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Preview 16 April 2008


16:05 Cheltenham MEARS GROUP SILVER TROPHY CHASE LIMITED HANDICAP (GRADE 2) (CLASS 1) (5yo+) Winner 28,505.00 Good to good to firm Ground 2M 5F

1. Celestial Gold - Twice been no match for Denman this season and was a surprise runner in the Cheltenham gold cup. Top class prior to injury setbacks he ran his best race when dropped into Handicap Company at Aintree and does need to improve on that effort here today even though he is potentially well handicapped if ever rediscovering his best form. Not overly raced due to injury he has much in his favour and has already won over 2.5M in the past. The track should suit more at this level, but he is the second choice of David Johnson pair and it has to be noted that Timmy Murphy has chosen the other horse for his retainer.

My Rating - 153

2. Fundamentalist - On his day a top horse and the winner of the now called Ballymore properties hurdle a few years back, Never quite rediscovered the form he showed over hurdles as a novice and setbacks in similar mould to Celestial Gold has all but put paid to his chances as a top class performer. Looks handicapped to go well given the company if ever rediscovering his form, but he is now just a useful handicapper. Never been to sure of his ability to jump these fences he has struggled quite often at this track when chasing and may have better chances when given a easier test of jumping.

My Rating - 150

3. Vodka Bleu - Another for David Johnson and David Pipe as he showcases the talent he has at his disposal with the son of the legendary trainer Martin Pipe. A winner around here already this season Vodka Bleu is the choice of Tom Scudermore and the suggestion could well be that Timmy Murphy even though how much he loves this horse, knows that he isn't the best handicapped horse around. However looking at the opponents, it seems to me that all 3 of his runners in this are handicapped to win races at this level and he isn't one to readily discount with ground ideal for him, still would like to see him tackle 3 miles again.

My Rating - 148

4. Calatagan - Ran a cracker here in the grand annual and that was mainly down to the conditions on gold cup day of the ground underneath his feet. Best when stamina is called upon in a fast run 2M, his stamina over further has a few question marks to be answered, especially given the stiffness of the track and quality of opposition to him today. Another who is quite well handicapped on the best of his form, he does seem in the form of his life at present. The ground however looks to lively for him and given how things fell for him at the festival he is likely to struggle in today's race.

My Rating - 143

5. Il Duce - has been disappointing since finishing a close 2nd in the Paddy Power Gold cup here back in November and has failed to complete twice here leading to a few concerns in is he totally suited to this stiff jumping track. Hasn't been campaigned to hard and has the ability at this level as already proven (race hasn't worked out) this season despite the form not stacking up. The strength of that handicap may actually be mirrored in this race and he really strikes me as a horse that will improve for these quickening conditions underfoot. Looks likely to be a spring horse and a dry day will no doubt enhance his performance for a yard that does well here and is double handed in this handicap.

My Rating - 155

6. Ofarel D'Airy - The only runner in this handicap for the re-crowned champion trainer and one that he needs to find some improvement for to be winning handicaps such as this. There isn't much they can do with this type as he is handicapped to run in these races and may well need some help from the handicapper to be landing races again. Ruby Walsh is here for this meeting and will be looking to carry on the good form he has had for the owner recently. The ground this quick doesn't look most ideal as he is best with a bit of cut in the ground and I feel the drop in trip isn't likely to help his chances either.

My Rating - 145

7. Yes Sir - former winner of Market Rasen yearly showpiece and was a success story for his trainer when first going over fences. Not as good as he once was it is fair to say, he has struggled against some decent rivals since being handicapped out of these type of races. Dropping down the weights now are a rather baron spell, his trainer will be looking to find some form that has served him so well around this time of year. Better weighted with Vodka bleu on running at this track on New Year day he is well suited to firming ground. This track has never brought out the best in the horse as his jumping at time can be erratic to say the least and he isn't moulded into your usual chasing type. One to keep in mind of in the coming months over 3M.

My Rating - 146

8. Hasty Prince - Another in this handicap who has lost the backing of his number one jockey as Tony McCoy rides the other JP Mcmanus horse in this handicap. The current handicap mark he has is the hallmarks of a regressive horse and is similar to Yes Sir in this instance. The ground and trip are more then ideal for him and it wouldn't be the first time McCoy has picked the wrong horse. His recent form isn't to bad with fair efforts against Howle Hill and that well known horse Master Minded at Sandown. No improvement to come from this horse and we know what to expect from him and with the ground ideal he should be involved.

