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Double Ross still a step ahead of the handicapper

Double Ross has now won three times at Cheltenham and has conditions in his favour in the Grade 3 handicap chase at 1.50 on Saturday. He won off a mark of 133 in December and shrugged off a 7lbs rise to beat Cedre Bleu by four and a half lengths on New Year’s Day.

The runner-up renews rivalry on 6lbs better terms but Double Ross won with such authority that day that he should confirm the form. Cedre Bleu went on to finish a fine second to Houblon Des Obeaux at Ascot and looks his most dangerous opponent.

The card gets under way at 12.40 with a small but select field for the Triumph Hurdle trial. Paul Nicholls has important runners both here and at Doncaster and can get his day off on the right note with Vicenzo Mio.

Although beaten by Ballyglasheen here in December, he absolutely bolted up at Kempton next time out. Goodwood Mirage was an expensive purchase off the flat and won despite two serious blunders on his debut. If he can iron out his jumping, he must be considered a threat.

Dark Lover’s jumping also left a lot to be desired when narrowly beaten by Festive Affair at Newbury recently. He acts well on this course and has won in heavy ground so could provide some value in a tricky handicap.

The Nicholls and Jacob team have big prospects in the day’s feature races with Rocky Creek and Big Buck’s. Rocky Creek looks difficult to oppose in the Argento Chase following the withdrawal of Triolo D’Alene and he could advertise his Gold Cup claims.

Big Buck’s will be the centre of attention at 3.35 when he bids to extend his remarkable winning sequence to 19. He has to overcome more than a year off the track but connections could not be happier with him.

There are some smart staying novices on show in the 3.00 race with David Pipe’s unbeaten Red Sherlock seeking a sixth consecutive victory. He may have most to fear from Rathvinden who was yet to be asked a serious question when falling in the Warwick race won by Deputy Dan.

Selections: 12.40 Vicenzo Mio, 1.15 Dark Lover, 1.50 Double Ross, 2.25 Rocky Creek, 3.00 Rathvinden, 3.35 Big Buck’s, 4.10 Totalize