Cheltenham Festival SmartPlays: Tuesday March 12

Our Mick can win for Donald and this column on Tuesday

Nothing can match the excitement of the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, and Timeform have chosen three selections to hopefully get you off to a flying start...

"Our Mick really does boast solid form, has had his whole campaign mapped around this race and looks sure to launch a strong challenge..."

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You will hear many people peddle the stat that the Supreme Novices' Hurdle is a poor race for favourites, but each horse must be assessed on their individual merits and there has never been a contender with stronger credentials than My Tent Or Yours. Nicky Henderson's charge was an ultra-impressive winner of the valuable Betfair Hurdle last month, producing a performance that earned him a Timeform rating of 168p, and he fully deserves his place at the head of the market. To put that huge figure into context, no novice has ever entered the Supreme Novices' Hurdle with such a high rating; in fact, no horse since the ill-fated Golden Cygnet in 1978 has achieved a higher rating in the race. To put it simply, a mere reproduction of the level of form My Tent Or Yours produced in the Betfair Hurdle would almost certainly see him win; you are getting odds-against about an odds-on shot. True, there are a host of unexposed horses in opposition, many of whom remain open to significant improvement, but My Tent Or Yours sets a phenomenally high standard, rated at least a stone superior to his rivals, and represents good value to get you off to the perfect start.

For our final two SmartPlays we will get our teeth stuck into a couple of formidable-looking handicaps, starting with the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase, the third race on the card. Our Mick has been well backed in the lead up to the Festival, unsurprisingly so in light of his tremendous effort as a novice, finishing third in this contest last year. He has only had the one start this term, unshipping Jason Maguire at the third-last fence when vying for the lead with Katenko on Trials Day, but he shaped like a horse that could be ahead of his mark, racing with zest at the head of affairs. The Jonjo O'Neill-trained Merry King is something of a surprising runner, considering he looked set to appear in the National Hunt Chase on Wednesday, but he is a most intriguing participant, bringing some very strong handicap form to the table. He may be capable of throwing down the strongest challenge to Our Mick, but Donald McCain's contender really does boast solid form, has had his whole campaign mapped around this race and looks sure to launch a strong challenge.

Our final SmartPlay comes in the final race on the card as we select The Druids Nephew to take advantage of a lenient-looking handicap mark. It is undoubtedly a concern that he is the only horse that has managed to win for the Andy Turnell yard this year, but he still has enough in his favour to recommend him as a bet. A good sixth in last year's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, The Druids Nephew has progressed as expected this season, registering some useful efforts over fences, notably when beating Grandioso by 10 lengths at Wincanton last time. Considering it was only a three-runner affair, in which two horses finished, the handicapper, understandably, didn't get carried away with the bare form. However, the subsequent exploits of Grandioso, who has won twice since and has a BHA rating of 145, makes it look like The Druids Nephew could have been let in lightly off a mark of 135. The form of his first start over fences, beaten a short-head by the RSA-bound Hadrian's Approach, also looks like a strong effort on paper and he can hopefully land this final race.

Timeform SmartPlays
All at Cheltenham

Back My Tent Or Yours @ [2.96] in the 13:30 
Back Our Mick @ [8.0] in the 14:40
Back The Druids Nephew @ [8.4] in the 17:15

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