John’s Spirit Is a Horse For The Course

Day three’s big handicap chase comes at 4.10pm, where Jonjo O’Neill’s likeable 9yo, John’s Spirit, looks to have been trained for the Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase.

Has John Still Got Winning Spirit?
A three-time winner here previously, John’s Spirit last tasted success over this C&D in October 2014, before the handicapper put a halt to proceedings by hiking him up. However, he has gradually slipped down to a 2lb lower mark than his last aforementioned win here, and having raced mainly in the mud when unplaced this season, forecast drier conditions could see him bounce back.

O’Neill also has Taquin Du Seuil (12/1), who won the JLT Novices’ Chase over C&D in 2014, and he won for the first time since last month when taking a quality handicap at Warwick (2m4f, soft). He came home by almost 4l that day, and a 5lb rise looks fair.

Brits Dominance To Continue?
Recent history suggests the Brits may well take this handicap once more, as each of the last 15 winners emerged away from Irish shores, in the process adding appeal to Nicky Henderson’s, Cocktails At Dawn (12/1).

This 8yo signed off last season with a valuable handicap win at Sandown (2m4f, good), before reappearing to win at Chepstow in October. The only concern is that he flopped at Cheltenham when last seen in November, making it 0-4 here, but any market support beforehand would be noteworthy.

Hobbs’ Pair Back for More
Also not seen for a while is Philip Hobbs’ 9yo, Village Vic (12/1), a winner of two valuable handicaps over C&D the last twice – the last of which came on New Year’s Day. This 9yo goes well after an absence, so his layoff is a positive, though he’ll need to have improved if defying a 13lb higher mark.

Village Vic’s stablemate, Champagne West (12/1), has a terrific record at Cheltenham having won a couple of novices.

He was also a 4l runner-up behind Village Vic in December. His failure to complete the last twice is a slight concern, and he’ll need to improve his jumping.

You can’t keep Paul Nicholls’ runners out of many handicaps here, and while he has yet to win this event, his 7yo, Sametegal (14/1), has to enter calculations following his recent win at Newbury (2m4f, soft). That valuable win earned him a 5lb penalty, but he is improving and is a winner at Cheltenham.


Annacotty To Win Second Gold?
Alan King also bids for a first win in this race, and has the improving 8yo, Annacotty (14/1), who won the Paddy Power Gold Cup over C&D in November, before adding another big handicap here in January. He’ll be 6lb higher on Thursday, but looks sure to be involved.

One trainer who does know what it’s like to win this handicap is David Pipe, who triumphed three times since 2010, and his 8yo, Doctor Harper, has an each-way chance at 16/1. A 3m winner over hurdles, Doctor Harper got off the mark over fences in January over 2m and will prefer the return to 2m4f.

Recommended Bets
A number of these can be given a chance, but course specialist John’s Spirit looks sure to go well from a winning mark and will have been aimed at this all season.

*Prices correct at time of publication.