The Duke – Weekend Preview

It’s a fun Saturday of racing with some decent quality National Hunt action at Cheltenham but also for all-weather racing fans there are a couple of Listed races.

Let’s start with the Betvictor Gold Cup at 2.25pm. Kylemore Lough makes a first start for Harry Fry having switched from Kerry Lee. He won the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse back in March 2016, so he certainly possesses some ability. He was fourth in the Melling Chase behind Fox Norton and he would have leading claims if replicating the type of performance we saw in December last year when he ran a blinder until just fading up the run-in over 2m5f on the New course.

Tully East is unexposed for Alan Fleming. He won last season’s Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival and while he does need some cut in the ground, this second season chaser will have benefitted from a hurdles blowout last month and he can take a hand.

Foxtail Hill has been well backed on the markets this week for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He’s a front-runner so I imagine he might lead them along. He could be dangerous if allowed a soft lead and he comes in to the race in good form after winning over two miles on the Old course last time. He’s up 7lb for that so it does make it harder this time. Le Prezien was a close runner-up in that race and has been put up 6lb. He was favourite for the Grand Annual in March but was a bit disappointing. I don’t think we’ve seen the best Le Prezien so far so I wouldn’t be surprised to see an improved run.

The one I’m going for is Starchitect at the odds. He’s in form after a pretty easy win at Stratford and while he is up 4lb and this is a much tougher race, he remains with potential for more. He was 5th in the Grade 3 Plate at the Festival and he’s got his ground to run a big one.

Others to mention include Ballyalton, who is only 3lb higher in the handicap than a novice handicap chase win at the 2016 Festival and both Romain De Senam and Double Treasure are on winning streaks.

At 2.45pm at Lingfield it is the Betway Churchill Stakes. Boynton is favourite and I think he can justify the odds. He was second to Victory Bond on reappearance in October at Chelmsford, before a solid Listed third at Newmarket. He should get out and lead and I don’t think they’ll peg him back.

Victory Bond is still unexposed for William Haggas and could put down the biggest challenge to the selection, although Battalion does well this time of year and won a couple of times over course and distance last term. Ayrad was disappointing last time at Newbury, Master The World isn’t in top form but was third in this race last year, while In The Lope is the dark horse. The last named comes over from France after being gelded and recording three wins in six starts. Still, I think Boynton will emerge the winner.

Finally, just a quick mention about the Betway Golden Rose Stakes at 3.15pm. It’s my feeling that this is a much easier opportunity for Magical Memory. It’s his first run on an artificial surface but he is a good Group horse in a Listed race and on his best speed ratings he could have the edge. He’s not got the best draw but the 5/1 available might be much too big. Happy punting.

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