Cheltenham 12.50 – The Druid’s Nephew
Clearly I’m taking a massive chance here with a horse returning from a monster absence. But the fact remains that The Druid’s Nephew was only beaten a couple of lengths in a hot race at Sandown on his most recent start and he is able to run here off a 6 pound lower mark (9lbs lower than when scooting up at the Festival a few years ago.) On old evidence, course, trip and ground should suit perfectly, while Noel Fehily is hardly a negative. Neil Mulholland’s team have been a bit in-and-out, but I’m encouraged by the win of Carole’s Destrier at Newbury the other day.The lightly raced Robinsfirth and the talented but slightly iffy Rolling Dylan are feared most.
Cheltenham 1.25 – On The Blind Side
Nicky Henderson has often said he doesn’t like debuting chasers at Cheltenham, but seems happy enough to do so with this horse, which is an indication that his schooling has gone pretty well. He was forced to miss the Festival last year which, given the ground, might have been a blessing in disguise. Prior to that, he had looked right out of the top drawer, while his run behind Black Op at Aintree had the look of a horse who had gone over the top. Black Op himself may get closer to Defi du Seuil than at Exeter last time, particularly if he settles better.
Cheltenham 2.00 – Divine Spear
Like many, I kept a pretty close eye on Divine Spear last season, believing that he had been campaigned away from the limelight with a view to a decent mark for the novice handicap at the Festival. As things went, he never made it there, but the fact remains that he looks well treated. His rider has gone on record several times as saying that good ground is a requirement, while the presence of several prominent racers here should enable him to settle well. Top weight Aso is a big danger – he is borderline championship class and should give it a good go from the front.
Cheltenham 2.35 – Nautical Nitwit/The Eaglehaslanded
There is hardly a stable in the land (Paul Nicholls aside, perhaps) that is going better than Phil Kirby, and he can strike again here with the top weight Nautical Nitwit, a horse who has improved beyond all recognition since the stable began to really fire again. His defeat of Old Guard at Wetherby wasn’t blemish free, but was very convincing, and the handicapper might just have underestimated that. Aux Ptits Soins is sure to be popular, having travelled strongly in Vive Le Roi’s race at Newbury (several reoppose), and I’ll be shaving off some of my stake to allow a small bet on The Eaglehaslanded, who keeps moving stylishly into races like a pretty good horse and is getting a bit of a chance from the handicapper.
Cheltenham 3.10 – Midnight Shadow
This is a really trappy edition of the Relkeel and I’ve changed my mind four times already. It is slightly perverse to tip Midnight Shadow as he is badly in at the weights here, but he is completely unexposed at this sort of distance and it’s my view there’s a load more improvement in him. He is very tough, genuine, bred for stamina and makes more appeal at the odds than most. Clearly Wholestone loves it here, but he has to bounce back from a poor run, and Old Guard may be a bigger threat reunited with his old friend Harry Cobden.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.