Plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues on nine-race card

Plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues on nine-race card

Ruth Jefferson’s leading light has won all six of his completed chase starts but he doesn’t have much in hand at the weights and his fitness levels must be taken on trust.

Paul Nicholls trains the next two in the market, Cyrname and Politologue, and preference is for the latter given his record right-handed.

His only defeat when going this way around came when the trip may have just stretched him in the King George and he is unbeaten at this track.

Cyrname was spectacular when winning by 21 lengths at this course last time and was raised 15lb to a mark of 165 for that effort. A bold front-runner, he looks likely to get an easy time in front but could prove vulnerable to waiting tactics late on.

The biggest danger to Waiting Patiently could be Fox Norton, who ran his best race for some time when chasing home superstar Altior on his last start at Sandown.

He showed plenty of zest then, in his first start since December 2017, and has been difficult to get right according to assistant Joe Tizzard.

Fox Norton was just beaten just a head in the Champion Chase in 2017 before winning a the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree over two and a half miles, and connections are presumably using this race to test his suitability for the Ryanair Chase at the festival, with the Tizzards suggesting they may want to avoid Altior again.

With that in mind, the Tizzard camp will want Fox Norton to have a true test at the trip and it’s worth chancing his stamina lasts out at around 6/1.

Betfair Denman Chase

King George hero Clan Des Obeaux continues his Gold Cup preparation with a run in the 2m7½f Denman Chase. The Paul Nicholls-trained runner is fourth favourite for the Cheltenham Festival showpiece and can be backed at 10/1 to claim glory in March.

Likely to be sent off long odds-on to head to the Festival off the back of a win, the seven-year-old faces just three rivals as he attempts to continue his rise up the chasing ladder. Still just a seven-year-old, Clan Des Obeaux has won four of his twelve starts and took his form to another level when beating Thistlecrack at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He travelled notably well in that race and has his optimium conditions – three miles on decent ground, with his stamina having to be proven in the Gold Cup, especially if the ground turns testing.

The main threat to Clan Des Obeaux is undoubtedly Terreffort, who looked a horse who could shape into a potential Gold Cup contender when winning the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase over three miles at Aintree just a month after finishing second to Shattered Love in the 2m4f in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Originally with Guillaume Macaire in France, the Nicky Henderson-trained runner has made the same number of chase starts as the year-older Clan Des Obeaux and looks to be refinding his form judged on a confidence-boosting run behind Gold Cup-bound Frodon at Cheltenham last month.

Terrefort had jumped appallingly before that on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown but was found to be lame after the race and connections were presumably keen to not give the grey too hard a time after his previous disappointment. He can be expected to come on for that run and it would not be a surprise if he makes a race of it with Clan Des Obeaux.

With only four runners, there is sadly no each-way value to be had and it’s almost  impossible to make a case for Thomas Patrick and Ballyhill. Thomas Patrick was sent off strong favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy) but pulled-up. He has performed poorly in two starts since and it needs a leap of faith to back him to bounce back to form.

Ballyhill is a solid handicapper but looks to be up against it in this class.

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