Winter is upon us and whilst we are jumping on good ground and not heavy ground the National Hunt season is well and truly under way with the much anticipated Open meeting kicking off the feature days at Cheltenham for this season.
1:50 CHELTENHAM BetVictor Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 3m3f71y
It’s a decent test of stamina at this time of year with 10 of the 17 runners having their first start for the season. There are also some trainers who aren’t quite firing yet, the traditional slow starters, like Jonjo O’Neil who has 2 runners and then there are those who seem to be firing early almost every year like Nigel Twiston Davies, Colin Tizzard, Phillip Hobbs and of course Paul Nichols. With £28,000 on offer its keenly contested and the short list looks like this. The veteran Any Currency, who has run so well for Martin Keighley and can go well fresh but at 13yo it’s not an easy task. Rebecca Curtis’s Racing Pulse who, if he jumps will run well but that is not a given. Fourth Act looks ready to run a big race for Colin Tizzard after his season opener and at the top of the card Sausalito Sunrise who regularly runs well fresh and might just be able to give weight all round.
1 unit e/w Fourth Act | 1 unit e/w Racing Pulse
2:05 WETHERBY totescoop6 Racing´s Millionaire Maker Handicap Chase Cl3 2m3f85y
The elder statesmen Shadows Lengthen and Chestnut Ben bring good form to this race and will give their juniors a decent race of it from either end of the handicap but they may not have the guns to outperform Wells De Lune who could be better than this mark and is half their age. Charlie Longsden likes this horse and he is hopeful that his relatively unexposed gelding could rate a good deal higher.
2 units e/w Wells De Lune
2:25 CHELTENHAM BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 2m4f78y
Ballynagour would be a strong fancy for the Pipe yard, who have dominated this meeting over the years and despite top weight he looks to have real claims. He is a good jumper and has been up against the best of them, travels well and stays. A good strong pace will suit. There is no doubting As De Mee has talent and his expected win at Fontwell has put him spot on for this race but this is a much harder task. Stablemate Frodon has done everything right in his 3 runs but the question is how much is left in the tank for improvement. His Wincanton win was a good one albiet with only 2 competitors he wasn’t overly taxed. Tarquin Du Seuil would be more fancied if the yard were firing in the winners of which the same could be said for Venetia Williams runner Aso. She would prefer softer ground for her horses generally. The Tizzard Sizing duo, Granite and Platinum both rate a second look as does Evan Williams Buywise. It’s a cracking contest and a head scratcher.
1 unit e/w Ballynagour | 1 unit e/w As De Mee
3:00 CHELTENHAM Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 3m1f67y
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any tougher along comes a 3 mile handicap hurdle. Fingal Bay runs great fresh and this trip is no problem for a horse who mixes fences and flights easily. Valhalla looks an exciting prospect for Colin Tizzard as does Very Extravagant for Neil Mulholland. Corrin Wood has had a change of stable and perhaps this might be time to get his career back on track for the Skeltons. He gets to race off a very attractive mark relative to his best chase mark. It will also be interesting to see how the formerly talented, Irish Saint strips after nearly two years off.
1 unit e/w Valhalla | 1 unit e/w Very Extravagant
3:15 WETHERBY totepoolliveinfo.com Handicap Hurdle (Challenger Two Mile Hurdle Series Qualifier) Cl3 2m
Taper Tantrum comes in to this race as top weight having won well at Stratford in September and not badly at Kempton in a listed race. He might just fall prey to something that is a tad quicker but Michael Bell doesn’t have many jumpers and must think there is something more here. Sakhees City rarely runs badly but doesn’t win often either and Philip Kirby is having winners at the moment. William of Orange never quite produced what we all thought he would last season but with a bit more experience and a friendly mark he might be good enough to win this race for Donald McCain whose horses are running well.
1 unit e/w William of Orange
3:35 CHELTENHAM Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle Cl3 2m5f26y
We are big fans of the Skelton brothers and although Robin of Locksley is partnered by Harry Skelton’s girlfriend, Bridget Andrews, there is no downside there, she claims a few pounds and she is a strong as any of the lads. We think this horse has a future and will take some beating. Who Dares Wins has top weight to carry but ran a good pipe opener for Alan King and Black Corton was impressive at Kempton last time out but has been hit for that victory by the handicapper. Board of Trade might have slipped under the radar with Newsworthy. We will stick with our first thoughts
1 unit e/w Robin of Locksley | 1 unit e/w Who Dares Wins