12th March, 4:50 – Cheltenham – 2m 4f (2m 4f 44y) (Old) Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+ 0–145)
Unless one is backing the very short priced specials is very difficult to find winners at Cheltenham. This year looks doubly difficult with the ground riding soft and much more rain forecast. All of the form, both in Britain and Ireland this season has been on good ground or firmer. Therefore, it could be argued that the form book should be thrown out of the window.
A viable option in the big field Cheltenham races is to back a horse each way or for a place only. Plenty of the big bookmakers will give odds on five places which in an 20 runner race gives a statistical 25% chance of getting into a place.
I am looking at the 4:50 race today which has 20 runners. the race is a Listed Novices’ Handicap Chase race run over 2½ miles.
Looking down the card I am looking for a horse proven in the ground with winning form over the race distance. Thinking about the statistics for the big races during the week, one statistic which stands out time and time again is previous course form, ideally at a previous Festival meeting.
I am drawn to the Gordon Elliott-trained runner Cubomania. The six year old gelding is a tough horse having run no fewer than 12 times since August. He has been freshened up for today’s race as he has had a break of 37 days. He does have previous course and distance winning form as he won here in October winning a four runner Class 2 Handicap by 2¾ lengths.
The testing conditions will also be in his favour with three of his seven wins coming in ground described a soft and heavy. Cubomania has plenty of stamina for the trip with three wins from six runs over the distance. He runs off an Official Rating of 145 today which is a only 2lb higher that his win earlier in the season at Cheltenham. He is also the only horse in the race who has won here before.
He is ridden today by Davy Russell who has ridden him previously and has a current winning strike rate of 40%. Davy has ridden 22 winners at The Festival which puts him in fifth place of the winning rankings since 1945.
Cubomania looks to have a reasonable each way chance and at the current price of 14/1 represents decent value.
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