16.00 Cheltenham: Tap Night can waltz to Byrne Group Plate success
Owner JP McManus has a strong hand in the Byrne Group Plate and Tap Night looks good value to triumph despite being rejected by his retained rider Tony McCoy.
The 18-time champion has decided to partner Colour Squadron in preference to Lucinda Russell’s runner, but not for the first time this week he may have got it wrong.
Tap Night developed into a very useful novice chaser last season, finishing a 3 1/4 length second to Captain Conan in a Grade 1 contest at Aintree off an official rating of 145.
The gelding followed up that run with a decent second behind Radjahni Express at Ayr off a revised rating of 153 and now gets into this off a handicap mark of 145, having put in a very eye-catching run over 2m 5f at this track last time out when third of 10 to Wishfull Thinking.
The seven-year-old kept on from well off the pace to be beaten 6 3/4 lengths without ever threatening the front two, leaving the distinct impression that he was being brought along steadily to peak at this meeting.
He looks well-handicapped on his Aintree run and the form of his latest effort also looks solid after Wishfull Thinking ran well to finish fifth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase behind Sire De Grugy.
County Meath man Barry Geraghty, now takes over in the saddle and the pair look to have leading claims of landing this for the north.
Others that should be given a chance are Carrickboy and Ballynagour.
The former is trained by Venetia Williams and sprang a 50/1 surprise in this contest 12 months ago when beating Vino Griego by 1 1/2 lengths off a mark of 136.
He started this season on a mark of 144 on the back of that success, and although he failed to cut any icein his first three starts, the 10-year-old then shaped as if coming back to form last time out when third at Wincanton.
Now running off a mark just 4lb higher than last year, he has to be respected given that his whole season looks to have been geared around this contest.
Ballynagour is trained by handicap specialist David Pipe and was sent off the 7/2 favourite for this last year.
He finished only eighth behind Carrickboy, but showed on his debut for Pipe when winning easing down by 19 lengths at Warwick that he has a big race like this in him.
The eight-year-old runs off a 3lb lower mark than 12 months ago and if running to the level he showed at Warwick, he would be a danger to all.