 horse and one of the Festival handicaps might have been a better play, for all that such a plan was probably blown with the last day verdict.

Hitman's best form is at least at two and a half miles, as when he was second in the G1 Melling Chase at Aintree two years ago. He was also third in this race last year when sent off 22/1 and he handles muddy turf. I can see him skulking around out of the way before running on quite strongly, and maybe nicking a place at a big price.

And what about Ahoy Senor? Well, I'm afraid, what about him? He's not looked the force of old this season and he's little to no form at the trip. He could have a part to play, however, if he gets embroiled in the early pace; such an act might be a hindrance to the chance of Stage Star who habitually goes forward himself.

In the long grass lies Fugitif, trained by the slightly unfashionable Richard Hobson and second in the Plate last year. He's a two-and-a-half-miler through and through, and he has been campaigned almost exclusively at Cheltenham for two seasons now. During that time, his track record is 222413, all but the most recent figure achieved in handicap company. Then, on Trials Day, he ran in the two mile Clarence House Chase, diverted from Ascot, and finished off well without ever having the pace to challenge Elixir De Nutz or Jonbon. He's another who won't be involved early but who could fall into the frame late - and he's long odds at that.

Ryanair Chase Pace Map

Stage Star is most likely to lead but he may not get it all to himself. Should be a truly run race.

Ryanair Chase Selection

It's a really interesting betting puzzle but not an easy one. I'm inclined to take a small win only chance on Conflated, and two even smaller (like, miniscule) e/w plays - extra places, please! - on Hitman and Fugitif. I won't get rich or poor punting that trio but it might make for an interesting watch,

Suggestion: Try Conflated win only at 8/1 and/or very small each way on 25/1 Hitman and/or 33/1 Fugitif

TIX PIX: A's and B's and C's

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3.30 Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m)

Previewed by Gavin Priestley, FestivalTrends.co.uk.

All of the last 14 winners had their last run in a Graded race (13/14 in Grade 1 or Grade 2).

All of the last 14 winners had been rested at least 30 days (13/14 46 days).

All bar one winner this century had finished top 4 last time out (exception fell).

13 of the last 14 winners were rated 152+.

13 of the last 14 winners were aged 6-9yo.

13 of the last 14 winners had run at the track previously.

13 of the last 14 winners had run 1-4 times over hurdles that Season (October).

12 of the last 14 winners returned 14/1 or shorter.

9 of the last 14 winners had finished top 2 in all completed runs since October.

8 of the last 14 winners won their last race.

6 of the last 14 winners had their last run at Cheltenham.

No 5yo has ever won the World Hurdle / Stayers Hurdle.

Only 2 horses aged over 9 have won (1986 Crimson Ember & 2023 Sire De Berlais).

All 12 runners stepping up from handicap company have been beaten.

There have been only 6 Irish winners since 1996 and they have come in the last 10 years (Solwhit, Nicholls Canyon, Penhill, Flooring Porter (x2) and Sire De Berlais).

5 of the last 7 winners were 7yo. 7 of the last 10 winners were second season hurdlers.

With four 9yo's, two 10yo's, an 11yo and three 12yo's in the 13 strong line up you'd be forgiven for thinking this is a veteran's race!

Nine-year-old winners are rare with most of those that win being previous winners of the race (Galmoy 87/88, Inglis Drever 07/08 and Big Bucks 09/10/11/12), although Solwhit did win in 2013 on his first start in the race and on his first attempt at 3 miles: there's always a trends busting result somewhere in the history of a race.

Eleven-year-old winners are even rarer with last year's champion, Sire Du Berlais, being the first of that age to prevail since 1986 (Crimson Embers). No ten-year-old has won in the modern era (1972 onwards) or any horse twelveplus (there was a 13yo winner in 1927!). I think it's safest to stick to the 6-8yo age group unless an older horse has previously won the Stayers Hurdle.

That gives us four possibles who all seem to pass the main trends for this race: Teahupoo, Crambo, Flooring Porter and Paisley Park.

As much as I'd like to see Paisley Park turn back the clock and win it for the second time I just think he'll find at least one or two too good as he has done all season. There won't be a more popular winner all week should he manage it but I'm going to reluctantly look to one of the relative youngsters in the field, the 7yo CRAMBO.

