Patrick Weaver previews the second day of the Cheltenham Festival and recommends a place lay of an old favourite.
"Nube Negra will do well to lie up with Chacun Pour Soir, Politologue, First Flow and Cilaos Emery."
Let's start with one of my favourite horses - one that has been in many headlines and tweets this year, Tiger Roll.
He will not be contesting the Randox Grand National next month, a source of disappointment for many, because his owner felt he had too much weight given his recent form.
Aintree hero Tiger Roll has not improved with age
Some think he has not fallen far off his perch and is worthy of a mark of 166. Others like myself think he is a shadow of the horse he was.
The dual Grand National winner is an old hand at cross-country and contests the Glenfarclas Chase at 15:40 for the fourth consecutive year. He won it narrowly as an eight-year-old in 2018 and by 22 lengths the following year. Each time going on to win the big one at Aintree.
It is my belief that his game second National win knocked the stuffing out of him. He has looked a selling plater both on the Flat and over hurdles since and was beaten by a wide margin by Easysland in the Festival cross-country last March.
He was back here in November and was pulled up soon after halfway. and the course vet said that a post-race look at the horse failed to reveal any abnormalities.
As a layer you have to ask yourself "Is Tiger Roll still capable of another big day at the age of 11?" I think not. I love the horse and laying him is like laying my own football team. Fortunately, that's Sheffield Wednesday and they don't win many games!
Kingswell Theatre, Potters Corner, Easysland, Vivas and Kings Temptation all completed the course when Tiger Roll pulled up. Some Neck won over course and distance the following month, with Defi Des Carres alongside him and Out Sam fourth.
It will be interesting how the race pans out but if Tiger Roll isn't up to it, Keith Donoghue is likely to pull him up - so the Aintree hero rates a good place lay.
Nube Negra faces by far his stiffest test to date
I was going to lay another golden oldie for a place in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, but Altior didn't make it past the five-day stage. He is another that hasn't looked at his best in the last 12 months.
Having analysed the race, I will put up Nube Negra as a place lay.
The seven-year-old became the top-rated horse in Dan Skelton's yard by beating Altior, Duc Des Genievres and Rouge Vif in the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase after Christmas - a race for which he was 20/1.
The handicapper moved Nube Negra up from 152 to 165 on the back of that using Altior as his yardstick but was Nicky Henderson's rarely-seen former champ at his best that day? If not then Nube Negra is on a false figure and will do well to lie up with Chacun Pour Soir, Politologue, First Flow and Cilaos Emery.
We also have Sceau Royal on our side. He admittedly ran a stinker in the race 12 months ago, but in 2019 jumped to the front at the last and only gave way late on to Altior and Politologue.
Harry Skelton won the Champion Chase on Politologue last year but I don't see him winning it this time on Nube Negra. Ideally he won't be placed either.
Gaillard Du Mesnil my final lay
For my third thumbs-down, I will lay Gaillard Du Mesnil in the win market for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at 13:20.
He is officially rated 1lb ahead of his two market rivals Bob Olinger and Bravemansgame following his Grade 1 win at Leopardstown last month. He was impressive that day, for sure, but so too were Bob Olinger at Naas and Bravemansgame in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
It is not often that you get three Group 1 winners going head-to-head in this race, and it is no surprise that it is 8/1 bar. Indeed, it is something of a surprise to see Bear Ghylls as short as that, given he is a handicapper rated 2lb below Does He Know which is a 50/1 shot with Betfair.
Joseph O'Brien runs Keskonrisk which has raced solely over two miles to date. He may be in the line-up simply because he was well-beaten by Appreciate It last time and this is a way of dodging the Supreme favourite.
In conclusion, I see Gaillard Du Mesnil as the least likely of the three Grade 1 winners to come out on top in a fascinating opening race on the second day.