Five To Follow | Taking A Noble Hit

Cheltenham, Horse Racing

After last week’s freeze out, the Cheltenham Trials meeting is sure to warm us all up. The stars come out to play, with Jonbon, Paisley Park, The Real Whacker and Il Ridoto to name a few. Plus, Doncaster has a fantastic card to play the support act to Cheltenham. There’s so much going on, we’ve had to make this week, FIVE to follow!



Hire The Hitman

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1:15 – Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) – Hitman @ 17/2 (BetVictor)

Despite being the second string for Paul Nicholls in the race, Hitman has plenty of credentials. He performed well at Cheltenham in his only appearance at Cheltenham. Finishing a good third behind Envoi Allen can’t go unnoticed. He has disappointed since, but a wind op may have cured problems. Freddie Gingell claims a crucial five pounds to make him have a fighting chance and brings plenty of graded form into the race.

Grandeur D’Ame might not have caused a lot of shockwaves, but finishing fourth behind Fugitif and Il Ridoto on New Year’s Day was a fantastic achievement. He’s been dropped down three pounds by the handicapper, which puts him on terms with Il Ridoto who reopposes. The latter is defending his crown with 10lbs more on his back. Grandeur D’Ame has plenty of each-way claims at 10/1 (Betfred).

Not many will have heard of Shelia Lewis, but they will have heard of Straw Fan Jack. His last win came at Cheltenham at 2022 and he has been running in far too higher company than he can handle too long. He slips straight in with a mark of 137 and has gone under the nose of the punters and could spring a surprise at 22/1 (William Hill).


Don’t Stay Away

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1:50 – Cotswold Chase (Grade Two) – Stay Away Fay @ 11/4 (BetVictor, BetUK)

With no top-level chaser in the field, the buck falls to Stay Away Fay. And he can deliver. On a track he’s run at, Nicholl’s has said that he is giving Stay Away Fay a similar prep to last year’s Albert Bartlett run.

Last year’s winner Ahoy Senor has pulled up twice, once on level weights; Royale Pagaille has never impressed at Cheltenham; Datsalrightgino has a lot to prove on level weights over this distance and despite Paul Townend coming over to ride Capodanno, he will not stay the distance (See Savills Chase replay.)

It’s a straight match between Stay Away Fay and The Real Whacker, in my opinion, with the novice getting the nod.


You Gotta Love It

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3:00 – Unibet “International” Hurdle (Grade Two) – Love Envoi @ 7/2 (BetVictor)

Organisers have moved this race to make it look more of a Champion Hurdle trail. Alas, the Champion Hurdle champion-elect (Constitution Hill) doesn’t turn up. But Lossiemouth has her first run of the season here. And as it’s come so late on in the season, I can only see it being as a prep race and she won’t be as 100% as we’d like her to be.

Instead Love Envoi looms. She’s better prepped, despite missing her desired race at Lingfield last week. She’s C&D and gave Honeysuckle one hell of a race last March in the Mares’ Hurdle.


A Noble Edition

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3:35 – Cleeve Hurdle (Grade Two) – Noble Yeats @ 7/2 (General)

It may seem odd that Noble Yeats comes here rather than the Cotswold, but Emmet Mullins must have the National on his mind. He disappointed over Christmas at Limerick, but you must feel this is a target race before either Festival or National to keep him honest. Paisley Park has been beaten narrowly in both starts this season. Dashel Drasher stayed on well in last year’s renewal, but Noble Yeats could have won, if not for a few mistakes, in the Cotswold Chase last year. A Noble run indeed.



Looking Forward To This One

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SBK Great Yorkshire Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) – Forward Plan @ 9/1 (BetUK)

It’s a very open race, but the ground may give you a clue. The ground is described as good up North after a dry week, which only favours a few horses. One of them being Forward Plan. Anthony Honeyball’s runner won a similar race back December over C&D. He was only raised four pounds and is still well treated by the handicapper for a bigger race.

Another horse who loves slightly firmer ground is Whistleinthedark. His record on the ground is a first and second. He’s down to the same rating as he was when finishing fourth to Forward Plan back in December. And with his opponent being higher can finish a lot closer at 22/1 (Unibet).

Top weight Richmond Lake might have more recent form on heavy ground, but he can go on any sort of ground. He’s been dropped two pounds for disappointing at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but Donald McCain’s horses never perform at HQ. His hunting ground is more up North and this seems a more suitable race. Outside chance at 33/1 (General).

The very best of luck!

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