1.30 SKY BET SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE ▫️ 2m 87y ▫️ (Grade 1)
The most eagerly anticipated flag-fall in Racing, the roar that signals the start of the Cheltenham Festival would rival that of any sporting event on the planet. Indeed, Prestbury Park truly is an amphitheatre like no other.
In somewhat traditional fashion, Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins are responsible for the short priced favourite Getabird, who ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January, the very same race that both Vautour and Douvan, who also carried the familiar pink and green silks of the aforementioned Ricci, landed en route to Supreme success in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Long time ante-post favourite for the Champion Bumper last season, the exciting six-year-old accounted for Grade 1 Royal Bond winner Mengli Khan at Punchestown, displaying a smart turn of foot and fluent hurdling technique that will serve him well in this two-mile speed test. He undoubtedly holds leading claims.
Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov looks the pick of the British trained contenders, and burgeoning Newmarket based handler Amy Murphy will be hoping that the talented gelding can gun down his rivals in the Cotswolds.
The winner of his solitary bumper start last term, Kalashnikov’s only defeat to date came when losing a shoe and suffering an overreach in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, where the heavy ground also looked to go against the strapping youngster.
That said, the five-year-old bounced back to land the most valuable handicap hurdle in the calendar on soft ground at Newbury, defying a mark of 142 to score by an impressive four-and-a-half-lengths from a field jam-packed with promising types. Both the return to better ground and invaluable experience gained in the Betfair Hurdle make Kalashnikov a very big player back in novice company.
Summerville Boy will look to uphold the Tolworth Hurdle form.
Tom George’s talented six-year-old hasn’t been seen since that impressive 4 lengths success at Sandown, when appearing to appreciate the testing conditions.
The son of Sandmason finished second over this course and distance in Grade 2 company in November. The softer the ground, the better his chance.
Slate House got the better of Summerville Boy in November.
A dual course and distance winner, Colin Tizzard’s scopey gelding has been somewhat overlooked following back-to-back defeats at Ascot and Cheltenham respectively. However, both of those efforts came when the stable were enduring a lean spell.
That said, Slate House travelled into the Cheltenham contest powerfully before being caught out by the two-and-a-half-mile trip. He is undoubtedly a danger back in distance.
The aforementioned Mengli Khan will represent last years winning partnership of Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy.
Given what the scopey five-year-old has achieved on the racetrack this winter, it is somewhat surprising that he couldn’t land a blow in juvenile company 12 months ago. However, it does go to show what a good summer at grass can do for a young horse.
Having got off the mark at Navan in September, the imposing Cullentra inmate returned to the track to notch at Grade 3 victory in November before tasting Grade 1 success in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse one month later. A whirlwind hat-trick that saw him head the market for this race prior to running out at the penultimate flight of hurdles in Grade 1 company over Christmas.
Reversing the Punchestown form with Getabird will be no easy task. But, given what he achieved earlier in the season, he should not be completely discounted.
Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson has won just one of the last 7 renewals of the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser. However, that stat far from tells the entire story, with 8 further places – including fielding the second and third home in both 2011 and 2014 – also on his resume.
This year Claimantakinforgan is the yards main hope, and he would be much shorter in the betting had he not blotted his copybook when sent off an odds-on favourite at Musselburgh in February.
Whilst an odds-on defeat may knock the gloss off for many, the form of his previous two victories offer much greater promise, with the runner-up from each of his previous two starts franking the form subsequently.
The six-year-old’s third place finish in the Champion Bumper last season provides further reason for optimism. Indeed, Cheltenham Festival form should never be underestimated.
Paloma Blue could easily outrun his double-figure price.
Henry De Bromhead’s six-year-old has improved with every outing this season, culminating in a fine third placed effort behind Samcro in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Davy Russell has been booked for the ride and there is plenty of scope for further improvement.
First Flow is worthy of his place here.
Kim Bailey’s promising youngster has improved with every run this winter and should not be underestimated on ground that he will love.
Sharjah, who looked set to claim Grade 1 honours before crashing out at the final flight of hurdles at Leopardstown over Christmas, disappointed in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle last month but could easily feature if bouncing back to form.
