The ITV racing team bring us four races from Cheltenham on the first day of the November meeting. There will be pointers galore and most punters will have their notebooks at the ready, with one eye on March. Some big names set to strut their stuff include festival favourite and last season’s Grand National winner Tiger Roll.
Bun Doran has a very poor strike rate over fences for a horse with such ability, in fact, his only win over fences came in a small event at Newcastle. A drop back in trip on seasonal debut and a reduced opening mark, all point to a big run from Tom George’s charge.
A Hare Breath carries top weight and is a very interesting contender here, it seems that he’s been around forever but this will actually only be his fourth run over fences. The last of these came in the Arkle where he finished well behind Altior. The lightly raced ten-year-old excels over two miles and races off what looks like a lenient mark here.
Paul Henderson’s Doitforthevillage is a course and distance winner having won this contest last season off a mark of 135. He is only two pounds higher this time having failed to add to this victory last season and Tom O’Brien in the plate, he must have a big chance.
Others of note include Movie Legend and Shanahan’s Turn.
Selection: A Hare Breath
Mr Whipped had a fantastic start to last season, winning his first three starts but ended the season on a low when pulling up in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival. This former point to point winner should appreciate the larger obstacles and looks like a very nice prospect.
Jerrysback has only had two runs on the racecourse proper but he has won both of them in very taking fashion. It’s worrying that we haven’t seen Philip Hobbs’ lightly raced six-year-old since February last year but if he continues to progress, then he could be the dark horse in the race.
Colin Tizzard started off point to point winner White Moon in a maiden hurdle at Wincanton on his racecourse debut which resulted in a cosy six-length victory. Such was his progression that two runs later, he was lining up in a Grade 2 at Sandown where he trailed in a long last behind On The Blind Side. However, there may have been excuses that day as the German-bred gelding has had a wind operation since that run and hasn’t been seen for 343 days. I think it’s too early to write him off and he’s worth keeping an eye on.
The in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies is represented by Count Meribel who was Grade 2 placed last season over hurdles but was found out in the Grade 1 Sefton at Aintree. He won well on seasonal/chase debut at Carlisle but will have to be an improved horse to take this.
Selection: Mr Whipped
This race should prove very informative for Cross Country race at the festival as it gives us a rare chance to see horses run over this niche track.
Jossies Orders is a regular in these cross-country contests and he just thrives over this discipline. So much so he’s record over the course reads 11136 and he took this exact race back in 2015. Enda Bolger the “King of the banks” bids for a third victory in three years here and holds leading claims of doing so.
The JP McManus owned gelding had a nice pipe-opener at Galway last month over hurdles and should give his supporters a good run for their money.
The standout runner in the field is last seasons Grand National winner Tiger Roll. Gordon Elliott’s Aintree hero is having his first run of the season here and although there will be bigger targets, principally back to back Grand Nationals,
Tiger Roll also has a very good record at Cheltenham including victories at the last three festivals, which only enhances his chances, given his good record when fresh he must go close
Gordon is also represented by Bless The Wings, who finished second in the festival cross country race two seasons back and wasn’t beaten that far behind Tiger Roll in the Grand National last season. He’s not getting any younger and hasn’t won off the back of a break since 2011, so a watching brief is advised.
The other horse of note is Midnight Shot who is tackling the discipline for the first time and if he takes to it, could run well.
Selection: Tiger Roll
This race has been won by some future starts in the past, including Gold Cup winner Coneygree and Shantou Village. This race looks to have a host of exciting hurdlers and it’ll be very informative to see who emerges on top.
The Nicky Henderson trained Pym has only seen the racecourse five times and looked very smart when winning on debut at Ayr. He was found out in two further bumper runs although he did run well on both occasions.
Pym won well on hurdle debut at Chepstow but it looked like a weak contest and he was once again beaten at Ascot in a novice event behind Anemoi. The five-year-old son of Stowaway needs to find improvement if he is to feature in this contest.
Coolanly jumped off as a 100/1 outsider in the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle and ended up finishing forty lengths behind impressive winner Samcro. He followed this up with with a fine run to finish fifth in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ hurdle behind Lalor.
Fergal O’Brien’s inmate was keen early on chasing debut in the Persian War Hurdle and came to grief at the fourth obstacle. If he is none the worse for that fall then he should run well.
Colin Tizzard must hold Darlac in very high regard, as he pitches the twice-raced five-year-old at this Grade 2 contest on the back of just one maiden hurdle victory. In fairness, he did make a mockery of the field that day and with the Tizzard stable in red-hot form he’s a horse worth considering.