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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

14:50, Cheltenham, Wednesday 16th March

The Coral Cup, run over 2 miles 5 furlongs and 26 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham, provides us not only with a rare opportunity for a midweek tilt at the ring, but also one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the entire National Hunt season to get our teeth into. Winners at 33/1, 16/1 (twice) and 14/1 (three times) in the last ten years offer plenty of encouragement and this year’s renewal is as competitive as ever.

Having flagged up the chance of Waxies Dargle (40/1) on a couple of previous occasions this season, it would be tempting fate to rule out Noel Meade’s 7-year-old, even though this contest is even tougher than those he’s tackled previously. Nevertheless, the Sakhee gelding remains just 4lb higher in the weights than when third of 17, beaten 6 lengths, behind Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and put two dismal efforts behind him when fifth of 22, beaten 13 lengths, behind Agrapart in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month, off today’s mark. He has his stamina to prove over today’s distance, but there’s no evidence that he won’t stay and he may, indeed, find some improvement over an extra half a mile or so.

Mister Fizz (66/1) won a Class 2 affair at Newton Abbot in August off a 4lb lower mark under Sean Bowen and, although he still has to prove that effort wasn’t a fluke, doesn’t look impossibly handicapped. In fact, he beat Vivant Poeme quite convincingly, by 3¾ lengths, on that occasion with subsequent winner Lamool a further neck away in third, so it was disappointing that he finished tailed off last of five behind Brother Tedd at Kempton in November. However, he had a spin on the Flat at Lingfield 11 days ago, so he should be spot on for this and could go well at a mammoth price.

This race is an interesting choice for The Romford Pele (33/1), who was far from disgraced when third of seven, beaten 14 lengths, behind Thistlecrack on his return to hurdles at Cheltenham in January. The winner is officially rated 168 so, while attempting to translate conditions race form back to handicaps is always a dangerous game, The Romford Pele is potentially well handicapped off a mark of 140. All his hurdles win have come at shorter, but he’s won at up to 3 miles 2 furlongs over fences, so he should have no problem with this intermediate distance.

Selections: Cheltenham 2.50 Waxies Dargle (40/1), Mister Fizz (66/1), The Romford Pele (33/1)

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