PUNTERS can look forward to another mouth watering line up of national hunt racing on Saturday, with a stellar card as is the standard at Cheltenham.
Features include the Grade 2 Argento Chase ‑ the race Taranis sprung a shock 16/1 win when supposedly the stable’s second string. Both Taranis and Madison Du Berlais reappear to contest this in what will likely be billed as another super Saturday with no less than five Grade 2 races. The day is very much seen as a significant prelude to the festival with trials for the Triumph Hurdle, the Neptune Novices hurdle, and the Argento Chase being used for horses aimed at the RSA chase and the Gold Cup. There is also likely to be movement in the ante post markets of the Albert Bartlett and the Jewson Novice events with the juveniles being firmly on display.
Not to be overshadowed Doncaster have a fantastic yet puzzling display of jumps racing including more pointers to the Cheltenham Festival. The Sky Bet Chase is the highlight, and has an impressive field, including the Nicky Henderson trained Wogan, who has been heavily supported ante post in the run up (25s into 12s). The race is an ultra competitive affair, and Wogan may have the edge. His record from Doncaster is two from two, winning over three miles and three miles two furlongs so the course and trip shouldn’t be a problem for a horse that is relatively fresh after a good third at Haydock after a 224 day absence.
Turning our attention back to Prestbury Park the quality of racing on show on Saturday really is of the highest standard and the racecourse cannot be applauded enough. Good prize money, good fields and the very best in the business bringing their promise to guarantee a fascinating day.
The highlight of Cheltenham is the afore mentioned Argento Chase which has long been seen as a great preview for the festival six weeks down the line. The field is headed by Time For Rupert, who has been in a rich vein of form over the past 12-18 months or so, especially at Cheltenham, since chasing home Big Bucks in last years World Hurdle. Since being switched to fences the horse has won both novice chases, and both in a very impressive manner, taking the lead two out and easing home, winning both races by eight lengths. The horse is currently 11/4 clear favourite in the betting for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and this is seen as the ideal preparation for the horse, and given Time For Rupert’s love of the track, he should go off warm favourite and run a very strong race.
Last years winner Little Josh sprang somewhat of a shock when winning the Paddy Power at 20/1 back in November and followed that up by another solid run in the Vote AP Gold Cup a month later. The horse and the stable usually fire in the winners at Cheltenham; however the stable at the minute seems woefully out of form, with Nigel Twiston-Davies only having three wins and eight places from his 57 runs in January and could prove out of his depth here.
The hottest trainer at the minute is Nicky Henderson who seems to be able to do no wrong. After winning the King George and the Christmas Hurdle two weeks ago at Kempton he has since and had four winners in his last six runners and in January has had 32 wins and 21 places from 84 runners. The trainer believes that Punchestowns has the ability to be a superstar and such support led him to go off 5/2 favourite in last year’s RSA chase. His reappearance pleased his stable and he is expected to come on for the run. That being said Time for Rupert has looked very smart indeed and clearly relishes conditions and with Cheltenham usually being a track which has a ‘horses for courses’ vibe form at the course plays a strong part.
The final tip will again come back to the in the formidable David Pipe who has continued the tradition of his father by finding very smart French imports which immediately look like the are destined for greatness and the stable seem to have found another horse in Grand Crus. The horse finished second behind Sanctuaire before he went on to win the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last year and has won two competitive handicaps incredibly cosily, winning by eight and 10 lengths respectively. The latter race has some solid form behind it with second and third horses both winning subsequent races and the fourth finishing a solid fourth in the Welsh National.
2.30 (Chelt) Time for Rupert (Nap)
3.20 (Donc) Wogan (ew)
3.35 (Chelt) Grand Crus