My rating - 153

9. Stan - Shock winner at Aintree Grand National meeting in their version of the grand annual and benefited that day from the better conditions underfoot to land the race from out of the handicap. The handicapper hasn't left anything to chance from that victory with a 7lbs hike in the weights, but he did have the class to pull of that run if you look far enough back through his form. Might be a surprise to see him follow up here and the longer trip on a stiff track may just slow him up as he is exposed enough despite being in good health with himself. Back to his best but maybe just handicapped out of it.

My rating - 147

10. Glenfinn Captain - the choice of Tony McCoy for his boss and comes into this handicap having ran a acceptable race to the useful handicapper Schindler's Hunt who ran well at the festival behind the easiest winner of the Champion Chase. That form gives him some claims of the current mark in a handicap and has got some grade 2 form over hurdles. Never really shaped with to much promise over the larger fences he has to prove himself here today, but isn't the most over exposed handicapper in the field so there is reason for him to show his worth today. The trip and the ground are unknown's, but he has handled better ground before and his breeding suggests he wont mind this ground. Likely to improve for this company today he may give the champion jockey a Cheltenham winner for his boss. Has failed at Irelands premier jump tracks this season.

My rating - 150

11. Abragante - Ran with much credit in the William Hill Handicap chase at the festival where he didn't have the run of the race and given that the man who can do no wrong at the moment has chosen this runner over the other two is eye catching. Quick ground is ideal for this horse that is a strong traveller and could have further improvement to come on this ground. Best around this time of the year with the sun on his back he is a bit quirky and has ran a mixture of races at this track and with ground right should be suited to improve on his other performances over this trip. Looks well handicapped and not overly raced suggesting that he should run a big race in this today.

My Rating - 153

12. Boychuk - Ran a catching race here at the festival after making a hash of a fence down the back straight and stayed on very well to finish 6th to the clear winner. However he didn't build on that run with a average race at Aintree in a handicap chase and may be best returned to this track. The ground is well suited to him and he stays the trip well and given the performance at Ascot earlier in the season it would be no surprise to see him run a big race today for a inform yard and is about at the right mark in relation to his hurdle form which was regarded as better then he has achieved over fences.

My Rating - 152

13. Which Pocket - looked up against it in the Topham Chase at Aintree and was well beaten back in 10th position and may be struggling over the hike in the handicap since winning a lower class handicap at Chepstow the time before. The quickening conditions should well suit him and he may well have further improvement to come. However he has never really proved the most progressive horse and is quite exposed over trips such as this where he has only achieved average form. In his best form this season he may have had his sights put to high. Goes well this time of the year he is lightly raced for a 10yo.

My rating - 145

14. Kelrev - Was a bit frustrating that we didn't get to see him complete over 3M on Friday and is turned out quickly here after getting brought down and has shaped well before when being brought out quickly and the 10yo is one of the most exposed runners in this handicap over this trip and we should know what to expect of this horse. Usually starts to go of the boil around this time of the year his trainer looks keen to keep him on the go as he is well handicapped returning to the form he showed a few years ago. This trip is ideal for him and he has handled good ground well before, but is unknown on ground that is likely to be fast based on National hunt standards.

My Rating - 147

Tissue prices - Il Duce 5/1, Hasty prince, Abragante, Celestial Gold 7/1, Boychuk 8/1, Fundamentalist, Glenfinn Captain 10/1, Vodka Bleu 14/1, Stan, Kelrev 16/1, Yes Sir 20/1, Ofrael D'Airy, Which Pocket 25/1, Calatagan 33/1.

Verdict  A decent handicap on the card as Cheltenham draws to the end for the season and Il Duce's Paddy Power Gold cup run could well work out today for Top Cheltenham trainer Alan King and is the first choice of the yard over the quickly turned out Kelrev. He's best priced at 14-1' which is more then generous. Hasty Prince could once again prove Tony McCoy wrong in his choice and is more then capable of running a big race today. The David Johnson Pair are both likely to interest punters and Celestial Gold could be regarded as a big price in this race, while his stable mate is likely to be well supported in this race and could go off clear favourite.

Selection  Il Duce 3 pts win @ 14-1 (BF24's) & Celestial Gold 1 pt win @ 16-1 (BF22's)

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