Cheltenham hosts a good-quality card on Sunday, and the Grade 2 Shloer Chase is just one of many hot races.
This was the scene of the beginning of the great Sprinter Sacre’s renaissance last season, as he waltzed this on his way to a second Champion Chase crown in March.
Chasing him home in a photo for third in that championship race was Henry de Bromhead’s Special Tiara, who escapes any penalties for this race after a winless 2015/2016 season that saw him go close in several Grade 1 chases.
He certainly sets the form standard and official ratings have him 7lb clear of his nearest challenger, recent runaway Cheltenham winner FOX NORTON.
Fox Norton has since been purchased by the Potts family and switched stables to Colin Tizzard, who has been in sparkling form in recent weeks.
Aged six and clearly improving, Fox Norton has race fitness and course form assured, and looks to have a favourite’s chance.
His novice form is hard to assess as he was firmly walloped by the spectacular Douvan several times last season, so still has something to prove now into his second season over fences.
He looks an obvious bet but still vulnerable at this level – though most of his opponents turn ten or older next year so he has more right than all of them to improve, which connections insist he has.
Giving Special Tiara 4lbs will be tough given the daylight between them on official ratings, but de Bromhead’s stable-star has a pretty shocking record fresh and will most likely be using this as a stepping stone for bigger things.
The bookies have this as a three-horse race with the once-brilliant Simonsig making his seasonal reappearance after a winless 2015/2016 season that saw him return to the track for the first time since winning the Arkle in 2013.
He ran with credit in a couple of those starts last year but it’d be dangerously sentimental to have any confidence in him bouncing back to form in this despite him receiving weight from most – the parallels with his stable-mate Sprinter Sacre are obvious, and markets can be warped the wrong way by punters getting carried away with such logic.
I think a bigger threat is Kerry Lee’s Top Gamble, despite his probable lack of match fitness and big weight.
He has to give 10lbs to Simonsig and Special Tiara, which is a tall order, but brings some of the best form into the race after game defeats of Dodging Bullets and Sizing Granite in separate Grade 2 races earlier this year.
Before that he was running in handicaps with big weights and on one occasion attempted to give 9lbs to Village Vic, who ran a blinder on Saturday to be narrowly denied the BetVictor Gold Cup off a mark of 155.
That’s strong form indeed but he’s been given a mountain to climb first time out this season and it’s just too much of a punt to expect him to be a major player.
1pt win Fox Norton @11/4, 13:55 Cheltenham, SundayLeave a comment