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Cheltenham Foxhunter and 5.10 Fakenham

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The biggest Hunter Chase of the season is the Cheltenham Foxhunter and 26 horses remain in the race ahead of the final decs on Wednesday. I don't think it is an overly strong renewal and not that many have a serious chance. I have already put up Caid Du Berlais and although there are no other bets at this stage I will more than likely add at least one more bet on Thursday night once the offers are known.
Ardkilly Witness - Could be 1000/1 and I still wouldn't want to back him.
Asockastar - Took his form to a new level at the back end of last season when finishing a great 2nd to Barel Of Laughs in the big race on Hunter Chase night here in May and then finished in the same position in the Stratford Foxhunters behind Chosen Dream. I do think that Stratford race is suspect form wise because so few horses on the night handled the over watered ground, but he deserved the win at Leicester on his seasonal return when comfortbaly seeing off Just Cause. Can see him finishing top 10, but he shouldn't be good enough to hit the frame.
Balnaslow - I'm guessing he wont have Derek this year and that will be a big miss because he has given him two superb rides in the last two renewals finishing 5th in 2017 and 7th last year when he wasn't fully fit. He went on to win the Aintree Foxhunters although it has been rumoured that he will lose that race after failing a drugs test. He then pulled up at Punchestown, the race he won in 2017, and he was a well beaten 4th at Stratford. He has run just once this term and finished last of 7 in a point although he pulled up in his only start before this race last season. Even so it is hard to see him improving on either of his two previous runs especially without Derek on top.
Caid Du Berlais - I thought he ran a massive race in the last year to finish 5th less than 4L behind Pacha Du Polder. Going into the race I wondered if he stay, but I thought he saw it out well enough especially when you consider how soft the ground was. He then went to Punchestown and bolted up in impressive style. You can pick holes in that form, but if we use Sizing Coal is a yardstick then Stand Up And Fight has 40L to make up on Caid Du Berlais. Now racing is never as simple as that, but it does back up my thinking that the Irish aren't that strong in this division at the moment. This year he didn't get the opportunity to run until a couple of weeks ago because of the weather, the flu and then he picked up a foot infection. Before backing him I did want to see him run as I think it is very tough to win this race first time out, so it was pleasing that he was unchallenged to win a Mixed Open at Biships Court. It wasn't the strongest race in the world, but he couldn't have done it any easier and it was the perfect prep for this. After Tuesday there appears to be no or little rain in the forecast so it shouldn't be as testing as last year which should help him. There is also a lot of pace in the race and that should play into his hands. He should be pushing for favouritism in my view and a double figure price is still too big about him.
Chosen Dream - Same connections as Balnaslow and he caused a massive shock when winning the Stratford Foxhunters. That is a massive shock for all bar his trainer who apparently fancied him for the race. He finished 2nd to Coastal Tiep in a point in November and then was 4th behind Ucello Conti at Thurles in January. As mentioned above I think the form of that Stratford race is highly suspect and for me he has a fair bit to find.
Coastal Tiep - Ex Paul Nicholls who current connections picked up for £18k last year. He won hist first two points to get his qualification in for this early, which as mentioned above included him beating Chosen Dream by 4L. Was a well beaten 5th behind Stand Up And Fight at Down Royal before finishing 2nd to Ucello Conti at Navan last month. He is only 7 so might have more to come in future year, but the 2 Hunter Chase runs suggest he will be lacking here and he looks under priced at the moment.
Cousin Pete - Looked like he would be a potential Foxhunter contender when wining on Hunter Chase night here in 2016 and after not being right in 2017 he did go on to prove that to be correct last year when he ran a stormer to finish 3rd. He has had 3 runs this season including finishing a well beaten 7th to Hazel Hill at Warwick. That day though he clearly wasn't at his best as he didn't jump well and didn't travel all that great either. He stayed on a bit at the end and I think he just found everything happening too quickly for him. He has bounced back to win at Garthorpe last month. He ran so well last year that you have to respect his chances although at the same time it is hard to see him going two places better. I would have him shorter in the betting though as he has better chances than some in this. As an aside I think the 4m race here on Hunter Chase night will be right up his street.
