1.30 – BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE (Grade 1) 2m5f26y
Champ, who was named in honour of the legendary Sir AP McCoy, has topped the betting for this Grade 1 prize ever since his impressive Grade 1 Challow Hurdle success at Newbury in December.
The JP McManus owned gelding was sent off a strong even money chance for that well-contested heat following a comfortable handicap success over the same course and distance four weeks earlier, and he certainly didn’t disappointment with a commanding two-and-a-half-length victory.
The Seven Barrows inmate took the rise in class in his stride and won a race that developed into a virtual sprint despite pulling Barry Geraghty’s arms out for the majority of the contest, which is a testament to the ability that the seven-year-old possesses.
Nicky Henderson has proven time-and-time-again that he can prepare a horse for the Festival after a period of time off the track. Therefore I would not be concerned that Champ has not been seen this year. However, he will need to settle better than he has previously in order to get home up that long and gruelling Cheltenham hill.
Battleoverdoyen leads the Irish challenge.
Gordon Elliott’s imposing six-year-old confirmed that he retained all of the promise that he had displayed between the flags when running out the comfortable 6 lengths winner of a Punchestown bumper on his belated racecourse debut in November last year.
The talented son of Doyen progressed to land his maiden hurdle in a canter before being sent off a well supported 2/1 favourite for the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle in January – a contest that he won with plenty in hand.
The Gigginstown representative already has the physique of a chaser and would undoubtedly relish a truly run race. However, should there be a lack of pace up front, he could easily get tapped for toe by sharper rivals.
Sams Profile chased home Battleoverdoyen at Naas and could run a huge race for the super shrewd Mouse Morris, who landed this Grade 1 prize with First Lieutenant in 2011.
The promising five-year-old made at least two momentum stopping mistakes at Naas and may have given Gordon Elliott’s exciting prospect much more to think about with a clear round. He beat a subsequent dual scorer – namely Eclair De Beafeu – when shedding his maiden tag at Cork in November and you can bet your last pound that he will be trained to the minute for this Grade 1 prize.
Brewin’Upastorm may have had Birchdale’s measure before coming to grief at the final flights of hurdles on Cheltenham Trials Day.
Olly Murphy exciting six-year-old travelled and jumped with ease that day and Richard Johnson was clearly keen to avoid being dragged into another 2 furlong sprint after placing fourth behind Champ in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle on his previous outing.
The form of his debut success at Huntingdon reads very indeed – second, third, fourth and sixth have all won since – and a truly run race will undoubtedly bring out the best in Barbara Hester’s promising son of Milan.
I suspect that Richard Johnson will be hopeful of getting a nice tow into the race and will then look to pounce on the long climb for home. He could easily reverse the Newbury form with Champ should the favourite expend too much energy early on.
City Island limbered-up for this contest with a smooth success at Naas.
Martin Brassil’s smart six-year-old accounted for subsequent dual scorer Dellas De Pictons at Leopardstown on Boxing Day and should be well suited to this two-and-a-half-mile contest.
Regular jockey Mark Walsh will continue in the saddle and the ground should be ideal for this promising son of Court Cave.
Beakstown changed hands for the princely sum of £440,000 following an impressive 3 lengths success at Turtulla in November 2017, and connections will be hopeful that he can land a blow tomorrow.
The scopey son of Stowaway hasn’t been seen since his smart Grade 2 success in the Leamington Novices Hurdle at Warwick in January, the same race that both The New One (2013) and Willoughby Court (2017) used as a launchpad to success in this Cheltenham Festival Grade 1.
Undoubtedly a chaser in the making, Beakstown displayed a smart a smart turn of foot at Warwick and will have learned plenty about his job in the process. Therefore he should not be dismissed as merely a chaser in the making.
Gordon Elliott will also field the intriguing Galvin, who is 5-5 under rules.
The Ronnie Bartlett owned gelding is yet to be truly tested over hurdles and undoubtedly faces his sternest test to date. It is virtually impossible to access exactly what he is capable of and he could easily outrun his generous double figure price tomorrow.
The locally trained Jarvey’s Plate ran out an impressive 13 lengths winner of Listed contest at Cheltenham on New Years Day, however, the form hasn’t worked out very well since and he was soundly beaten over the same course and distance on Trials Day. While Easy Game, who has plenty of experience and was last seen winning a Grade 2 contest at Navan in December, will represent Willie Mullins and Wicklow Bloodstock.
Bright Forecast chased home Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner Mister Fisher in Grade 2 company at Haydock in February and could easily find improvement over this intermediate trip. While Dunvegan, who made a sparkling hurdling debut at Fairyhouse in December, was disappointing when stepping in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and may lack the required experience to feature here.