Western Ryder won a novice hurdle at Cheltenham in December and also boasts a fine piece of Cheltenham Festival form having finished fifth in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago.
Fourth in the Tolworth Hurdle in January, the talented six-year-old chased home Kim Bailey’s exciting prospect Vinndication over two-and-a-half miles at Huntington when last sighted in February. His course form commands respect.
Lostintranslation and Shoal Bay complete Colin Tizzard’s three-pronged attack. While smart mare Dame Rose, Musselburgh runner-up Simply The Betts, dual novice hurdle winner Golden Jeffrey and 200/1 outsider Saxo Jack complete the British contingent.
Last year’s Champion Bumper runner-up Debuchet, Grade 3 novice hurdle second Us And Them, Gigginstown House Stud contender Trainwreck and former flat-performer Khudha complete the Irish raiders.
SUMMARY: Getabird holds obvious claims but looks painfully short on what he has achieved thus far. Tolworth Hurdle winner Summerville Boy could easily go well with the soft ground in his favour. While Paloma Blue has a progressive profile and could easily build upon his third placed finish in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle. However, KALASHNIKOV’S victory in the Betfair Hurdle in undoubtedly the best piece of form on offer. Amy Murphy’s exciting youngster beat a smart field that day, whilst also confirming his ability to act on soft ground. He looks a solid proposition. At a bigger price, SLATE HOUSE, who is a two-time course and distance winner, looks grossly overpriced at 25/1. A Grade 2 winner from Summerville Boy in November, Colin Tizzard has his string in fine form once again. The talented son of Presenting could easily outrun his double-figure price.
2.10 THE RACING POST ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY ▫️1m 7f 199y ▫️ (Grade 1)
The Arkle has been somewhat of a favourites benefit in recent years, with Sprinter Sacre (8/11), Simonsig (8/15), Un De Sceaux (4/6), Douvan (1/4) and Altior (1/4) all returning victorious since 2012. This year Willie Mullins will be hoping that Footpad can keep the good run going.
Some horses simply find another level of form when switched to the larger obstacles, and the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned six-year-old certainly fits into that bracket, winning his three starts over fences by a combined distance of 27 lengths.
Pinpoint accurate jumping and a high cruising speed are desirable assets in any two-mile chaser, and the scopey son of Creachadoir has displayed both to devastating effect on the racecourse this winter. He will undoubtedly be the first leg of many Day 1 trebles.
Footpad’s closest market rival is Petit Mouchoir, who chased home the Closutton inmate at Leopardstown last month and should come on massively for both the experience and blowout after suffering an untimely setback following a hugely promising debut victory at Punchestown in October.
Interestingly, the pair clashed 3 times over hurdles, with the Gigginstown House Stud owned runner coming out on top on each occasion, including when beating Footpad in the 2017 Irish Champion Hurdle and again in the English equivalent, when finishing third and fourth respectively.
Davy Russell gave the talented grey a very easy time last month, undoubtedly with a view to contesting this race. Therefore, I expect a much more competitive finish tomorrow.
Saint Calvados is unquestionably the leading British contender following a bloodless victory in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick last month.
Harry Whittington’s hugely exciting five-year-old burst on to the scene with a brace of eye-catching performances at Newbury. Before confirming his distinct promise when dispatching a smart field, containing previous winners Diego Du Charmil (second), North Hill Harvey (third) and Drumcliff (fourth), by upwards of 22 lengths.
While Cheltenham is a completely different proposition, the youngsters fleet-footed fencing has been a trademark of his performances to date, an asset that will stand him in good stead in this two-mile speed test. He certainly won’t give Footpad an easy time of things in-front.
Brain Power has more letters next to his name than numbers since embarking on a career over fences.
Hopes were high for the Seven Barrows inmate following a smooth debut success at Kempton in November. However, an unseat at Sandown preceded a last fence fall at Ascot, which, it goes without saying, is a far from ideal preparation.
While the Michael Buckley owned seven-year-old is undoubtedly a very classy operator on his day, his Cheltenham form (0-2) would also be a significant concern. This looks a big ask.
Robinshill, who notched up a quick-fire double at Ludlow in November, will need to improve markedly to play role here.
