All jumping disciplines come alike to the three-time Festival winner and his latest hurdles success over top two-mile handicapper Off You Go suggests he has never arrived at Cheltenham in better form. It’s hard to understand why he should be anywhere near as big as the widely-available 11-10.
Black Op at 10-1 in the market without Samcro was a winning selection for us in the Ballymore last year and there looks another bet as persuasive in this year’s renewal (13:30). Battleoverdoyen (136) and Beakstown (135) boast the best timefigures (though BrewinUpastorm would have recorded a 137 or thereabouts had he stood up last time), but the yet-to-be-extended Champ (132) isn’t far behind and he would be clear best of these on combined time and sectionals if factoring in the upgrade he was worth for disposing of the smart novice Getaway Trump with ease at Newbury last time. None of those horses have been missed in the market, however, but one who has is the unbeaten Galvin, who posted a useful 131 timefigure when winning at Navan two starts back and could have won by half the track at Ayr last time. Gordon Elliot’s charge has done all his racing at two miles and clearly doesn’t lack for speed, but his dam was an out-and-out stayer and the step up to the four-furlong longer trip promises to bring about a good deal of improvement. At 25-1 he looks worth an each-way interest with those firms paying four places.
Santini has recovered enough from his recent training setback to make the line-up for the RSA (14:10), but he looks vulnerable in a renewal in which it’s difficult to look beyond the first few in the market. Last year’s Albert Bartlett third has made a promising start to his chasing career, but in both the Albert Bartlett and the Kauto Star at Kempton over Christmas he took a long time to find his stride. Sectional upgrades just give him the edge over Kempton runner-up Topofthegame, but neither may be able to cope with Delta Work, who possesses a heady blend of speed and stamina. Delta Work wasn’t quite as good as Santini or Topofthegame over hurdles but, unlike that pair, he did score at the 2018 Festival when winning the Pertemps Final off a BHA mark of 139. His perfect three-from-three record over fences this season include a win in the Grade 1 Drinmore at Fairyhouse, in which he became the only horse to lower the colours of Le Richebourg over fences, and he backed that up last time with a timefigure nearly as good when not needing to be at his best in another Grade 1 at Leopardstown.
The Coral Cup (14:50) is full of familiar names, but one Cheltenham regular who missed last year returns off a very attractive mark in the shape of Tully East. In three Festivals, the 2017 Close Brothers winner has yet to finish out of the first six and he can line up here off a 2 lb lower mark than when fourth in the 2016 Martin Pipe. He is just as good over hurdles as fences and is the best handicapped horse in the race from a timefigure perspective. The Coral Cup will play to his come-from-behind style and his trainer Alan Fleming is in top form, having had two winners at Naas on Sunday. He’s unlikely to be far away and looks a solid each-way selection.
Neither of the three other events make great appeal from a betting perspective. Altior should win the Champion Chase with something to spare but is priced accordingly, while the Fred Winter and the Champion Bumper are both full of lightly-raced types that have for the most part contested falsely-run races. Fine Brunello and Envoi Allen would be the nominal timefigure selections in those events.
Back Galvin each-way in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at 25/1
Back Delta Work to win the RSA Chase at 2/1
Back Tully East each-way in the Coral Cup at 20/1
Back Tiger Roll to win the Glenfarclas Chase at 11/10