If a glittering eight-race card at Cheltenham tomorrow doesn’t whet the appetite for the Festival in less than two months’ time, then nothing will. Plenty of reputations will go on the line at Festival Trials Day and there will be an abundance of clues to which horses might be winning huge prizes between 12 March and 15 March inclusive.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of Cheltenham regulars in the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase (Cheltenham 1.15 p.m.) headed by Il Ridoto. Paul Nicholls’s seven-year-old gelding has run no less than six of his seven most recent races at the course, including winning this race last year.
However, that was off an official mark of 138 and he will race tomorrow off a mark of 148. He deserves plenty of respect and probably deserves to be favourite for the race too but, at double figures prices, I would rather be on two other horses.
My first tip is GRANDEUR D’AME. This eight-year-old gelding was well beaten into fourth over this course and distance last time out behind course specialist Fugitif and the aforementioned Il Ridoto but he has an 8 lbs pull at the weights with the latter this time. Before that Alan King’s charge dotted up at Warwick on heavy ground in what the Racing Post race reporter described as a ‘canter’. However, he won two races last season on ‘good to soft’ so he does not need a bog to be competitive. Back him each way at 11-1 with William Hill, BetVictor, Coral and Ladbrokes, all paying four places.
My other fancy in the race is GA LAW, a horse I have long had a soft spot for since, when my money was down big time, he landed the Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November 2022. He hasn’t won, or even been placed, since then in five starts when, I am pleased to say, my money wasn’t down.