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Cheltenham Thursday preview


Interesting card today as they switch to the New course. A few races I quite like, and others I'll be happy to skip right over...


Colonel Harry - had been running OK in small-field novice chases until last time at Sandown, finishing 29L behind the winner in the G1 Scilly Isles, in a race where the odds-on fav was ever in it. Perhaps the unseasonal good ground caught him out? Loves the wet.

Djelo - second in the Scilly Isles, achieving a career best in the process. Did well to get within 7L after the tearaway leader simply didn't come back to the field and the other jockeys banked on the odds-on fav carting them back into it (he didn't). Has had a progressive novice chasing campaign, winning three, then getting taken out at the first fence in a G2 at Lingfield. Could yet be more to come.

Facile Vega - obvious favourite simply because he has started fav every start except his last one. The hype has been on this one right from the start due to his excpetional breeding, but over fences he is only one win from three. Each race comment says 'not fluent' so I wouldn't be rushing to back him. At the Leopardstown Xmas Festival and the Dublin Racing Festival, he has beaten in G1s, behind the classy Found A Fifty and Il Etait Temps. Connections have sent him to the 2m4f option rather than the Arkle, hoping a gentler pace might sort out his jumping. I'm a layer at 2/1.

Ginny's Destiny - this is a chasing profile I want to follow. An 8yo who only started racing two years ago, he was a handy hurdler winning one from four for Tom Lacey, then switched to chasing when moved to Paul Nicholls and after a slow start on a dry track (doesn't seem to like it, not his only failure on it), he's won his three starts since, beating Es Perfecto, Grey Dawning and Theatre Man respectively. Should be favourite.

Grey Dawning - bolted in over 3m at Warwick in a G2 Novice Chase two months ago, and comes in fairly fresh. Pre Xmas, he was quite busy, racing three times in five weeks, third to Stay Away Fay at Exeter, beating Gaillard Du Mesnil and Apple Away at Haydock and then trailing Ginny's Destiny at Cheltenham on the new course. Curious fact - he beat Apple Away by the same margin (14L) at Haydock and Warwick, but his rating has shot up 16lbs for it while the vanquished has stayed stagnant. The Skelton stable is on fire winning two handicaps on Wednesday (with horses who were in 'terrible' form leading in), so expect this one to be finely tuned. His jumping last time was slightly concerning at the end (also mistake at penultimate fence at two runs back), I've got my concerns under pressure...

Iroko - won the Martin Pipe here last year and since switching to fences, has a perfect one-for-one record. Lightly raced, very talented. Never be surprised what comes from a horse in these colours.

Le Patron - beaten a long way in the G1 Scilly Isles, that was a big drop in performance compared to previous runs (won previous three), take on trust.

Letsbeclearaboutit - won his first two chase starts but then tapered off with three successive thirds at a range of trips. Cromwell runner, don't be shocked if he puts in a better run but the stable is yet to fire this week. A 9yo winning a novice chase is pretty rare though.

Sharjah - if 9yos winning a novice chase are rare, 11yos winning them are simply non-existent. Good honest horse who was a star hurdler, will run a nice race into midfield, possibly even a place.

Zanahiyr - new to chasing after running several minor places in G1 races over hurdles. Was beaten 17L by Fact To File (Gallagher winner Wednesday) on chase debut, thne progressed to beat the once very useful Aspire Tower next time at Thurles. Honest but this will stretch him, needs a fair step up to compete. 

Jamaico - British debut after being bought out of France. Looks a long way short of this unless there's been some miracle at home...

Very keen on Ginny's Destiny here.

Ginny's Destiny, Djelo, Iroko, Grey Dawning.



Big handicap hurdle over three miles - another tough one.

Cleatus Poolaw is a lightly-raced 6yo who has finished no worse than second in five races this season. He was 25L behind Ballyburn when the Gallagher winner claimed his maiden (he won by 13L on Wednesday), and can continue his improvement here. In case you're wondering where the name comes from - he's named after the United States' most decorated Native American with three Purple Crosses, amongst numerous other medals.

Springwell Boy has had a good season carrying big weights in these type of races, apart from a blemish on New Year's Day when he was in touch at the last but misjudged the last hurdle - probably after the horse directly in front of him clattered it then it rebounded up. His handicap mark has been kept in check while running nicely, horses up in the weights have a good record in this.

Gaoth Chuil for Ted Walsh looks like a bit of a plot, being close numerous times this season but only winning one of his four starts, doing enough to guarantee a run without blowing his mark. Won't be far off.

