Hunters Chase Tips - 3:40pm Cheltenham

Just the 24 runners entered at this stage in the race that used to be known as the Foxhunter and that is a maximum field so we could be looking at a smaller than usual field. I think that could be down to the fact we won't have some of the horses who run because either their jockey wants to ride in the race or their owners just want a day out. It's also been harder to qualify with no pointing and I do think sometimes you get horses who qualify and connections think they may as well give it a go. There is class in the race though. The last two winners are set to line up and last year's 2nd currently heads the market although I don't think he is right market leader. Here is my thoughts on all 24 runners.

Back Bar - Beat Latenightpass in a Ladies Open at Horseheath last February and made a winning seasonal return at Wadebridge in December. He was a big disappointment at Warwick behind Latenightpass though and it is hard to see how he can reverse that form let alone get close to winning.

Billaway - Found It Came To Pass too good last year and has 10L to make up on the winner this time around. He has had 3 runs this season and was beaten on his return at Fairyhouse by Stand Up And Fight. He followed that up though with two wins at Down Royal and Naas in the two main prep races for Cheltenham. Now he has started to hit a flat spot in his races and has looked in trouble but has so far always come back on the bridle to win pretty comfortably in the end. If that happens again then I reckon he will trade bigger in running than he currently is. The one concern with him is his jumping as a mistake at the last probably cost him victory at Fairyhouse and he didn't jump well last time. Connections blamed the heavy ground for that, but he will need to do better in that department. He is clearly a leading contender, but it could be worth backing him in running as I think he will trade bigger in running.

Bob And Co - This time last year I wouldn't have fancied him at all for this race as I didn't think he would stay, but in this game you should always be open to change your mind and I certainly have regards to him. Quite simply I think he wins and I think he should be favourite. I'm sure everyone remembers how unrideable he was on his British debut at Warwick when ridden by his owner and that still seems to play on peoples minds when talking about him, but he has settled really well in his 3 starts after that. If there had been a crowd then I guess that would have been a concern as it could have buzzed him up so the fact there isn't means I have no worries on that front. He has recorded RPR ratings of 150, 150 and 155 for his 3 wins and he has a pointing/hunter chase rating of 150 which is higher than It Came To Pass who is rated 146 and who recorded a RPR of 155 when he won this last year. His win at Haydock was the best performance we have seen in a hunter chase so far this season. To have a good field that spread out was some effort and the pulled up Garde Ville boosted the form when 2nd at Ludlow last week. His jumping was always foot perfect, but I wonder if that was just a bit of rustiness as he also put in some superb leaps along the way. He never looked like falling though and he clearly has some engine. His trainer believes the wind op has improved him which is scary for his opponents and it is one reason why I think he will see out the trip. Harry Cobden has chosen Chameron over him, but I will talk more about that when discussing him. It doesn't worry me though as there are reasons behind it in my view. Finally as much as David Maxwell should be riding him and he is a much improved jockey in recent years, it is clearly a plus for his chances that he will be ridden by a pro jockey. For me he is the best horse in the race and hopefully he will be able to prove it.

Caid Du Berlais - I have backed him in the last two renewals of this and he has been a big disappointment both times. I'm a bit surprised he has been entered as I thought they would just save him for Punchestown given those two efforts. I should add that 3 years ago he did run very well to finish 5th which was one reason I have backed him the last two years. His two wins at Punchestown have both been by huge margins and he is clearly really suited by that test. He did well to win on his seasonal return at Wincanton under an aggressive Bryony Frost ride, but even so I can't put him up for a 3rd year running given the last two years.

Chameron - First of all I will deal with why I think Harry Cobden has chosen him over Bob And Co. When the horse went pointing last season Harry became one of the owners and I would imagine he still would be if amateurs were allowed to ride in the race. That for me would be the main reason behind the decision, but I wonder if he also wanted to be loyal to Sam Loxton after Rose's sad death last year. He had become frustrating under rules for Nicholls, but was very impressive when winning 2 points at Larkhill last season. He returned at Leicester last month and made harder work than I thought he would in beating a weak field, but Harry said he hated the ground and the front two were miles clear. Better ground at Cheltenham should see him build on that effort. We will also get to see the form tested at Catterick on Wednesday as the 2nd is set to run. He would have small stamina concerns as the only time he has run over this far he finished a well beaten last. I can see him going well, but I'm not sure he is good enough to actually win.

Duhallow Tornado - Was 14th in this last year beaten 76L and will want plenty of rain beforehand to get any closer as all he does is stay. The first time blinkers worked a treat at Wetherby last time as he looked a completely different horse from the week before when he was barely on the bridle when finishing 2nd at Catterick. If it did turn into a slog and the blinkers worked again then you wouldn't rule out a top 6 finish.

