13:20 – KESKONRISK (each-way)
The Ballymore has thrown up plenty of top-class horses over the years and this renewal will be the stepping stone for plenty of future Grade 1 successes.
I can’t split the two at the head of the market. They’re both high-class horses, but I was taken by KESKONRISK when he stayed on very well into third in a Grade 1 at Christmas.
He’ll definitely enjoy the step up in trip and I don’t think he’ll be phased by a slightly quicker surface compared to what he’s raced on previously.
He’s always had a huge reputation and won’t be seen to best effect until later in his career, but he could well go close in this race.
13:55 – MONKFISH (win)
It’s a pretty simple story in the second race as MONKFISH is head and shoulders above his rivals and, barring any accidents, shouldn’t be beaten.
He’s short-priced, so I expect him to be popular in plenty of multiples and accumulators throughout the week, but he’s been imperious over fences and should make it seven career wins in a row.
14:30 – BLUE SARI (each-way)
BOTOX HAS (each-way)
Like all big-field handicaps at Cheltenham, you’re much better off backing a few horses in this one. The two I have landed on are both good each-way prices, too.
BLUE SARI has pulled up on his latest two starts so, looking at his form, it’s hard to see why he’s a single-figure price. When you delve a bit deeper, though, you’ll see he was second in the Cheltenham Bumper in 2019, which was one of the best runnings of the race in many years.
He is a very talented horse who only needs to come back to the level he showed a couple of years ago to be competitive. He’s been well supported in the last few days and that is probably a good indicator.
The other horse is one I mentioned last week in my antepost bets blog. BOTOX HAS hasn’t done anything since to make me change my mind. He’s got a great record at Cheltenham and will love the quicker conditions.
At a much bigger price, Heaven Help Us will also go very well, although she does have a very inexperienced rider on board and that may be the difference.
15:05 – PUT THE KETTLE ON (each-way)
CILAOS EMERY (each-way)
The feature race of the day is the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and what a cracker it’s going to be.
While Chacun Pour Soi could just be simply too good for his rivals, I’m still not totally in love with him and can’t bring myself to back him at odds-on. My fear is that, although he is electric throughout the race, he’s yet to be fully tested at the end and that could be his undoing in such a competitive affair.
At the prices, I think two horses will run big races. The first is the mare, PUT THE KETTLE ON. She won the Arkle last year and is three from three at Cheltenham, which bodes very well as course form is a hugely reliable indicator of good runs in the future.
She wasn’t at home on Leopardstown’s track, which suits faster horses, but she’ll be much better back at her beloved Prestbury Park and I expect her to go well.
The other horse is CILAOS EMERY. I’ve long been a big fan of this horse and it seems as though he’s been campaigned for this race. He doesn’t love testing conditions but has still won plenty of races on tougher ground.
Back on quicker ground, I think he’ll show just how talented he really is. He’s a strong traveller and, if he’s with the pack turning for home, he’ll be a big danger.
15:40 – SOME NECK (each-way)
The Cross Country Chase is always a bit of a puzzle to solve. If last year’s winner Easysland turns up in the same form as he was 12 months ago then he’ll take all the beating. He is a very, very good horse, but was well beaten here on his latest start.
At the prices, SOME NECK, who won over course and distance earlier in the season, looks a good each-way proposition. He ran well in a handicap hurdle as preparation for this and has the assistance of Richard Johnson in the saddle, too.
He’s got some smart form as a younger horse and, while he’s not at that level now, he’s been in his element this season and could go well.
16:15 – ZANZA (each-way)
The Grand Annual will be run on the Old Course rather than the New Course for the first time, so this may be a bigger test of speed than it was previously.
ZANZA fits the bill of an improving horse with some mileage in his handicap mark, and is one who will be ridden towards the front.
He did fall last time out, but he was cantering behind Sky Pirate and remains on the same mark. He’s got top form from earlier in the season and shouldn’t be too far away.
16:50 – ELLE EST BELLE (each-way)
There is going to be a fierce battle at the head of the market between Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard, but both of them are going to have to be extremely good to give 7lb to ELLE EST BELLE. She is a talented horse who has been campaigned for this race by the in-form Skelton team.
She was so impressive on her debut at Aintree and then travelled strongly when she won at Cheltenham in November. She’s been kept fresh for this race and I think she’ll put that course experience to good use. She’s a big each-way price, too.
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