Cheltenham Antepost Tips: Rhys Williams says chaser to spring a surprise for new yard

Our racing expert has an antepost selection for Cheltenham on Saturday

Rhys Williams has analysed the antepost markets for Saturday's racing and one horse has caught his eye at Cheltenham...

"Apart from a dismal effort at Chepstow, his other three runs for Nicholls earlier this year suggest that he is capable of being competitive in this race."

Ran respectably in the Grand Annual off 139

888 Sport Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday: Ashutor 1pt win 33/1

With nothing appealing on today's cards, my attention moved to the antepost markets for Saturday's racing and the two-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham (15:30) grabbed my focus as I think one performance has caused an overreaction with the price of the favourite.

Vado Forte will be racing off 145 on Saturday, 16lb higher than the mark he ran off at Chepstow on his latest start in Britain when finishing well behind Before Midnight. He was subsequently bought for £20,000 to join Gordon Elliott and he won by 15 lengths on his first start for him at Limerick. However, I'm not convinced that performance is as good as it looks as many of his rivals jumped poorly and he was left clear with no dangers at the end of the back straight following a fatal injury to another rival.

Vado Forte has always looked a horse who could be capable of being better than his results showed but to win this he will have to go another level beyond that and he looks opposable at the price.

This will be a more suitable test for Magic Saint than he faced on his final three starts of last season and he ran well over a trip that is further than ideal for him last time. He has his chance, as long as the ground doesn't turn too soft, but the market hasn't missed that.


Sky Pirate was transformed last season by the drop back to two miles which culminated in his victory in the Grand Annual. He's gone up another 7lb for that and he might just be capable of outclassing his rivals but again I think he's about the right price.

I think the race that Before Midnight won at Chepstow at the end of last season fell apart while Stolen Silver had everything go his way at Market Rasen on Saturday and he's likely to face far more pressure for the lead on Saturday.

I think Fanion d'Estruval is more talented than his rating of 152 and if he meets every fence perfectly then he will show that on Saturday but because he doesn't have any margin for error in his technique and his lack of size it's tougher for him to get out of trouble when wrong at a fence and that prevented him from showing his true ability last season. I wouldn't put anyone off having something on him at a double-figure price just in case it all clicks into place because the talent is there.

With many of those towards the front of the market having doubts over them, I think there's the potential for a shock result and I'm hoping that comes in the form of the complete outsider of the field at this time.

Ashutor was a £14,000 purchase at the Goffs UK August Sale and I expect that his season will include trips to France given his new connections but before all that I think he's capable of running better in this race than the market suggests.

He racked up two comfortable wins in quick succession over fences for Paul Nicholls in August last season and was then given a break after finishing third off 140 at Fontwell.

He returned to action after a 169-day break at the same track in late February and ran better than the margin beaten would suggest having not quite seen out the 2m3½f trip.

Cheltenham fence 1280x720.jpg

Ashutor turned up in the Grand Annual 2½ weeks later and again ran better than the margin beaten would suggest. He was hampered at the first and slow at the second which left him in a share of second last at the third fence. He made headway to be at the back of the leading group turning across the top of the course and his progress continued after 3 out to be only a few lengths behind the leader in eighth turning the final bend.

However, his progress was halted when he lunged at 2 out and he faded out of contention after that, eventually being beaten 19½ lengths in ninth.

He ran terribly at Chepstow after that when quickly dropping away in the home straight but his final run of the season and for Nicholls at Sandown was more encouraging. He made some mistakes but was still travelling strongly turning into the home straight a few lengths behind the leader before clearly failing to see out the trip.

Ashutor is now rated 132, 7lb lower than the mark he raced off in the Grand Annual, although if Sky Pirate runs on Saturday then he will be racing from 1lb out of the handicap. Apart from a dismal effort at Chepstow, his other three runs for Nicholls earlier this year suggest that he is capable of being competitive in this race if showing his best and a likely strong pace will suit.

There is the unknown over exactly what impact the trainer switch will have but they have done well with another purchase out of Nicholls' yard in Garo De Juilley so perhaps Ashutor can follow suit.

One concern I have is that Ashutor has shown a tendency to jump out to the right on a few occasions, although that wasn't so marked when racing on softer ground so any rain would help.

Despite that worry, I think his recent form figures have caused his chance to be overlooked in the market and any 25/1 or bigger appeals.


Staked: 380.50pts
Returned: 493.16pts
P/L: +112.66pts

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