The pick of the prices at Cheltenham....

Last Updated: 27.10.2017

27th October 2017

The pick of the prices at Cheltenham….

It is the time of year when the focus switches from the flat to the jumps…..

Cheltenham hosts its Showcase meeting this weekend. And that’s where we head for our target race tomorrow afternoon – the Handicap Chase (2.00)….

A decent turnout of 16-runners head to post for the class 2 event for horses aged 4yo+ over the 3m1f trip and 20 fences on the Old course. The ground is officially described as good.

Fergal O’Brien’s Perfect Candidate carries top weight on a mark of 154. At the other end of the scale Lamb Or Cod, trained by Philip Hobbs (who has a very good record in this race) carries 10-2 off his mark of 130. There’s a 24-pound spread.

There’s not much form in the book at this stage of the season. Plenty of tomorrow’s runners will be making their seasonal bow. The fitness and forwardness of individual yards is a largely unknown quantity at this point too….

In short, it’s early days. There’s not masses to work with. I’ll be keeping it simple and looking to identify something that could prove well-handicapped at a nice price….

  • At the top of the market….

Tom George’s Singlefarmpayment heads the market this afternoon at 9/2.

It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. The 7yo has only had five runs over fences and is full of progression.

In the last of those performances at the Cheltenham Festival in March, he was just touched off by the very classy Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase on Day 1 (over tomorrow’s course and distance).

He was rated 142 that day. He’s 146 tomorrow. Everything about him screams that he’s going to prove better than that and he is likely well-handicapped….

I’m not convinced this is a specific target for the horse. Earlier in the week Tom George wasn’t even sure he would run. This appears to be a starting point and he might not be fully at it first-time-up. It’s a long season and his primary objectives lie at the other end of it.

At the prices, I’m happy to take him on….

  • Watching Brief….

Coologue is a horse that should prove well-handicapped on his mark of 140 for tomorrow’s race. He won this event off that exact perch last year – first-time-up. He was put up to 148 for that win.

It wasn’t a race that worked out great. In their next three runs over fences the 12-runners managed to produce just two wins between them.

Coologue drew a blank in his subsequent 5 runs – dropping back down to the mark of 140 he started on last term and will start on again this time round.

The Grand National is the stated target for Charlie Longsdon’s 8yo. So, they’re going to want to win something over fences with him as soon as they can – to get him up the rankings….

A mark of 140 wouldn’t have got the horse into either of the last two Grand Nationals. I’d say that he needs to get to 145 to be certain of getting a run come April. So, this horse is ‘expected’ to go in at some point over the next few weeks….

Will it be tomorrow? He’s certainly handicapped to do it and he’s proven on the track. Connections have got him ready for this weekend and are making hopeful noises….

The market has the horse in at 8s and 10s to win back-to-back renewals. Fair enough. But that’s a watching price for me in a big chase handicap at this early stage of the season.

I’ll be interested to see how the horse goes tomorrow. And if he fails to land the win, I’ll be interested in his price next time round.

We’ll get to my selections for tomorrow’s race in a moment. First, a word on the action elsewhere…

  • Playing the handicaps at Doncaster….

The flat season trundles onto toward the finishing line in a couple of weeks’ time….

Doncaster hosts a couple of decent sprint handicaps this weekend….

One this afternoon over 6f and another tomorrow afternoon over 5f….

The market is missing a trick about horses with chances in both events….

You can get immediate access to my extra bets in both these on the website when you take a FREE 14-day test drive of my Against the Crowd service….

Get immediate access to my Doncaster picks here....

  • The pick of the prices….

Fergal O’Brien rejuvenated BELLS ‘N’ BANJOS immediately on getting him in January.

The horse had previously been with Warren Greatrex but moved to O’Brien’s yard to make his debut over fences….

He immediately produced – winning two novice handicaps on the bounce at Leicester under tomorrow’s jockey, Paddy Brennan. One on good and one on soft – demonstrating some versatility.

Next time – after a break – he was handed a tough task at Cheltenham in the 4-miler. He ran with credit but got well beaten and he maybe didn’t get the trip. At Ayr next time, up against some smart types, he wasn’t disgraced….

He pitches up tomorrow for just his 5th run over fences. He’s totally unexposed and he could be very sweetly handicapped on a mark of just 133.

The last two assignments O’Brien gave the horse last term suggest the trainer thinks the horse is better than that mark. Now, with another summer of maturation under his belt, he’s being given another assignment in which he can prove it.

O’Brien has started the season in reasonable form and the general 16s is a decent each-way price about a horse that jumps well and can be expected to improve.

In tomorrow’s Handicap Chase (Cheltenham, 2.00)….

BELLS ‘N’ BANJOS @ 16s (Generally)

Standard place terms are 1/4 1-2-3-4. I’ll be backing the horse each-way.

That’s all from me this week. Enjoy your weekend.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd Extra