1.15pm Cheltenham tips for Friday’s Class 3 race. A field of nineteen go to post for this highly competitive Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham. Read on for our free betting tips, predictions and analysis.
IN SUMMARY: A hugely competitive Novices’ Handicap can go the way of OR DE VASSY, who was always travelling like the winner when scoring at Sedgefield on his latest start. He starts off in handicaps on a mark that doesn’t demand much progress from him and he can go in again as he certainly has the speed for this distance. Counter Shy is well bred and has potential but the main danger may come from Oxwich Bay, who was a close second at Warwick last Friday and is due to be six pound higher in the weights.
1 BANDITRY – Arrives here on the back of three good runs over hurdles for Ian Williams, not able to follow up his Southwell success when second at Ludlow last time around. He’s now four pounds higher and has his stamina to prove in a race that is likely to be a strong test. Others are preferred.
2 MAN LOOK – Highly consistent sort with form figures of 1122231 in recent times, winning his latest start at Bangor in ready fashion from the front. He’s now four pounds higher in a deeper race, but if getting his own way out in front he’ll be hugely dangerous under Will Kennedy. That isn’t guaranteed though and is a risk.
3 ZALVADOS – Seven race maiden over hurdles who has finished second four times out of seven starts, once again finding one too good at Bangor when last seen. He’s on the same mark but things get no easier here and he can only be given each way claims.
4 COUNTER SHY – Looks a promising sort for Jonjo O’Neill, winning on hurdling debut before a second at Uttoxeter on his latest start. He now makes his handicap debut off a highly workable mark and with Barry Geraghty taking the ride, he’s unlikely to be far away.
5 CHAMPAGNE CITY – Completed a hat-trick in the summer for Tom Geroge before returning at Chepstow last month, badly hampered at the first hurdle. That effort can be forgiven but this mark demands a career best and others are preferred on this occasion.
6 OR DE VASSY – Showed promise in bumpers and got off the mark over hurdles at the second attempt, winning comfortably at Sedgefield after always travelling well. He starts off in handicaps off a mark that isn’t harsh and this drop back in trip is of little concern as he has the speed for it. Can go in again for the Skeltons.
7 CANNY TOM – Irish Raider for Gordon Elliott who has been racing over fences of late, not disgraced in three runs last month. He was second off a pound lower at Downpatrick in September but this is a much tougher race and others are readily preferred.
8 COEUR BLIMEY – Smart bumper horse for Sue Gardner who has finished second on both his hurdling starts, held by a horse who is now rated 144. That form is clearly useful but a 320 break does raise concerns and he’s entitled to need this.
9 SLANELOUGH – Got off the mark over hurdles at the sixth attempt with a smooth success at Carlisle in a Novices’ Hurdle. He now makes his handicap debut off a mark of 119, which looks harsh as the form of his latest win is nothing special in the context of this race.
10 OXWICH BAY – Yet to get off the mark over hurdles but he’s run three solid races, sent off the short-priced favourite on two occasions. He was only headed late on at Warwick last time and a mark of 121 on handicap debut is not harsh. Should make his presence felt with Adam Wedge taking over.
11 ARGENT KNIGHT – Hasn’t been seen over hurdles for 1020 days, with his last running being on the flat in July 2016 for Christopher Kellett. He has plenty to prove after such a long break and caution is advised on this occasion.
12 PIVOTAL FLAME – Four year old filly who is a four race maiden over hurdles, sent off at 50/1 for two events in October. She showed very little when fourth at Plumpton on her latest start, merely passing beaten horses late on. Unlikely to be good enough here on handicap debut.
13 MAGIC DANCER – Got off the mark at the tenth attempt at Kempton on his latest start, held up in a strongly run race where the pace collapsed late on. He’s only had four days to recover and looks vulnerable now pitched into a tougher race.
14 SPIRITUAL MAN – Finished a neck second at Huntingdon in April but that remains the only time that he has threatened the judge over timber. Off today’s mark he was beaten at Warwick on his latest run and is readily passed over.
15 STUCCODOR – Eleven race maiden in this code who was well held on his debut for Sophie Leech over course and distance last month, showing little in the way of potential. On some of his past exploits he’s well handicapped but he requires a leap of faith and is best watched.
16 WAR ON THE ROCKS – Another who showed ability in three maiden/novice hurdles, last seen finishing third at Wincanton behind Arty Campbell on handicap debut. A turnaround with that rival looks very much unlikely off the same mark and he makes little appeal.
17 PLATO’S KODE – Won his first two hurdling starts for Seamus Durack and he wasn’t disgraced on his latest start at Wetherby, staying on well when the race was all over. A mark of 124 on handicap debut is no gift and he’s best watched in a much tougher race.
18 SAMSON – Second runner for Sophie Leech who is exposed over hurdles, well held off today’s mark at Exeter. He was readily dropped when the pace turned on and with his mark only going down a pound, he is set for a struggle.
19 ARTY CAMPBELL – Broke his long-standing maiden in this sphere (fourteen races) when scoring at Wincanton on his latest start, comfortably dispatching his rivals off a very low weight. He’s now nine pounds higher and looks vulnerable in better company.