Our 2017 Tipstar champion Chris Baker will be appearing on Mark Your Card on Saturday and has five fancies for Cheltenham. Read his thoughts below.
By Chris Baker
Six weeks ago, I was incredibly honoured to be crowned winner of the 2017 Racing UK Tipstar competition.
Today I return to Cheltenham in the privileged position of guest pundit on the Mark Your Card programme. Trials day features seven quality races with a whole host of equine stars on show.
While many will be looking forward to events at The Festival in March, it must not be forgotten that today’s races are fascinating contests in their own right. In this column I will explain the rationale behind my five bets on the card. Good luck!
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The Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase looks a typically competitive renewal. Two horses were winners last time out and four hold Grade One entries.
Top weight Frodon looks to have a good chance and Bryony Frost takes a valuable 5lb off his back.
Paul Nicholls’ consistent six-year-old has won six of his 14 starts over fences (including two novice Grade Two races) and although he is without a victory this season, his defeats have been behind such as Might Bite and Top Notch.
Frodon has won over course and distance and appears to be versatile in terms of ground conditions.
The Cotswold Chase has attracted eight runners, including the emphatic Betfair Chase winner and market leader Bristol De Mai.
Favourites have been beaten every year since 2000, though, and Daryl Jacob’s mount has to bounce back from a disappointing run in the King George on Boxing Day.
Preference is for Definitly Red, whose 14-length defeat of The Last Samuri at Doncaster in March saw him sent off 10-1 for the Grand National a month later.
Unfortunately, he was pulled up at Aintree and looked in need of the run when third on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby.
However, he returned to form in impressive style when winning a Grade Two race last time. He is unbeaten in three starts over today’s distance and should encounter ideal ground conditions.
The Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle has a roll of honour that includes Bobs Worth, Yanworth and Wholestone.
Nicky Henderson has two well-fancied runners who are open to plenty of improvement having raced just once each under Rules.
However, the Neil Mulholland-trained Tikkanbar arrives here having won both his races this season and is four from six overall. He was a course and distance winner on New Year’s Day and will once again be ridden by Noel Fehily.
Wholestone (nap) can gain his fifth course success in the Cleeve Hurdle.
Following three defeats towards the end of 2017, he returned to form over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham this month. He travelled well and stayed on strongly, suggesting that he would be well suited by the step back up to three miles, a distance over which he has won twice before.Wholestone seems in his element at Cheltenham (PA)
He was successful on this card 12 months ago before finishing a respectable third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and jockey Daryl Jacob has been aboard for five of his six career victories.
Viserion could be overpriced in the final race of the day. Donald McCain’s gelding was a six-length winner at Sedgefield last month before being outpaced at Kempton a few weeks ago.
He should appreciate the uphill finish at Cheltenham, handles soft ground and is three from eight for jockey Will Kennedy.
Chris Baker’s top tips for Saturday at Cheltenham:
2.25: Definitly Red
3.35 Wholestone (nap)
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