One place to begin
We covered the Skybet Chase yesterday, and I think there is only one place to start when looking at the other ITV races this weekend.
Cheltenham's 2m4f127yd handicap chase on Saturday (13:55) has attracted 18 entries and no fewer than 10 are doubly-entered this week - see below for a full list of all such occurrences in the terrestrial contests on Saturday - so that presents an obvious angle.
Realm Keeper has been declared overnight at Uttoxeter on Thursday, so he is clearly a very unlikely runner. Definitely don't back him at this stage. The same comment applies to Ex Patriot in the Cotswold Chase too, as he is in the Thyestes at Gowran on the same day.
On a wider plain, putting on this race, and a novices' handicap chase over the same trip, on the card is hardly the wisest move.
But the layers are not stupid, and they will surely have cottoned on to this. Mind you, looking at one of set prices on Monday evening - unfortunately not those of Betfair's - I am not so sure.
Personally, if I ran a trading room, god forbid, I would have said to my odds-compilers not to bother pricing up this one.
But then I imagine the marketing team would get involved, insist I did, and then I would instruct the race to be priced up very defensively indeed.
For glaringly obvious reasons.
I have no idea of what is set to run in the handicap chase but I am instantly ruling out 10 of the 18 because they could run elsewhere this weekend, and that makes matters much more manageable.
Saint could turn on the Magic
I suspect Paul Nicholls may be very tempted to run Simply The Betts in what looks like being a maximum field of five in the Cotswold - poor numbers yet again for a first prize of 67k+ and the weights will rise accordingly.
That won't have any effect on any in here bar the bottom three, but it could mean that his other entry, Magic Saint, could end up carrying top weight, with Fusil Raffles perhaps more likely to head to Donny.
But that doesn't deter me at all, as he has carried big weight to victory before and Nicholls has often used claimers on him to lessen the burden.
Unfortunately, the Sportsbook odds-compilers fancy him too, and are rightly ducking him at my eyes at 7/1, so I won't be tipping him here. But I will make the case for him, and you can make your own mind up. I wouldn't be laying the 10s, 9s and 8s doing the rounds, though.
And, on that point, that is why it is crucial to fully explain your reasoning in these types of column. I read some tipping columns and they literally give a line or two for a tip, which I think is worthless, for all they may have space limitations.
Anyway, Magic Saint strongly hinted that his turn may be near when shaping far better than his 12-length fourth would suggest here under a 5lb claimer, and in first-time cheekpieces, last time - travelling powerfully coming into the straight, only to weaken on the run-in - and he was dropped another 2lb for it.
He went off at 50/1, and double that at Betfair SP, so I think it screamed "next time", or at the very least "some time soon".
He is now 5lb lower than when beating Fanion D'Estruval over 2m here in November 2020 - he is also now 12lb shy of his peak rating - he has loads of other form here and over this longer trip, and the better ground here is in his favour, too.
However, I reckon I will get 7s on Friday even if the race cuts up appreciably, so you will probably be hearing more about him on Friday from a tipping perspective.
The other three ITV contests at Cheltenham are easily glossed over. I am afraid small fields for big pots continually leave me very cold, and it doesn't help that two of the main players in the 2m4f novices' hurdle (Hillcrest and Green Book) at 3.40pm also have a Doncaster entry in the River Don, too.
Big opportunity for Anna Bunina
Up at Donny, I was not in the least surprised to see the Sportsbook's early 10/1 about Anna Bunina snapped up in the Grade 2 mares' hurdle at 14:10.
This is another very poor turn-out for a race of this nature. The top-rated horse is last year's winner Miranda on a mark of 146, and that gives you some kind of guide how much winning this will take.
Miranda is the obvious favourite at 4/5 but she does have a 6lb penalty to carry for last year's win and that makes her opposable.
I'd be surprised if the other form horse, Western Victory, turned out again so soon after a very strange, lung-busting ride from the front at Ascot last weekend, so all roads led to the un-penalised Anna Bunina, the third best in here at the weights.
This horse needs decent ground to shine, which she will get here, and she is only officially 5lb shy of Miranda at these weights.
Of course, she has to improve markedly on a poor showing on good to soft ground at Musselburgh last time but that was her first run for 258 days and if she returns to the form of her Scottish Champion Hurdle second, when a certain Tommy's Oscar was behind her in third, she could really stick it up the jolly.
That wasn't an isolated good handicap run either, as she had earlier finished eighth in the County Hurdle.
The 10s was huge and the current 7/1 surely remains far too big, but the problem is that I couldn't find out whether she was an intended runner here - and the stable isn't flying either - so I was in two mind about whether to stick her up win-only.
However, I just cannot believe trainer John McConnell will bypass this seemingly gimme opportunity of black type for his mare, so I am recommending a small bet at 7/1. I'd actually take 5s and bigger myself if and when that price goes.