Steve Hughes concentrates on the handicap hurdles for Cheltenham on Sunday
The graded conditions contests on Sunday are of good quality at Cheltenham, but I prefer the challenge of the two big field handicap hurdles on the card. We had a solid Saturday with wins for First Assignment (advised 5/2) and Speedo Boy (SP 4/1) as well as a placed effort for the each-way bet on Mister Whitaker (advised 7/1).
Cheltenham 1.15: Palmers Hill & Sliding Doors
A big field to kick things off at Cheltenham, but I only give serious claims to a few. I’ve narrowed it down to two.
Palmers Hill looked distinctly useful when winning on hurdles debut at Uttoxeter last autumn, but failed to improve on that in two subsequent outings. However the Jonjo O’Neill yard struggled badly for form in the winter months and I think this horse has the capability to be much better than his current mark of 124. Given he won on seasonal debut last year, the lack of a recent run is no great worry and the O’Neill horses have been running really well lately.
Sliding Doors represents the all conquering Ian Williams team. The 5yo is lowly rated having shown nothing in his first three starts on very soft going. However there was distinct promise in a Warwick novice in February on better going. He was a close fourth there behind three horses who have already gone on to better things. He still looked green on his handicap debut at Aintree last month, but stayed on well to third and will have learned plenty from that outing.
Cheltenham 3.00: Silver Streak & Vado Forte
Another excellent renewal of the Greatwood Hurdle and two improving handicappers are fancied.
The key to Silver Streak is good going and he will get his conditions once more. He landed the Welsh National at Ffos Las on his most recent start, backing up a flying finish to win the Swinton at Haydock back in May. This 5yo loves a big field and can handle an undulating track too as his win at Chepstow last autumn testifies to. It is difficult to now quite how high he can go, but whilst he is in peak form he looks worth persevering with.
Vado Forte is a tricky ride as he can pull fiercely, but jockey Robbie Dunne has found the key to him and this big field and fast pace can bring out the best in the 5yo. He is yet to finish out of the first three in five starts in 2018. He made a satisfactory comeback at Chepstow last month in a race not run to suit. He showed he belongs in this class when taking the Sussex Champion Hurdle at Easter and if he settles as well without the usual hood applied I can see him slicing through the pack in the closing stages.
1pt win – Palmers Hill – 1.15 Cheltenham – 9/1 general
0.75pts each-way – Sliding Doors – 1.15 Cheltenham – 10/1 general (1/5 odds first 5)
0.75pts each-way – Silver Streak – 3.00 Cheltenham – 8/1 general (Skybet & Paddy Power 1/5 odds first 6)
0.5pts each-way – Vado Forte – 3.00 Cheltenham – 25/1 Skybet (1/5 odds first 6)