A nine-race bonanza takes place at Cheltenham on Saturday and Robbie Wilders from the Racing Post serves up five juicy bets.
1pt each-way extra
If there is a better-handicapped runner than Fire Dancer in Cheltenham’s novice handicap chase (12.10) I’d be surprised.
Based on Fire Dancer’s French form, he looked potentially thrown in off a mark of 114 on his handicap debut and first start for Venetia Williams following a huge 815-day break last time, but he didn’t disappoint and got the job done by a head.
Fire Dancer jumped slightly left at Ludlow that day and I’m expecting a superior effort going left-handed at a track which suits his prominent racing style.
The handicapper has handed him a 6lb rise, but he still gets in off bottomweight here and the prospect of slower ground opens the door for further improvement.
Another who jumped out to the left in victory on their previous start was Now Where Or When, who did remarkably well to hold on at Down Royal over a trip plenty short of his best on his return in November.
Now Where Or When goes for the 2m4½f handicap chase (1.50) and makes plenty of each-way appeal with bet365 paying five places.
The Irish raider chased home Cotswold Chase-bound pair Dusart and Sounds Russian when a staying-on third over 3m at Ayr last April, so did remarkably well to handle a drop back to 2m at Down Royal.
This type of race will suit much better and he retains handicapping potential off a mark of 130 under JJ Slevin, who is rapidly establishing himself as one of the top riders in Ireland.
The Grade 2 Cotswold Chase (2.25) has attracted just six runners, and I fancy rank outsider Dusart to go well, this looks the perfect race to take reduced win terms for three places at a quarter of the win odds.
Dusart will have to go some to beat Protektorat, who produced one of the season’s best performances in the Betfair Chase last time, but he gets 6lb from the favourite (who may prefer slower conditions) and I’m sure we are yet to see the best of him.
This eight-year-old gave the reopposing Sounds Russian 2lb and a fairly comprehensive beating at Ayr two starts back yet that rival is shorter in the betting here.
You can forgive Dusart’s sixth on his seasonal return in a handicap hurdle here in December as staying chases are his niche and he was lugging top weight on his first start following wind surgery.
Lightly raced after just seven starts under rules, Dusart can take this rise in class with aplomb.
The Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle (3.00) has been Paisley Park’s race for the previous three runnings, but he faces a new rival in Dashel Drasher and I fancy Jeremy Scott’s stable star to upset the short-priced favourite.
Dashel Drasher is perhaps one of the only horses in training who can equal Paisley Park for toughness, and this front-runner will be difficult to reel in getting 6lb from the jolly.
I’ve long thought 3m could be the key to Dashel Drasher climbing to the next level and he proved the trip holds no fears when a game runner-up to Gold Cup fancy Noble Yeats in the Many Clouds Chase over 3m1f two starts back.
A gallant second to Marie’s Rock back over 2m4f in the Relkeel last time, this versatile and underrated performer can throw his own hat into the ring for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival in March.
The Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (3.35) also takes place and Rock My Way is the way I’m looking.
There was little fluke about Rock My Way’s close second on his first run for the Syd Hosie stable over this course and distance on New Year’s Day to Dublin Racing Festival-bound Weveallbeencaught, who carries a lofty reputation.
Rock My Way had just turned five and was the youngest horse in the field racing off level weights against more battle-hardened rivals, so the fact he traded at even-money in running to land a 66/1 shock and in turn pull 23 lengths of the third was deeply encouraging.
Those above him in the market lack form at the course and that further solidifies my confidence that, at the very least, Rock My Way will finish in the money.