Resident tipster Tony Calvin returns to give us the best bets from Sunday's ITV card. He tipped up Old Guard earlier in the week, but has two more from the Greatwood Hurdle...
"Nietzsche was rated 137 after being beaten just two necks in the Fred Winter here last year but since then it has basically been a case of disappointment over hurdles, and his best effort since was probably a 15-length sixth on soft ground in this race last year."
Verdana Blue is opposable
I'm very happy with my 33/1 ante-post position on Old Guard in Sunday's Greatwood Hurdle at 15:00 - - and he remains a decent each-way bet for the reasons outlined in that piece.
It's always good to view races afresh when you know the final fields and enhanced place terms and the like, though, so here we go.
The first thing to note is that the favourite Verdana Blue has stood her ground, and the mare undoubtedly has leading claims.
She tanks through her races and the drying conditions are very much in her favour, but she doesn't officially have anything in hand of the handicapper with her 5lb penalty - she went up that amount for her Elite win last Saturday - and possible negatives are obviously the quick turnaround and the stiffer track (she was beaten in both starts at Cheltenham last year).
Another fascinating aspect of this race is that none of the 19 runners are front-runners. I'm sure someone will take up the challenge from the front, but it isn't a given that this will be a fierce gallop from flagfall to finish. A stop-start gallop wouldn't be ideal for the favourite.
In summary, she is opposable at the price, and similar comments apply to Western Ryder and Nube Negra (has had a wind op and from a stable that targets this race), so I have to again look towards the bottom of the market for another bet. Or two.
Deyrann De Carjac is near the top of that list. He is held in much higher regard at home than his current rating of 128 may suggest, and he shaped really well when second to Pym at Chepstow on his return. He could run a huge race, but he is having just his fifth start over hurdles, so inexperience is a concern and his price has shortened a fair bit of late, anyway.
Split your stakes
I am going to suggest that you split your Sunday stakes on a far more grizzled 5yo in Nietzsche and the smooth-travelling Irish Roe, both at around the 25/1+ mark.
Nietzsche was rated 137 after being beaten just two necks in the Fred Winter here last year but since then it has basically been a case of disappointment over hurdles, and his best effort since was probably a 15-length sixth on soft ground in this race last year.
He is down to a mark of just 123 now, but he actually races off 126 here as he is 3lb out of the handicap, and his Flat run at Newmarket earlier this month suggests they may just have got to the root of the problem.
He saw his race out really well over 1m4f there, splitting two in-form horses over 1m4f, and that was his first run in a tongue-tie.
It could well be that piece of equipment is the key to him kicking on again over hurdles, and he is ridden by 7lb claimer Danny McMenamin, who is the latest "buzz" kid on the block.
He is four from nine in the last fortnight (going into Saturday's racing), and getting rave reviews, so his booking is a positive and it wouldn't surprise me were his mount to become one of the punts of the day-of-race market at 26.025/1 or bigger.
Connections have always been adamant that he is best served by soft going, but I don't have any worries about the good ground for him.
Luck of the Irish Roe
My other bigger-priced dart is Irish Roe, who ran well on her reappearance at Wetherby considering the market suggested she would need the run pretty badly.
She still travelled with her customary zest though, and she is fairly handicapped on her second to Maria's Benefit in a Grade 2 at Doncaster last January, when they pulled 7 lengths clear and more of a couple of smart mares in third and fourth.
She came on appreciably for her first run of the campaign last year and I expect the same here, and hopefully the first-time cheekpieces will bring about further progression, too.
That Doncaster run above came on soft ground but she had earlier beaten Mohaayed at that track on good, so I have no concerns about her on the ground. In fact, given the way she tanks through her races, it is probably a positive.
Back her at 30.029/1 or bigger.
To be honest with you, I don't have any bets in the other ITV races at Cheltenham, or in the Southern National at Fontwell, so I am happy to park it there.
I do think Follow The Bear will go well in the opener though, as he ran well for a long way at Aintree on his return, has been dropped 2lb for it, and Ned Curtis takes off another 3lb. Trip and ground are ideal and he should go well if you want an early interest. The first firm up on Saturday morning made him 16/1 and that looked big to me.
Back Nietzsche @ 26.025/1 or bigger in the 15:00 Cheltenham
Back Irish Roe @ 30.029/1 or bigger in the 15:00 Cheltenham
Already Advised ante-post
Old Guard @ 33/1 E/W, Betfair Sportsbook