SUMMARY: Footpad is a worthy favourite based on what he has achieved this winter. While Saint Calvados has looked equally as impressive on British soil and will relish the soft ground he will encounter on Tuesday. However, PETIT MOUCHOIR was the best of these over hurdles and made a good impression at Punchestown in October. Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old should come on leaps and bounds both mentally and physically for his spin around Leopardstown last month, which could see him turn the tables on the Willie Mullins trained favourite.
2.50 THE ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE ▫️ 3m 1f ▫️ (Grade 3)
Un Temps Pour Tour defied a mark of 155 to claim back-to-back victories in this race 12 months ago. However, his hat-trick bid was scuppered by a small set-back that will keep him off the track this season, meaning that a new name will be etched on to the trophy this year.
Gold Present finished second in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase last year and has looks to have found further improvement over three miles.
Nicky Henderson’s talented eight-year-old got the better of Ditcheat inmate Frodon when last seen in the track, who won his next start at Cheltenham by 17 lengths.
Many horses have taken in this contest en route to the Grand National in recent years, including 2015 winner The Druids Nephew. Conceding weight to all of his rivals will be no easy task. However, Un Temps Pour Tout is proof that it can be done.
Singlefarmpayment came within a nose of victory 12 months ago.
Tom George’s eight-year-old traveled supremely well before being outgunned up the hill by his vastly more experienced rival.
He will return this year off a 3lb higher mark.
Last year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle fourth Coo Star Sivola will be the mount of Lizzie Kelly.
Novices’ often run well in this race and Coo Star Sivola has undoubtedly displayed his best from around the undulations of Prestbury Park. Two factors that bode well for the six-year-old’s chances.
A rise of 7lb for a facile display over this trip at Exeter looks lenient to say the least. Therefore, a big run can be expected.
David Pipe and Tom Scudamore team up with dual Chepstow scorer Ramses De Teillee.
The talented grey, who will relish the soft ground on Tuesday, chased home RSA Chase hope Elegant Escape at Exeter last month. Already a much better chaser that he ever was hurdler, a mark of 145 does not look beyond him.
Vintage Clouds looked set to play a role in the finish 12 months ago before coming to grief at the penultimate fence.
Sue Smith’s Welsh Grand National fourth finished second in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase in February. Ultra-consistent, he will compete from a 7lb higher mark this year.
Nicky Henderson will rely upon Beware The Bear and O O Seven.
The former won the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle before pulling-up in the Welsh Grand National. While the latter continues to perform consistently but is still high enough in the handicap.
Paul Nicholls’ fields dual Scottish Grand National winner Vicente.
Trevor Hemmings’ experienced nine-year-old finished second over this course and distance from a 1lb lower mark in November, and will relish a proper test of stamina. However, this is likely to be a stepping-stone to Ayr.
Cogry, who scored over this course and distance from a 5lb lower mark in October, and Wakanda, who landed the the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January, also possess the about to go well.
While Yala Enki, who bolted up on heavy ground at Haydock last time out, and Shantou Flyer, who often runs well in staying handicaps at Prestbury Park, are well capable of carrying weight on soft ground.
Knight Of Noir and Minella Daddy could also run well. While Casse Tete, Eamon An Cnoic, Vic De Touzaine and Sizing Codelco, who has undergone a wind operation since pulling-up at Aintree, complete the field.
SUMMARY: Gold Present appeared to improve for the three-mile trip at Ascot last time out. However, the fact that connections have steered clear of soft ground in the past has to be of concern. Last year’s second Singlefarmpayment is handicapped to go well once again, but has something to prove after a somewhat disappointing campaign. David Pipe has won this race 3 times in the last 10 years, and looks to have a live contender in the form of Ramses De Teillee, who will relish the underfoot conditions. However, COO STAR SIVOLA and VINTAGE CLOUDS may be the two to focus on. The former has placed at the last two Cheltenham Festivals and appeared to improve for the three-mile trip when hacking up at Exeter. His stable are in fine form and a 7lb rise looks lenient. The latter was part of a select group who broke away upon turning for home in the corresponding contest 12 months ago. Although he will compete from a 7lb higher mark this year, he will have his preferred surface this time around, which could see him run a big race in the hands of Danny Cook.