Castlebawn West will have to improve from his maiden success at Leopardstown over Christmas. While Notebook, who could only finish second in Grade 3 company on his latest start, will also need to find more.
Ask Dillon, who will provide Fergal O’Brien with a second string to bow, Valdieu, who tackles two-and-a-half-miles for the first time, and Seddon, who is a chaser in the making, complete the field.
Both Champ and Battleoverdoyen command the utmost respect and could easily fight out the finish, however, this appears to be a very good renewal of this contest and there are smart horses who are currently available at double figure prices. Beakstown was impressive when landing the Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January, however, he is most definitely a chaser in the making and may get tapped for toe. While Brewin’Upastorm, who would probably have beaten the well regarded Birchdale had he jumped the final hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day, is also a strong contender. However, it may pay to side with the Irish trained duo of CITY ISLAND and SAMS PROFILE. The former, who is owned by the sponsor of this race, hasn’t put a foot wrong to date and has the attitude required to go close in this contest. While the latter would have given Battleoverdoyen plenty to think about if jumping better at Naas and will have been trained to the minute by the very shrewd Mouse Morris. They should both flourish in a strongly run race.
2.10 – RSA NOVICES’ CHASE (Grade 1) 3m80y
Santini has endured a less than ideal preparation for this contest having missed his intended prep run in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase as a result of the infamous equine flu outbreak before losing a shoe during a racecourse school at Newbury 10 days ago.
The scopey son of Milan could only place third when sent off a well supported 11/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 12 months ago, but he has always promised to make up into a much better chaser and he ran a fine trial for this race when staying on resolutely behind the high class mare La Bague Au Roi in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day.
Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old will relish this test of stamina and is undoubtedly a huge player if ready to do himself justice. However, his stop-start campaign and lack of experience simply has to be a cause for concern.
Delta Work also missed his intended prep run on account of the unseasonably quick ground at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.
Last year’s Pertemps Hurdle hero has quickly developed into a top class staying novice chaser this winter and is already a dual Grade 1 winner following impressive victories in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse and the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
The spring heeled six-year-old accounted for subsequent dual Grade 1 scorer Le Richebourg at Fairyhouse and was more than value for narrow margin of success. While the manner of his comfortable 8 lengths triumph at the latter venue was made even more impressive by the fact that he suffered significant interference at the 5th fence and dropped to the rear of the field as a consequence.
Davy Russell has landed this race twice in the last six years – with Lord Windermere in 2014 and Presenting Percy in 2018 – and will be hopeful of bringing up the hat-trick tomorrow.
Topofthegame arrives here on the back of a fine second placed effort in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
Paul Nicholls’ imposing chestnut looked the winner approaching two out and perhaps would have won had he been delivered later in the contest. Therefore i expect that Harry Cobden will be under strict instructions to keep his power dry until after the final fence.
The talented seven-year-old, who placed second in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup on this day 12 months ago, gifted the field a 20 lengths head start on his penultimate outing at Exeter but still managed to finish second just 3.5 lengths behind JLT Novices’ Chase favourite Defi Du Seuil. Therefore he has solid form in the book and holds very strong claims.
Mister Malarkey has progressed with every outing this season culminating in a gutsy Grade 2 success in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot last month.
Connections thought long and hard about whether to contest this race or the National Hunt Chase before deciding that he deserved his place in Grade 1 company. Colin Tizzard saddled subsequent Welsh Grand National hero Elegant Escape to place third in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and Mister Malarkey could easily outrun his price if laying up with the principals in the early stages.
Now McGinty placed second behind Mister Malarkey at Ascot and could easily improve for this greater test of stamina.
The form of his Chepstow success was given a boost by the third placed Captain Cattistock, who scored at Exeter next time out. Stuart Edmund’s charge tends to run his best races during in the spring and he could easily run a huge race at a double figure price.
Mortal ran a good race to place second behind the aforementioned Delta Work in Grade 1 company over Christmas and could easily outrun his double figure price. While Drovers Lane, who steps back up in trip following a smart success at Cheltenham in December, will represent Rebecca Curtis, who landed this Grade 1 prize with O’Faolains Boy in 2014.
On The Blind Side got the job done in fine fashion at Kempton, however, his chasing debut at Cheltenham on New Years Day was far from convincing and he will have to jump much better in order to feature.
He schooled upsides the aforementioned Santini 10 days ago and his champion trainer wouldn’t run him unless he felt that he could be competitive. Therefore he could easily outrun his price.
While The Worlds End, who recored an impressive 25 lengths success at Cheltenham’s International Meeting in December, hasn’t been seen since his disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over Christmas and will have to improve markedly in order to trouble those at the head of market.
