Great Britain Preview: Spot Plays Jan. 28, 2023
It’s a big preview day at Cheltenham on Saturday. There are five graded stakes races, all of which will have a say in determining favoritism back at Cheltenham for the Festival in March.
One of them, the Clarence House (G1), has been transferred to Cheltenham after racing was postponed due to adverse weather at Ascot last weekend. So it’s an especially big day of racing.
Here are some spot plays.
Race 4, 8:20 a.m. ET: Clarence House Chase (G1), 2 miles, open steeplechasers
Just six runners here, two of whom are high class. Reigning two-mile steeplechase champion #4 Energumene is clearly the one to beat; he looked as good as ever when resuming with victory in the Hilly Way Chase (G2) at Cork Dec. 11.
By far his toughest opponent is last year’s best two-mile novice chaser #3 Edwardstone; he resumed in style in the Tingle Creek (G1) Dec. 3 before surprisingly unseating his rider in the Desert Orchid (G2) Dec. 27. He is a great prospect, but he needs to improve further to beat Energumene.
The others are useful, but it’s probably best to take them in exotics to run third.
Race 6, 9:25 a.m. ET: Cotswold Chase (G2), 3 1/8 miles
Six horses, many with aspirations for the Cheltenham Gold Cup (G1) in March, contest the Cotswold Chase. #2 Noble Yeats was unwanted by punters at 50-1 when he won the Grand National (G3) in April, but he’s made fantastic progress this year, winning the Many Clouds Chase (G2) over the smaller Mildmay fences at Aintree and is starting to look like a prospect in the classier Gold Cup.
However, to win here he’ll have to get past #3 Protektorat. Arguably England’s best steeplechaser, he was third in the Gold Cup last year and began this season with a hollow 11-length victory in the Lancashire Chase (G1) at Haydock Nov. 19. He looks to have improved this year and will be difficult to topple.
- $20 win: #3 Protektorat
- $5 exacta: 3 with 2
Race 7, 10:00 a.m. ET: Cleeve Hurdle (G2), 3 miles, open hurdlers
A fascinating preview of the Stayers Hurdle (G1) is in line here. Among the more interesting runners is #4 Dashel Drasher, who bounces back and forth between hurdling and steeplechasing. Back over hurdles, he put up a nice effort behind top mare Marie’s Rock in the Relkeel Hurdle (G2) Jan. 1.
However, the best form among these runners this season definitely came from the veteran #2 Paisley Park, winner of the Long Walk Hurdle (G1) at Kempton Dec. 26. The winner of the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival in 2019, he also won this race last year and loves Cheltenham. He may look like he’s going up and down in one spot at some stage in the race, but he usually finds his top gear eventually and can win here.
- $20 win and place: #2 Paisley Park
- $5 exacta: 2 with 4