Dont Do Mondays - Hugely flattered to finish so close to Monsieur Gibraltar at Fontwell in May and he pulled up at Godstone earlier in the month on his seasonal retyrn. Going to finish nearer last than first.
Double Whammy - Ran two good races in Hunter Chases at Perth and Kelso last May behind Creevytennant and Kilbree Kid and could well find a Hunter Chase to win if still in that form at 13, but it certainly wont be this one.
Haymount - Was a good horse for Willie Mullins and the highlight was a 3rd in the National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Festival just behind Tiger Roll. After disappointing in the Kerry National last year he moved to Tom Ellis' yard and the target has always been this race. He ended up having to qualify on the last weekend he could because after winning at Sherriff Hutton he then missed races thanks to the weather and the flu. He won a Ladies Open at Chaddesley Corbett, but the problem for me is the form. William Money was only a neck away in 2nd with Patricktom Boru close behind in 3rd. William Money ran the Saturday after and he was a fairly well beaten 2nd in a Novice Riders race. He holds the form back for me because Haymount really ought to have beaten the field easier than that. What he does have on his side though as a yard having a good season, he has one of the best jockey's in the race and obviously his back form is pretty strong in the context of this. I'm wary of him, but I would have like to have seen a bit more last time really.
Hazel Hill - A horse who has obviously had his issues over the years as he has only seen a racecourse 19 times despite being 11 now. 12 of those runs have come in British points and he has won 11 of them only losing in a 3 runner race to Garde Ville at Sandon on his final start last season. He has won 3 Hunter Chases 2 very easily last season at odds of 2/11 and then at Warwick back in January. Before that Warwick run I saw him run at Chaddesley Corbett and although he won by 12L I wasn't overly impressed. I thought his jumping left a bit to be desired and he was workmanlike. At Warwick though he was very impressive beating on paper what was a strong field with ease and he earned a RPR of 151 for that win. He did jump much better that day to be fair to him, but you can pick all sorts of holes in the form. Mr Mix was 2nd and had already been beaten in a couple of points before making hard work of beating a poor field at Godstone. Brandon Hill was 3rd and he had led and tried to go with the winner turning for home, but he didn't stay. Upswing in 4th has run terribly since. Shantou Flyer was 5th and was clearly nowhere near his best. There was a 100/1 shot in 6th and Cousin Pete was 7th and he barely went a yard. He is clearly a good horse, but on reflection that win wasn't quite as strong as it looked at first. I'm still a little worried about his jumping as he wasn't great at Towcester a year ago. I certainly respect his chances, and if he did win I wouldn't be surprised, but for me his price his tight enough and I am happy to pass him over.
Just Cause - Shown useful enough form in the last couple of seasons pointing and beat Mr Mix at Cottenham back in December. That isn't good enough to finish anywhere near the front in this though and his Hunter Chase form certainly isn't. He finished 2nd to Asockastar at Leicester last time and he was clear 2nd best that day.
One Conemara - Surprised to see him entered given connections have said he doesn't handle Cheltenham as proven by his runs in the 4m race here on Hunter Chase night. That race should have been perfect for him and he has no chance in this.
Pacha Du Polder - Bidding to win the race for the 3rd time and the horse that only non Hunter Chase experts could possibly have backed/tipped up in the last couple of years. Most people didn't think he would stay and he proved that wrong 2 years ago and then last year it was the jockey who wasn't going to be good enough, but he was able to carry Harriett to success. This is set to be his last race and surely he can't win it again. His prep run last year at Doncaster wasn't great, but did at least have a bit of promise in it. Nicholls said last year that he had been held up and it was a rush to get him ready for Doncaster and Cheltenham, but this year he said he had no setbacks and so his poor run at Haydock is hard to explain. He has 55L to make up with Road To Rome and that is a huge amount. I would be silly to say he can't win because as we know horses who run well at the Festival can do so on repeat visits, but I just can't see how he can do it on the back of that woeful Haydock run.
