There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the favourite in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase getting beaten.
You have to go back to Cyfor Malta’s win in the 1999 renewal to find the last winning market leader to oblige in Cheltenham’s Grade two feature, which makes no sense as it’s not a handicap and usually contested by single-figure fields.
On three occasions, joint-favourites have been defeated so the list of beaten favourites stretches to 23. Eleven of those have been 7-4 or shorter and none have gone off bigger than 100-30.
Santini is favourite for Saturday’s renewal but has to be forgiven a lacklustre return at Sandown in November when he scrambled home against inferior rivals.
He looked plain lazy that day, rather than being short of fitness, although he has had a wind operation in the interim and perhaps that was a factor.
Santini had been hard to fault before that dull display at Sandown and might well bounce back, but he will have to be on his A game to win if the two-time Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai reproduces anything like his best form.
Bristol De Mai’s four previous runs at Cheltenham have all ended in defeat but he ran right up to his best when third in the Gold Cup last season and might also have been placed in the 2018 renewal but for blundering at the final fence. He was also runner-up in the JLT at the Festival in 2016, so to suggest the track does not suit him is nonsense.
It promises to be a tremendous day at Cheltenham on Saturday
The grey made a valiant effort to repel the racefit Lostintranslation when attempting to win a third Betfair Chase on his return in November and I like the fact that connections swerved the King George to recharge his batteries.
He is favoured by the weights – on official figures he has between 4lb and 18lb in hand of his five rivals – and Nigel Twiston-Davies, who enjoyed three high-profile winners last Saturday, has his team in fine fettle.
Paisley Park also has the weights tilted in his favour in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle and he will be hard to beat as he seeks a seventh successive win.
However, I’m surprised there is such a gulf in the market between him and If The Cap Fits, as the latter is a top-class performer in his own right and put up a career-best when giving 6lb and a beating to Call My Lord, the subsequent International Hurdle winner, over 2m4f at Ascot last time.
If The Cap Fits is unexposed over three miles but, equally, a steady pace, which looks on the cards, is likely to inconvenience Harry Fry’s charge less than Paisley Park, who these days looks all stamina.
Watch our Cleeve Hurdle memories package
I cannot see Sean Bowen’s mount finishing out of the frame and, as such, he looks the proverbial each-way bet to (almost) nothing.
Fry and Bowen also combine with the exciting King Roland, who is favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
He has loads of ability, not to mention potential, but Harry Senior has to be the bet because he has achieved more, is more streetwise and yet is more than double his price.
The Oscar gelding won easily upped to an extended 2m 3f at Chepstow last time, having previously run crackers over 2m behind much speedier types in Edwardstone and Sporting John. This even stiffer test should unlock even more from the Colin Tizzard-trained six-year-old.
Front-running Cloudy Glen is a most polished jumper and he should make a bold bid in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase after a confidence-boosting success at Haydock last time, while Militarian looks worth risking at 20-1 in the Paddy Power 45 Sleeps To Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase.
The latter won a competitive race off only a 4lb lower mark at Ascot in November and caught the eye over 3m 2f at Cheltenham last time when, despite a couple of errors, he powered into contention three out only to run out of puff.
The drop back in trip should suit and I also like the fact he will have an experienced conditional on his back, rather than his usual amateur partner.
I’m also compelled to have a bet in the Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle because Cheltenham seems unlikely to suit the speedy Sofia’s Rock, the favourite, while Northern Beau, the second favourite, is much better over fences.
We Run The Night is something of an unknown quantity on his British bow but the one to be on looks En Meme Temps, who signed off last season with a win at Ascot and begun this term with a near-miss (watch above) in a big field at Carlisle when having his first start for Phil Kirby without his usual cheekpieces.
The headgear is back on and, by Cheltenham standards, this is not a deep race.
Dingo Dollar has the strongest claims of the trio but, at the prices available, I’ll be having a small punt on Quarenta. He would have won a good race at Kempton last time in another stride and was most unlucky as he fluffed two out and was then tight for room at the last.
He’s gone up 4lb but is most progressive and the excellent Jonjo O’Nell Jr will again be on his back.
How To Bet £20 on Saturday:
1.15 Cheltenham: Cloudy Glen £2 win at a general 15-2
1.50 Cheltenham: Militarian £2 win at 20-1 with Sky Bet
2.25 Cheltenham: Bristol De Mai £2.60 win at a general 9-4
3.00 Cheltenham: Harry Senior £3 win at a general 9-2
3.35 Cheltenham: If The Cap Fits £2 win at a general 3-1
4.10 Cheltenham: En Meme Temps £2.50 each-way at 11-1 with Sky Bet and William Hill
3.15 Doncaster: 20p combination Exactas and Trifectas (costing £2.40) on Dingo Dollar, Quarenta and Good Man Pat.
£2 Win Patent
2.25 Cheltenham: Bristol De Mai
3.00 Cheltenham: Harry Senior
3.35 Cheltenham: If The Cap Fits
40p Win Lucky 15
1.15 Cheltenham: Cloudy Glen
1.50 Cheltenham: Militarian
3.15 Doncaster: Quarenta
4.10 Cheltenham: En Meme Temps
Select any odd to add a bet