2020 Trials Day tips – Through the card tips at Cheltenham

Paisley Park bolts up in the 2019 Cleeve Hurdle.

Jon Vine takes a look through the card on Trials Day and provides readers with his tips for every race at Cheltenham on Saturday 25th January.

Prestbury Park opens their gates for the final time before the Cheltenham Festival on Saturday, with a wave of Festival hopefuls set to take part in Trials Day. The Grade Two Cotswold Chase is the feature race of the afternoon, with viewers also enjoying prestigious races like the Classic Novices’ Hurdle, the Finesse Juvenile Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle.

I’ve taken a look through Cheltenham’s card in full and provided readers with my tips for every race on Trials Day.

2020 Cheltenham Trials Day Tips

12:40pm JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Finesse) 2m1f

It can be quite hit and miss backing French imports on their first start at Cheltenham. While it may seem like Monte Cristo’s victory at Auteuil was franked when the runner-up came out and scored in a Listed handicap on his next outing, I don’t think the quality of either of those races was particularly high and I’m inclined to swerve Nicky Henderson’s newcomer.

The obvious horse to take Monte Cristo on with is Rowland Ward, who won well last time out. GEROLAMO CORDANO (13/2 William Hill) was just as impressive during his recent victory at Hereford, though, and he appeals most at the prices.

DJ Jeffreys’ youngster kept on well to finish fourth in a juvenile bumper on his stable debut at Aintree in November. Gerolamo Cordano then made a winning start to life over fences, hacking up on heavy ground to win a Hereford maiden by 11-lengths. Kielan Woods’ mount was only awarded an RPR of 108 for that win, but there’s plenty more to come from this likeable youngster and he could mount a challenge in what looks a very weak Grade Two.

Best Bet – GEROLAMO CORDANO (11/4 William Hill)

Jeremy Scott’s Champagne Court will give Imperial Aura something to think about at Cheltenham.

1:15pm Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 2) 2m4½f

When Samcro inevitably comes out of this handicap, Jarvey’s Plate will be the new top weight and everyone’s current weight will increase by ten pounds. This will leave firm-favourite, Imperial Aura with just 11-2 to carry and Kim Bailey’s charge could prove hard to beat.

That being said, I was really impressed with CHAMPAGNE COURT’S (8/1 Unibet) victory at Plumpton. Jeremy Scott’s charge was a warm favourite that day, coming into 4/9 before the off and the victory never really looked in doubt, as Nick Schofield’s mount ran on after a steady jump at the last to secure a snug victory under 11-13.

Champagne Court received an RPR of 146 for that victory, despite the fact he was never really asked to give 100%. Scott’s charge ran well to place fourth in the Martin Pipe on his only previous start here at Cheltenham and he’s clearly a much better chaser than a hurdler. Champagne Court looks a solid each-way player.

Best Bet – CHAMPAGNE COURT each-way (8/1 Unibet)
Next Best – Imperial Aura (3/1 Ladbrokes)

1:50pm Paddy Power 45 Sleeps To Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m4½f

The first two past the post in this season’s Caspian Caviar, Warthog and Spiritofthegames renew rivalries at Cheltenham and both could run well again. Lalor, who was narrowly touched off by Oldgrangewood on New Years’ Day, has the class to carry 11-11 with distinction. Highway One O One is in with a good shout too, having caught the eye over three miles at Kempton and he should be more comfortably over this distance.

So, with the race looking decidedly open, I’m inclined to back an overlooked contender at an each-way price and the one who sticks out for me is COUNT MERIBEL (10/1 William Hill).

Following a cracking run behind Lostintranslation at Carlisle, for which he was awarded and RPR of 151, Count Meribel was one of my two against the field in the BetVictor Gold Cup. Although I was delighted to see my second selection, Happy Diva claim a deserved win, I was really underwhelmed by the performance of Count Meribel, who jumped slowly throughout and barely landed a blow back in sixth.

Maybe that effort in defeat to Lostintranslation took a little more out of his Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge than first though. He’s given Count Meribel 70-days to recover, and his record when fresh, combined with winning course form, makes Mark Grant’s mount an appealing proposition sitting on 10/1.

