After putting up the winner of the Peter Marsh last week at 11/1, Adam Baylis returns with a trio to back at Cheltenham and Doncaster on Saturday...
"He's 3lb lower than his last winning mark, has only finished out of the front three at Doncaster on one occasion in five attempts and has the services of a very capable pilot in Jonathan Burke."
Shantou Flyer finished just shy of two lengths behind Ballyhill at Cheltenham on New Year's Day but I'm hopeful he can get his revenge on Saturday in the 2m5f Handicap at 13:50. It took a while for the eight-year-old to get going following his switch to Richard Hobson's yard but the hugely promising Mitchell Bastyan got a fine tune out of him at Prestbury Park last time.
Ballyhill (9-1) fends off the late challenge of Shantou Flyer to win the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase under Jamie Bargary. pic.twitter.com/L1U5FpQjzv— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) January 1, 2018
He was giving upwards of a stone to Nigel Twiston-Davies' horse on that occasion and they should meet on more favourable terms this time round. The better ground will be a bonus to him and had he not made a mistake on the run in last time he may well have got his head in front. The 12/1 on offer looks excellent value when you consider in February last year, he was finishing a distant runner up to Cue Card at Ascot.
Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai heads the betting for the Cotswold Chase at 14:25; he decimated the field at Haydock that day, winning by 57 lengths but I don't think this will be as straight-forward. He did finish second in the JLT at the Festival in 2016 but I'm still not sure this track plays to his strengths, especially when having to give away 6lb to The Last Samuri and 4lb to American - who's run in the Hennessy was too bad to be true.
I'd be willing to give another chance to the latter, his trainer isn't one to tilt at windmills and he's been nibbled at in the betting this week, but the 13/2 on offer still appeals. I also wouldn't write off Brian Ellison's Definitely Red at 6/1, he's another that has to shoulder a penalty but has form at Cheltenham and was deeply impressive when beating Cloudy Dream last time.
The Cleeve Hurdle at 15:35 largely revolves around how Finian's Oscar takes to his return to smaller obstacles. He looked much more like the force of old at Ascot last month when beaten a short-head but there's a lot of if's and but's to take on board if getting involved at 2/1. It would be fantastic were Beer Goggles to triumph for Kayley Woollacott but he seems better suited to a flatter track and carrying a penalty in this field won't be easy.
Nicky Henderson's Thomas Campbell didn't cover himself in glory on his last run but he seems to save his best for Prestbury Park with form figures of 1511 here. He'll have to step up to claim this prize but the way in which he drew clear to win over three miles in November suggested there was more to come and the 8/1 is well worth taking if he lines up.
I've backed Coologue to win the three mile Listed Chase at 15:15 for the last two years, he finished second in 2016 and mid-division in 2017 but I'll be going back to the well again on Saturday. He's 3lb lower than his last winning mark, has only finished out of the front three at Doncaster on one occasion in five attempts and has the services of a very capable pilot in Jonathan Burke. The Charlie Longsdon inmate is currently 16/1 to make it third time lucky.
Thumb Stone Blues bolted up at Doncaster by 25 lengths last season and has gone close in his five appearances since, there's a chance this might be a bit out of his reach but at 10/1 I'm willing to find out. Lastly I wouldn't rule out a big run from Pilgrims Bay who remains on a very workable mark but he's such a hard horse to win with and might want the ground a bit quicker.
2017/18 P&L: +24.4pts
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