Cheltenham preview: Roalco De Farges a Showcase bet
This Saturday sees the Showcase meeting at Cheltenham get into full swing, with a host of thrilling races scheduled throughout the day.
The headline events are of course the two £50k handicap chases (14.10 and 15.20) but, with a £35k Masterson Holdings Hurdle getting underway at 14.45 and the Cheltenham Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at 17.40, there should be plenty of interest for racing fans at every level.
Sivola to Turn Over his rivals
That opening race (14.10) is often regarded as the unofficial warm-up for the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November, and so features a very competitive field.
Turn Over Sivola looks a solid bet for an each-way finish should the weather remain fair, as this eight year-old fares well on firm ground having placed or won on seven of the ten occasions that it has raced on similar surfaces to date.
However, should the heavens open, then the smarter money could well be on Purple ‘N’ Gold, who has enjoyed plenty of success on heavier courses – and jockey Noel Fehily will certainly be keen to continue his excellent year, despite some high-profile spills over the last couple of seasons.
Devilment bewitching for punters
Devilment looks a wise bet in the 14.45, with a strong track record of flat-racing including a winning outing in a juvenile hurdle at Doncaster back in February.
The four year-old gelding is strong over two miles, and this stamina will almost certainly serve jockey Aidan Coleman well on a tough course, and competing in a strong field.
Roalco ready to rock and roll
The second handicap chase which takes place over three miles and a furlong (15.20), will suit strong cross-country runners; a point emphasised by Balthazar King’s success in 2013.
Last year’s winner Roalco De Farges – also owned by Balthazar King’s stable – will quite rightly be heavily-backed to repeat the feat again this year and, with the experienced Richard Johnson in the saddle, this makes him the obvious choice to be named favourite.
Close Escape should not sneak under radar
Meanwhile, the Cheltenham Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race has produced both a future Gold Cup winner and a Champion Bumper horse in the past, and this year’s race (17:40) could well throw up another moment of history.
Close Escape would be my pick to claim first place in this one as a result of the noises made this week by owner Nicky Henderson.
Prestbury Park is a happy hunting ground for Henderson, who clearly believes that he has a real gem on his hands, and is keen to see how he runs at Cheltenham this weekend.
Boasting excellent pedigree (he was sired by Robin Des Pres, who was in turn the son of Petit Robert), Close Escape certainly has a lot to live up to – but whilst racing fans have been fooled before, the apple doesn’t seem to have fallen too far from the tree this time.
14.10: Purple ‘N’ Gold
15.20: Roalco De Farges
15.55: Mont Choisy
16.30: Parlour Games
17.05: Slim Pickens
17.40: Close Escape
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