Began can end day on top

Cheltenham Festival selections Thursday 14th March

Thursday is usually the most open day for punters with bigger fields and three handicaps lending themselves to more betting opportunities. This year’s card looks no different. I am having a go at all three handicaps on the day, plus the Ryanair Chase. Langer Dan kept up the winning start to the week by winning the Coral Cup (advised 15/2).

Cheltenham 2.10: Cuthbert Dibble, Emitom & Gaoth Chuil

A maximum field for the Pertemps so I think it is worth three shots.

CUTHBERT DIBBLE has been progressive on soft ground over the past couple of seasons and might have not finished winning after a battling victory in one of the final qualifiers at Haydock last month. That followed a much easier win at Chepstow and with ground conditions remaining in his favour, and this being only his third start of the campaign, there is every reason to think there is more to come from this local challenger.

EMITOM is ten now, but has been rejuvenated by a switch to Alan King this season. This horse was fourth in the 2020 Stayers Hurdle on soft ground, but somewhat lost his way over the next couple of seasons. However granted soft ground and a stamina test he has been back to somewhere near his best this term. The galloping nature of Newbury’s track brought out the best in him last time and he both travelled well off the pace and found plenty for pressure to outrun Kyntara on the run-in. At 137 he is still rated some way below his career high mark.

GAOTH CHUIL could prove best of the Irish. A step up to 3m has worked wonders this season and he battled to victory in the Leopardstown qualifier at Christmas. He has since gone down narrowly at the same track and distance at the Dublin Racing Festival and handles soft ground well. Still only six, there is plenty of room for more improvement yet.

Cheltenham 2.50: Conflated & Fugitif

Michael O’Leary has struggled to win his own race since Ryanair sponsored this Grade 1 contest inaugurated at the 2005 Festival. However CONFLATED can do better than when falling in this race two seasons ago. I felt he struggled for pace on the much quicker ground that day, but is better suited to this distance on soft ground than tackling the Gold Cup, even though he was a fine third in the race last season.

He has looked in good form this season, but was giving best when unseating at the last at Leopardstown in the big two 3m chases this season. Tiredness over the distance was a big factor, so the drop back in trip makes total sense here.

FUGITIF is best known for his exploits in the big handicaps here over this trip, finally winning a big one at the December meeting. He ran well enough in the Clarence House Chase here over 2m on Trials Day, but simply lacked the pace over the minimum trip to keep up early on.

This is his distance and he looks overpriced given how well he acts around this track, handles soft ground and we know he is in top form.

Cheltenham 4.10: Shakem UP Arry & Theatre Man

Two English trained horses are fancied here to continue the good run for the locals in the handicaps.

SHAKEM UP ARRY won over course and distance on New Years Day backing up good runs here in the second half of last season. That included a third place in this contest last term. He has only gone up 3lbs for that last win, which is hardly prohibitive and his trained Ben Pauling has his string in great form at present.

THEATRE MAN is a real enthusiastic individual who has few miles on the clock. He ran a cracker on his course debut here on Trials Day. After losing his place coming down the hill, he stayed on in tenacious fashion up the hill and almost looked like giving Ginnys Destiny a fright at one stage. Of course the form of that race could be franked in the opening contest, but his prominent racing style lends itself well to this track in any case and he remains unexposed.

Cheltenham 5.30: Where it All Began & Bowtogreatness

The finale could be best left to WHERE IT ALL BEGAN who was a revelation in the biggest stamina test he faced to date in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown. His jumping improved over the longer distance and this stiff track ought to play to his strengths. His confidence should have gone up a notch and he definitely seems to have responded well to cheekpieces this season as he was beginning to look a touch lazy until that point.

Very much at home on soft ground there should be plenty more to come from a horse who is only eight.

BOWTOGREATNESS was a confident fancy for this column in a big handicap at Kempton last month and he looked like delivering when hitting the front two out. However he jumped out to his left up the straight and that was to prove costly as he could only come home third in the end.

However I am sure that 3m is his trip nowadays as he also ran a cracker over 3m1f at Aintree last season. Whilst he has run moderately in a couple of runs around here, they were over shorter distances and he can be seen to better effect today with a greater emphasis on stamina.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Cuthbert Dibble – 2.10 Cheltenham – 8/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Gaoth Chuil – 2.10 Cheltenham – 15/2 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Emitom – 2.10 Cheltenham – 28/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Conflated – 2.50 Cheltenham – 17/2 Paddy Power, BetVictor

0.5pts each-way – Fugitif – 2.50 Cheltenham – 25/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt each-way – Shakem Up Arry – 4.10 Cheltenham – 10/1 general (1/5 odds 1st 5)

1pt win – Theatre Man – 4.10 Cheltenham – 7/2 general

1pt each-way – Where It All Began – 5.30 Cheltenham – 8/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

0.5pts each-way – Bowtogreatness – 5.30 Cheltenham – 16/1 Bet365 (1/5 odds 1st 6)

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