American on Trial at Cheltenham

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It’s Cheltenham Trials Day on Saturday and while there’ll hopefully be Festival clues aplenty, it’s all about trying to find a few winners on the day.

American came into this season with a burgeoning reputation, having been unbeaten in three starts over fences last term.

Harry Fry’s charge was fired straight into the white heat of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, a race for which he touched favouritism on the day. For one reason or another, it didn’t work out and he was never a threat at the business end.

Perhaps it was just too much to ask for a horse with limited experience on his reappearance and the case of Djakadam comes to mind. He was also heavily backed on his seasonal bow in 2014 for what was also his fourth start over fences.

It didn’t go to plan and Willie Mullins conceded it was possibly not the right call. Djakadam was given time to recover and duly turned the competitive Thyestes Chase into a procession next time out before finishing a gallant second to Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

American is forgiven his Newbury flop and gets another chance at odds of 5/1 in the feature Cotswold Chase (14:25) at Cheltenham. He’ll surely prove to be better than he showed at Newbury and represents an each-way play if all eight intended runners stand their ground.

He’ll certainly need to be on form as Bristol De Mai goes on a recovery mission of his own after his King George disappointment at Kempton. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey is the 13/8 favourite for the Cotswold Chase and commands maximum respect back on soft ground.

Earlier on the card, in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (13:15), Mister Whitaker gets the vote to go one better than his Kempton second over Christmas. There he chased home the front-running Hell’s Kitchen, going down by less than two lengths after being held up at the back of the field.

Having previously won a Carlisle novice handicap over two-and-a-half miles on his second chase start, Mister Whitaker essentially improved again in that Kempton run, with the front pair coming a long way clear of the remainder. He is raised 4lb but should prove a good deal better than a mark of 129 and so is deemed worthy of a bet here at 9/2.

Likely pace-setter Sizing Tennessee, the 5/2 favourite, and former Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy are respected on their C&D efforts on New Year’s Day although Mister Whitaker can improve to defeat them for trainer Mick Channon on just his ninth career run.

Colin Tizzard’s string are just starting to come out of a slow spell and the Dorset handler could get on the board with Slate House in the Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle (15:00).

He lost his unbeaten record over jumps just before Christmas in a hot Ascot race behind Nicky Henderson’s Claimantakinforgan, who I suspect may have a massive role in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival.

Slate House was a bit too keen in front at Ascot and his race was run by three out. He’s upped in trip now to two-and-a-half miles and is rated 9/1 for this Grade Two event.

He concedes weight to majority of his rivals, with champion trainer Henderson firing two in Pacific De Baune and Santini at the race. They might not see off Slate House, just as their stablemate did last time, and he can strike a blow for the Tizzard team to get his own season right back on track.

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