The second of two superb days at Cheltenham takes place on Saturday and Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway returns with his best bets on the card.
The December Gold Cup Handicap Chase (1.50) is the feature at Cheltenham and THUNDER ROCK has been at the head of this market for a long time. I’m not usually one to fall for a favourite, but he looks like a Graded performer in a handicap and can stamp his class here.
One look at his form and it's not hard to see why he is so popular with punters. He finished behind The Real Whacker, Gerri Colombe and Datsalrightgino last season and the first two are Grade 1 winners, while Datsalrightgino won the Coral Gold Cup a couple of weeks ago.
Thunder Rock proved he can make his mark this season with a winning reappearance in the Colin Parker at Carlisle last month. He swept through with a good turn of speed to win going away and the second was Mahler Mission, who went on to be second in the Coral Gold Cup.
There can be little doubt that Thunder Rock’s form stacks up well in the context of this handicap and he hasn’t been raised for his Carlisle win. A mark of 146 looks workable.
The 3m2f handicap chase (2.25) comes up next and it’s an interesting race because Protektorat lines up off a mark of 165, giving upwards of 15lb to the rest of the field.
He was disappointing in the Betfair Chase, though, and keeps the weights down for plenty of classy rivals. The one who catches my eye is Kelso specialist ELVIS MAIL, who is off 10st 9lb.
Elvis Mail has done all of his winning at Kelso and Ayr, so his ability to handle this track needs to be taken on trust, but he has a huge chance if he can produce his best at this venue.
He has looked better than ever on his last two starts and slammed subsequent winner Half Shot by seven and a half lengths at Kelso in March. He proved that was no fluke when beating a smart field back there last time, keeping on well to see off Highland Hunter.
The third, Empire Steel, is also a good handicapper and Elvis Mail was well on top at the finish. A 3lb rise in the weights doesn’t look too harsh and he may have been underestimated.
The 3m Grade 2 hurdle (3.00) is a cracking race, featuring several promising young stayers, but there might not be any better than SHANAGH BOB, who appears to be held in high regard.
That wouldn’t always be a reason for a bet, but don’t forget that Shanagh Bob is saddled by Nicky Henderson and the trainer has a superb team of novice hurdlers to measure him against, including the likes of Willmount, Jeriko Du Reponet, Jingko Blue and Impose Toi.
Shanagh Bob was backed from an opening 1/3 to an SP of 2/9 before his debut for the Henderson team at Plumpton last month and didn’t disappoint supporters. He bolted up.
It was a procession from a long way out as Shanagh Bob made all in that 2m41/2f novice hurdle and he was strong at the finish to win in a good time.
The step up to 3m should suit this £200,000 purchase and there were 21 lengths back to the third, so the form looks good.
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.