Race Time: 4.00pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Friday 13th November 2015
Distance: 3m 1f Full Race Name: Cheltenham Club Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase Class Three
This was never ever going to be an easy race to call with the horses handicapped to make life tricky in the first place – and a massive difference in abilities between some amateur jockeys and others, and riding arrangements pretty much unknown at the time of writing the first draft. The first clue we can find are the early jockey booking of Will Biddick (one of the better amateurs at present) by the all powerful Paul Nicholls team to ride Minellahalfcentury (12/1) if he runs here as opposed to his other options. The son of Westerner is way above average at his best, he just rarely deems to show it to us punters with one win in his last five starts which can be added to a fall and a pulled up, which hardly makes for inspired reading. Intensively schooled back home at Ditcheat, fresh may be the best time to catch him these days, and with his jockey boasting a 20% strike rate for the yard (though only a 4% strike rate over fences at Cheltenham), he has as good a chance as any in a very tricky race to second guess.
For reasons unknown, the Irish invariably do particularly well in the amateur races, and they look likely to arrive mob handed this year with any number of possible winners. Noel Kelly has worked wonders with Mia’s Anthem (16/1) in recent races with two wins at Hexham and Sedgefield, the last named over three and a quarter miles and despite a hike in the weights of twelve pounds. Put up another nine pounds for that comfortable victory, his life will not be any easier form now on but he does seem on the top of his game at the age of seven for some reason and may still be a small step ahead of the handicapper with any luck.
Not a single course and distance winner lines up this year but at least the Philip Hobbs trained Return Spring (8/1) has won here all be it over three miles, and three miles one and a half furlongs, and that makes him a stand out to handle what they throw at him here. Now an eight year old, his final five runs last season saw his form tail off in our view, but that also saw his rating drop to an easier to handle 134 this afternoon, and running fresh after a six month break, he could yet surprise a few of these come race time.
Meanwhile, David Pipe has decided to rely on Alternatif (6/1) here which is interesting after the five year old finished second in four of his last five races after a win at Kempton over hurdles. One solitary run over fences when runner up to River Maigue us a pretty brave build up for a race like this and it will certainly be more than a little interesting to see how he gets on, with an inexperienced horse at the best track in the Country with an amateur rider (no offence intended) looking more like a recipe for disaster than success.
To round things off, Nigel Twiston-Davies likes to target this sort of race given the right ammunition, and he sends Foxbridge (14/1) here who has a squeak at a big price in our opinion. Three wins in a row in January and February this year saw him rocket up the weights from 107 to 127, a rise of twenty pounds, after which he was well beaten in decent races at Uttoxeter (Midlands National) and here behind Lamb Or Cod,but with a decent break to recharge the batteries, he is certainly an each way consideration at a big price for those who like a riskier bet!