Drinks Interval, who hasn’t been seen since December, Count Meribel, who won over two-and-a-half-miles at Cheltenham in November, and Top Ville Ben, who failed to justify favouritism in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices Chase at Ascot last month, complete the field.
Santini has endured a far from ideal preparation which rather tempers enthusiasm. While Topofthegame, who may have won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novice Chase had he been delivered later in the contest, is a big player for the bang in-form Paul Nicholls. However, they may struggle against last year’s Pertemps Final scorer DELTA WORK, who is already a dual Grade 1 winner over fences. Gordon Elliott’s classy six-year-old lowered the colours of Le Richebourg, who has won a brace of Grade 1’s subsequently, in the Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse in November and overcame early interference to record his second top level success at Leopardstown over Christmas. This has been the plan for a very long time and he will undoubtedly appreciate the recent rainfall.
2.50 – CORAL CUP HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) 2m5f26y
Uradel was an eye-catching fifth at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and will represent the same connections as last year’s victor Bleu Berry.
The talented eight-year-old enjoyed a productive summer on the flat – including a second placed finish in the Cesarewich at Newmarket – and his fine run in the ultra-competitive Ladbrokes Hurdle suggested that this step up in trip will be right up his street.
Ruby Walsh will be in the saddle and a bold run can be expected.
Willie Mullins is also responsible for Kilultagh Vic, Wicklow Brave, Scarpeta, Bleu Berry and Calie Du Mesnil.
The former finished a close up third behind Gold Cup hope Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park and could be on a decent mark based on the best of his form. While the second named, who ran out an easy winner of the County Hurdle in 2015, is a fascinating contender over this intermediate trip.
Scarpeta, who ran a big race to finish fifth in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago, could easily go well over the same course and distance this year. While last year’s winner Bleu Berry will attempt to repeat the feat off a 5lbs higher mark.
The last named contender placed second behind current Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle favourite Dellas Des Pictons at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and runs off the same mark that he carries in Ireland. Therefore he may be handicapped to run a big race.
Brio Conti defied the odds when scoring at Ascot in February.
The lightly raced grey travelled powerfully throughout that two-and-a-half-mile contest and Paul Nicholls was quick to voice his opinion that he would strip fitter for that outing. The 10 times champion trainer won this race with Aux Ptits Soins in 2015 and sent out Topofthegame to finish second off a mark of 151 last season. Therefore Brio Conti could easily have a big say in this open looking heat.
Gordon Elliott has always held Cracking Smart in the highest regard and he could easily prove better than a mark of 150.
The Gigginstown House Stud representative missed the second half of last season through injury and returned to the track with a respectable third placed effort in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month.
The scopey son of Great Pretender landed a Listed contest before chasing home the classy Next Destination in both Grade 1 and Grade 2 novice company last season. He is undoubtedly a chaser in the fullness of time, however, he could easily make his presence felt over timber this spring.
The chief of Cullentra Stables will also be represented by Diamond Cauchois and Farclas.
The former hasn’t been seen for 321 days but will undoubtedly be trained to the minute for this competitive contest. While last year’s Triumph Hurdle hero Farclas was soundly beaten in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on his only previous start over this trip and has only beaten 8 horses home in 5 starts since scoring at last year’s Festival. However, he will have the handicap wizard Davy Russell on his back.
Vision Des Flos and Highest Sun will represent Colin Tizzard.
The former placed sixth in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle last March and has run a number of respectable races in defeat this season. He did, however, get his head in front in the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell three weeks ago and he could easily have a say back in handicap company.
The latter placed fourth behind subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Al Dancer at Cheltenham in November and got off the mark in comfortable fashion at Chepstow in February. The promising five-year-old is yet to test his stamina beyond two miles but his flat form would suggest that he could improve over further.
Canardier won over this course and distance at the Showcase Meeting in October and has been the subject of significant support in the last seven days.
The form of that contest was boosted by the runner-up Go Another One, who scored in Grade 3 company at Thurles last month. Therefore, Dermot McLoughlin’s promising novice – who is a half-brother to the formerly smart chaser Oiseau De Nuit – could easily be well treated off a mark of 137.
Erick Le Rouge arrives here in search of a five-timer and will be the mount of Chester Williams, who will take a handy 7lbs off his back.
The progressive five-year-old is hard to assess given his lazy style of running, however, he could easily run a bold race off just a 3lbs higher mark.
Burbank, who finished six places and 7 lengths behind Bleu Berry 12 months ago, could run well off a 2lbs lower mark.
