3.50pm Cheltenham Tips & Betting Preview 20/04/2017

A field of eight go to post for the fourth race of the day at Cheltenham on Thursday, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.

IN SUMMARY: Many of these don’t arrive in any sort of form at all with Upswing perhaps the only one who comes here on the back of a high, but this can go to Paul Nicholls’ VIRAK. Although disappointing for the majority of this season, he’s now down to a mark of 144 which is his last winning mark and he should be much happier back up in trip for the champion trainer. He’s also back down to Class 2 company for the first time since that latest win, so he should be able to do some damage back in this company. Bryony Frost takes off a useful 7lb and he can finally gain another overdue success, with perhaps a rejuvenated Coologue following him home.

1 VIRAK – Eight year old for Paul Nicholls who has shown good form over the years, with four wins from seventeen runs over the larger obstacles, albeit the last of those came in April 2015 at Haydock. He’s been highly tried this season with all his runs in Class 1 company, including a respectable fifth in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal debut. He was last seen at Ascot in a listed race when all but pulled up, though he never seemed to be travelling that day and perhaps wasn’t prepared for the break neck pace on offer. He’s now back down to his last winning mark though and back down to Class 2 company for the first time since that latest win two years ago. Bryony Frost takes off a useful 7lb and all signs point to a big run.

2 COOLOGUE – Unreliable sort for Charlie Longsdon who is very difficult to catch right, with his best effort this season coming at Newbury in December when a long second to Three Faces West at the three mile trip. He has been well beaten on his two subsequent starts, finishing eight in a listed race at Doncaster before pulling up in the Ultima Handicap at the Festival in March. This will be easier and the handicapper has given him a chance off 3lb lower, but it’s hard to trust he’ll put his best foot forward. His yard have hit some form and conditions are to suit so there are place claims there, but he’s a risky proportion.

3 GENTLEMAN JON – Another inconsistent sort who desperately needs to step up on his recent form if he wants to feature in this for Colin Tizzard. Winning twice earlier this season, taking a small field handicap at Wincanton before taking another handicap at the same venue two weeks later, with the likely winner falling at the final fence and his other main rival came to grief earlier on in the contest. He was raised 6lb as a result and was well beaten at Newbury in a class three event when tailing off and suffered the same fate at Ludlow when last seen in December, pulling up well beaten. Handicapper has only relented a pound on the back of that and despite the fact he’s now back on better ground, others make far more appeal.

4 UPSWING – Jonjo O’Neill’s yard are in brilliant form at present and this nine year old may well continue his fine form this season for JP McManus. He has posted three good efforts so far this year, showing signs that he was getting back to his best when third at Kempton in February. He built on that effort to take another third at Sandown in March, not beaten all that far and clear of the remainder, gaining a well deserved win at Ffos las two weeks ago, all out to fend off the challenger close home. For that he has been raised 6lb which seems quite harsh and there has to be doubts as to whether he can follow up on this sort of mark. Place claims if continuing to be in the same form, but he may just be vulnerable for win purposes.

5 LAMB OR COD – Consistency is not the strong suit of many in this field and Philip Hobbs’ ten year old is another who cannot be relied on for good effort after good effort. Although winning at Chepstow back in December in a competitive looking race, he has been well beaten the last thrice with his latest effort at Aintree in a listed race a very tame effort, struggling early on in the second circuit. Handicapper relents another 3lb which gives him a chance and this is an easier race, so he wouldn’t be amiss in the placings but does need more despite this lower mark.

6 FEDERICI – Highly tried this season and seemingly not able to hit his best, with his strongest effort being a forth at Catterick in the North Yorkshire Grand national back in January, only fading towards the last. At Downpatrick on his latest start he was fifth with another perhaps disappointing display and more will be needed in this despite dropping another 3lb in the handicap. THis may not be enough of a test for the eight year old at this stage of his career and others have more pressing claims.

7 BELMOUNT – Record of 3-17 over fences and although he’s now 3lb below his last winning mark, he’s been poor the last thrice at different venues. He won twice towards the very start of this season at Newton Abbot and Hereford but has not been able to go on from that in five runs since, midfield on two of them before three efforts that left a lot to be desired. He was pulled up at Hereford on his penultimate start before weakening out of things tamely at Ludlow when last seen forty nine days ago. More needed and although he’s back on his favoured better ground, he’s hard to fully recommend.

8 TALK OF THE SOUTH – Rated 115 over hurdles and although he’s capable of the odd good effort over fences, with three second places to his name, he’s yet to take victory from nine starts and looks vulnerable once again in this. He stays this far and does come here on the back of a good effort at Warwick, but he’d probably prefer softer ground and may just struggle to land a blow in this for Paul Henderson. Place claims but as previously referenced, he remains vulnerable.

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