There is Grade 1 action at Sandown on Saturday and Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway returns with his best bets for the feature race and the supporting card at the Esher venue.
Monmiral @ 9/2
Bells Of Peterboro @ 16/1
Broken Halo @ 8/1
Not many Grade 1 chases are won by maidens over fences, but MONMIRAL has run into two top-class horses and is fancied to land the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (2.20) for Paul Nicholls.
Monmiral was beaten seven lengths by Arkle favourite Jonbon on his debut over fences at Warwick in November and improved on that in defeat in the Dipper at Cheltenham last time.
He went off a solid 13/8 favourite that day but couldn’t get to grips with The Real Whacker. That was disappointing at first glance, but the winner has been given a Gold Cup entry and the time of the race is quick. He also finished ahead of the reopposing Thunder Rock there.
Monmiral is still only a six-year-old and thought to be improving physically according to Nicholls, so he can be expected to take another step forward. That might be good enough.
Cheltenham Festival: A look at Paul Nicholls' Festival runners
Cheltenham Festival: A look at Willie Mullins' Festival runners
Cheltenham Festival: A look at Nicky Henderson's Festival runners
The Heroes Handicap Hurdle (2.55) is always an ultra-competitive race and this year’s running is no exception. However, BELLS OF PETERBORO has been threatening to take advantage of his current BHA rating on his recent starts and this might be the day when he finally does.
Bells Of Peterboro bumped into the progressive Tea For Free when second over fences at Uttoxeter in November and has since run another two solid races in defeat at Chepstow.
He was third over fences at that track last month and looked even better when returned to hurdles over Christmas, travelling powerfully through a hot handicap only to lose out behind Flight Deck over the final few hurdles. He had the rest soundly beaten and is clearly in form.
Bells Of Peterboro has plenty of form on galloping tracks like this and one of his highest Racing Post Ratings came right-handed at Taunton. That suggests he should be as equally effective at Sandown as he is at Chepstow and a reproduction of his last run might do it.
The Masters Handicap Chase (3.30) is another red-hot contest and it might be worth following Paul Nicholls again. He saddles BROKEN HALO, who has plenty more to offer.
The lightly raced eight-year-old had some useful form as a novice last season when winning at Exeter and Fontwell and he is only 5lb higher than when recording his last handicap win.
Broken Halo has been disappointing in two runs this season, but the first came over the Grand National fences at Aintree and the last was in a hot contest at Chepstow. He was sixth behind Fugitif, who was a superb second at Cheltenham last week, and this might be easier.
A 3lb ease in the weights should help Broken Halo and he should have more to offer for Nicholls, who excels with this type of staying chaser and can get the best out of him.