1pt win Dalamoi @7/1, 1pt win Malinello @9/1, 12:10 Cheltenham, Saturday

2m4½f (New) Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5yo+)

I’m not sure how strong a favourite the Venetia Williams trained Fire Dancer is for this Novices Handicap Chase. The French import jumped well on his first start in GB after a significant layoff, but only just got home under Charlie Deutsch. In fairness, he could still be far ahead of the handicapper, but there are plenty of improving types in this and he has to overcome a 6lbs rise.

Stage Star may be the class angle at the top of the weights and last year’s Challow Hurdle winner could hardly have been more impressive on his debut over fences. But he failed to live up to those expectations on his second start and we learned nothing new about him when he picked up a comfortable victory over just one other rival at Plumpton earlier this month. He carries 12st and was previously pulled up on soft ground on his only other start at Cheltenham in the Ballymore Novice hurdle last season so there are reasons to be doubtful.

The two I came down on were DALAMOI and MALINELLO, who both have significant potential and are both trading at nice odds. Dalamoi is a son of Pour Moi and a half-brother to Don Poli. He has looked a proper chasing type on his three starts, bolting up on debut to a Nicky Henderson type that has since won twice, before Dalamoi went very close to beating a well-handicapped type at Chepstow when favourite. This six-year-old then fell on soft ground at the same track next time out and if he is none the worse for that fall than he could make amends by continuing his progress off a 1lb lower mark for Tim Vaughn.

As for Malinello, his yard and trainer Ben Pauling picked up this context with Kildisart a few years ago and I like the way he has travelled and jumped on his first two starts over fences. His best performance as a hurdler was over this trip and on soft ground, but he remains very lightly raced for an eight-year-old with just the seven starts. His run on NYE behind Tea For Free (who looks potentially very smart) at Newbury on bottomless ground was pretty strong as he only just faded after belting the last fence on really testing ground.

Malinello has also been dropped 1lb by the handicapper to a mark of 131 and he looks set to put in a bold show with any normal amount of improvement from a shrewd trainer. I want both of them onside against the main market principals in what is an open affair.

1pt win Dalamoi @7/1, 1pt win Malinello @9/1, 12:10 Cheltenham, Saturday

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