Rory Delargy returns with four selections to take on at Cheltenham Trials Day.
12:40 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Finesse) (Grade 2) 2m 179y
Adjali is 10lb clear on official figures, and is the default favourite as a result, but that rating hangs largely on your view of the Finale Junior Hurdle he was second in last time.
Sure that’s a Grade 1 contest, and the winner had won twice at this level previously, but aside from the front two there was no obvious depth to the Finale, and it’s very possible the front two didn’t need to improve on their established form to pull clear. If that’s the case, then the concession of 5lb to some useful rivals won’t be as simple as the ratings would have you believe, and after five runs stretching back to the spring, it could be argued that Adjali is more exposed than most of his rivals.
There is some guesswork involved, but I’d not be surprised to see at least two of these improve past him, and he looks seriously underpriced at 2.5.
Recommended: Lay Adjali for 4pts @ 2.8 or shorter [max liability 7.2pts]
13:15 Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m 4f 127y
Not a race to go overboard about, but I’d be keen to take a bit out of Kildisart at the current odds. Ben Pauling’s charge beat Activial in a Graduation Chase at Ascot last time but had race conditions to suit against a rival who has never lived up to expectations. Whether his handicap mark is fair depends on how highly you rate that form, and there is not enough solidity about Activial to take a high view of it in my opinion, with the other trio having something to prove.
It’s also notable that the only time Kildisart has gone left-handed over obstacles, he’s run poorly.
Recommended: Lay Kildisart for 1pt @ 4.2 or shorter [max liability 3.3pts]
14:25 Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) 3m 1f 56y
This race revolves around Frodon, who is the best on form, will get the run of things, and goes very well at this track. On the other hand, he doesn’t stay. I can see Bryony trying to nurse him home by setting a false pace and asking him as little as possible until the last, but the Cheltenham Hill forgives no short runner, and I think his stamina will run out before the line, as it did when tried over three miles at Ascot last season, albeit only after the last.
The best approach is to take him on in running since it’s hard to imagine this immaculate jumper not trading short at some point given his run style.
Recommended: Lay Frodon for 4pts @ 2.75 or shorter [max liability 7pts]
15:00 Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 4f 56y
Birchdale missed a similar engagement with a vet’s certificate at Warwick and is artificially short here because he is running in place of Champ, who himself would have been a warm order. The form of his win at Warwick is decent enough, but not outstanding, and it’s only the notion that his powerful yard holds all the aces in the division (which it may do) which has him so highly rated.
He’s an unknown quantity with a worrying lack of experience, and while such types occasionally win by half the track, enough of them are overbet losers to ensure that laying them short is a profitable call in the long term.
Not a strong call given the notional nature of the form, but a small lay is justified.
Recommended: Lay Birchdale for 2pts @ 3.0 or shorter [max liability 4pts]
Host Tom Stanley is joined by Donn McClean and Rory Delargy to look ahead to Saturday’s Cheltenham card with an eye on the festival itself. There’s some Irish reflection from the week just gone plus the usual best bets.