3.30 THE UNIBET CHAMPION HURDLE ▫️ 2m 87y ▫️ (Grade 1)
This year’s Champion Hurdle is one horse race according to the market, with Buveur D’Air a strong odds-on favourite to land consecutive renewals following his smooth victory 12 months ago.
Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old cantered to success in both the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and Christmas Hurdle at Kempton before enjoying a virtual schooling session around Sandown last month, which should have put him spot on for tomorrow.
Whilst his price is prohibitive, opposition looks thin on the ground and the champion trainer, who has a knack for training champion hurdlers, will be hopeful of adding another championship success to his ever growing CV.
Earlier this winter a springtime showdown between Buveur D’Air and Faugheen had everyone talking following a sparkling reappearance from the 2015 champion. However, subsequent efforts have seen Rich Ricci’s star pulled-up over Christmas and playing second fiddle to leading Stayers Hurdle hope Supersundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle, which has understandably dampened enthusiasm.
With nothing coming to light about his no-show at Christmas and his inability to match the finishing kick of a three-mile horse last month, the horse dubbed ‘Faugheen the machine’ has it all prove.
That said, we all know that you can never say never in this game, especially where messer Mullins in concerned. However, he will have to be firing on all cylinders if he is to beat an on-song Buveur D’Air.
Stablemate Yorkhill is the unknown quantity.
While Graham Wylie’s dual Cheltenham Festival winner has star potential, he has far from sparkled on the racetrack this winter, finishing eighth in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase on his reappearance before beating a solitary rival home in the Dublin Chase last month.
Frustratingly, the Closutton inmate has significant quirks to rival his undoubted talent. But, if a return to hurdling can relight his fire, he could easily be the biggest threat to the reigning champ.
Four time Cheltenham Festival runner-up My Tent Or Yours provides both Nicky Henderson and JP McManus with an able deputy for their short priced favourite.
Incredibly, three of those second placed efforts have come in this race, chasing home Jezki in 2014, Annie Power in 2016 and Buveur D’Air last season. Therefore, it was pleasing for all concerned when the experienced campaigner landed the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, a much deserved and long overdue Prestbury Park success.
While he may need others to underperform in order to scoop the main prize, he is undoubtedly a rock solid place contender.
2015 County Hurdle winner Wicklow Brave could be a lively outsider for Willie Mullins.
The talented nine-year-old, who has been campaigned almost exclusively on the flat since his Cheltenham Festival success, won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle when last seen in this sphere, beating the aforementioned My Tent Or Yours by one-and-a-half-lengths.
Naturally, this will be harder. But he could go well if ridden to hit the frame.
Melon, who finished second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago, will be looking to reverse the International Hurdle form with My Tent Or Yours.
Beaten two-and-a-quarter lengths by his vastly more experienced rival, Melon had to concede 6lb that day and therefore has every chance of gaining revenge off level-weights. However, getting the better of Buveur D’Air won’t be easy.
Ch’Tibello finished one place and three-quarters-of-length behind Melon in the International Hurdle and will undoubtedly travel strongly granted a truly run race.
Seen to best effect on decent ground, his finishing effort has often let him down. That would have to be a concern once again.
Greatwood Hurdle winner Elgin rates a lively outsider.
Thoroughly progressive this winter, Alan King’s second season hurdler also landed a competitive handicap hurdle at Ascot in the autumn and warmed up for the two-mile showpiece with success in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last month.
The six-year-old will need to find further improvement if he is to land the main prize here. He does, however, hold place claims.
Connections of Verdana Blue have elected to run their talented mare here over both the Mares’ Hurdle and County Hurdle.
The Seven Barrows inmate travelled through the Betfair Hurdle with consummate ease before having her finishing kick blunted by the hock-deep ground.
Good ground in undoubtedly the key to Verdana Blue. Again, she could easily run into a place if things go her way.
Mick Jazz arrives here as a Grade 1 winner after benefitting from Faugheen’s miss-fire at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Whilst Gordon Elliott’s battle-hardened seven-year-old warrants respect, he will have to significantly up his game in order to play a role here.
Good ground lover John Constable will also take his chance.
