Samcro is only a pound ahead of Black Op on Quickened Clear’s ratings but he has achieved them easily with there being plenty more in the tank. With form over two and a half miles he will surely take the beating @ 8/11. Black Op in his own right is a very good horse, just losing out to Santini when making a mess of the last over course and distance and rates a major threat to the favourite @ 10/1. Duc Des Genievres chased home Samcro at Leopardstown and will likely do so again @ 14/1 but Willie Mullins’ other main contender, Next Destination, a unbeaten since stepping up to around two and a half miles, should be thereabouts @ 4/1. Vision Des Flos handles conditions and the fitting of a tongue-tie seems to have done the trick as his thirty one length defeat of Mercenaire seems to tell us and can go well @ 16/1 as can Gowiththeflow for last year’s winning trainer Ben Pauling who’s form looks good in novice hurdles and can defy his 80/1 price.
The Irish challenge is strong with Monalee and Presenting Percy up against the home guard of Black Corton, Elegant Escape and Ballyoptic. Black Corton has just got better and better with racing culminating in an impressive demolition of Miss Parfois following a break. It will take a good one to head Paul Nicholls’ seven year old and this course winner should take some pegging back @ 9/1. Presenting Percy, in similar fashion to Black Corton, has not been campaigned lightly and produced his best effort yet when out-stayed by Gold Cup hope Our Duke at Gowran Park. Already a winner over three and a half miles he will be doing his best work at the finish and has to be considered @ 11/4. Monalee, in contrast, has only had the three runs this season and looks to have plenty more to offer after an assertive victory over Al Boum Photo and will enjoy the softer conditions but would not want to get into a battle for the lead with Black Corton. Ballyoptic, Elegent Escape and Al Boum Photo have all been conquered previously by Blackk Corton and Monalee so it is hard to see them turning the tables.
Nicky Henderson has a strong hand in this with William Henry @ 8/1 looking to follow up his Lanzarote win at Kempton. He has to be respected and it will be a top performance to win this carrying eleven stone, ten pounds but stablemates Burbank and Fixe Le Kap have claims too. Burbank’s start to the season was poor before returning from a break, fitted with cheekpieces to run well behind Jenkins and Air Horse One at Ascot. If he can build on that he should go well @ 18/1. Fix Le Kap ran well at the festival two years ago and though obviously having had problems, does have the ability to go well @ 16/1. Max Dynamite looked in need of this trip when finishing well in the County Hurdle three years ago but a leap of faith is needed @ 8/1. Le Breuil and Mount Mews are talented but have no Cheltenham form while Topofthegame will be finishing well but ideally wants three miles plus. Red Indian did not run badly behind William Henry at Kempton and has course form and The Organist, seventh in last year’s mare’s hurdle, can go well, both @ 25/1.
A mouth-watering clash in prospect with the top class pair of Altior and Douvan clashing over fast two miles. Slight questions arise though, Altior suffered a slight scare while Douvan returns following a long layoff. At their best Quickened Clear have them rated equally but it is Altior who can still offer more and is rightfully favourite @ 5/4. This will be no means easy as the likes of Special Tiara, Charbel and Ar Mad will make sure there is no hiding place and the race will be run at a searching gallop. Min is open to improvement and can run a good race @ 4/1 but has to find more to challenge the front two if at their best. A scenario where Altior and Douvan do not run their race is not beyond the realms of possibility due to injury issues and absence so if Min And Politlogue are left to battle things out, the finish could be interesting and Politologue will enjoy conditions @ 14/1.
Cause Of Causes can never be overlooked at this meeting and will surely go well again @ 11/4. He should have the measure of stablemate Bless The Wings though Tiger Roll, now having experienced this unique course, should fare better this time @ 6/1. The value threat to Cause of Causes could well be Auvergnat @ 9/1 who will enjoy conditions and being only eight years of age, can still improve and be a big threat to the favourite. Cantlow is a tricky customer and does not win the races he should while Josies Orders looks held by a number of these.
Quickened Clear’s Best Bets:
Black Corton – 2.10 Cheltenham – 1pt win @ 9/1
Black Corton’s eight length victory over Miss Parfois suddenly looks a lot better this evening following the National Hunt Chase and the way he extended at Ascot suggests he has a touch of class. Quickened Clear’s figures have him top rated and though Presenting Percy and Monalee are serious contenders, the 9/1 available looks like a value bet.
Burbank – 2.10 Cheltenham – 1pt win @ 18/1
Burbank’s has the right profile of a Coral Cup winner and his run behind Jenkins at Ascot was much more like the novice who came fifth in the Neptune (Ballymore) last year and both pieces of form, along with the potential for more improvement makes him a fair bet @ 18/1.