Final pointers for the Cheltenham Festival

irvingTOMORROW is last-chance saloon for a clutch of Cheltenham Festival wannabes. A strong card at Kempton sees the contenders put their Prestbury Park credentials on the line. The highlight is the clash between IRVING and First Mohican in the Dovecote Hurdle. There is little to choose between them in the betting tomorrow although, oddly enough, there is a big gulf between them in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ante-post market for which Paul Nicholls’ youngster is generally a 7/1 shot and Alan King’s First Mohican is 14s. Victory for the latter tomorrow will see his price for Cheltenham slashed.

Irving would prefer better ground but it is drying out at Kempton and I take him to defeat First Mohican, although it should be tight. Cup Final is interesting for Henderson and Geraghty, and although he was thrashed by Irving at Taunton, he is still entered at Cheltenham, for which you can get all the latest ante-post prices at

Regular readers will know I love BALDER SUCCES and his clash with Fox Appeal should be a cracker in the Pendil Novices’ Chase. Balder’s superior jumping should give him the edge although he is trying a longer trip (2m 4f). Fox Appeal seemed to enjoy going right-handed when he won at Ascot and could be a real force. It is a shame Balder Succes looks set to miss Cheltenham as his jumping is as good as any novice. But a good prize at Aintree or Punchestown awaits.

The Betbright Chase is rightly competitive for such a big prize. Bury Parade is up 9lb for his easy Ascot success and may struggle to concede the weight to MIDNIGHT APPEAL, who stays really well and whose stamina could see him home in the conditions. Stablemate Bless The Wings has been aimed at this race for a long time and goes well fresh but he would prefer much better ground. So would the hardy Planet of Sound although he did win on the soft over course and distance recently and is in good heart. He would be a popular winner for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs who have a good record in this race.

Johnson and Hobbs should have a winner with the improving ROYAL PLAYER, who has multiple entries at Cheltenham, including an intriguing one in the Martin Pipe race. He has top weight in the 4.20 tomorrow but the way he won at Warwick suggests he might be a bit special.

I love EDMUND KEAN and David Pipe sends him up to Newcastle where he should oblige although nobody will get rich backing him. He is in the Festival Handicap Chase on March 11, the RSA and the four-miler and it will be very interesting to see where he is targeted.

Finally, one I like at Chepstow is TOLKEINS TANGO who makes his chasing debut in the 1.55pm. He looks nicely handicapped on his best hurdles form.

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