Road To Rome - Whatever he does here this horse has to be the be the training performance of the season. His last run for Oliver Sherwood was in May last year and he was 2nd at Bangor over 2m4f off a mark of 109. God knows what Oliver was doing with him because Joe O'Shea has turned him into a completely different horse. He was still a maiden so he started off on the opening day of the pointing season in a maiden at Buckfastleigh where he was the biggest certainty going in hindsight. He then won his Restricted and Intermediate before Christmas. Next up it was the opening Hunter Chase of the season at Taunton and he bolted up by 25L. He then went and won the next Hunter Chase of the season beating Beeves by 5L. Beeves was hard work that day, but I thought he ran his race because he did keep finding for pressure and the rest were miles away. He had a little break but then went back to Ludlow where he beat a couple of decent horses and he was giving 16lbs to the 2nd. 10 days later it was the Walrus at Haydock and he put in his most devastating performance yet. The only horse that could live withim was Ballotin and he could only finish 4th in the end after he tired having tried to keep up. Pacha Du Polder was 54L behind him in 5th. Sam Waley-Cohen keeps the ride despite the fact his Dad co-owns Wonderful Charm which suggests he was very impressed. There are some minor concerns. First of all his jumping hasn't always been foot perfect, but it does seem to have got better as the season has gone on. There are other front runners in this field so I am not sure he will be able to get an easy lead, but interestingly connections were shrewd enough to allow Beeves to make the running at Ludlow and he only took it up so early as his superior jumping took him there. Therefore I think he is flexible when it comes to having to make the running. The main concern I do have though is the trip especially if the ground is on the soft side. Having said that he hasn't stopped galloping so far at the end of 3m and given the season he and the trainer have had there is every chance he could go very close.
Samanntom - Was 2nd to Ucello Conti at Thurles, but has been beaten in both point starts since and was beaten in two prior to that run as well, after winning on his seasonal return. Hard to see how he can reverse form with Ucello Conti let alone some of the others here.
Shantou Flyer - I'm sure Maxwell paid a few quid for him in the view of winning this race given his strong Cheltenham record which includes being beaten a neck by Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima at last year's Festival. As mentioned above he was well beaten by Hazel Hill on his seasonal debut. He then won at Kelso after looking beat at one stage although his cause was certainly helped by the fact Mr Mercurial dogged it after being in front for too long. He then had an easy task at Fontwell as his main rival Southfield Vic ran a long way below his best. I respect his Cheltenham form, but he is under priced on what he has done this year. Also there is a rumour that Maxwell tried to buy Road To Rome so that hints at the fact he doesn't think Shantou Flyer is the horse to give him his first Foxhunter win.
Some Are Lucky - Was a useful horse for Tom George although his only chase win was in a 3 runner race at Leicester last January. Sold for £18k in the summer and has thrived in points over in Ireland winning 4 of his 5 starts including beating Samanntom last time out. Might well have improved but will have to have improved a fair bit on his former rules form to go close in this.
Southfield Theatre - Has won a couple of points at Larkhill and Cocklebarrow this season, but the same horse has finished 2nd both times and they weren't strong heats. He was put in his place by Monsieur Gibraltar in between those two wins and as much as he will give his young jockey some fun out in front for a while he shouldn't be good enough.
Stand Up And Fight - Has been favourite for this race since he won at Down Royal on Boxing Day. He had been a pretty good novice hurdler which included a 2nd in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse a couple of years ago. They then sent him chasing last season and that didn't go to plan. This season they have decided to turn him into a Hunter Chaser and he made a winning start in a point in November. He won the Down Royal race by a comfortable 5L beating Sizing Coal, but that one had been 45L behind Caid Du Berlais at Punchestown and was pulled up at Gowran Park over the weekend. Kruzhlinin was 3rd and he has been winning plenty of points this season and they were miles clear of the rest including Coastal Tiep. The problem is he was beaten last time out at Kilfeacle when going down 4L to Fenno's Storm. That one lost the next time, but did win that Gowran Park race. I have seen it suggested that he wasn't well after that although I have seen nothing official on that front. Even if he was his form isn't overly strong for me and there has to be a stamina concern as well. The furthest he has gone under rules so far is 2m6f and he has another half a mile to go here at a testing track on likely soft ground. He might well prove to be the new On The Fringe, but for me on what he has done so far he doesn't deserve to be favourite and I am happy to take on.