Hazel Hill - Was ruled out of a double bid on the day last year which was a shame because surely his chance of landing this for a 2nd time has gone now. He was stuffed by Highway Jewel at Chaddesley Corbett in December and although he won at Ludlow in good style you can pick all sorts of holes in that form. The 2nd Ravished and 4th Ennistown were pulled up behind Bob And Co at Haydock and the 3rd Miss Seagreen was stuffed at Ludlow last week. I'd imagine that Alex Edwards will choose him if the Rowley's run all 3 of their entries, but you could argue he has the worse chance of the 3 on current form.

**It Came To Pass **- Bolted up last year at 66/1 having been 300/1 during the morning and you couldn't rule out him doing the same again. His chance wasn't obvious last year, but he had beaten Billaway in a hunter chase at Cork in April 2019 so you couldn't say it was a total shock. I thought he ran a really promising race on his seasonal return at Fairyhouse behind Stand Up And Fight and Billaway. He finished 4th that afternoon, but his trainer had said beforehand he would need the run and the ground wasn't ideal so for him to run so well before tiring late on was good. I would imagine he would have had a prep run in a point again as per last year, but was forced into running in a Thurles hunter chase instead last month. To be fair to connections they were pretty honest in saying that he was there as a prep run so the fact he was never put into the race wasn't a great surprise. What was a surprise was that he unseated his rider at 3 out as it was out of shot and he doesn't usually make mistakes. Even so it was basically a similar run to when he pulled up in his prep run last season. He clearly thrives at this time of year and unless the ground is bottomless he would have a leading chance.

Kruzhlinin - You have to say it was a hell of a training performance from Gordon Elliott to get the 14yo to win a handicap off 118 at Navan on Saturday on his first run for 15 months. It would be an even bigger one should he get anywhere near the places in this though.

Latenightpass - A course and distance winner having landed the Intermediate Final on hunter chase night 2 years ago. He looked like he would win easily that night, but then idled on the run in which is something he also did when winning on his seasonal debut at Warwick. I thought that was a hell of a performance because he raced freely and helped set a blistering gallop which led to some good horses being really beaten. Marcle Ridge who was 6th last year was beaten 35L in 4th, Ange Des Malberaux who was running a big race when falling at Ludlow in Hazel Hill's race was beaten 60L in 6th, Monbeg Gold pulled up and he ran really well to finish 2nd at Doncaster and 6th Dr Des and pulled up Sonneofpresenting have also run with credit since. The one horse who has let the form down on the face of it was 3rd home The Worlds End as he was stuffed at Haydock, but I reckon the two quick races and the hard race he had at Warwick left its mark so I wouldn't be quick to use him as a solid yardstick. Given I fancied Highway Jewel to run a big race in this before she wasn't entered I have to give him a great e/w chance here for a yard who have been flying so far this season.

Law Of Gold - Landed the 2019 John Corbet Cup at Stratford and ran a decent enough race to finish 7th in this race last year. I thought he ran a good trial for this at Doncaster last month when he ran like he needed the run behind Silsol and Monbeg Gold. He is only 8 so you would imagine there is more progression to come, but he still has 38L to turn around on It Came To Pass as well as having Billaway and Staker Wallace in front of him. He might be capable of closing the gap and the quicker the ground the better for him, but I'm not sure he is good enough to go and reverse that form.

Mighty Stowaway - Was very impressive when beating Rewritetherules by 30L in an Open at Tinahely in October, but never looked like landing a serious blow at Fairyhouse when Stand Up And Fight and Billaway finished in front of him. He's not been seen since and I find it hard to see how he can reverse the form and I would imagine It Came To Pass will reverse the form.

Monbeg Gold - Was outbattled by Silsol for me at Doncaster and I reckon Law Of Gold will reverse the form of that Doncaster run so I find it hard to give him much of a chance.

Mr Mantilla - Just had the 6 runs in Irish points between November 2019 and December last year. He has won 5 of them and was beaten just a head in the other. He is clearly useful, but it is very hard to win this race with no rules experience and so little experience full stop. I don't think it's great he's been off the track for so long either and although he's a dark horse I do think it is hard to see him being good enough to win at this stage of his career.