He beat Paisley Park in an exciting renewal of the Long Walk at Ascot just before Christmas. Five of the last seven winners have come from that age group, including Paisley Park in his 2019 win, and the selection has done nothing but improve over the last twelve months. He made the transition from decent handicapper to Grade 1 winner at Ascot and, although he'll need to improve again, he looks on an upward curve and more than capable of finding that little bit extra.

SELECTION: CRAMBO 1pt

 

Stayers' Hurdle Pace Map

With Flooring Porter, Dashel Drasher and Home By The Lee all set to go forward, this may be run at quite a fast clip.

Stayers' Hurdle Selection

Shortlist: Teahupoo, Crambo, Flooring Porter and Paisley Park

Suggestion: Try CRAMBO 1pt win at 11/2.

TIX PIX: A's and B's

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Festival Trends

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4.10 Festival Plate (Grade 3 handicap, 2m 4 1/2f)

Previewed by David Massey.

Top of the list for this year’s renewal of the Plate is Theatre Man, for all he’s been well backed in the last 48 hours. That can hardly be a surprise, given his profile, and his latest form - when second to Ginny’s Destiny in the Timeform Novices Handicap Chase at Cheltenham - might already have received a boost earlier in the afternoon. If Ginny’s has won, God alone knows what price Theatre Man might go off. 

He’s only had the three chase starts but has taken steps forward each time, and the way he finished off last time suggests he’s going to enjoy coming off a solid pace. He gets a bit further than this (although on soft ground, he’d not get three miles) and as ever, that’s never a bad thing this week. 

I’d have liked to have seen what Trelawne could have done in the Ultima on Tuesday as regards Crebilly’s chance, as he was last of three behind Jonjo O’Neill’s unexposed 7yo at Exeter and might have given the form a boost. The assumption is that Crebilly has been laid out for this, but Jonjo’s suffered a few reverses in the past couple of weeks and for all the chat is about how moderately many of Nicky’s are running this week, Jackdaws Castle doesn’t appear to be firing on all cylinders either, and he’s easy enough to pass over at around a miserly 4-1.

Henry De Bromhead took no time in getting off the mark this week, winning the very first race, and his Arctic Bresil is the most interesting of the Irish contingent. The Irish used to struggle to win this, but they’ve won five of the last eight renewals and seemingly, like most races Festival week, they are getting the hang of this one, too. Arctic Bresil was, let’s say, quite eyecatching when second to Mister Policeman at Punchestown over two miles last time; he could never get on terms with the easy winner, but stayed on quite takingly for second, not asked for much effort, and looked like he wanted a longer trip. Normally I wouldn’t even look at one that‘s not won over the trip but he’s bred to want this, a half-brother to a couple that won over 2m4f-3m, and since when have the Irish ever taken any notice of trends and stats? 

I’ve desperately tried to crowbar Frero Banbou into this as well, as he’s got his ground and has plenty of Cheltenham form to call upon. Sadly, one of his lesser efforts was in this last year when he finished twelfth, and given he’s not won for over two years, the case for him is thinner than an After Eight mint that's been stepped on by an elephant. Still, Venetia has a decent Plate record, with three winners and two seconds, and I won’t be able to resist a throwaway tenner on the Tote (surely the way to play him) if he’s a monster price. 

And finally, the curious case of Saint Felicien. Well backed for the 2022 Coral Cup, he ran a stinker on bad ground, with connections stating he wanted quicker ground. After an absence of twenty months, he ran a cracker in the circumstances to finish a nine-length third to Facile Vega in a beginners chase at Navan, and although he took another three goes to get off the mark he was quite impressive at Gowran Park last time, jumping a bit cleaner than had been the case. It might be he’s finally twigged what’s required and as an unexposed chaser (this will be his fifth start over fences) he’s open to more improvement. And the ground for all four of those chase starts? According to Timeform - heavy, heavy, heavy and heavy. I’m not so convinced it wants quicker ground...

Festival Plate Pace Map

A Festival handicap. They'll go quick. Saint Felicien and Frero Banbou expected to be up top, and we'll see how long they can stay there for.

Festival Plate Selection

I really like Theatre Man and think he has to go close.

Suggestion: 1pt win Theatre Man 9/2

TIX PIX: A's only, being brave!

