A week to the start of the Cheltenham Festival and time to look forward to some of the Festival Handicaps. Below are a number of horses that have caught my eye in the build up to the biggest week of the year.
In the Close Brothers’ Novices Chase on the opening day Good Man Pat is not guaranteed a run, but I feel he would have a leading chance if facing the starter. The each way selection is 14/1 at BetVictor (Non Runner No Bet) and I felt he ran a decent race at Kempton last time despite being no match for Harry Fry’s Bags Groove who is a Grade 1 performer going right-handed over two-and-a-half to three miles.
Alan King’s charge has had just the minimum three runs over fences, but I was impressed with his jumping on his first couple of starts at Plumpton – the second of which he won – and I feel he has the scope for significant improvement. The novice has no Cheltenham experience and will get further in time, but as long as the ground is no better than good to soft I expect him to run a big race.
It is well documented that Joseph O’Brien has a strong hand in the juvenile hurdle division and Band Of Outlaws (6/1 NRNB at BetVictor) has won two of his three starts of timber and looks to have a favourites chance in the Boodles Handicap Hurdle – formerly known as the Fred Winter.
The selection was only a miler – rated in the 90s – on the level but has looked a strong stayer in his three starts over obstacles although this will be his stiffest stamina test to date. The selection also holds entries in the Supreme and Triumph Hurdles, but the hope is that he takes his chance in the handicap on the Thursday.
If he is diverted to one of the Grade 1 options, then his stablemate Gardens Of Babylon (8/1 NRNB with BetVictor) would get the each way vote.
At the time of writing the Neil Mulholland yard have saddled five winners from their last six runners and Kalondra looks overpriced at 20/1 at BetVictor (NRNB) for the Brown Advisory Plate next Thursday.
The each way selection was one of a number of horses who had not been asked a question when coming down four out in the BetVictor Gold Cup back in November. The 8-y-old disappointed when last of four at Haydock the following week, but the hope and suggestion is that race came too soon after his Cheltenham exertions and it should also be noted that the stable were largely out of sorts in the first half of the season.
The horse has won over C&D, goes on all ground, but ideally wouldn’t want heavy – which seems unlikely – and I feel his current price might halve between now and post time.
The Kim Muir is one of my favourite races of the year and Rolling Dylan (16/1 with BetVictor) is top of a very long shortlist. Another each way selection he was slightly disappointing when fifth at Sandown last time, but he can race off the same mark as when third here back in December on ground, arguably, faster than ideal.
Philip Hobbs 8-y-old also holds an entry in the Ultima but he is guaranteed a run in the amateur rider’s race and I feel he could make up into a Grand National horse next season. If that is the case, he needs to run a decent race next week although luck will play a part – as ever – in all the Festival handicaps.
One thing is for sure there will be more hard luck stories than winners in the handicaps next week.
Recommendations: all each way and Non Runner No Bet at BetVictor
Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase – Good Man Pat (14/1)
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Band Of Outlaws (6/1) if absent Gardens of Babylon (8/1)
Brown Advisory Plate – Kalondra (20/1)
Kim Muir Handicap – Rolling Dylan (16/1)