Cheltenham Festival ante-post tips: Four to watch on Cheltenham Trials Day
Four to Watch with a View to the Festival
Saturday 29th January is Cheltenham Trials Day with several big names on show. The feature race is the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at 2.30, a recognised trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Cleeve Hurdle at 3.05 is often a useful guide to the Stayers’ Hurdle and there are also trials for the Triumph Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. We have picked out four horses who could be significant market movers in the Cheltenham ante-post betting this weekend.
Iceo (Triumph Hurdle Trial)
Iceo is a fascinating entry in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at 12.45. The French import arrived with a big reputation and could not have been more impressive on his debut at Ascot. Revelling in the soft ground, the son of Coastal Path romped clear under Bryony Frost to win by 17 lengths. The form of the race has not worked out well with the second, third and fourth all well beaten next time.
Trainer Paul Nicholls was not inclined to commit Iceo to the Triumph Hurdle, despite a flurry of quotes ranging from 8-1 to 14-1 after his Ascot victory. Harry Cobden is expected to take over the reins on Saturday with Iceo carrying a 3lbs penalty.
Chantry House (Cotswold Chase)
Chantry House will try to revive his Gold Cup prospects in the Cotswold Chase after his disappointing effort in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. There was plenty of confidence in him that day and he started favourite only to be pulled up at the twelfth fence. He will wear cheek-pieces this weekend in an effort to recapture his excellent novice form of last season.
Smart enough to finish third to Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2020, he was very progressive over fences last year. He won the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham and the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree. He will face only four rivals on Saturday and anything less than victory would surely end his Gold Cup hopes.
Champ (Cleeve Hurdle)
Nicky Henderson has decided to keep Champ over hurdles and will take in the Cleeve Hurdle on his way to the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. He overcame a 274-day absence to beat Thyme Hill and Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. Had he been beaten there, the likelihood is that Henderson would have been looking for a run over fences and another tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The ease with which Champ and Jonjo O’Neill Jnr swept to the lead at Ascot suggests he has a major chance in the Stayers’ for which he is currently 4-1 second favourite. His main rivals on Saturday are Paisley Park and McFabulous, rated 5lbs and 10lbs inferior on official ratings.
Hillcrest (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
Henry Daly looks set to run the exciting Hillcrest in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at 3.40, registered as the Classic Novices’ Hurdle. He also holds an alternative entry at Doncaster on the same day and is worth noting wherever he goes. Hillcrest is a big strong gelding by Stowaway and already has victories at Aintree, Wetherby and Cheltenham under his belt.
He created a big impression over course and distance last time here when comfortably holding I Am Maximus by 2 lengths. Daly has no doubt that the horse will stay three miles and he is currently quoted at 14-1 for the two-mile five furlong Ballymore and the three-mile Albert Bartlett at the festival meeting.