Ascot winner and in-form Exitas bids for another victory under the talented James Bowen but can he keep defying the handicapper? The 3/1 does not look a betting price and Kapstadt, @ 7/2, may yet improve over fences but again does not represent value. Un Beau Roman won this race last year and warrants respect @ 14/1 but has been out of form in recent run while Paul Henderson’s other runner, Doitforthevillage ran well over course and distance in October in what looked a much more competitive affair than this and should go well @ 13/2 but the jumping is still a worry. Colin Tizzard saddles two of the late Alan Potts’ horses in Mick Thonic and Shanahan’s Turn, the latter looking the better handicapped of the two but whether the drop back in trip brings about a change of fortunes is open to conjecture. Bright New Dawn failed to win last season and is guilty of his own consistency with no respite coming from the handicapper, that said, this is a lot easier than most of the races he was contesting earlier this year.
Finian’s Oscar was a bit sluggish early in his chase debut but soon dealt with what was fairly weak opposition at Chepstow. This will be much tougher and there is not much between him and Movewiththetimes on hurdle ratings. Movewiththetimes travelled well at Cheltenham before finding things happening a little too quickly over two miles and the step up four furlongs is sure to suit this son of Presenting. Both he and William Henry, making his chase debut, are value options against the favourite. William Henry should make up into a good chaser and it is interesting to note his latest win at Cheltenham in April was a race also won by Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite and Whisper.
The three JP McManus three big guns are hard to ignore with last year’s winner Cantlow looking the pick @ 7/2. He dusted off the cobwebs with a return over hurdles at Thurles and should be ready for this. Also fit is Auvergnat, who ran well over course and distance in both January and March but arguably wants a little give in the ground and the good conditions on the cross country course just tempers enthusiasm, while Cause Of Causes loves Cheltenham but it would be an almighty feat to win carrying top weight first time out. Urgent De Gregaine returns to the scene of his surprise victory in January after a good run at Pardubice but needs to find more to be competitive here. Aubusson is a possible fly in the green and gold ointment, having proved this type of race suits after an unlucky run in France but the ground may be on the quick side for Nick Williams’ eight year old. At a price Need To Know could go well @ 25/1.
A tricky little novice hurdle to conclude proceedings with Vision Des Flos, On The Blind Side and the mare Momella representing the unexposed potential. All are capable of improvement and winning this but they have to overhaul Calett Mad, who, after disappointing over fences last season has reverted to hurdles with ease and sets a good standard with the drop back in trip the only question mark. Poetic Rhythm gave everything last time at Chepstow in the Persian War but that is likely as good as he is and remains vulnerable to improvers.
Quickened Clear’s Best Bets:
Cantlow – 3.00 Cheltenham – 1pt win @ 7/2
Calett Mad – 3.35 Cheltenham – 1pt win @ 9/2