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Pertemps Final preview

And so we saddle up again for day three of the Festival. Today's meeting is often maligned as the perhaps unnecessary extra day of the week, but there are six more races to back winners in. The Pertemps Final is the climax of a series running throughout the season, and being a handicap, you've always got to be wary of trainers just doing enough to secure their place without rising up the weights.

The man tasked with solving this conundrum is Dan Mellett, @danmellett, who is also one of the team behind @ByTheMinRacing, so you'll understand why most of his comments are 140 character one-liners!


Pertemps Final

The build up to the next Cheltenham Festival starts for most just as soon as the last race of the current festival has weighed in.

Heroes and villains have been made, places cemented in history, reputations underlined or undermined and punters go home with their money made or wounds to be licked.

The cyclical nature of National Hunt is what aids this process and Thursday's Pertemps Final, a longstanding fixture in the Festival calendar, has a rich history and plenty of clues from the past can be mined to help selections.

The burgeoning number of pre-Cheltenham preview evenings that are becoming ever more popular can also be a rich vein of information for prospective punters and that is where our first pointer comes from.

I was lucky enough to attend an event the week before Cheltenham at which jockey Richard Johnson was a guest. Naturally he gave his views on a number of the Festival's feature races but when pressed on his own book of rides it was tomorrow's market leader Fingal Bay on which he was sweetest:

"If I have one winner over the week I'd be delighted and I'd expect that to be Fingal Bay, in fact if he doesn't win I'd be absolutely devastated".

Anyone who has attended any such preview evenings will know it is unusual for jockeys to be so bold but Johnson was adamant that this was his and trainer Phillip Hobbs' best chance.

The market would indicate this is an accepted view with the early prices of 10/1 long gone and now generally best available at 7/1.

Fingal Bay is certainly the class act of the race and was an impressive winner on reappearance at Exeter after a lengthy lay off but carrying top weight and with the favourite tag to contend with some may be put off. Indeed a favourite hasn't landed the Pertemps since 2000.

The competitive nature of this renewal is demonstrated in that stablemate If in Doubt is also available at around 7/1 and it is possible with the booking of Champion Jockey AP McCoy, still searching for his first 2014 Festival winner that this will overtake Fingal Bay for favouritism before the off at 2.05pm.

If In Doubt's second to Fingal Bay at Exeter was no disgrace and must be respected. Presumably Richard Johnson also knows all about If in Doubt as well and his comments above would illustrate he has no doubts about which has the best chance.

Next in the betting is Jetson (currently 11/1) representing the in form Harrington yard, still celebrating Jetzki's Champion Hurdle victory on Tuesday. Back to winning ways at Punchestown in February Jetson was third in this last year and jockey Paddy Kennedy will be hoping to improve a couple of places this year.

Course and distance figures are always to be given special attention due to Cheltenham's particular challenges in topography and environment and Grand Vision ticks those boxes with a Grade One novice third in 2012. Trained by Colin Tizzard and partnered with Brendan Powell for the spin you can get 12/1 about this success.

Another Phillip Hobbs-trained horse So Fine also has solid Course and Distance form and is a bigger 25/1 to land the spoils.

Josie's Orders (12/1) goes out for leading trainer Jonjo O'Neill who boasts a record four victories in this race, including last year's winner Holywell who returned to win at the Festival again on this Tuesday. As such Josie's Orders must be in the picture despite a rise of 14lb in the weights.

The drying conditions may discount a few and despite the course being watered overnight it is going to be quick and the likes of Mickie, Trustan Times and Lie Forrit (N/R) may find this too stiff a test.

Age can also be used as a parameter to relegate contenders and 10 year old Cross Kennon, nine year old Patesse (another Hobbs horse) and On the Bridge plus 11 year old Vics Canvas are most likely susceptible to younger guns.

In summary "From the horses's mouth" is usually the best source of information on any topic and given that our equine friends cannot actually speak(!) surely their trainers and jockeys must be the next best thing.

As such I find it hard to ignore Richard Johnson's comments and positivity on Fingal Bay and with trainer Phillip Hobbs saddling four of his rivals I think it is the standout choice.


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