Handicapper hopes old Garde can return to dominance

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It’s not often the handicapper takes pity on horses, but two-time Cross Country Chase winner Garde Champetre has received a little help from Phil Smith.

The 4/1 ante-post favourite for the Cross Country Chase has become a cross country specialist in recent years and in nine starts over the Cheltenham cross country fences Garde Champetre has won five times, finished second twice, fifth once and fell on his first attempt.

His fifth place came in last year’s Cheltenham Festival when it seemed age and weight were beginning to get the better of the Edna Bolger-trained 12-year-old, but his second place at Cheltenham in November has proved there may be one more win in the old boy yet.

And Phil Smith has made his job slightly easier by lowering Garde Champetre’s official rating to 157 from 161, leaving him 1lb higher in the weights than rival and stablemate L’ami.

Garde Champetre will still have to carry top weight around Cheltenham if he is to win his third Cross Country Chase in four years, but having won three times around Cheltenham carrying 11st 12lb, the 12-year-old is well practiced in the art of stamina tests.

L’ami is next in the betting at 7/1 and having place in all but two of his nine starts around Cheltenham, is a big each-way price.

Last year’s winner A New Story is available at 14/1 but with 15 horses priced between 10/1 and 20/1, it’s a race in which plenty of value can be found.

However there may only be one horse that could rival Garde Champetre in terms of popularity at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, and Festival racegoers would take great delight in seeing Garde Champetre and Kauto Star win their respective races.

Kauto Star is a 7/1 shot for the Gold Cup as he attempts to win it for the third time.

A £25 double on Garde Champetre and Kauto Star winning would return £812.50. New customers can sign up here for a free £25 bet.

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.