Rather Be looks the best bet in the 5.30 at Cheltenham on Tuesday. This novices’ contest is almost a graded chase masquerading as a handicap race with twenty runners covered by a weight difference of just 8lb from top to bottom.
Nicky Henderson’s gelding has bags of potential and following a handful of low-key qualifying runs for this festival heat, he might well be capable of a good deal better faced with a stronger pace and a step back up in trip. He has shown too that he handles heavy ground and let's hope that will help him cope with Cheltenham’s testing conditions.
The prospect of heavy ground at Cheltenham spells a difficult week for punters; when it’s muddy at Prestbury Park races become a lottery. Throw in Altior’s possible absence from the Queen Mother on Wednesday, and this has been a bad news start to Cheltenham’s 2018 festival.
What’s more, this year’s Champion Hurdle at 3.30 has to be one of the worst renewals I have ever seen. It’s a disappointing one-horse race with reigning champion Buveur D'Air seeming sure to justify short odds. There has been an alarming lack of quality and quantity this season in the graded races (a paltry five runners in the Arkle at 2.10 for example) and it is hard to make a convincing case for Buveur D’Air’s rivals.
I had wondered if the sharply progressive Elgin could supply some decent each-way value against the short-priced favourite but I have my doubts about Alan King’s gelding producing his best on heavy ground given that he is a Flat-bred horse whose strongest form has been on a sound surface.
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