As will Identify Thief, who was sent off an 8/1 shot for this race two years ago but now has plenty to prove.
Charli Parcs, who is yet to repay the faith shown in him by his adoring Trainer Nicky Henderson, will also take his place in the field.
SUMMARY: A banker of the week for many – it is very hard to see past BUVEUR D’AIR here given the lack of serious opposition. Faugheen and YORKHILL are undoubtedly two of the most talented horses in training. However, they have both looked a mere shadow of their former selves this season. That said, the latter could be rejuvenated by the switch back to hurdles, which could see him run a much better race than many expect.
4.10 THE OLBG MARES’ HURDLE ▫️2m 3f 200y ▫️ (Grade 1)
This race has gone from strength to strength in recent years, helpled in no small part by the sublime six-timer Willie Mullins magical mare Quevaga recorded between the years of 2009 and 2014.
The master of Closutton also won the next two renewals of the race, courtesy of Glen’s Melody (2015) and Vroum Vroum Mag (2016). However, Gordon Elliott sent out Apple’s Jade to end the Mullins stranglehold this time last year and, given her dominance in Ireland this winter, a repeat performance looks highly likely.
The talented Gigginstown House Stud owned mare saw off the Rich Ricci owned duo Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in a barnstorming battle up the Cheltenham hill, displaying her customary guts and unquestionable class to go once place better than her Triumph Hurdle effort 12 months previously.
Twice a Grade 1 winner this winter – track, trip and ground clearly hold no fears. Therefore, finding a chink in her armour will be no easy task.
Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins sent out Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini to finish second and third respectively 12 months ago. This time the powerful-pair will rely upon the well touted Benie Des Dieux.
Held in the highest regard at Closutton, the daughter of Great Pretender would be a danger too all if translating her fencing form to hurdles. However, it should be noted that she won just 2 of her 6 starts over timber in France.
3-3 since crossing the channel, the talented seven-year-old will have the assistance of Ruby Walsh.
La Bague Au Roi should not be underestimated.
Warren Greatrex’s star mare has progressed once again this winter, notching three victories from as many starts by a combined total of eighteen-and-a-half-lengths.
Needless to say, beating Apple’s Jade will be no easy task. But La Bague Au Roi undoubtedly possesses the ability to put it up to the Irish raider.
Kayf Grace was sent off co-favourite for the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month, but could only finish a disappointing twelfth.
A ready winner at Kempton on her penultimate smart, Nicky Henderson’s lightly-raced eight-year-old could run a big race if rediscovering that form.
Jer’s Girl was travelling well last year before coming to grief three from home.
Gavin Cromwell’s talented mare finished second behind the aforementioned La Bague Au Roi at Kempton in November, form that makes her of interest here.
A return to two-and-a-half-miles should be ideal. And the soft ground will be no issue. She could be a smart each-way bet in the ‘without the favourite’ markets.
Both Midnight Jazz and Midnight Tour will need to improve in order to feature here.
While Indian Stream ran a huge ran to finish fourth last year and could easily outrun her massive double digit price once again.
Pravalaguna completes the field.
SUMMARY: It is extremely hard to see past last year’s winner APPLE’S JADE, who has arguably improved once again this season when landing Grade 1 contests at both Fairyhouse and Leopardstown. Barring mistakes, she looks to be a banker. JER’S GIRL, who followed Apple’s Jade home at Navan in November, could be fair value in the ‘without the favourite’ market.
4.50 THE NATIONAL HUNT CHASE (AMATEUR RIDERS’ NOVICES’ CHASE) ▫️3m 7f 170y ▫️ (Grade 2)
Gordon Elliott has won this race three times in the last four years, with Chicago Grey in 2011, Cause Of Causes in 2015 and Tiger Roll in 2017. This year the chief of Cullentra Stables will rely upon Jury Duty and Mossback.
Jamie Codd will partner the first named, who looks set to be sent off as favourite following a string of creditable performances in graded company this winter.
Last year’s Pertemps Final third got the better of subsequent Grade 1 scorer Shattered Love and RSA Chase favourite Presenting Percy in Grade 3 company at Punchestown in November, and will undoubtedly attract plenty of support given his potent trainer and jockey combination.
