Cheltenham Festival 2018 Racing Tips: Six big-priced plays for St Patrick's Day

Jockey Paddy Brennan
Can Paddy Brennan ride a pair of winners for Tony Calvin on Thursday at the Festival?
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Tony Calvin picks out a sextet of horses to back on the penultimate day of action at Prestbury Park...

"Go back and look how well Penhill travelled and stamped his authority on the race when winning the Albert Bartlett here last season.
The form of that success has worked out very well - Monalee and Wholestone filled the places at very respectful distances - and everyone knows how well Willie Mullins can ready one after a lay-off at this, or any other, Festival."

Two appeal in the JLT but it's a no bet race and here's why...

Races with the betting shape of the JLT rarely appeal to me - namely, it is full of largely unexposed novices who all have the potential to step forward a good deal - but I do think the market is underestimating the form claims of Bigmartre in the 13:30. And maybe, another, too.

It is clearly a race chock full of plausible candidates from the top yards, but the market is probably opposing Bigmartre on the basis that he doesn't have the sexy Grade 1 hurdling profile of some of these, and comes here after progressing through the handicap ranks.

And, more pertinently, he appears on the back of a defeat at Doncaster last time, and is unproven over the trip.

Against that, there was no disgrace whatsoever in that narrow defeat off a mark of 145 last time, he has produced some of the best time figures in the race, and his pedigree gives you hope that the extra half-mile will be within his compass.

But I am worried about the combination of 2m4f and heavy ground for the horse - a lot more rain is forecast from Wednesday evening - and I am letting him pass. Odds of 16/1 do him a disservice in form terms, though.

I was looking to get with Snow Falcon in a handicap off 149 this week - he had entries over 2m5f and 3m1f - so it is interesting that Noel Meade comes here instead.

That looked a very workable mark but perhaps the lure of this shorter trip on fresh ground on Thursday afternoon swayed him, and you can see his reasoning.

He clearly stays 3m well over hurdles, but that was on better ground, and he has run a series of good races at and around this trip of late.

His hurdling profile and fifth in the Flogas last time make him a decent price, too, at 16/1, but there is something telling me to give the race a miss. I agree with the voice.

Well, that was a waste of 300-odd words, wasn't it, though I do think that pair are the ones to focus on if you do want to chuck a tenner at the race.

A pair of outsiders to play in the Pertemps

The Pertemps at 14:10 looks an absolute minefield, but I am going to throw a few quid at a couple of outsiders in Connetable and Dell Arca.

Connetable is a bit of an old monkey and clearly far more exposed than some of these, but he has some recent form that would give him solid claims in this, notably his placed efforts at Sandown and Musselburgh.

Of course, he has an inconsistent profile and ran poorly last time, but these are his conditions and I like the angle of Harry Cobden getting back on him. He was on board for those good recent performances, and this horse clearly takes a lot of knowing. He is worth a nibble at [36.0] or bigger.

Dell Arca has been badly out of form since hosing up at Newbury in November but at least he has come back down 5lb in the weights as a result, and the return to hurdles is an obvious positive after a modest chase run last time.

He has also run some of his better efforts at this track, notably when fifth in the Coral Cup in 2014, and deep ground suits him well. He is a very fair outsider, and more than capable of winning this if on a going day. Back him at [40.0] or bigger.

Penhill a play to stay

I don't have a betting opinion in the Ryanair, so I will spare you there - I think Un De Sceaux probably wins, but the combination of 2m5f and heavy ground may stretch his stamina, if you are interested - but I do in the Stayers' Hurdle at 15:30.

I could bang on for hours about how many horses in this race have solid and plausible claims but I'll cut straight to the chase and suggest backing Penhill each-way at 12/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.

He clearly has to improve to beat the likes of Sam Spinner and co and makes his first start since Punchestown last April, but go back and look how well he travelled and stamped his authority on the race when winning the Albert Bartlett here last season.

The form of that success has worked out very well - Monalee and Wholestone filled the places at very respectful distances - and everyone knows how well Willie Mullins can ready one after a lay-off at this, or any other, Festival.

It was good ground last year but he has plenty of winning form in deeper conditions, and I think this one-time 100-rated Flat handicapper has a lot more improvement to come in this sphere.

Given the absence, I wouldn't be going mad on the stakes front, but I think he is the bet in the race at the prices.

Chance been given a chance by the handicapper

Quite By Chance has been given a real chance by the handicapper in the 16:10 and he rates a bet at [32.0] or bigger.

I go a long way back with this horse, as I thought he was very unlucky not to win a Caspian Caviar Gold Cup here two years ago when fourth to Frodon (he was hampered at a vital stage), and he is easily forgiven a poor run last time as he was broadsided at the first fence at Sandown and was never in the hunt afterwards.

He has been generously dropped 2lb for that run, his first start since a wind op, and he is now 3lb lower than when a good third at Ascot in November. I think he has a huge chance at the weights and, while form and fitness have to be taken on trust, the first-time blinkers will hopefully also help, too.

Novice hurdle

Maybe Paddy Brennan can strike an unlikely double in the mares novice hurdle but, as the favourite Laurina looks red-hot, it may be best to back his mount Cap Soleil at 14/1 each-way. She reportedly comes here in great nick, having been given a good break since a gruelling win at Haydock in December, and we know she likes the track and ground. Her defeat of Countister earlier in the season at Newbury reads very well and she could prove hard to kick out of the frame in the 16:50.

Everything in Aubusson's favour

The Kim Muir at 17:30 could just see another winner for the bang in-form Nick Williams in the shape of Aubusson.

The case for him is very simple. He runs off the same mark as when a good second at Sandown last time, has won over hurdles around here, and his two best efforts have come in heavy ground (he was only just chinned in a French Grade 1 in November 2015 and has won a Fixed Brush Hurdle). And the trip isn't an issue.

A mark of 135 underestimates his chasing talent and, with 3lb claimer Chester Williams back in the plate, he is well worth a speculative punt at [28.0] or bigger.

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