Porlock Bay - Another to come over from France and he put in a superb performance to win on his British debut at Kimble in November. That came over 2m4f which was the furthest he had ever been in a race at that point. He then stepped up in trip to 3m1f at Wincanton where he finished 2nd to Sametegal. I thought he should have won that race and he was given a very negative ride in an effort to just qualify for Cheltenham and to stay the trip. The problem is we still don't really know if he will stay in this and the form has been shot to pieces. Sametegal was beaten at Fontwell at long odds on and clearly isn't a strong stayer. The 3rd was stuffed at Doncaster, the 4th was stuffed at Leicester and the 6th somehow finished a well beaten 3rd to Duhallow Tornado at Wetherby after being tailed off. So essentially he has been beaten by a horse who doesn't really stay and the ones in behind aren't up too much. He clearly has an engine and he would interest me at Aintree, but I think he will be outstayed here.

Ravished - No doubt his trainer will fancy him, but I can't give him any chance at all. What I will say is if we get a good surface it will help him, but he's already been beaten by Hazel Hill and Bob And Co so hard to see how he can win this.

Red Indian - Very shrewd of connections to get his qualification in nice and early by winning two Ladies Opens at Bishops Court and Alnwick. He had lost his way a bit under rules so I can see why connections have gone down this route with him and he is Kelly Morgan's only horse in training. There has to be some stamina concerns as he's never looked like he does fully see this trip out, but he didn't run too badly in the Peter Marsh at Haydock last January over nearly this far. Top Wood finished a very close 2nd in this for connections 3 years ago and he finished 3rd two years ago so they certainly know what is needed for this race. The bare form of his pointing wins is nothing special and the two horses directly behind him at Alnwick have been well beaten in hunter chases since, but I do think he has place chances.

Road To Rome - Ran a blinder in his behind Hazel Hill in 2019, but suffered a serious injury when winning a point in May that year. He returned last month at Wetherby, but although he led he never looked to be going all that well and duly finished a well beaten 7th behind Duhallow Tornado. I know his trainer can work wonders, but he would have to improve at least 70lbs to get close to winning this based on that run.

Salvatore - For me he is the leading hope of the 3 entered from the yard. He was very well backed in the Intermediate Final won by Latenightpass 2 years ago. He didn't have a great deal of luck as he found himself outpaced as well as getting badly hampered twice in quick succession at the top of the hill. He finally stayed on well to finish 3rd

Solomn Grundy - Won a couple of opens in the space of a week in October and November to qualify for this. He has since finished behind Billaway twice when 5th at Down Royal and then 3rd at Naas in January. He did run well at Naas I thought, but don't really see how he can reverse the form with the front two from that contest. He looks a stayer based on that but he did manage to win at Didmarton last March which isn't a stamina test. That was his 3rd win last season in 4 starts with the defeat a close 3rd to Foxhunter 3rd Shantou Flyer. This season he won at Larkhill and I initially thought the form wasn't that strong, but with the 3rd Trio For Rio impressively winning at Ludlow I have had 2nd thoughts on that. I should add though that the 2nd has disappointed since. He then went to Musselburgh and he outstayed Alcala in the Scottish Foxhunter. Alcala went back their to win last week although it was a weak race. He's only 8 and I can see him finishing his race off very strongly and he could hit the frame.

Sonnofpresenting - A complete no hoper.

Staker Wallace - I thought he had a massive chance in the race last year and he finished a decent enough 4th. This season he finished 2nd in his first two runs in points and then was hard held in winning a maiden hunters chase at Limerick. He then went to Naas and finished a good 2nd to Billaway. My concern about him though is his stamina as to my eye he lost ground on Billaway from the final fence to the line that day and as much as I can see him running well again I can see his effort flattening out again on the run in as it did last year.

Stand Up And Fight - He finished 6th in this 2 years ago and he was given a rare poor ride by Derek O'Connor. On that effort he looked one for future years, but after disappointing on his comeback run at Thurles he went onto win a point rather than come over to Cheltenham. He was tried in a handicap in the summer and pulled up there so the suspicion was he had completely lost his way, but then went and beat Billaway at Fairyhouse in November. He was only 4th behind him at Down Royal, but that race is over 2m5f and he could never go the pace to get himself involved. He ran on well again at Thurles last time when just beaten by Jury Duty. I think he probably needs to step up on that to win this, but he finished 2nd in a Grade 2 novice hurdle to Al Boum Photo in 2017 and he will stay well so I give him an e/w chance.

Wishing and Hoping - Some people were hoping he was going to run in the race last year, but connections thought he needed another years experience. He beat Duhallow Tornado on his seasonal return at Maisemore in October, but then was surprisingly beaten by Leicester winner Premier Magic at Chaddesley Corbett. Stepped up on that when 2nd at Haydock to Bob And Co, but was 17L behind him that day and I don't see how he can get anywhere near to reversing that form.

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