RACING AHEAD: Terrefort favourite for Cotswold Chase

Tony McCormick's racing column
Tony McCormick's racing column

Saturdays Cotswold Chase, or the Argento as it was known before bookmakers Betbright took on the sponsorship mantel, was first run in 1980 as the Tote Double Chase – come on, hands up who remembers that one.

If not you will certainly remember past winners, grabbing victories in this Grade 2 event.

Raffi Nelson, for trainer Nicky Henderson – nothing new there – won the first running under jockey, Steve Smith-Eccles and was followed on the winners’ podium by the likes of Little Owl for Peter Easterby, Combs Ditch and West Tip in the eighties.

Celtic Shot, Master Oats, One Man and See More Business in the nineties, while Jair Du Cochet and Exotic Dancer landed the spoils in the first decade of the new century.

Recent winners include Neptune Collanges, Midnight Chase and the mighty Many Clouds who won the race in 2015 and the fateful renewal in 2017.

Last year, Malton trainer won the race with his nine-year-old, Definite Article gelding Definitly Red, who always prominent before being driven to lead after three out and clearing away between the final two obstacles to win by 8L.

Ten of the last 11 winners were aged nine or 10, while the last eight winners had an SP no bigger than 8/1, were officially rated 151+, finished in the first five in one of their last three starts and were running within 60 days of their last run.

Seven of the last eight winners had last run in either a Grade or Listed contest last time out with Aintree, the Many Clouds Chase in December, Kempton, the Grade 1 King George, Wetherby, the Grade 3 Roland Meyrick chase or the old Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury all major ‘Key Races’ on the way to success in this contest.

Current favourite is the six-year-old, Nicky Henderson-trained, Terrefort, the mount of Daryl Jacob.

I have major concerns for the youngster here in a contest that can be tough for even the hardened of creatures. Since the turn of the century only two six-year-olds have ran in the Cotswold Chase.

The Tony McCoy-ridden, Majadou, trained by Martin Pipe finished third of six in the year 2000, while future Grand National hero, Neptune Collonges fell for the first time in his career when the gelding was headed two out and looking held in third when producing a tired mistake at the last.

Virtually pulled-up on seasonal reappearance in a Sandown Listed contest in November the Martaline gelding is not going to get things any easier here.

Elegant Escape and Frodon appear to be doubts for the race, which leaves possible each-way wagers on Minella Rocco and last season’s runner-up American, who can improve on his first run of the season in December and has the positive addition of regular jockey Noel Fehily back in the saddle.

Interesting runner and in the same ownership of the favourite, Valtor could prove to be a rather large fly in the ointment on just his second start in the UK following a win at Ascot in the Listed Silver Cup in December with the excellent James Bowen in the plate.

Saturday Wagers:

2.25 Cheltenham

1pt win: Valtor (5/1)

1pt each-way: American (10/1)