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Cheltenham fancies for Saturday

Cheltenham fancies for Saturday

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Cheltenham takes centre stage this weekend with the three-day November Meeting already in full swing at the home of jumps racing. Where better to look for this weekend’s racing fancies.

Lungarno Palace, Saturday 3.30 Cheltenham @ 20/1

Fergal O’Brien has his string in super form just now, with a 26% strike rate over the preceding fortnight. His Lungarno Palace has returned from a summer break seemingly much-improved.

He survived a mistake at the last to win a novice contest at Stratford early and then caught the eye when staying on from the rear over this 2m5f trip here at the Showcase Meeting last month.

He was patiently ridden and made fair late progress into fourth behind First Assignment, strong favourite to win the Listed contest that precedes this one on the racecard.

Lungarno Palace returns here off the same mark of 127 and, if given a little less to do in the closing stages, should outrun his odds and go close.

West Approach, Saturday 2.25 Cheltenham @ 14/1

The BetVictor Gold Cup will be fiercely competitive but there’s a chance that Colin Tizzard’s West Approach has been underestimated in the betting. The Dorset handler has been banging in the winners lately and he has enlisted champion jockey Richard Johnson once more after he got a good tune from West Approach here last time.

They finished third over 3m1f then and this half-brother to Thistlecrack has seemingly been crying out for a drop in trip.

Conditions are forecast to be good-good to soft in places currently and that will be in West Approach’s favour as he favours a sounder surface.

Johnson and Tizzard combined to devastating effect when Native River won the Gold Cup itself here in March and, while not in that class, West Approach could prove a tough nut to crack from the front if getting into his rhythm.

Montestrel, Saturday 12.40 Cheltenham @ 9/2

Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty won this race last year with Apple’s Shakira and they team up with French import Never Adapt now. She’s due respect but, as the odds-on favourite on her British racecourse bow, may be taken on.

Montestrel was not fancied in the betting at Chepstow last month but defied that for a winning start and Lizzie Kelly’s mount is a value alternative here.

He made a smooth winning debut in Wales last time, defeating the re-opposing Quel Destin by a length-and-a-quarter. Paul Nicholls’ runner easily won next time out at Kempton while the third home – Elysees – has also boosted the form with back-to-back wins at Warwick and Ludlow in two starts since.

Montestrel can be expected to improve again himself and could well be up to toppling the jolly in this JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle that opens the Cheltenham card.

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Enda McElhinney Our racing expert, Enda studies cards in both England and Ireland on a daily basis and knows all the details you need to know when trying to select a winner. He is also a regular football writer and has strong knowledge of the Scottish game, with golf another specialised sport on his CV.