MATATA 2/1 Bet 365 and Unibet – 1.25 POINTS WIN
MATATA could not have been any more impressive when winning at Ffos Las on debut over fences, in October. He pinged every fence from the front and a repeat of his jumping here in this ground would make him nearly impossible to beat in my opinion. Of course he has to turn up the same horse and jump the same, but surely MATATA will improve again for his second start over fences, rather than decline. He is up in grade but his form over hurdles when 6th of 12 in the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, to Inthepocket at Aintree, tells me he is up to this grade, if not better. He is just a 5 year old whose best days are ahead of him.
Petit Tonnerre is a danger to our selection but his jumping has not been great on his 2 starts over fences. He has often spent too much time in the air and when the tough gets going, if he puts in a few bad jumps, MATATA will be able to open up a few lengths with his slick and accurate jumping. Come MATATA let’s get 2024 off to a good start. WIN.
AFADIL 9/2 generally – 1 POINT WIN
AFADIL actually remains unbeaten in Scotland with 2 wins to his name at this course last February, and Ayr back in April. What that actually tells me is when Paul Nicholls sends this horse on an 18 hour round trip, he means business and generally it is not for no reason. AFADIL has had three runs this season and although he has disappointed, he did run well enough last time out on his first try up in trip to 2m 4f (today’s trip). AFADIL has come down the handicap to a mark of 125 and when you take in the claim of Freddie Gingell (5lb), he actually lines up in this race on a mark of 120. He won a handicap off 122 last season at Ayr so we know this is a very winnable mark. He also won’t mind the soft ground and I am expecting him to outrun his decent odds. WIN.
INCH HOUSE 7/4 generally – 1.25 POINTS WIN
INCH HOUSE is progressing at a rate of knots and it is hard to see why he won’t be bang there today. He has won his last two races in easy fashion. He travels, he jumps and for a novice chaser, he is ahead of where he should be. He travels and jumps like a horse who has had 20 runs over fences and although he is now up to a mark of 137, I still think he will keep progressing further. In fact I think he has a decent chance in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Each year trainer Jonjo O’Neill finds a horse and improves them just like INCH HOUSE. Last year it was Monbeg Genius, this year INCH HOUSE and going back further I could mention horses like Holywell, Alfie Sherrin, Witchita Lineman, he just seems to do very well with this type of horse which is obviously down to his training regime. I think Angels Breath is a danger if putting it together but his jumping will need to improve and even though we were on him last time out, I am not 100% convinced 3 miles on heavy ground is what he wants. I imagine INCH HOUSE will travel into the race nicely and will be held on to for as long as possible as he does not do a lot in front. He will be playing late jumping the last fence and hopefully fly up the hill for us. WIN.