Sybarite - Connections had said he was retired after he was last of 4 behind Hazel Hill last year, but clearly something most have made them change their minds as he turned up in the Walrus and finished 2nd to Road To Rome at Haydock. Granted he was 34L behind and he did what he always does in that he was last for most of the way and then stayed on for 2nd. He nearly won the 4m race on Hunter Chase night in 2017 and I guess if the fire still burns that would be the obvious target again, but he will be massively outclassed here.
Timewaitsfornoone - Won a maiden Hunter Chase a year ago at Downpatrick and then on his next start to he finished 2nd at Punchestown behind Caid Du Berlais. A fine effort but he was 25L behind him and he hasn't run since. Only 7 so sure to be improvement to come, but it is hard to see him winning this on his first start in nearly a year with plenty of ground to make up on Caid Du Berlais.
Top Wood - Ran a hell of a race to finish a close 2nd to Pacha Du Polder last year especially given he had made most of the running in the testing ground. He then ran way below that when pulling up at Punchestown and he hasn't been seen since. Would be some training feat to get him fit enough to make all the running again especially given some potential other front runners and at 12 I struggle to see him repeating last year's efforts let alone go one better. 
Ucello Conti - His seasons always used to based around the Grand National and he has run in that the last 3 seasons, but he only competed once when 6th in 2016. He's never been to Cheltenham before, but comes here on the back of 3 wins which includes Hunter Chase wins at Thurles and Navan. He probably would have won at Thurles, but Gwencily Berbas was still in front when when unseating at the last. At Navan he won a bit easier, but I think you can pick holes in the form. Sydney Paget clearly didn't run his race and Salsify was 11L back in 3rd. It feels like a long time since Salsify was at his peak and he duly pulled up over the weekend. I respect his chances, but I just think the Irish don't have a strong hand this year and I think others come here in better form
Summary - Having already put up Caid Du Berlais up I am happy to have him as the main bet in the race and I still think the price is value if you haven't already backed him. It was a cracking run in the race last year when not everything went his way and the Punchestown win was superb. The Irish challenge is headed by Stand Up And Fight and Ucello Conti, but for me they head a pretty weak bunch. I'm not sure Stand Up And Fight will stay and Ucello Conti hasn't really impressed me in his two Hunter Chase wins so far. You can pick holes in Hazel Hill's Warwick win, but he is clearly a good horse and if his jumping stands up to this test then he can go well. Shantou Flyer looks under-priced to me and you are hoping that Cheltenham brings him back to form if you back him. No doubt Pacha Du Polder will have his backers, but I would be amazed if he landed the hat-trick. Haymount has the back class, but needs to step up on what he has done this season. Last year's 2nd Top Wood will do very well to repeat that effort first time out and the 3rd Cousin Pete makes more appeal at a big price as Cheltenham clearly brings out the best in him. The only other one worth mentioning is Road To Rome and given what he has done so far this season you certainly can't rule him out from running a big race in this.
Final Thoughts - Caid Du Berlais is not surprisingly very strong in the market on Thursday night and I actually wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't get close to being favourite although that will depend on if the Irish want to get stuck into their two at the head of the market. I'm happy to still be against Ucello Conti and Stand Up And Flight. Looking at the final field there is a hell of a lot of dead wood in it that has no obvious chance and because of that I am going to add two horses to the bets near the head of the market. Road To Rome is drifting at the moment and I think at 8/1 he is worth a play. He doesn't have to lead if others want to go too quick and if he stays then he will surely be involved in the finish. The other one I am going to back is Hazel Hill. I must admit if you read my initial preview that probably surprises a little, but I have given it some thought and as much as you can pick holes in the form it is the time that catches the eye. He recorded a high topspeed rating and despite being 11 he is still unexposed. He might just be able to land this and at 6/1 I am happy to have him covered. I have looked through the big prices and nothing really stands out although I am going to have a small play on Cousin Pete. He was a really good 3rd in this last year and I can see him finishing pass beaten horses off the likely fast pace. He has it in him to hit the frame again.
Hazel Hill 1pt @ 6/1 with Bet365 and most others
Road To Rome 1pt @ 8/1 with Betfair, Paddy Power and BetVictor
Cousin Pete 0.25pts e/w @ 50/1 with William Hill 1st 3 only or 40/1 with Betfair and Paddy Power 1st 4
Already advised - Caid Du Berlais 1pt e/w @ 20/1 
Edited by Darran
Adding the full preview
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On 3/12/2019 at 1:24 PM, yossa6133 said:

