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JLT Specialty Handicap Chase

First of the Cheltenham Festival previews goes to regular contributor @creamontop, also known as Jon da Silva. Those championship races look a bit easy, not to mention over-analysed - Jon likes to set himself a proper test, a handicap chase!

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JLT Specialty Chase

Looking at 30 year trends this race has a habit of being won by what us cognoscenti would call a Gelding (Ed - funny that :). I did back a Mare who was second but sadly her femaleness meant the non stayer stayed that day and she was 2nd - could not have won on the "stats" stupid to ever back her.

I'm going to assume genuine soft ground although will hedge as the gutless creep I am on if it's faster than expected.

QUARTZ DE THAIX not exactly what one would call laid out up 23 pounds. Seems to be a thorough stayer. Just think a big field on better ground might be against him.
Midnight Chase is down 11 to 152. On the usual good to soft I'd chance him as this year he's mostly faced better opposition and terrible ground.
Planet of Sound another slipping but some indication his form has fallen off. Not disgraced behind Master Overseer and Quartz de Thaix.
Cloudy Too Progressive but off 146 for winning a Novices handicap. Form suggests big field not likely to best suit.
The Package is fresh which may be good but he may also have the National in 3.5 weeks on his mind. Ran 2nd off 141 4th off 139 in this now off 146. Exposed.
Hey Big Spender a talented but erratic horse. Showed more last time and has been being raced fit. Has won in a field of 13 but beating Fredo over 29F at Warwick more needed here. Not for me.
Our Mick 3 third in this last year in only attempt at 3 miles showed well last time. Could still be unexposed at the distance but at 5s too short to recommend.
Nadiya de la Vega think the increase in distance is more of a well she's not that great at 2.5 let's try 3 miles rather than a plan.
Quantitativeeasing right now its hard to believe they've entered him declining out of form slow. JP takes someone's chance of a Cheltenham runner by using his wealth to pad races for his bet? Shirley not.
Knockara Beau looks a small field type to me.
Tour des Champs Novice who ran OK till a stopping blunder last time. I quite like this one albeit half his chases seem to have included a blunder or a fall. Just put off by his jumping in a big field but maybe worth a smallie if he's bigger on the exchanges. Soft ground rolling track may help jump big field won't.
Merry King Ran Rolling Aces to under a length, third and fourth have won since. Novice looks to be on a decent mark.
Fruity O' Rooney 2nd last year off a similar mark. I could not put you off or endorse him.
Jandali seems very slow but sadly for him the ground is only soft.
Tenor Nivernais seems a slow boat who is not a natural jumper.
Peat the Feat no longer relentlessly progressive pulled up last time no obvious excuse.
Loch Ba nice win last time but up 12 for it. Difficult to be prescriptive when a horse has been this relentlessly progressive but wins on flat tracks albeit not far from winning at Ascot earlier. Only 3 runs this year up 29. 2nd & 3rd have not enhanced the form last but 4th 5th and 9th have! Mick Channon off Hen clearly a system. Last 2 runs suggest a hill at the end won't be an inconvenience.
Nuts and Bolts novice off two wins but 2nd and 3rd last time well beaten.
Poole Master seems optimistic on form.
Monkerty Tunkerty could be interesting and was my Foxhunter last year before injury. Beat wide track specialist Marufo last time at Donny but well thumped by Lock Ba prior. I think he's not quite good enough.
Tullamore Dew touted for a while and whilst only being well beaten now not one for me.
White Star Line well beaten in 2 early season novices. Not for me.
Summary Justice the ground could suit but hard to get excited about.
Golden Chieftain one of those who looks like they want further but best form at a stiff 2.5 miles for me.

If the ground is not that soft I would like Midnight Chase to run well. I will likely have a farthing on Tour Des Champs albeit expecting to hear 'and Tour Des Champs has gone at that one'. I liked John's Spirit for this and Jonjo has run others instead including Merry King which is worth a look.

Conclusion

You could have got this recommendation in a single 140 character tweet this morning from a better judge than me, together with the Merry King next best, but Loch Ba looks progressive and his form last time whilst mixed includes enough future wins to make me think he has more to come with a stiffer track/trip. 12/1 seems fair enough.

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