Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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By Billy Blakeman ValueChecker

Razor Royale Could be Sharp at 33/1 in the Stewart Handicap Chase

The Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase is the first of the festival handicaps and, whilst I am always wary of trends, it is definitely worth taking on board that the last ten winners have carried 10st 12lb or less. If we take that as important and concentrate on those in that weight band, we reduce the field down quite nicely and put a pen through a couple of the market leaders.

Razor Royale

Razor Royale
Of those we are left with, the horse that immediately caught my eye was Razor Royale and the current 33/1 gets me quite excited. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies knows how to win a staying handicap or two and the Naunton based handler is on record as saying that Razor Royale should be spot in for this after an encouraging sixth in the Racing Post Chase last month under today’s rider. Does he have the requisite Cheltenham form though? Yes he does, with 2 wins and 3 places from 12 runs here, although detractors can fairly point out he ran badly at the festival last year and that was after winning the Racing Post Chase.  The handicapper has given him a chance though and he is 11 lb lower this year. Has plenty of experience in this kind of race and if mentally in the right place, he is not a 33/1 outsider.

Sunnyhill Boy rates a decent option from those lower down in the betting order. After running Great Endeavour to a length and a quarter in last festival’s Byrne Group Plate, the horse found himself on summer hols before returning to run well in both the class 1 handicaps here at the end of 2010. Based on those last three runs, each time under Richie McLernon, the 8-y-o has a serious chance in this and AP is taking over in the saddle for a trainer well used to handicap success at the festival. What is there not to like about this one’s chance?


Crescent Island
© Racehorse Photos

Crescent Island

The other runner that appeals at a price is Crescent Island, although he is out of the winning weight band. A stablemate of Razor Royale, he is seemingly the pick of stable jockey Paddy Brennan and he could yet have improvement to come (the horse, not Paddy!). In the 2009 Jewson, Crescent Island ran third to two lesser-weighted rivals but picked up an injury at Aintree and was not seen for 22-months. Those who follow racing could almost have backed the horse blind on his comeback as there is no finer trainer than NT Davies for bring a horse back from a long break. A convincing success at Wetherby preceded a fair run 3-weeks later in the Racing Post Chase. That probably came soon enough and I would be concerned that this might also come a little quickly. In addition, he will need a career best to win this but that isn’t impossible.

Why have I not yet mentioned Bensalem? I sense the question. 12-months ago, Bensalem was looking all over the winner from this mark when falling two from home. That was a shame and three hurdling efforts since in grade one and two company show clearly that Alan King’s horse is better than this chase mark; having dropped to 10lb below his hurdling mark. The problem is his jumping, attracting recorded comments of ‘not fluent’ all too often. He can jump though, and after clouting the first, he jumped round here well last year until he fell but there we have it. As if that wasn’t concern enough, the horse was quite sick during the summer so at a current high of 5/1, he is hardly one for the mortgage. Still, it could all come together and if he jumps well enough, he is handicapped to win this and buck the weight trend. My strategy would be to have a small bet on Bensalem to limit losses on my other fancies without being confident enough to steam in at the odds.


Recommendation: Razor Royale (e/w) at 33/1 generally available


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