Nice preview Darran. I wanted Road to Rome but looks like the ground has gone the wrong way. Hazel Hill for me, impressive last time. What would be the one if it keeps raining all week?

Not sure we are going to see too much more rain, going to wait and see what the track rides like tomorrow as that wind must be drying it out.

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Going to put the Fakenham Hunter Chase preview in here as well which is due off at 5.10. The favourite is a horse who ran in the Foxhunter last year in Sir Jack Yeats. He ran well to finish 12th as he was up there for a fair way before not surprisingly failing to stay. He made his seasonal debut at Kelso and travelled really well into the race won by Shantou Flyer, but I suspect fitness told and he faded to finish 13L behind the winner in 3rd. There is nothing of that one's class here and obviously should Shantou Flyer run a big race at Cheltenham an hour before then it will be a big boost to his chances. He's only 8 and he looks the one they all have to beat.

Silvergrove was 3rd in the Kim Muir in 2015 although he only had 3 more starts under rules with the last one coming in January 2017 when 6th at Kempton. He hasn't actually been seen at all since May that year because he moved to James Owen in March 2017 and won all 4 of his point starts under his owner. The thing is none of those races were that strong. I was at Northaw for the last of his wins and the racing there is of pretty low quality. Like I say he hasn't been seen since and he is really going to have his work cut out to beat a horse like Sir Jack Yates on his first start for 22 months especially given his form in points is nowhere near what Sir Jack Yeats did in Hunter Chases last season or this.

James King rides Sir Jack Yeats and he beat Zeroeshadesofgrey on Risk A Fine here last month. Since then he won a match at Horseheath which told us little, but his inexperienced jockey was outridden by James that day and that is a concern again here. To be honest I don't think he will be good enough anyway and he didn't jump well last month either.

Dineur is the only other one worth mentioning for me. He was 7th in the Walrus at Haydock and I am not surprised he did so badly in a test like that given it was his first start since he won the Aintree Foxhunters in 2017. If he can bounce back to anywhere near the Aintree form then in my view he is the only one who could possibly beat Sir Jack Yeats. I would imagine connections are hoping he can go to Aintree next month and he will have to show something here if that is a realistic target. Given he is 13/2 I will have a small saver on him, but Sir Jack Yeats is a pretty confident selection and 5/2 is a nice price.

Sir Jack Yeats 3pts @ 5/2 with Betfair

Dineur 0.5pts @ 13/2 with Bet365, BetVictor, Betfair and Paddy Power

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  • Darran changed the title to Cheltenham Foxhunter and 5.10 Fakenham

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