Cheltenham Christmas Meeting Best Bets


Cheltenham Christmas Meeting Best Bets


The home of the National Hunt game is getting into the festive spirit early with the latest edition of the excellent Christmas meeting. Here, we run through the quality Saturday card and pick out our best betting options – including in the huge handicap affair of the December Gold Cup.

1:15 Quintessentially Handicap Chase

The Joe Tizzard-trained Triple Time doesn’t run in this contest for the handicap chasers, but he holds the key to finding the winner. Of the seven runners set to line up, no fewer than six have finished behind Triple Trade in their previous outings this season – beaten by varying distances and under a range of weight disparities.

Pouring over the numbers reveals the Harry Fry representative In Excelsis Deo comes out best under these conditions. A repeat of his effort when staying on from a mile back to grab third at this track in October may be enough, but there are reasons to suspect he may step up on that effort. Firstly, that outing represented his seasonal return, so he can be expected to strip fitter. Secondly, as a five-year-old making only his sixth start over fences, he is open to more natural progression than most of his rivals. Of the others, Prince Escalus looks a little overpriced at around the 16/1 mark, but with only two places to play for, the best bet is to keep things simple and side with the jolly.

  • Best Bet - In Excelsis Deo to win @ 2/1 with Betvictor

1:50 Virgin Bet December Gold Cup

Next up, the big one, as 12 go to post for one of the headline handicaps of the winter months. Dan Skelton’s Thunder Rock has proved all the rage in the betting, and it’s not hard to see why, with his second to Datsalrightgino last season and verdict over Mahler Mission advertised in no uncertain terms, with that duo going on to finish first and second in the Coral Gold Cup. However, any value in his price has long since departed, and he hasn’t convinced us with his jumping in two previous outings around here.

Paul Nicholls is a man to fear in any big Saturday event, and his Monmiral makes the shortlist on his first start since a wind-op. A price of around 11/2 looks fair, but no more than that, and the horse who looks to have been a little overlooked is Torn And Frayed from the Nigel Twiston-Davies operation. Getting in off a mark of 136, he is handicapped to go very close, considering he landed a Grade 3 handicap over track and trip by six lengths off 130 back in January 2022. He has had his issues since but showed plenty of life on his first start in 658 days last time out – travelling smoothly into contention before a lack of fitness set in as he fell 2 from home. There was plenty of encouragement to draw from that, and, sure to strip fitter for a yard in flying form, he can hit the frame. Take the 18/1 with Betfred, who are paying each way on the first four.

  • Best Bet - Torn and Frayed each way @ 18/1 with Betfred

2:25 Favourite From The Sun Now Daily Handicap Chase

This looks like a cracker of a staying chase. Broadway Bob and Malina Girl were hugely impressive winners at this track last time out and have unsurprisingly made their way towards the head of the market. As likeable as those efforts were, the race did fall apart around Broadway Bob, whilst Malina Girl has a significant hike in the handicap to contend with.

Running off 139, we suspect the best-handicapped horse in this field may be the Venetia Williams representative, Easy As That. The angle here is that the eight-year-old has long looked like a horse who may thrive over a stamina-sapping distance, but has not yet had the chance to prove it. Doing all of his best work late when cruising to victory over 2m5½f at Haydock last season, he caught our eye when running on from off the TV screen to grab sixth in the hugely competitive Paddy Power Gold Cup over 2m4f in November. Moving up to 3m2f here, this could be the time to catch him.

  • Best Bet - Easy As That to win @ 5/1 with Ladbrokes

3:00 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

Last but not least, we like the look of an each-way punt in this event for the up-and-coming staying hurdlers. The obvious stumbling block here is the Nicky Henderson-trained favourite Shanagh Bob, who could be anything following a solid success on his first start for the Lambourn operator. He is, however, priced accordingly and worth taking on as he steps up from a Class 4 Novice to this high-profile Grade 2 affair.

Cadell and Kerryhill bring solid form to the table, and Destroytheevidence appears tough as old boots, but the one we like at the prices is the John McConnell runner, Moon D’Orange. Such is the strength of Irish racing at present that anything making the trip is invariably worth a second look. Being by Spanish Moon and out of Dylan Thomas mare, this one boasts a stout stying pedigree, and we loved the way he found a second wind to run on for third at Thurles last time out. Cheekpieces go on for the first time ahead of this assignment, and he looks just the sort to relish the Cheltenham Hill.

  • Best Bet - Moon D’Orange each way@ 12/1 with Coral

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