The racing broadcaster has a total of five picks for Saturday, including a Gold Cup selection, a stable tracker runner and one for Wetherby.
The middle leg of an excellent three days of action at Cheltenham sees the Gold Cup (14:20) as its highlight and the return to action of two horses who tasted success at the Festival in March in The Real Whacker (Brown Advisory) and Stage Star (Turners).
The Real Whacker’s victory got a timely boost with Gerri Colombe pulling the race out of the fire at Down Royal last Saturday, but it will still be a tough task to give weight away all round over a trip where he may not get much peace up front.
Stage Star’s numerous owners will be delighted that Paddy Neville’s horse takes his chance as it gives him a nice racing weight of 11st 7lb, but both may have to play second fiddle to EASY AS THAT 9/1 for whom the rain this week has been a real plus. Venetia Williams’ chasers have had a great few weeks and Easy As That had been progressive last season until it ended rather abruptly with a below-par effort at Sandown. He has relatively few miles on the clock and could still be open to improvement on just his fifth run over fences.
One of the horses I have most been looking forward to this season is SPRINGWELL BAY 2/1 who runs in the Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (15:30).
Third in the Supreme Trial at this meeting 12 months ago, Jonjo O’Neill’s charge was impressive next time out at Ascot. He found things too hot in Grade 1 company at Aintree in the Mersey Hurdle, but that has proved to be one of the strongest form lines of the season with no fewer than five next-time-out winners and two placed from the eight horses in the field who have run since. He can potentially prove up to that level by the end of the season so a mark of 137 looks very workable.
MISTER COFFEY 13/5 could well have the Becher Chase and the Grand National as targets during the course of the season, but his experience should prove to be a big asset in the Novices’ Chase (13:45). By my calculations, he has covered 27 miles over fences including a bold jumping display in last year’s National where he briefly went clear of the field across the Melling Road for the final time. The downside is he hasn’t actually won a race since November 2020, but that was first up for the season and he has a good record fresh with three wins, a second and a third from his five runs off breaks of more than 150 days.
STABLE TRACKER HORSE
STRICTLYADANCER 13/2 lines up in the race (Cheltenham, 13:10) for which he was specifically added to the tracker after his run at the course last month.
He won this contest as the middle leg of a hat-trick of victories in 2021 but was sidelined for nearly 18 months before returning to action this season. He showed he retained ability at Chepstow on his first run back and built on it when fourth over course and distance in the race that trainer Christian Williams had used as the stepping stone to this race two years ago. It is a competitive renewal but he should give a good account.
ONE FOR WETHERBY
Away from Cheltenham, HAAFAPIECE has a very good course record at Wetherby (13:19) and looks capable of adding to it further based on his reappearance second off the same mark over course and distance last month. He is 11lb lower than his last victory and eight of the stable’s last 14 runners have finished in the first three.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Rex Dingle was on the mark with a 113-1 double at Wincanton last week, so here’s our regular feature highlighting jockeys who are riding at tracks where they have historically good career records:
- Cheltenham – Nico de Boinville (44 winners from 265 rides with an actual/expected ratio of 1.31)
- Wetherby – Charlie Hammond (14/64, 1.59 A/E)
- Wolverhampton – Trevor Whelan (20/178, 1.60 A/E)
STRICTLYADANCER 13/2 (Cheltenham, 13:10)
HAAFAPIECE (Wetherby, 13:19)
MISTER COFFEY 13/5 (Cheltenham, 13:45)
EASY AS THAT 9/1 (Cheltenham, 14:20)
SPRINGWELL BAY 2/1 (Cheltenham, 15:30)