SIMPLY THE BETTS jumped out to his left when a nine-length runner-up at Kempton last time and can make it three from three in left-handed chases when he contests the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (1.15. His record this way around, on good or softer going and below Grade 1 company, stands at 31111 (4-5) with the defeat on his hurdles debut at Newbury in a race won by Lostintranslation.
If there’s to be a shock then it could come at the hands of Garo De Juilley who has run some crackers in non-handicap novice chase company, notably a 33-1 fourth in Garde 2 company here last time. He found only Slate House too good here on his chase debut and he’s on the same mark as when landing the Grade 3 Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow last season. It’s possible we won’t see the best of him until he runs on better ground in the spring but he’s too big a price to miss.
In the past year, horses who prepped in handicaps are 0-42 in Grade 2 hurdles in Britain and it could pay to oppose those who took that route to the 3m Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster (2.05). There were two qualifiers last year – the 6-4 joint favourites – and they finished a 22-length second and 24-length third behind the 12-1 outsider of four. Three of this year’s five runners competed in handicap company last time and Champagne Well, one who didn’t, has not proved easy to win with – landing just one of his last eight starts and that was when taking the wide route on a biased track at Cheltenham. This leaves THOMAS MACDONAGH, winner of a Ffos Las novices’ hurdle on his latest start. Aside from seasonal debuts his record reads 2111 (3-4), improving to 111 (3-3) over 2m3f or further.
TRUCKERS HIGHWAY tends to reserve his best efforts for December/January and is most effective in Class 4 or lower company. His record under these conditions reads 61113113P1 (6-10), improving to 111 (3-3) at Uttoxeter only. Back him at the Staffordshire venue in the 2m4f tokyolaundry.com Handicap Chase (3.40).
[EVEN FLIGHT]() ran an incredible race at Limerick on his penultimate start, holding on for a 10-1 third despite getting into a fierce three-way battle for the lead. The other two front-runners – [Future Proof]() and [Accidental Rebel]() were both shorter prices (6-4 and 8-1) and dropped away before pulling up and finishing seventh respectively. Accidental Rebel was narrowly denied when 33-1 for a 25-runner handicap hurdle at Leopardstown next time. Even Flight was nicely backed ahead of his next start at Tramore but wasn’t helped by racing in the ‘swamp’ on the inside, eventually finishing fourth. Fairyhouse could be more to his liking.
Chris Gordon has had four previous runners in Cheltenham’s 2m1f Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle (4.10), resulting in two winners (20-1 and 7-2), a 25-1 fourth who was only beaten by two and a half lengths and a faller. This year he relies on SHUT THE BOX, who might be able to outrun his general 20-1 quotes. The six-year-old struggled in a handicap hurdle at Wincanton on his return from wind surgery but the procedure clearly didn’t work as he’s had another wind op since that run. He improved after the New Year in 2019, finishing fifth to Pentland Hills before scoring at Plumpton and, while there’s obviously a lot of guesswork involved, he’s worth a small interest at a big price.
Martin Keighley has also won this race before and his BACK ON THE LASH was an eyecatcher at the October meeting here when he raced on the inside of the track where the ground was at its deepest, doing well to finish a 14-1 fifth of the 17 runners. His patient style was at a big disadvantage when only seventh at Market Rasen next time and the ground would also have been much softer than he likes. There’s a good chance that he’ll bounce back here.
ANDREW MOUNT'S BEST BETS
Simply The Betts 1pt win (1.15 Cheltenham) 15/2 bet365
Garo De Juilley 0.5pt each-way (1.15 Cheltenham) 40-1 Unibet
Thomas Macdonagh 1pt win (2.05 Doncaster) 4/1 Coral
Truckers Highway 0.5pt each-way (3.40 Uttoxeter) 16/1 William Hill
Even Flight 1pt win (3.55 Fairyhouse) 13/2 Paddy Power
Shut The Box 0.5pt each-way (4.10 Cheltenham) 22/1 bet365
Back On The Lash 0.5pt each-way (4.10 Cheltenham) 12-1 Unibet
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