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Cheltenham preview night reports: London Racing Club

| 04.03.2015

The London Racing Club Cheltenham Festival preview evening never fails to provide food for thought ahead of the ‘greatest show on turf’ and the 2015 edition once again delivered.

Chaired by senior Racing Post writer Lee Mottershead, the panel was completed by At The Races and Sporting Life contributor Lydia Hislop, trends guru Paul Banks and BHA Head Handicapper Phil Smith.

What follows is a brief précis of the most intriguing points to come out of the evening’s discussions:

Quevega parallels alone don’t make Annie Power a good thing

The panel warned punters against thinking Annie Power would overcome a long injury absence to win the Mares Hurdle just because Willie Mullins had managed it with a certain six-time winner in the past.

Polly Peachum, currently available at 8/1, was the subject of widespread positivity and it was noted that Nicky Henderson’s charge looks a good each-way bet to take advantage should the favourite put up a below par showing.

Only 9lbs behind the Mullins mare on official ratings, she’s 6lbs ahead of the next-highest-rated entrant Carole’s Spirit.

Valseur Lido the common idea of the JLT winner

Hislop wasn’t afraid of voicing strong opinions all night and admitted to grave concerns over the jumping of both 2/1 favourite Vautor and Apache Stronghold (5/1).

She was far more convinced by Drinmore winner Valseur Lido (7/1) while Banks was also keen on the Gigginstown representative.

The trends expert suggested the fact that Ptit Zig (7/2) fell last time out was a huge negative, with his most recent stats on fallers at the festival next time out showing just 3% of the sample group went on to score.

Kings Palace given no RSA chance in comparison to Don Poli

Nowhere was Hislop more damning than in her assessment of the David Pipe horse’s 7/2-rated chances in the junior Gold Cup.

His ability to dictate against bigger, better fields was queried, while his last pre-festival prep race was treated with derision.

Handicapper Smith was among those who suggested that Coneygree (5/1) would likely head to the Gold Cup instead.

Banks suggested all the trends in a strong trends race are against Don Poli (3/1), yet still described him as far too good for his rivals.

Johns Spirit and Champagne Fever could swap festival targets

Banks had been at Jonjo O’Neill’s yard in recent days and revealed they had speed tested the Paddy Power Gold Cup winner against Balder Success over 2m and liked what they saw.

As a result the Champion Chase could now be a serious possibility for O’Neill’s 33/1 shot with both the 2m blue riband and the Ryanair cutting up.

It was mooted that Champagne Fever (8/1) might consider going the other way having been duelling with 3/1 favourite Don Cossack when coming down over 2m4f at Thurles in January.

Djakadam most likely to progress past an average Gold Cup field

Smith, who is responsible for the classification of staying chasers, suggested this year’s renewal is competitive but not a vintage one.

As a result second-season chasers open to progression were the ones to focus on and 10/1-shot Djakadam was his idea of the most likely in that regard.

Hislop was also very much in the six-year-old’s camp reporting him to have been short of fitness not only for the Hennessey, but for his more recent weight-carrying Thyestes Chase.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Thomas Reynolds