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Horse Racing: Get on class act Rhinestone at 14-1; PRICEWISE at the FESTIVAL.

Byline: Tom Segal

THERE are usually more plots than an Agatha Christie novel in the Pertemps Final (5.20) with half the field having not shown anything like their best form in the qualifiers run in the mud round places like Haydock and Warwick.

On much better ground the form will be turned on its head and the one horse that could blow the race apart and be seriously well handicapped is our old friend Rhinestone Cowboy.

Clearly not as good as he once was when he was one of the best horses in training, Rhinestone Cowboy will have to retain about half his ability to win.

He shaped with an awful lot of promise in terrible ground at Haydock last time in the qualifier won by Millenium Royal. Given that was his first real run since thrashing Iris's Gift back in 2004, it was a great effort and I just can't believe that this hasn't been the plan for him all season.

There is no way his connections would put him through the rigours of training, given how good he was, if they thought he was just going to trawl around at the back in bad race and, while it is clearly a risk backing him, he is 14-1 to beat horses with about a tenth of his natural ability.

The biggest danger could well come from another old boy who has run well plenty of times at the festival, Adamant Approach. Unbelievably he seems better the ever at the age of 13.

Last year he was placed in the County Hurdle and he was trying to give weight to Desert Quest and Noble Request who were both touted as Champion Hurdle contenders.

He has to race off a much higher mark today but this race is about three classes below the contests he usually runs in and with the trainer's son taking 7lb off he is not badly treated.

The trip can't be considered a worry because he scooted home over 3m in the mud last time and, like Rhinestone Cowboy, he is a much better horse than his rivals. He is 16-1 this morning.

Monolith is a big danger on his best form and there is a big word going around for the ex-French chaser Nirvana Du Bourg of Nicky Henderson's, but I'll be cheering on the old boys.

Another gossip horse Opera Mundi is going to take a lot of beating in the Racing Post Plate but he is very inexperienced for a race of this nature and the ground will be much quicker than he's used to.

He showed nothing at the festival last year and, while he was always going to be a better chaser, he is 5-1 for much his stiffest task to date. Of course he can win but he's only getting 1lb off a former winner Tikram, who has been running very well since switched to Alan King and has the ground he likes and the headgear back on. You always take a chance when backing him because he is not the best of jumpers but he has the talent to win and don't forget he was fourth to Exotic Dancer and Taranis in a big handicap here in December.

If Chocolate Thornton can keep him in touch in this big field he will be finishing best of all.

After Denman's success, the Nicholls camp are bullish about Gungadu in the National Hunt Chase. He put in the best round of jumping by any novice bar Denman when winning at this track on his debut, but he hasn't been so impressive since and there is a doubt about him staying the trip.

Consequently I'm going to take him on with Garde Champetre for a stable and jockey combination that has done well in this race. Last time he split two good horses over 2m and prior to that he had given Aces Four a fright at Newcastle and that horse ran a cracker here against Denman.

The doubt is the trip but I have a feeling that it could be the making of him as all he does is gallop and, at 22-1 with Totesport, it is worth chancing his stamina.

Today's bets

Tikram

4.00 Cheltenham

1pt win at 14-1 generally

Garde Champetre

4.40 Cheltenham

1pt win at 22-1 with Totesport

Rhinestone Cowboy

5.20 Cheltenham

1pt win at 14-1 generally

Adamant Approach

5.20 Cheltenham

1pt win at 16-1 generally

CAPTION(S):

Adamant Approach: should not be written off because of his age
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 15, 2007
Words:755
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