Timing is everything they say, so in an effort to uphold that notion, I am going to suggest a couple, no – three, antepost bets for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Mainly motivated by the presence of one of the selections, Imperial Aura, in the declarations for the Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham’s Trials Day meeting on Saturday. At the time of writing he is generally the 3/1 favourite for that race, and if all indications are correct, he should run very well (if not win) that particular race, and initiate a rise in the handicap from his current rating of 136 – which would surely get him in the correct rating range to secure a run in the aforementioned race.
In common with the other two selections, he has improved on his hurdle form since going over fences, and there is still a fair amount of scope left to improve. His run behind Pym at Cheltenham in December was eye-catching to say the least.
Now could be the time to secure prices about two other horses in the ante-post lists also – I’m not usually inclined to suggest backing three selections so far out, but you’d be hard pushed to suggest that this race won’t be their target, and come the day, I’d see all three floating around the 12/1 mark – if not shorter.
Cheltenham’s Trials Day meeting entries always feature a raft of Gordon Elliott-trained horses, in an effort to scope out their potential UK handicap marks ahead of the festival. Galvin (entered for the same race as Imperial Aura but not declared), was given a lovely mark of 142.
He was sixth in last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, appeals as a likely type, and would have given RSA fancy Battleoverdoyen a race had he not capsized on chase debut. Two confidence boosting runs since will have served a useful purpose.
The other is Alan King’s Deyrann De Carjac, who has excelled since going chasing – including a cracking run behind RSA Chase favourite Champ at Newbury, and the handicapper has kindly dropped him 1lb since an educational run at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day – allowing his new mark of 145 to get him a run in the race.
Much like Galvin, I’d expect Deyrann De Carjac to be prepared fresh for the race now. It is a small leap of faith to hope that all three get there on the day. But if they do, all will surely acquit themselves well, and at the current prices, I’m happy to risk it.