Mossback will be the mount of last year’s winning rider Lisa O’Neill.
The Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding beat subsequent winners Snow Falcon, Jett and Avenir D’Une Vie on chasing debut at Naas, before chasing home smart prospects Invitation Only and Monbeg Notorious.
The six-year-old is no third string here and undoubtedly warrants the utmost respect.
Derek O’Connor will don the green and gold bands of leading owner JP McManus on the Phillip Hobbs trained No Comment.
Not many horses arrive here with just a solitary start to their name over fences. However, the formerly smart handicap-hurdler, who will undoubtedly have been well schooled at home, may be able to overcome his lack of experience with the assistance of his canny partner O’Connor, who last won the race on Minella Rocco in 2016.
The seven-year-old looked set run a big race at Sandown prior to stumbling at the penultimate fence. A ‘typical’ Derek O’Connor ‘patient ride’ could see last year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle seventh go well.
Rathvinden provides owner Ronnie Bartlett with a second string to his bow.
Third behind Faugheen in the 2014 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Willie Mullins ten-year-old ticks a lot of boxes for this contest, with a win over three-miles-one-furlong, ten runs to his name over fences and a proven ability to act on varying types of ground.
Runner-up in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse in December, Rathvinden has failed to complete the course on his last two visits to the racetrack. However, he could easily run well if his jumping holds up.
Ms Parfois beat solid yardstick Theatre Territory at Prestbury Park in December.
Anthony Honeyball’s talented mare went on to record a hat-trick of victories before finding only Black Corton too good in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices Chase at Ascot in February. Minella Rocco filled the same position before winning this race two years ago.
A sound jumper. She should not be underestimated.
Keeper Hill won nicely over three miles at Doncaster in December. However, he will need to bounce back from a fall at Musselburgh last time out.
The Westerner gelding was travelling well in the lead prior to his unfortunate demise. If that hasn’t left a mark, he has the ability to get involved.
Colin Tizzard fields Prestbury Park regular Sizing Tennessee, who won over three-miles-one-and-a-half-furlongs at the course in December.
The enigmatic ten-year-old looked set to beat the rapidly improving Black Corton prior to falling in October, and it is fair to say that he doesn’t always jump with the greatest of fluency. However, you can’t argue with his course form that also includes a narrow defeat in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Years Day. He will be partnered top amateur jockey Barry O’Neill.
Impulsive Star, who is yet to get off the mark over fences, and Duel At Dawn, who finished second behind the aforementioned Ms Parfois on his latest start, should both enjoy this marathon trip.
Katie Walsh will ride last time out scorer Pylonthepressure, who could go well despite his lack of experience. While the lightly-raced Reigning Supreme, who will represent Nicky Henderson and James King, could run well.
All Kings, Clondaw Cian, Lofgren, Robin Of Locksley and Shades Of Midnight complete the field.
SUMMARY: Jockeys are all-important in this race, therefore Jury Duty and No Comment, who will be partnered by Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor respectively, will undoubtedly prove very popular. However, the former appeared to empty quickly when last seen at Naas which would have to be a concern over four-miles on soft ground. While the latter arrives here with just one previous outing over fences, which, it goes without saying, is far from ideal. Given those concerns, I would much rather side with SIZING TENNESSEE, who has stacks of solid course form and will be assisted by top amateur jockey Barry O’Neill. Colin Tizzard has his string in fine form at present and the experienced ten-year-old, who looked to have the measure of RSA Chase contender Black Corton at Prestbury Park in October, will not be inconvenienced by the ground. MS PARFOIS, who has flourished over fences this winter, is also worthy of support. The bold jumping mare already has a Prestbury Park victory to her name this season and could be very dangerous in receipt of 7lb on ground that she will relish. William Biddick is a safe pair of hands.
5.30 THE CLOSE BROTHERS NOVICES’ HANDICAP CHASE ▫️2m 4f 78y ▫️ (Listed)
Tully East ran out a good winner of this race 12 months ago, and Ireland look to hold a strong hand once again, with De Plotting Shed and Any Second Now attracting plenty of support in recent weeks.
Both have profiles that would suggest that this has been the plan for some time.
