ITV Racing Tips: Champ to deliver knockout blow in Cleeve Hurdle
Cheltenham will be in use for the final time before the March Festival this weekend when the track hosts its Trials meeting.
It can provide participants with some useful practice before the big four days but, as far as highlighting future Festival winners, it has proved hit and miss.
One of the hits has been the Cleeve Hurdle, in which Champ will attempt to underscore his credentials as a live candidate for the Stayers’ Hurdle after his recent switch from chasing. He meets two former Stayers’ winners, Lisnagar Oscar and Paisley Park.
The main chase is the Cotswold Chase in which Chantry House has the chance to restate his Gold Cup claims after pulling up in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase. Cheltenham is joined on the TV bill by racing from Doncaster where the Sky Bet Chase is the headline event.
There will be four races from Cheltenham and three from Doncaster. The coverage begins on ITV from 13:30 and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing Tips.
Chantry House, a winner at both Cheltenham and Aintree festivals last season, will attempt to put his Gold Cup challenge back on the right path.
After winning a match race first time out, he was pulled up in the King George, in which he never looked comfortable. Cheekpieces are applied this time and he is set to go off at prohibitive odds.
Simply The Betts could be a value alternative, if he can handle this longer trip. All his form is at around two and a half miles but he finished well when runner-up here on New Year’s Day and this is an option worth exploring.
Paisley Park no longer looks the force he once was and there have been only fleeting glimpses of Lisnagar Oscar’s best in recent times. That is not to dismiss them completely as both clearly save their best for Cheltenham.
But all eyes will be on the new pretender Champ who has been transformed from failing chaser into live Stayers’ Hurdle contender. Pulled up in last year’s Gold Cup, he returned to action at Ascot to capture the Long Walk Hurdle in fine style, defeating all the leading home contenders in one go. There is no reason to think he won’t do that again.
This 17-runner handicap is always highly competitive. Cap Du Nord and Canelo, third and fourth twelve months ago, return while this season’s Gold Cup winner Midnight Shadow is also among the field.
Claims can be made for many, but the vote goes to Fusil Raffles, representing the very much in-form Nicky Henderson stable.
He was pipped for third by Midnight Shadow at Cheltenham in December, but Fusil Raffles is now 2lb better off and should be suited by another tilt at three miles, over which he was successful at Wetherby in October.
ITV Racing Schedule, Saturday, 29th January
13:55 Cheltenham – 2m4f Handicap Chase
14:10 Doncaster – Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle
14:30 Cheltenham – Cotswold Chase
14:45 Doncaster – River Don Novices’ Hurdle
15:05 Cheltenham – Cleeve Hurdle
15:20 Doncaster – 3m Handicap Chase
15:40 Cheltenham – Classic Novices’ Hurdle
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.