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ITV Racing Preview: Sat 29th Jan 2022

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Cheltenham

It’s Trials Day at Prestbury Park on Saturday and this could be the last time we see many of the main British hopes for the Festival before they take up their engagements in March. We have a bumper 8-race card to enjoy with the addition of a Mares Listed bumper on the end of the card that has been salvaged from last weeks abandoned meeting at Market Rasen.

Juveniles

The first of the official “trial” races comes at 12:45 with the Grade 2 JCB Triumph hurdle Trial. This should give us a decent steer towards the British hopes for the Triumph, with ICEO (Paul Nicholls), Moulins Clermont (Gary Moore) and Silver Shade (Milton Harris) all looking to enhance their claims after impressive wins last time out. It’s a fascinating race but they may have it all to do against INTERNE DE SIVOLA. Nick Williams 4-year-old was an impressive all the way winner over this course and distance last month and despite the 3lb penalty, connections will fancy their chances of being able to repeat the dose given that he has already proved that he can handle the course.

Novice Chasers

The Novice handicap chase can be a real pointer towards the festival. In 2020 Simply the Betts beat Imperial Aura in this race and they both went on to win at the Festival in March. This year’s race looks to be extremely competitive and whilst there is no obvious betting opportunity in the markets, it is a race for the tracker.

Chasers

The Cotswold Chase at 2:30 is the feature race on the card. Nicky Henderson has the Antepost favourite Chantry House, who had his finest hour when winning the Marsh Chase here last March. That is probably the strongest chase form on offer, but he was soundly beaten and pulled up in the King George at Kempton last month and is probably worth taking on at a short price. Paul Nicholls has taken his time since SIMPLY THE BETTS arrived in his yard last summer but there were signs of life last time and that 2nd placed finish to Vienna Court was a marked improvement on his previous form. He won the Plate here in 2020 and the step up to 3-miles could well bring our further improvement and he is worth chancing at the prices.

Hurdlers

So often a trial for the Stayers hurdle, the Cleeve hurdle at 3:05 looks to have one of the main contenders this year as favourite. We started this analysis keen to take on CHAMP given his profile and overall record, but after studying the makeup of the race, he is probably a good thing. Paisley Park isn’t the horse he was, there are doubts as to whether McFabulous handles the track and trip, and the rest aren’t good enough. If Champ arrives in the same form as when winning the Long Walk at Ascot last month, he should win this quite comfortably.

Novice Hurdlers

At 3:40 we have the Grade 2 trial for the Ballymore Novices hurdle. That looks to be the most open division of the Novice hurdlers this year and both Balco Coastal and HILLCREST will be looking to enhance their claims for March. Whilst Nicky Henderson’s horse has been impressive when winning at Huntingdon and Ludlow, he does need to prove that he will handle the undulations of Cheltenham. By contrast, HILLCREST was a superb winner of a Listed contest here on New Year’s Day and is probably a touch of value to add to his CV.

Doncaster

Away from Cheltenham we also have graded action at Doncaster. Those races look likely to cut up quite considerably, but the Sky Bet Chase at 3:20 is always a decent betting heat and this year is no exception. There are quite a few with solid claims in an open race, but for value it will be hard to ignore NUTS WELL at a big price. He has plenty of form at the top level, including when winning the Old Roan at Aintree in 2020 and with the good ground likely to help him see out the trip, he is a huge price to hit the frame for Ann Hamilton’s in form team.

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