De Plotting Shed, who chased home Presenting Percy on chasing debut, has been been tapped for toe over the minimum distance on his last two visits to the racetrack. While Any Second now, who began his career over the lager obstacles with second-placed efforts behind Monalee and Invitation Only, could easily thrive now returned to this intermediate trip.
All four of De Plotting Shed’s victories over hurdles came over trips in excess of two-miles-three-furlongs, and he will compete from a mark that is 7lb below his rating over timber. While Any Second Now was a Grade 2 winning novice hurdler last winter who could easily be a graded horse competing in a handicap.
Both should go well.
Last year’s Pertemps Final third Barney Dwan has also attracted plenty of support.
The Paul and Clare Rooney owned eight-year-old was, remarkably, dropped 2lb following a smooth victory at Musselburgh last month. He will line up off the same mark from which he competed 12 months ago and therefore must go well for his locally based handler.
Nicky Henderson has two live candidates in the form of Divine Spear and Rather Be.
The former was a solid handicap hurdler last winter and was always going to develop into a much better chaser. While the latter won a hugely competitive handicap hurdle at Aintree last spring and warmed up for this race with a facile success at Fakenham last month.
Both are yet to win a race at Prestbury Park. However, they certainly warrant the utmost respect for a trainer who can do no wrong this season.
Ballyhill brings solid course form to the table.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained seven-year-old proved his ability in open handicap company on New Years Day, making the most of the significant lumps of weight that he received from his vastly more-experienced rivals to get off the mark in fine style.
Testify could represent value.
Donald McCain’s seven-year-old is already a Grade 2 winner over fences and will put his unbeaten status (3-3 over fences) on the line in this hugely competitive heat. He will relish the soft underfoot conditions and could easily outrun his double-figure price.
Mister Whitaker ran out a smart winner on soft ground at Prestbury Park in December.
This is undoubtedly much tougher, but course form should never be underestimated.
Barry Geraghty has elected to ride Demi Sang over the aforementioned Any Second Now.
The JP McManus owned French-bred made a successful Irish debut before finishing a long way behind Footpad in the Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown last month. He is well worth trying over this increased distance.
Tycoon Prince, who could have plenty more to come over fences, and Livelovelaugh, who will represent Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, are further Irish raiders who could run well.
While Rocklander, who is 2-3 over fences, and Report To Base, who will relish the testing conditions, are further British trained contenders who could easily outrun their double-digit prices.
Markov won his first two starts over fences before falling when last seen at Haydock. This has been his target all season long.
While 2016 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle winner Ibis Du Rheu, who returned to action with a below-par effort at Newbury last month, will represent the in-form yard of Paul Nicholls.
Kayf Adventure and Le Rocher are also noteworthy candidates.
Jameson, Cobra De Mai, Conrad Hastings, Western Miller and Deauville Dancer complete the field.
SUMMARY: De Plotting Shed has scope for improvement but may need better ground in order to show his true potential. Divine Spear May prove to be the pick of the Henderson trained pair. While Barney Dwan looks to be on a fair mark and warrants the utmost respect given his Cheltenham Festival form. However ANY SECOND NOW and TESTIFY may be the two to focus on. The former has been competing against the best novice chasers in Ireland this winter and will not be inconvenienced by the ground. While the latter is already a Grade 2 winner over fences and could have a lot more to come. Donald McCain has enjoyed at fine winter campaign, and Testify will relish the testing conditions.
1.30 – Kalashnikov 9/2 (Generally)
Slate House 25/1 (Generally)
2.10 – Petit Mouchoir 3/1 (Unibet)
2.50 – Coo Star Sivola 6/1 (Betfair)
Vintage Clouds 12/1 (Generally)
3.30 – (Win) Buveur D’Air 4/7 (Bet 365)
w/o favourite – Yorkhill 5/1 (William Hill)
4.10 – (Win) Apple’s Jade 8/13 (Generally)
w/o favourite – Jer’s Girl 10/1 (Bet 365, William Hill)
4.50 – Sizing Tennessee 10/1 (Generally)
Ms Parfois 8/1 (Generally)
5.30 – Any Second Now 7/1 (Bet 365)
Testify 14/1 (Bet 365)