Cheltenham Handicaps (3)

Good morning all,

The third instalment of my mid-range fancies for next week's big handicaps is on the main piece this morning.

I have seen one weather forecast that gives hurricane-strength winds next Tuesday – we can only hope that's very wrong, or we can say goodbye to racing that day!

Pertemps Network

First Assignment (Ian Williams)

Has been a long-term fancy for this for a while and not just because a friend of mine (hi Pete) has a share in him, but he’s very well handicapped on his form behind Paisley Park and Keeper Hill this season. The Haydock form looks very strong, with not only the winner going on to further Grade 1 glory, and now heads the market for the Stayers, but second home there Shades Of Midnight gave them a running lesson in Grade 2 back at Haydock last time out. Even the Warwick form looks fine, with second home Oh Land Abloom making it look solid with a win since. A mark of 147 looks fine, he’s already a Cheltenham winner this term and if he’s on song, looks sure to go close.

Sykes (Nicky Martin)

It rather goes against the grain to stick a 10yo up that’s probably at the top end of his mark, but the more you look at the Pertemps this year, there’s really not that many that look “plotted up” and something that’s got solid form might be able to go well, even if they’ve not much in hand. To that extent, Sykes makes some appeal. The worry is that he blew out in this last year but he wasn’t right (went on to run poorly at Aintree) and he looks a stronger horse this year. Twice he’s gone well at Cheltenham and the more rain that falls the better his chance. Probably one to back on the day 6/7 places if the rain has come.

Samburu Shujaa (Philip Hobbs)

First caught my attention when fifth to Birchdale at Warwick in December, a race that couldn’t be working out much better (winner went on to score at Cheltenham, third, sixth and seventh all winners since and fourth home Kingsplace kept the Albert Bartlett fancy Dickie Diver honest at Chepstow last time) and since then all he’s really done is improve. A winner of his last two starts, thanks to some razor-sharp hurdling, he’s really got his act together. Some rain would be welcome, and his chance is there to see.

Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate

Spiritofthegames (Dan Skelton)

Think this is Skelton’s best chance of a winner on the week. Kept fresh for this, still very unexposed over fences and I was impressed with the way he jumped around Chepstow first time out this season, never an easy track to jump as a novice, especially first time. It just didn’t happen for him at Newbury but he was right back to form when third to Kildisart at Cheltenham last time, giving him weight. Given Ben Pauling thinks the winner has a decent chance in the JLT, it makes Spiritofthegames very interesting off a mark of 147 here. Fifth in the County Hurdle last year, doing all his best work late on, it’s not hard to see him running a big race.

Kalondra (Neil Mulholland)

In here for two reasons, really – firstly, the yard, after a fairly poor winter by their own standards, have finally started to find some real form (eight winners in the past fortnight) and secondly, the nagging suspicion that there’s a big race in him somewhere. I’d be lying if I said he’s one of my favourite horses, I think there’s a small degree of hype about him (in that he’s always tipped up for these big events), but only a fool would deny he looks well treated on 147, given some of his novice form of last season. Still travelling well and yet to be asked for any effort when falling in the Bet Victor this year, you can forget his run at Newbury after as the yard were in the middle of a lull. He’ll need luck as a hold-up horse, and a clear round of jumping (doesn't always) but if the breaks come, he could go well.

On to today. Nice to get a winner on the board for the week yesterday and I'm hoping to follow that up today. The more adventurous among you could have an e/w look at I'll Be Your Clown in the first at Wincanton, who ran okay last week under fairly tender handling last week but the selection runs in the second division of that race with Clondaw Anchor at 2.10. I saw him race at Leicester where he was one of the better horses in the paddock but he cut out very quickly to finish fourth. No surprise to see him turn up here having had a wind operation (and a tongue tie) and if that works, I can see him going very close.

Good luck with all your bets today,


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