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4.50 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m 1f)

Previewed by Matt Bisogno. Another of my lesser favoured races of the week is the Dawn Run, but I love the Ryanair, which many people don't, and respect the Stayers' Hurdle - it can't all be golden, can it? This race has thrown some shocks in its time but it looks to have some genuine star quality this time around in the form of Jade De Grugy, Dysart Enos and, notably, Brighterdaysahead.

Let's start with the last named who trained Gordon Elliott has suggested could be the best he's had. I mean, he's conditioned thousands of horses and, I think 88 Grade 1 winners in UK/Ire, so that's a bold shout. If he's even nearly right, she'll win. But let's look at her known credentials rather than the soundbite. She's five from five, two bumpers and three hurdles, and cost €310,000 as an unraced store!

That's because her pedigree is Kapgarde out of Matnie, the mare who'd already produced Mighty Potter, French Dynamite, Indiana Jones and Caldwell Potter, all 150+ RPR horses, although not all of them had run to that level when she was bought. She won a G3 mares' novice by five lengths in spite of a mistake at the last, then she won a Listed mares' novice over 2m5f by 12 lengths without turning a hair. That was on heavy ground and the G3 on soft so it probably can't be wet enough for her.

Jade De Grugy is similarly unbeaten, in three in her case, and she too sauntered home in a G3 mares' novice last time. She'd previously bolted up in a big field maiden hurdle at Leopardstown over this trip and is also proven on very soft turf. On figures, there's little between the two mentioned so far and it's a question of projecting which can leap forward the most in a race where they are both, and many others too, expected to leave current levels of form behind.

Dysart Enos is the one to have achieved the most on the track hitherto. Trained by Fergal O'Brien, she's a Grade 2 bumper winner, at the Aintree Festival last season, a race that habitually throws a slew of future winners. As well as her own three from three form since, second placed - and re-opposing - Golden Ace has won both starts since, and third home Williamstowndancer is three from five subsequently. Dysart Enos's novice hurdle form is all ungraded but she does have a win over the track to her name and on soft ground, too. Most of her form is on quicker sod, mind, and there's a small niggle there.

Jeremy Scott, whose Dashel Drasher has been such an incredible flag bearer, saddles Golden Ace, closest to Dysart Enos at Aintree and a dual scorer at a good ungraded level since. She's by Golden Horn out of a Dubawi mare, so an interesting (blue blood) pedigree. I feel that Golden Horn could be one of the pre-eminent NH stallions in a year or two so it will be interesting to see how this mare goes.

It's quite big prices the rest, led by Birdie Or Bust. Although one must respect everything Henry de Bromhead brings to the Festival, her defeat by Williamstowndancer and whacking at the hooves of Brighterdaysahead suggest she's a lot on her plate. In her defence, she has a 'now' factor about her having won a Listed race last time; that was on yielding, and it will be likely be deeper underfoot, as well as in opposition terms, here.

One rank outsider that should be mentioned is Majestic Force. Trained by Henry, she has had just one run, a rallying win on heavy ground over two and a half miles in a Punchestown maiden hurdle. That's not obviously the answer to this conundrum, but the fact she's entered is interesting even if probably not sufficiently so to merit small investment.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

Three who have made a habit of being close to the front, including Jade de Grugy; but we have scant evidence to go on. Will probably be truly, perhaps strongly, run.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Selection

Some very promising mares in here, most notably the top three in the market. It's close on what they've achieved so far between Brighterdaysahead and Jade De Grugy, and so the fact that the latter is a point bigger tempts me more than the 'best yet' chat about the former (for all that I doubt that's unfounded). Dysart Enos has a bit to find on hurdles form and there is usually something less considered lurking that can improve into podium contention - that could be Golden Ace or Majestic Force. But this looks very likely to go to the top of the market.

Suggestion: Back 9/4 Jade De Grugy as a credible value alternative to a very promising hype horse in Brighterdaysahead.

TIX PIX: A banker with a few C's

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5.30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase (Class 2 Handicap, 3m2f)

Previewed by John Burke, VictorValue.co.uk. The Kim Muir has not been a good race for favourite backers in recent seasons with favourites (clear & joint) recording only one winner from 12 bets -£8 to £1 stake, 4 placed in the last ten years.

