Well, only two more sleeps to go until the action begins, and students of the form everywhere are getting the last of the research done as the ground conditions are now more certain. The rain has stayed away, and it looks like being a dry week with the racing surface currently described as good to soft.
|Ballycross looks as though he will stay all day.
The National Hunt amateur rider’s chase, named after JT McNamara, is run over 4 miles and it takes a horse with serious stamina to figure at the business end. Staying power is key, and this is a race where official ratings can go out the window. Class helps, but 4 miles around Cheltenham requires a special sort of horse, and Nigel Twiston Davies knows what it takes to win it.
He won with a 6yo called Tricky Trickster back in 2009, and he went into that race with a rating of just 129. Ballycross is also a 6yo, and if you put a line through his last run he had previously shaped as though he was crying out for further when 4th and then 3rd at Chepstow over 23.5f on good and then good to soft ground.
He was beaten just 2L when 4th behind Sykes on the first occasion, and he did well to finish that close after losing his place as the pace lifted down the back. He was nearer last than first when they jumped the last, but he finished like a train and he was only really hitting top gear as the race was nearing its end. He was just 2L behind last year’s festival winner Ibis De Rheu next time when 3rd, and once again he was doing all his best work at the finish.
This horse would be very interesting if he managed to get into one of the handicap chases, but unfortunately that looks unlikely off a mark of 133. However, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise if this trip suits as much as I believe it will. He is by King’s Theatre, a top class National Hunt stallion, and his dam is by Garde Royale, the sire of classy stayers like Royal Auclair and Garde Champetre.
His pedigree screams stamina, as do his race track performances, and perhaps the run came too soon last time when he was pulled up at Warwick just 17 days after running well at Chepstow. He has been freshened up, and Nigel Twiston Davies is sure to have him in tip top shape on Tuesday. He may well also run Calett Mad, but I can’t see him staying and I would prefer the chances of Ballycross. He can be backed at 40/1, and a small each way bet at those odds is advised.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 16.50 CHELTENHAM (TUE)-BALLYCROSS E/W @ 40/1