Cheltenham has a cracking card for its last meeting before the Festival in March. The usual highlight of the day is the Pillar Property Chase, but the outstanding race on Saturday at jumping's headquarters is the Victor Chandler, a refugee from the building works at Ascot.
Arkle winner Well Chief does battle against former two-mile champion Flag- ship Uberalles, old foe Thisthatandtother and a host of young pretenders including former high-class hurdler Non So.
If Well Chief can win here conceding lumps of weight all round, he will announce himself as a genuine Champion Chase contender. But that is a big "if". The legendary Desert Orchid was good enough but current champion Azertyuiop fell just short last term. Well Chief could also be found wanting.
Thisthatandtother was within three lengths of Well Chief at Aintree last season, giving him 3lb. Today he is in receipt of 20lb. Well Chief may well have got better but there is no indication that Thisthatandtother is on the wane. He has run well twice at Cheltenham this year, finishing second both times in good handicaps.
Sad to report, he was advised as a win bet here both times. Hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky. The Pillar is a sub-standard renewal of the race and it is hard to see any of these horses playing a leading role in the Gold Cup come March. That said, Ballycassidy represents some value on Saturday.
The other big race on the card is the Byrne Brothers Cleeve Hurdle. This is a true trial for the Stayers' Hurdle at the Festival and Royal Rosa should be backed with confidence in both races. Howard Johnson believes this to be the best horse in his yard, praise indeed from the trainer that saddled Inglis Drever and Lord Transcend to a big race double last weekend. Course specialist Westender is the one to fear.
Your A Gassman is a hot favourite for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. He is a class novice and his entry in the Gold Cup speaks volumes. However, Run for Paddy is well handicapped on his best form and represents each-way value.
2:05 Cheltenham - Thisthatandtother (win)
2:35 Cheltenham - Royal Rosa (win)
3:25 Doncaster - Run for Paddy (each-way)