Best Bet – COUNT MERIBEL each-way (10/1 William Hill)
Next Best – Spiritofthegames (6/1 Ladbrokes)

Bristol De Mai and Daryl Jacob plug on to finish third in the Gold Cup.

2:25pm Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) 3m1½f

De Rasher Counter was my biggest winner of the season so far, having tipped him at 16/1 to win the Ladbrokes Trophy. Emma Lavelle’s star deserves a crack at the Cotswold on the back of that Newbury triumph, but he has plenty to prove at this level and I can’t bring myself to back him again. The same can be said for both Slate House and Top Ville Ben, who travel to Cheltenham on the back of career-best victories but could struggle pitched in with several horses proven at the highest level.

Santini will carry a short price into battle on Saturday but, despite a solid run in the RSA last year, he’s a horse I’ve never really warmed to. This leaves me staring squarely at BRISTOL DE MAI (NAP) (5/2 William Hill) and, at 5/2, the two-time Betfair Chase winner could be my best bet of the day.

Anyone who says Bristol De Mai only acts around Haydock is completely wrong. Twiston-Davies’ stable star has won big races around Wetherby and Sandown. He was only beaten three lengths in the 2017 JLT and powered home to finish third in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham 10 months ago. Bristol De Mai lost nothing in defeat to Lostintranslation at Haydock in November and I’m confident he’ll be hard to beat on his second crack at the Trials Day feature.

Best Bet – BRISTOL DE MAI (5/2 William Hill)

3:00pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Classic Novices’ Hurdle) (Grade 2) 2m4½f

I was delighted when the stewards gave the win back to Protektorat, having stripped Dan Skelton’s charge of his Listed victory here at Cheltenham after being deemed to have disrupted the running of the runner-up. He has the ability to back that performance up, but could struggled under the weight of a five-pound penalty.

House Island comes into this on the back of a runner-up finish in a Grade Two at Ascot, but I thought that was a weak race and I’m not going to take the form of it literally. Time Flies By and Harry Senior are worth more than a second-look, but they’ll both have to go a long way to deny KING ROLAND (6/4 Ladbrokes).

An impressive winner of two bumpers last season, Harry Fry’s charge was well-backed as he made his hurdling debut at Newbury. King Roland was forced to take a wide path that day, but was still in with a chance approaching the second last, only to find Son Of Camas a little too quick to catch on the run to the line.

King Roland then bolted up on his first start beyond two-miles at Exeter, trouncing a field – which contained an 8-length runner-up to Sporting John – by 19-lengths without ever coming off the bridle. Fry’s charge remains open to plenty of improvement over this sort of trip and could prove himself worthy of that Ballymore entry.

Best Bet – KING ROLAND (6/4 Ladbrokes)

Aidan Coleman is relishing the chance to get back on Paisley Park before the Festival.

3:35pm galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) 3m

Let’s not beat around the bush here, PAISLEY PARK (8/13 William Hill) is the star attraction on Trials Day is going to win. Emma Lavelle’s eight-year-old is the best staying hurdler in the business, and I still think he has improvement left in the tank. The reigning Stayer’s Hurdle winner will relish the soft ground conditions and I doubt whether If The Cap Fits or L’Ami Serge will be strong enough to deny Paisley Park on the run to the line.

Although it’s a bit of a cop-out backing an 8/13 favourite, I’ll be chucking Paisley Park, Bristol De Mai and King Roland into a Trials Day Treble. You can currently get 12/1 about this treble with Unibet. Happy days!

Best Bet – PAISLEY PARK (8/13 William Hill)

4:10pm Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m1f

A tricky little puzzle to try and solve in the final race on Trials Day, with few of the entrants standing out as looking particularly well-handicapped. With that in mind, it could be worth taking a punt on AINCHEA (6/1 Unibet), who was beaten 20-lengths on his return after 700-days off the track at Sandown earlier this month.

Before his long injury lay-off, Colin Tizzards’ charge had beaten Whatswrongwithout in a good-quality novice hurdle, before going down by just a length in the Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, run over two-and-a-half miles here on the New Course. Robbie Power’s mount is sure to come on from that run at Sandown and he’s performed to a high-standard at Cheltenham in the past.

Best Bet –AINCHEA (6/1 Unibet)