Unusually fast ground for the time of year has left several races on Trials day at Cheltenham with only five or six just runners, so the 17-strong SkyBet Chase at Doncaster is likely to feature prominently in most betting plans on Saturday.
Few can be ruled out with any confidence, but Debece (3.20) is arguably the best-handicapped horse in the race and could be worth backing at around 8-1 on his second start for Dan Skelton.
The 11-year-old has clearly been a tricky horse to train and will be making only his eighth start over fences but he is on a very fair mark on his best form and his two chase wins to date were both recorded on good ground.
Debece has been a late scratch from two subsequent engagements after a strong second at Sandown last March, but he has had a wind operation in the interim and Skelton is well-versed in getting them ready first time up.
Uttoxeter: 12.08 Good Impression 12.38 Arizona Cardinal 1.13 Drenagh 1.48 Raecius Felix 2.22 Mackelduff 2.57 Precious Eleanor 3.33 Docpickedme 4.08 The Girl That Sang
Cheltenham: 12.15 Lively Citizen 12.45 Iceo 1.20 When You’re Ready 1.55 Coole Cody 2.30 Simply The Betts 3.05 Champ 3.40 Hillcrest 4.15 Mullenbeg
Doncaster: 12.25 Jay Jay Reilly 1.00 Speak Of The Devil 1.35 For Pleasure 2.10 Anna Bunina 2.45 Coolbane Boy (nb) 3.20 Debece (nap) 3.55 Our Marty
Lingfield Park: 12.52 Keep Right On 1.27 Far Away Thoughts 2.02 Sparka 2.38 Chance 3.12 Halimi 3.48 Small Print 4.23 Martineo
Kempton Park: 4.30 No Diggity 5.00 Noble Order 5.30 Subjective Value 6.00 Stately Home 6.30 Oceanline 7.05 Sophosc 7.35 Tulane
Cheltenham 1.55: There are question marks against most of the principals here relating to either the trip (Magic Saint), the good ground (Farinet) or a sub-par recent run. On balance, it could pay to forgive Coole Cody’s disappointing effort on New Year’s Day and hope for a return to his familiar front-running exuberance over this track and trip.
Doncaster 2.10: Anna Bunina could offer some value getting 6lb from a likely odds-on shot in Miranda. John McConnell’s mare should improve for her comeback run at Musselburgh earlier this month and her five-length eighth on good ground in the County Hurdle last March suggests she should be a point or two shorter in the betting today.
Cheltenham 2.30: Chantry House did not travel a yard when favourite for the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and makes no appeal at short odds. Simply The Betts, on the other hand, arrives on the back of a career-best at this track last time – his first start with Harry Cobden in the plate – and he has often shaped as though this trip will be within reach.
Doncaster 2.45: Coolbane Boy showed significant improvement on his second start for Sandy Thomson earlier this month and looks overpriced at around 5-1 for this step up to Graded company.
Cheltenham 3.05: Klassical Dream’s defeat earlier in the week led to Champ being promoted to the top of the market for the Stayers’ Hurdle in March and it will be a big disappointment if he fails to follow up his Long Walk success in December here.
Cheltenham 3.40: Hillcrest faces his toughest assignment yet to defend an unbeaten record over hurdles, giving weight to several very promising opponents. He won with something to spare over course and distance earlier this month, however, and a strong time suggests he could well be up to the task.