Cleatus Poolaw, Springwell Boy, Gaoth Chuil, Judicial Law



A case can be made for all of these, I won't go through in detail.

Envoi Allen won this last year, and having also won twice mre during the Festival, has to go on top, despite his age (10). Stable and jockey are in fine form and going in fresh suits him.

Stage Star won the Turners here last year, one of several wins at the track, but also pulled up here on New Year's Day. Might have been a big Dec 31 down in Ditcheat! Taking him on trust, partly at least because I have a share in another Owners Group horse.

Fil Dor might be a decent each-way price, he ran a relatively close second to El Fabiolo in December in a G2, that form would see him in the mix here.

Envoi Allen, Stage Star, Fil Dor.



Tricky field with several that are supposedly too old, or never quite good enough, or seemingly overrated. Sire Du Berlais last season was the first winner aged 10 or older since 1986 (one from 65).

I can't be backing Paisley Park or Sire Du Berlais despite obvious chances and previous success here, Noble Yeats over hurdles rather than fences shows his adaptability - he received 6lbs from Paisley Park last time and just beat him. Can never be surprised at what Emmet Mullins achieves. Teahupoo just seems very short. Outstayed Impaire Et Passe in the Hatton's Grace in early December. Not seen since but I can't get involved at around 7/4.

Dashel Drasher ran second last year on soft ground, and it will be at least as bad today with a chance of rain starting around lunchtime. His ratings this term are a bit south of what should be needed to win, but his last run recorded exactly the same RPR as his run before last year's Stayers Hurdle. At 25/1, I'd rather be on him than any at the top of the market despite being an 11yo.

Dashel Drasher, Noble Yeats, Crambo



Oh joy, another bastard handicap. Perhaps this one is more solvable.

James Du Berlais has always had  big reputation after being bought out of France, but has only one win from 10 to show for it. Has appeared twice at the Festival and beaten one horse in total (the other one fell). Not good enough to run in the Championship races, too high in the weights to compete in the better handicaps.

Il Ridoto failed over three miles on soft last time, drops back to the more suitable 2m4f here. Ran ninth in this race last year at 7/1, won't be quite so short this time but has his chance.

Glengouly - a weird profile, after winning his debut start over fences, beating the rather handy Telmesomethinggirl, he then fell, pulled up and finished secnd last. Got sent away for a nine-month break, then this season has finished second twice in pattern handicaps, the latter being the Thyestes at Gowran Park (3m1f). Drops back to 2m4f here, I wouldn't be drawing a line through him, but similarly would want a decent price - 14/1 seems about right. 

Saint Felicien has taken to chasing well this season for a formline of 3221 although the figures aren't particularly high (still below his hurdles mark), he's lightly raced and plenty of scope to improve. Was favourite for the Coral Cup here two years ago, but pulled up blaming the soft going - a bit odd considering his last three runs (221) have been in heavy ground.

Shakem Up'Arry - honest (perhaps ironic given the owner) chaser who has finished in the front half of the field each time he has completed the course over fences (unseated on chase debut, pulled up first time this campaign). Won a G3 here on New Year's Day in heavy going, ran a creditable sixth in the Coral Gold Cup (ex Hennessy) at Newbury the start before. Ran third here last year off a 4lbs higher mark. A sign of the strength of this edition is the fact he will carry 9lbs higher. Right in this.

Crebilly - resumed from a two-month break with a heavy track win at Exeter, over just two rivals. Previous to that, he'd been beaten twice by Ginny's Destiny, who hopefully has won the first race by this stage. McManus runner, it's all about landing those handicap winners.

In Excelsis Deo - another McManus runner who probably would have won last time but for falling at the last. Ran second or third at four previous starts, should have a few more wins in him. Steps out to 2m4f for the first time.

Theatre Man - yet to win but has gone close in three chases starts so far. That's kept his mark down to quite an attractive mark given his obvious talent. Harry Cobden replaces Harry Bannister, a big step up. The one they have to beat. 

Arctic Bresil - de Bromhead/Blackmore runner, reasonable form but runs fourth too often for mine. Possibly saved for this.

Straw Fan Jack - 8lbs lower than when he ran fourth in last year's Arkle. Hasn't been great this season but weighted to be able to bounce back.


Theatre Man, Shakem Up'Arry, Straw Fan Jack, Crebilly



No real interest in this one, should be down to those who remain undefeated. Will go with:

Jade de Grugy, Brighterdaysahead, Majestic Force



Even less interest in an amateur jockeys' race. 




Keen on Ginny's Destiny and Theatre Man, with each-way action on Dashel Drasher. 


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