Eight of the last ten winners of the races were returned between 3/1 & 12/1. However, there have been two winners at 40/1, including Chambard in 2022.

Eight winners were ages 7 & 8.

Nine winners carried 11-0 or more. Those carrying less than 11-0 are one winner from 47 runners, two placed. The sole winner carrying below 11 stone was Chambard.

Eight of the last ten winners had an Official Rating 137+.

Six of the last ten winners were running within 30 days of their last start. If you had backed all 63 runners you would have made a £52.5pts profit to a £1 level stake and +100.76 to BFSP.

This year's Kim Muir boasts both an impressive field size and depth. Indeed, one could make a compelling case for half of the 24-strong field.

Inothewayurthinkin appears to have been meticulously prepared for this race and can improve for the step up to 3m 2f. With favourable ground conditions and the talented Derek O’Connor booked, he emerges as a strong contender. However, there are slight concerns regarding his jumping, and his current odds don’t offer much value in such a competitive field. 

Where It All Began recently secured his first win over fences in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown, displaying a preference for testing ground and 3m 3f. Although his chances may be affected by drying ground, he remains nicely handicapped and could be a serious threat if replicating that recent performance. Stablemate Cool Survivor, while yet to win over fences, has won over hurdles (3m) and could improve for today's longer trip.

Angels Dawn, last year’s winner, showcased a return to form with a third-place finish in the Thyestes Chase. However, she’s 11lb higher than 12 months ago and faces a stronger line-up this time around.

Dom Of Mary demonstrated his staying ability when winning the Sussex National (3m 4½ f) at Plumpton two starts back and wasn’t disgraced off 9lb higher when 1 ¾ length 3rd of 8 at Sandown (3m) last time.  A good stamina test will suit, and he’s got scope off his present mark when he gets such a test.

Rapper won a handicap chase over course and distance last January. Mostly out of form since, he returned to something like his best when a length 2nd of nine to Threeunderthrufive at Ascot last time. He needs to back up that latest effort which isn’t certain given his profile, but he’s got each way claims on a going day.

Bowtogreatness remains a maiden after nine starts over the larger obstacles but ran a cracker when 2½ lengths 3rd of 12 to Forward Plan in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton 19 days ago. However, it's worth noting that he didn't display the strongest finishing effort at Kempton, a pattern observed previously. It’s a tough race to try to break the maiden tag over fences but he’s handicapped to be competitive.

Daily Present, despite lacking experience over fences, displayed a good attitude to rally and win on handicap chase debut at Down Royal (3m) last time. The way he finished his race last time suggests a step up in trip will suit and he could be yet another dark horse in the mix.

Lastly, Whacker Clan, a winner over course and distance in October, looks poised to perform well. The runner-up that day, Twig, finished second in the Ultima here on Tuesday. This chap was not seen again until a prep run over hurdles last month, and that run should have put him spot on fitness wise; provided the ground isn’t too testing, he’s certainly one to watch closely. Stablemate Amirite was better fancied in the betting in the Cheltenham race but unfortunately his saddle slipped, resulting in a 4th place finish. On his latest outing he finished 5th of 27 in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. While he seemed to handle soft ground adequately there, his winning performances have mostly been on a sounder surface. His stamina for the 3m 2f distance still needs to be demonstrated, but he's likely on a fair mark.  

Kim Muir Pace Map

It's a huge field handicap chase. They'll go quick.

Kim Muir Selection

Considering the size of the field, it's a race where more than one bet can be justified, and that's my approach. I'm opting against the potentially well-handicapped favourite Inothewayurthinkin, even though he might end up winning. At 7/1 odds I might have been interested, but at 7/2 I'm looking elsewhere. That leaves me with Where It All Began, Whacker Clan, Daily Present, and Rapper.

While Rapper has the potential to win if it's his day, his inconsistency makes me hesitant. However, I might place a small saver bet on him just in case he triumphs at a big price and I miss out. Daily Present appears to be a wise guy horse from Ireland and could attract money, but he lacks the necessary experience for me. Thus, my focus shifts to Where It All Began and Whacker Clan.

Suggestion: 1pt win 14/1 Where It All Began and 12/1 Whacker Clan

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Good luck!

Matt

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