Steve Hughes previews the big meeting at Cheltenham on Saturday
Seven good quality races at Cheltenham where the field sizes have held up pretty well, especially in the feature contests. I am having selections in four races.
Cheltenham 1.20: Eamon An Cnoic
Although he put in a dismall effort at Newbury last time, Eamon An Cnoic has a decent record around Cheltenham and indeed on undulating tracks in general and can beat a modest looking field for the money.
He jumped badly to the right and was always behind at Newbury in what was effectively his first race of the season (having unseated early on in the BetVictor here). Trainer David Pipe has reached for the blinkers for the first time to try and get him back on track.
If he can then his form in the spring entitles him to a big chance here. He had the pace to win over 2m at Chepstow in February and was then fourth at the Festival on this New Course. On a couple of previous occasions he had travelled well around here before fading up the hill, but perhaps a drop back to 2m can see him last home here.
Cheltenham 1.55: Brelan D’As & Good Man Pat
A wide open handicap chase and I am taking two against the field.
Brelan D’As is building up a decent record around Cheltenham – without yet winning. He was a good thir d in the Grand Annual over 2m at the Festival and then ran a career best when beaten just a neck by Happy Diva in the BetVictor here. That run eased my fears about him being best on good going and with winning form over 2m6f at Haydock last winter, this switch to the New Course should be in his favour. He still has a decent racing weight.
Good Man Pat surely has a big handicap in him at some point and hopefully it will come this afternoon. He made a decent comeback when fourth over 3m at Ascot last month and should strip fitter for today. He jumped poorly when pulled up in the Close Brothers at the Festival, but generally he is a sound jumper who travels well. Getting plenty of weight from the majority of principals, I am sure there is more to come from the 6yo.
Cheltenham 3.05: Call Me Lord
Trainer Nicky Henderson holds the aces here with the first two in the betting. However favourite Pentland Hills is a hard puller who could be vulnerable first time out. Instead I favour his stablemate Call Me Lord.
The 6yo has never raced left-handed in Britain before and his trainer has been quoted that he needs to go the other way around. However until we can see the evidence we can’t know for sure he will be less effective. On the assumption he copes, his form is good enough to win this.
He made a fine comeback when just outlasted by If The Cap Fits at Ascot over 2m3f, but has plenty of good form at 2m when placed twice off top weight in the Imperial Cup at Sandown. His last win came in another Grade 2 at Sandown and he does not have any penalties to carry here.
Cheltenham 3.40: Dame de Compagnie & River Arrow
I have two confident picks for the last.
For win purposes Dame de Compagnie makes huge appeal. I fancied her for the Greatwood Hurdle last month, but she got outpaced coming down the hill before running on well again in the striaght. This race is not only slightly easier in quality, but is over 4f further which should see her in a much better light. Having missed last season through injury, the cobwebs will have been blown away now and her form in 2017/18 was largely at this trip including a course and distance win in a listed mares only contest.
As an each-way alternative River Arrow should be followed. She was a good second in this very race in 2017. Unfortunately she did not run again until March this year due to injury. She performed well here in April on ground that was probably fast enough for her. However there was plenty to like about her recent run at Uttoxeter where a combination of lack of race fitness and 3m took its toll in the end. A stiff 2m4f on testing going is ideal and she looks well handicapped to run a big race today.
0.75pts each-way – Eamon an Cnoic – 1.20 Cheltenham – 9/1 general
0.75pts each-way – Brelan D’As – 1.55 Cheltenham – 9/2 general
0.75pts each-way – Good Man Pat – 1.55 Cheltenham – 8/1 Bet365
1pt win – Call Me Lord – 3.05 Cheltenham – 11/4 general
1.5pts win – Dame de Compagnie – 3.40 Cheltenham – 5/2 Bet365
0.75pts each-way – River Arrow – 3.40 Cheltenham – 12/1 William Hill, Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 5)