The Cheltenham Festival is great for many reasons, but perhaps one of its more underrated features is that it ends on a Friday, meaning that punters don’t have to wait long for some more decent racing. OK, so the jumps action at Fontwell, Kempton, Newcastle and Uttoxeter scheduled for this Saturday is several notches below the highs of midweek, but we do have the latter course’s feature race of the season, the Midlands Grand National, to look forward to.
The Pipes have a good record in the race, but the long-term ante-post favourite Daklondike was taken out of the race on Tuesday, leaving a very open-looking market where three or four horses are currently vying for favouritism.
Shortest with most bookmakers is West of The Edge, a typical Dr Richard Newland project who has already stepped up markedly on the form he showed for his previous trainer Dai Williams. West of The Edge has probably been a shade unlucky not to win yet this season, first bumping in to heavy-ground specialist Emperor’s Choice on bottomless ground at Haydock in December and then into the improving Baywing in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last time. However, he’s now up 3 lb in the weights for that last effort and there are probably more interesting sorts in here at the prices.
Milansbar finished fifth behind Baywing at Newcastle and was better than the bare result having been ridden overly aggressively. He doesn’t appeal as being overly well handicapped, however, still 8 lb higher than when winning the Classic Chase at Warwick (dominated under Bryony Frost). Hainan finished one place in front of Milansbar in the same race and did best of those who raced up with the pace. Last year’s winner of this race Chase The Spud is now 17 lb higher in the weights and was pulled-up in the Eider, as were Houblon des Obeaux and Themanfrom Minella.
Back To The Thatch also ran in the Eider last time and was still going well when falling at the sixteenth fence. He’d previously stayed on strongly to win a three-mile handicap at Chepstow and remains with potential, with these easier fences likely to benefit him (his fall wasn’t his first mistake during that race).
Missed approaching his peak?
Missed Approach finished a good second in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh last time (though would have been third had Looking Well not unseated), that representing another step forward in form terms from his third in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January (for which he was very well backed). He’s been left on the same mark and will probably pop up in a race like this at some stage – he’s on a good mark on his second in the National Hunt Chase at last season’s Festival.
Ballymalin shaped well in the same race when departing two out, but he was held at the time and possibly wants a drop back in trip rather than a step up.
Skelton chaser should be suited by slog
Others to mention include Get On The Yager, who was unsuited by the drop back to two and a half miles at Southwell last time, having won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby prior to that. Though it was a bunched finish, the Rowland Meyrick is working out really well, Wakanda, Actinpieces and Baywing all subsequent winners who finished behind Get On The Yager that day. He’s up 7 lb in the weights but will have more to offer over this sort of trip.
Bob Ford would also be of interest if declared. He was still in with a chance when taking a heavy fall at the second last at Chepstow last time and has not had long with this yard yet. Big River remains unexposed and would also be respected if taking his chance here and not in the novices' handicap chase on the same card for which he is also entered.
Several of these were either below par or had hard enough races in the Eider last time, and it could be worth chancing one who arrives here a bit fresher. Get On The Yager‘s Wetherby win is proving strong and a 7 lb higher mark may not prove beyond him given that he’s likely to find improvement for stepping up to this sort of trip.
Back Get On The Yager at 8/1 for the Midlands Grand National