4.50 Cheltenham, Wednesday, March 16

cheltenhamIn the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50) at Cheltenham on Wednesday, Voix Du Reve appears to have been allotted quite a stiff opening handicap mark, based on his ½-length defeat by the 123-rated Newberry New at Fairyhouse last month on his debut for Willie Mullins, so it’s interesting that the Irish maestro lets him take his chance. The Voix Du Nord gelding won a couple of races over hurdles, on very soft going, in the French provinces as a 3-year-old last autumn, but raced very freely in the early stages at Fairyhouse and is fitted with a first-time hood. Underfoot conditions are a little faster than any he’s encountered so far, but he’s entitled to improve for his first run since November and, granted his powerful connections, looks worth chancing at 16/1 (from 20/1) in the very early price lists.

Selection: Cheltenham 4.50 Voix Du Reve (16/1 with Bet365) to win

4.10 Lingfield, Tuesday, March 1

lingfield-racesIn the British Stallion Studs/32Red EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes (4.10) at Lingfield, Volunteer Point really does have the proverbial ‘stone in hand’ of her rivals, on official ratings, and cannot sensibly be opposed. The Footstepsinthesand filly has yet to win at Lingfield, but is 3-5 on the Polytrack surfaces at Chelmsford and Kempton and needed every yard of 7 furlongs at the Essex track to overhaul My Call in a fillies’ condition stakes race last time. Lamar, third on that occasion, did the form no harm when beaten half a length and a neck behind subsequent Winter Derby winner Grendisar, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Lingfield earlier this month.

Volunteer Point has recorded four of her six career wins over a mile, so the extra furlong is almost certainly in her favour. West Isley trainer Mick Channon has a fairly dismal 2-25 (8%) strike rate with his older horses on the all-weather at Lingfield over the last five seasons but Graham Gibbons, who steered Volunteer Point to victory at Chelmsford, is 1-1 for the yard. Unfortunately, her credentials won’t have escaped the layers, but better a short-priced winner than a long-priced loser, as the old saying goes.

Selection: Lingfield 4.10 Volunteer Point to win