NOW IT’S FIVE NAPS ON THE TROT FOR DAQMAN: The gambled-on Hunter’s Light (WON 8-11 from 2.6 on Betdaq) landed Daqman his fifth consecutive winning nap yesterday after 15-8, 6-4, 5-1 and 13-8 winners. Today’s nap is a banker (i.e. maximum stakes).

1.10 Cheltenham: The Supreme Novices Hurdle winner, Al Ferof would complete a Paul Nicholls four-timer in this – five out of nine for Ditcheat, going back to Azertyuiop (2002) – and, though no horse has won it as a chase-debutant winner under Rules since 1994, he beat Minella Class in an Irish Point.

Against Al Ferof is that he fell first time last season and he has fallen in a Point. Astracad and Bellvano look formidable opponents if they get a strong pace, Astrocad because he’s the improving baby of the party but who already stays further and will like the hill.

And Bellvano who won at Punchestown in May over an extra two furlongs, with the Flyingbolt runner-up, Montan, in second. At 7.4 each-way in an eight-runner race, he appeals for value more than odds-on-to-win Al Ferof, who swerved a clash with Peddlers Cross (aren’t they glad they did!) for this one.

2.20 Cheltenham (Greatwood Hurdle): Class will out in this race, won by the likes of Detroit City, Sizing Europe and Rooster Booster, as seven of the last 10 winners came from the top half of the handicap (10st 13lb and higher). Nine out of 10 were officially rated 132 or higher which, theoretically, rules out the last seven on today’s card.

The race may hinge on Ascot a fortnight ago, with the Nicky Henderson runner, A Media Luz (off 133 today), now better off with the winner, Brampour, and runner-up, Via Galilei.

Topolski, who comes out in front of these on Aintree form at the Grand National meeting, looked very ring rusty on his reappearance run in that Ascot race, and was tailed off (David Arbuthnot hasn’t had a winner for 101 days).

Against A Media Luz is that only one four-year-old has won from 56 Greatwood starters of that age since 1988, and five-year-olds have taken five of the last eight.

Brampour cannot be dismissed lightly since his boy rider is good value and the Ascot success was a transformation following a wind operation, but a senior jockey is essential, according to the stats.

The one I took out of the race was co-favourite Kumbeshwar (8th), who is 18.5 on Betdaq as I write. He was second consecutively last year in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham, the Matalan at Aintree and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

A keen-going sort, he had to learn to settle last year, but understandably was fresh at Ascot, and made the running until around two out. If he can be held up just off the pace today, he would surely be in the frame.

On a line through Via Galilei, Pateese is the same horse on form as A Media Luz but the Imperial Cup third hacked up at Sandown recently, albeit on the soft. He is officially 10lb well in here on future ratings, so you could argue that he should be numbered up in that class area of the handicap.

He’s a bit short in the betting for me, so I’m looking for a lead from the Irish. Willie Mullins, who pinched the Listed hurdle with Dorset Square yesterday, now has Inspector Clouseau on the premises, but, like Kumbeshwar, he’s never won a handicap.

He was a long way behind compatriot Moon Dice at Galway in the summer, and Jack Cool, another Irish raider, a pound higher in the ratings than Moon Dice, has just been given a Group-3-form boost by Steps to Freedom and has a line to today, as runner-up when Via Galilei was third and Nearby fifth at Aintree in April.

Moon Dice has been ‘tonked’with a 14lb rise and, with Tony McCoy booked, Jack Cool (15.0) is the Irish one with an outstanding chance; much depends on how he performs on this undulating track.

Ultimate pulled up behind Jack Cool at Aintree and has it to find with Pateese and Via Galilei on Imperial Cup form but, like Kumbeshwar, the stable has concentrated on teaching him to settle.

However, as he is hurdles winner only of a class-4 novice, and doesn’t have the big-race CV like Kumbeshwar, we are back to our opening question of class.

2.55 Cheltenham: Punchestowns (2008) and Grands Crus (last year) took this handicap to a new level: what a ‘cert’ Grands Crus must have been off 10st 13lb.

Seven winners in the last decade have carried 11st or less. Only the Pipe yard and Nicky Henderson have been capable of breaking this barrier. Four-year-olds don’t win it.

Rangitoto has a favourite’s chance but Henderons’s Joker Choker is a massive price at offers of 22.0 on Betdaq as I write. So, too, Dark Ranger, at 14.5, ‘chucked in’ on his four-timer Flat form, if he can get his jumping together.

3.15 Fontwell (Southern National): Rey Nacarado, who proved himself a young chaser with a future last term, had a nice run back over hurdles in September; Giles Cross was runner-up in the Welsh National but has a deal of weight and has Chepstow as his Target again.

Free World, Tim The Chair, Aldertune, and Victors Serenade are all likely improvers and the Betdaq market this morning has 1.6 points separating seven horses.

Each-way betting is, therefore, not an option and I’m playing small stakes 9.4, the consistent Rey Nacarado, and 9.6 Tim The Chair.

3.30 Cheltenham: I put Fingal Bay in my horses-to-follow list, only to discover he wasn’t even rated as a contender by the Racing Post Ten-To-Follow compilers. They may have missed out one of the horses of the season.

For a cool-hand-Luke trainer like Philip Hobbs to describe Fingal Bay as ‘staggering’ is like Smiley in ‘Tinker, Tailor’ pulling out a Clint Eastwood magnum. Make my day, Fingal Bay!

BET 3.1pts win and place BELLVANO (1.10 Cheltenham)
WIN-30 JACKPOT: 2.1pts win and place JACK COOL, 1.7pts win and place KUMBESHWAR and 1.3pts win (stakes saver) PATEESE (2.20 Cheltenham)
BET 1.4pts win and place DARK RANGER, 0.9pts win and place JOKER CHOKER and 1pt win (stakes saver) RANGITOTO (2.55 Cheltenham)
BET 2.3pts REY NACARADO and 2.2pts win TIM THE CHAIR (3.15 Fontwell)
BET 20pts win (nap with banker stakes) FINGAL BAY (3.30 Cheltenham)

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