Horse Racing Tips

Saturday Racing Tips: Kate Tracey thinks Palais can storm Prestbury's curtain-raiser

Cheltenham
Kate Tracey expects Saint Palais to take advantage of his novice status

It's the return of Cheltenham this week and Kate Tracey has taken an all-National Hunt approach for her Saturday best bets. Kate assesses four races at Prestbury Park in a bid to get the jump season off to a flyer...

  • Four selections from our tipster this Saturday
  • Pied Piper can lead the way as a worthy favourite
  • Vienna Girl way overpriced at 40/1

Palais to take advantage of Novice status

John McConnell has won Cheltenham's Novices' Hurdle over 2m7f208y at 13:30 the last two years and will have a popular contender again in the shape of Rexem, who has already made a good start to his hurdling career. However, he has to give away penalties to the rest of the field, and one who goes unpenalised is Saint Palais, for trainer Richard Bandey.

He was campaigned over fences last year, and now reverts to hurdles to make use of his novice status.

Rated 153 over the larger obstacles, he is clearly no mug, and connections have already made it known the eventual target will be the Albert Bartlett back here in March.

Three years ago, this race was won by Ramses De Teillee, David Pipe's popular chaser, who was reverting to hurdles to make use of his novice status. Whilst that wasn't the strongest race in the world, I thoroughly expect Saint Palais to take full advantage of the weight concessions he receives from the majority of this field.

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Only a five-year-old, there is clearly improvement still to come from him, and he has run well fresh in the past. He might appreciate any rain between now and the off but does have form on quick surfaces and the stiff finish up Cheltenham's hill should play to his strengths.

Piper to lead the way

Initially, the price about Pied Piper in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle over 2m at 14:40 had looked an absolute steal at 2.56/4. It makes perfect sense that he should have been backed in to 2.01/1 therefore, as many others have clearly had similar thoughts to me.

This four-year-old contest is the rematch mark.3 between Pied Piper and Knight Salute after the pair met twice in juvenile Grade 1 contests last season.

The first meeting was advantage Pied Piper in the Triumph Hurdle where he was able to put his previous Cheltenham win to good use to finish third behind the highly impressive Vauban and stable/ owner mate, Fil D'Or in second.

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Knight Salute finished down the field in ninth, beaten 20 lengths where he looked readily outclassed against the Irish raiders, making plenty of mistakes as a result.

As can often be the case with juveniles at the end of the season, following a heavy campaign, the form wasn't upheld on the next encounter. That was the Grade 1 Four-Year-Old Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree where the pair butted heads once more- quite literally in fact.

Initially, the outcome had been judged to have been a deadheat with Pied Piper rallying to seemingly, justify his 10/11 favouritism. Knight Salute had been dismissed in the market and sent off at 14/1 but readily bounced back on a track that played to his strengths.

The stewards awarded the race outright to Milton Harris's runner after it was deemed that the interference caused by Pied Piper had cost Knight Salute the overall win. That was a very harsh decision in my mind but given Pied Piper came into the final flight cantering, so much credit must be lauded on Knight Salute for the tenacity he showed.

Back at Prestbury Park however, I think the dominance of Pied Piper will again, be confirmed on a track that advantages Gordon Elliott's runner. He is also absolutely fine on a fast surface, being a son of New Approach.

Knight Salute may be seen to a better effect on a flatter track for all he is a Grade 2 winner at Cheltenham but that was a pretty weak race in all honesty.

Pied Piper also ran a blinder on his latest outing when sighted on the flat in the Ascot Stakes behind Coltrane at Royal Ascot to finish sixth- form that hasn't worked out too badly at all.

All factors are there for me to side with Pied Piper to assert his dominance.

Handicap debutant can Whack rivals in Pertemps

For a Pertemps qualifier so early in the season, the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at 15:50 has the makings of an interesting contest. Invariably, early season races are hard to unpick, as you aren't ever sure how tuned up a horse is going to be first time out. Cases can be made for many of the horses prominent in the betting, and I can count at least three shorter than 10/1 with outstanding claims.

However, as we know with these Pertemps qualifiers, some horses are only targeting a finish in the front four (previously six) rather than winning the contest. Therefore, I think it is worth taking a chance on a horse called The Real Whacker, trained by fairly unheralded Ann Duffield at her base in North Yorkshire.

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Last time out, in the River Don Novices Hurdle he showed his inexperience when hanging in a close finish, with the now 141-rated Mahler Mission. That horse went on to finish a respectable seventh in the Albert Bartlett and followed up with a comfortable success at Perth in a listed novice hurdle.

A better jump at the second last that day at Doncaster and being kept to a straighter line could've made the finish extremely tight.

Despite a long layoff, he is thoroughly unexposed, and could well turn out to be the proverbial graded horse in a handicap, off a fair mark of 137.

Ann Duffield hasn't come across too many high-level horses, and no doubt has wanted to take her time with this one, and her patience could well be rewarded.

She plundered the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock earlier in the year, with Willie Mullins cast-off N'Golo, which illustrates her clear ability with decent horses.

Gavin Sheehan will partner The Real Whacker, he himself in flying form, having ridden three winners from his last six rides at the time of writing; the other three all came second. That translates into four winners from his last 14 rides, and he is obviously riding with great confidence at the moment.

There are dangers aplenty in the field, with many seasoned handicappers like An Tailliur, Panic Attack and also Botox Has who is classy on his day. It would also be remiss not to mention Shoot First, trained by Charles Byrnes, who certainly knows which day of the week it is.

The 17.016/1 and extra places is too good to miss about The Real Whacker, who can go well and learn a lot on handicap debut.

Bumpers run at Cheltenham typically throw up decent form for the rest of the season, or for next. There are some very nice young horses in the Open National Hunt Flat at 17:00, in what could turn out to be and extremely strong race for this time of year. As with any bumper, most are unknown quantities at this stage, and no fewer than 13 of the 15 runners have already won on the level under rules.

Strong Glance won four bumpers, including at the October meeting here in 2018 and his brother Strong Leader has already shown he is more than adept in the discipline when running out a seven and a half-length winner of a Warwick bumper on debut.

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He could well be ready to go forward and pick this contest up en route to a novice hurdle campaign. His trainer, Olly Murphy, has a fantastic 25% strike rate in bumpers over the last five seasons, and has definitely chosen to send one of his better prospects down the A46 for this one.

Milton Harris's two horses are not overlooked lightly, nor are any of the three that Fergal O'Brien sends to the race; that trainer has won three of the last four runnings of this race and won no less than three of the seven bumpers run at Cheltenham last season. They are obvious dangers.

However, getting weight from the rest of the field, Vienna Girl, for predominantly flat trainer Kevin Frost, can come forward and run a big race in a competitive field. Beaten narrowly on debut by a warm order Nicky Henderson charge, she had been allowed to go off 125/1 before finishing strongly from a long way back.

Charted a similar course next time out, when coming from off the pace to finish strongly and win cosily from subsequent winner, Invictus De Brion.

Getting weight from all, and ridden in the same patient manner, she can run a very big race for the owner/trainer presumably with a view to being sold down the line.

She will appreciate the quicker ground, and being by Golden Horn, can use her turn of foot to make late progress.

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