Cheltenham Novice Races Preview: Take Dance and Clan to Triumph

Tony Keenan wants to take on Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle with a pair of selections
Tony Keenan wants to take on Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle with a pair of selections

It's getting closer now and Tony Keenan has been through the novice and shoulder races at the Festival for his best bets...

"Smart Talk is much preferred at 8.07/1. She has the best form in the race and that is backed up by a big sectional performance last time when she went too hard at Doncaster yet still won from the thriving Lily Waugh who had the race run to suit."

Back Smart Talk @ 8.415/2 in the Dawn Run Novice Hurdle

Most of the value has been squeezed out in the main novice races so rather than go into them in depth for a bet I'll give some brief thoughts.

The negative vibes around Min mean he'll be a fair price on the day of the Supreme and he's solid with his form working out; Tombstone was my long-term fancy but didn't convince with his finishing effort last time and his owner questioning his attitude not once but twice in a recent interview is a worry.

In the Neptune, Yanworth doesn't jump great and Long Dog has upside going up in trip while Barters Hill is a solid favourite for the Albert Bartlett having gone too hard up front last time. If he can get his jumping together, Thomas Hobson can challenge him but that's a big if.

Douvan is unopposable in the Arkle and the race could cut up into a five- or six-runner field; I prefer to back Velvet Maker from his form line in the Grand Annual. I have no view on the JLT but Minella Rocco looks a bad jolly in the National Hunt Chase, his Ascot form amounting to little.


RSA Chase

Both the front two in the RSA can be taken on. No More Heroes could struggle with good ground and his form beating a poor-jumping Monksland can be picked at while More Of That has little chasing experience and is priced on two year old hurdles form. This race is ideal for Black Hercules who looks a specialist three miler; the obvious concern is that he could go for the JLT which is hard to understand both in the context of the horse and the yard that have a host of better options for that race.


Dawn Run Novice Hurdle

Limini looks the Festival's hype horse in the Dawn Run, her price aeons away from what she has achieved on the track, and with her jumping questionable she can be opposed. Smart Talk is much preferred at 8.415/2. She has the best form in the race and that is backed up by a big sectional performance last time when she went too hard at Doncaster yet still won from the thriving Lily Waugh who had the race run to suit.


Triumph Hurdle

Ivanovich Gorbatov is the most perplexingly priced horse of the meeting at 6.05/1, only a couple of points bigger than he was before he dirtied his bib in the Spring Juvenile. It simply looks as if he didn't improve for his first run and his backers are hanging an awful lot on better ground bringing improvement.

It's possible the Irish form amounts to little but Let's Dance is likely the pick of them having shaped much the best in the Spring Juvenile when forcing a strong pace and still coming back at the finish. She's worth backing though I really like the form of the opening race run on Trials Day at Cheltenham. Protek Des Flos won that day with a bit in hand and is worth supporting if he runs but that is doubtful at this point so Clan Des Obeaux is a sensible alternative. He travelled like the best horse and pressed on too soon while there have been bullish noises about his recent homework.


Champion Bumper

The Bumper is an unusual race as it's hard to find fault in a field full of impressive winners; sometimes it is simply a case of picking the horse you were most taken with. New To This Town stands out in that regard. There should be more to come given how green he has been and the form of his Gowran win is working out. Jessica Harrington generally does well in races over the minimum trip at the meeting while it seems significant that the only runners she has had in the Bumper since 2003 were the winner Cork All Star and subsequent Champion Hurdle victor Jezki.


Shoulder Races

The handicaps will be covered here next week so I'll get some of the shoulder races out of the way now. Ballyboker Bridge is a bet in the Cross-Country, a race where adaptability to the obstacles rather than class is the key. He has upside in this sphere after just five run over these fences and would have gone close in the La Touche last year before falling; he has already had a sighter of this track and is in good hands with Peter Maher.

Foxhunter favourite On The Fringe was brilliant last spring but his triple peak effort in winning at Cheltenham, Liverpool and Punchestown might have bottomed him and his return at Leopardstown was the opposite of encouraging. I'm against Marito too who is a doubtful stayer and was beaten in a point-to-point last time.

The likes of Paint The Clouds, Mr Mercurial and Dark Lover all have claims and I could see myself backing a few in this but It Came To Pass is the play at current odds. He shaped really well at Leopardstown last time on just his second run on the track and promises to stay this trip well. He's the sort of young hunter chaser I like to back in this race against ex-handicap chasers on the downgrade.


Recommended Bets:
Back Black Hercules (if he runs) in the RSA Chase
Back Smart Talk @ 8.415/2 in the Dawn Run Novice Hurdle
Back Let's Dance @ 15.5 and Clan Des Obeaux @ 18.017/1 in the Triumph Hurdle
Back New To This Town @ 11.521/2 in the Champion Bumper
Back Ballyboker Bridge @ 13.5 in the Cross-Country
Back It Came To Pass @ 14.5 in the Foxhunter Chase

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