Hadrians Approach 6/1 (william hill) 1 point win
9 times out of 10 I am a ‘proven horse’ punter and none of the unexposed horses entice me at the prices. This horse is the proven class horse in the race and if he jumps like he did at Sandown he could take some stopping. Everything else has to prove themselves one way or another (class, track, distance,form or combination of all) and i prefer to stick to the proven horse. His record fresh is fine, he has some good form at Cheltenham and the trainer is in very good form. All in all the most solid bet in the race for me and he will probably go off close to favourite. 11-12 is a lot of weight and we will see if he can carry it. Most the majority of handicap chases are won but those in the top few weights and top weights have a very good record in general however it depends on the size of the horse. I think 6/1 is a decent price even with that slight concern. The cheek-pieces seemed to help him jump better at Sandown and although he can be a questionable jumper he is only 7 and is still open to improvement himself.
So, he has the best form on offer, is also proven at the track, the trainer is in form and has won this before and he goes well fresh. If he runs up to form, and repeats his Sandown performance the likes of Cowards Close have to improve by 28lbs on what they have shown to date.
Lamb Or Cod has only won small field Novice Races and I would like to see more from him before backing him in a competitive handicap like this. Hobbs is still in great form and he is open to improvement still. Not for me this time.
Samstown has a similar profile. He is open to improvement but i like proven handicappers in Class 1 Graded races like this and he could find this a bit too much at this stage in his career. Although he has won a C2 Novice Chase he has only won at Class 3 in handicap chases.
Charingworth is back into some sort of form and can be given a chance. However he isnt the most consistent and is 11. No horse older than 9 has won this race in the last decade and I just think there are too many unexposed horses in here, including Hadrians Approach, who will have too much for him.
I like Standing Ovation and I won on him at Wincanton last season. However he is out of form and he is still to win going left handed from 9 runs. He will come back to form at some point but there are just a few too many doubts for me to back him this time.
Benbane Head has never won above c3 and again I think there are younger legs in here who will prove to be better than him. He is a front runner and will put in a bold show but he should find something too good here.
Cowards Close could be anything and is clearly highly regarded and he could be chucked in here. However he has only won a C4 Novice Chase at Taunton of all places and he will need to step up. Some people like backing these type of horses but I dont. I rarely back horses that are this unexposed and I am not going to start now. I want to see some big field proven Handicap form at this level, or a decent price, before i get involved. 5/1 is skinny but if he wins this well he will clearly be one to keep onside. Nicholls has won this race before.
Shattered Dream doesnt look good enough at the moment and while unexposed again I want to see more proven form before backing something like this in a race like this.
The Ould Lad won impressively at Leicester in a Class 4 Handicap. But he will need to step up here. If Hadrian’s Approach runs to form, and it is an if, then he will need to find 30lbs. 30lbs! Is he going to improve that much?
Pigeon Island is exposed and you would be surprised if he were to win this. He has never won over this far and I cant see him starting now.
To conclude this race is all about whether Hadrians Approach runs to form and whether he can cope with 11-12 on his back. They are two big questions but I think 6/1 is a decent enough price in which to find out. If he does run up to his mark the other horses have to improve so much that I cannot see them getting into this. There are clearly some nice unexposed horses in this race to follow for the rest of the season but I am happy to stick with the Henderson runner. I like sticking with the proven horses and it has served me well over time. Cowards Close and The Ould Lad should be the main challengers.
That’s it from Cheltenham, there will be no more previews for tomorrow. I think The Big Easy will win the 3.15 but he is only 11/4 at the moment and that is a bit skinny, but he should go well, provided there is not too much rain tonight.