Tully East landed the 2017 Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase and is interesting off a mark of 138. While fellow Irish raider Dancing On My Own was only seven-and-a-half lengths behind Klassical Dream in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and could find improvement over this intermediate trip.
Fan favourite Lil Rockerfeller placed second behind the aforementioned Vision Des Flos in the National Spirit Hurdle and went agonisingly close to landing the 2017 Stayers Hurdle. He is slowly creeping back down the handicap and could run well for a very long way.
William Henry placed fourth in this race off the exact same mark last season. However, he was pulled up on his only outing this season and therefore has questions to answer. While Ballyandy, who is already a Cheltenham Festival winner having landed the 2016 Champion Bumper, will run off the same mark from which he placed third in the Ascot contest won by the aforementioned Brio Conti last month. He will meet that rival on 5lbs better terms tomorrow.
Knight In Dubai will appreciate the recent rain and but is 4lbs higher than when being narrowly touched off at Newbury in December. While Apple’s Shakira, who was a disappointing 6/5 favourite in the Triumph Hurdle last March, may be suited by this step-up in trip.
Joke Dancer, who made a successful reappearance at Newcastle last month, Eragon De Chanay, who is 5lbs higher following his success at Wincanton three weeks ago, Oscar Night, who is without a win since November 2017, and Monbeg Theatre, who has undergone wind surgery since his latest outing, complete the field.
Uradel could have plenty in hand and will undoubtedly prove popular for the powerful combination of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. While Cracking Smart and Farclas are also likely to attract support given their strong connections. However, Paul Nicholls was adamant that BRIO CONTI would come on for his latest run at Ascot and, if indeed he has, he may be capable of defying a 5lbs rise. The lightly raced eight-year-old has always been held in high-regard and tends to travel strongly through his races, which is definitely a positive in such a competitive Cheltenham heat. Nicholls won this race with Aux Ptits Soins in 2015 and sent out Topofthegame to finish second from a mark of 151 last year. Therefore, he knows exactly what it takes to be competitive in this race. While DANCING ON MY OWN, who has run very well behind easy Supreme Novices Hurdle scorer Klassical Dream on his latest two outings, should appreciate this strip up in trip and could run a big race at a double figure price.
3.30 – BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (Grade 1) 1m7f199y
Reigning champion chaser Altior has extended his unbeaten sequence to 17 starts this season and will match the record of legendary staying hurdler Big Bucks if successfully defending his crown tomorrow.
Nicky Henderson’s pride and joy has barely put a foot wrong on the racetrack thus far, however, he did jump markedly left when landing the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last month, which would be of no concern at Cheltenham providing there is no sinister reason lurking underneath the surface.
That said, it may still offer the slightest glimmer of hope to his select band of rivals. However, barring accidents or injuries, it is very hard to see the champion being dethroned.
Min placed second behind Altior both in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and in this race 12 months ago and could be the one to take advantage should an opportunity arise.
Rich Ricci’s talented eight-year-old landed the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on his seasonal reappearance and was last seen cruising to victory in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown. He will therefore arrive in the Cotswolds at the top of his game and may pose the greatest threat to his old adversary.
Sceau Royal returned to action with a course and distance Grade 2 success over Simply Ned in November.
Alan King’s speedy son of Doctor Dino disappointed behind Altior in the Tingle Creek subsequently and looked to have been found a golden opportunity over hurdles at Wincanton last month but could only manage a second placed finish behind Paul Nicholls’ consistent second season novice Grand Sancy.
His potent turn of foot is seen to best effect on quick ground, therefore the recent deluge of rain is undoubtedly a negative.
Politologue could only finish fourth in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and is arguably seen to best effect over intermediate trips. While Saint Calvados, who landed the race in which Footpad fell on his seasonal reappearance, also has ground to make up with the favourite based on his 19 lengths defeat in the Tingle Creek.
Gods Own and Ordinary World finished third and fifth respectively last year and will do well to fill those places once again.
While more will be required of both Castlegrace Paddy and Hell’s Kitchen, who will represent Pat Fahy and Harry Fry respectively.
ALTIOR is head and shoulders above his opposition and should record his second success in this race barring accidents. Min has chased him home in both the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle and in this race 12 months ago and is a clear second best. While Politologue will be suited by the ease in the ground and could easily fill the frame if ridden for a place.
4.10 – GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHASE (Class 2) 3m6f37y
Tiger Roll made a mockery of his opposition in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month and will arrive at Cheltenham fit and firing in defence of his Cross Country crown.
Gordon Elliott’s three time Cheltenham Festival scorer ran out out a smooth winner of this race 12 months ago before going on to claim a popular victory in the Aintree Grand National just four weeks later, and that will again be the plan for the loveable nine-year-old this spring.
Regular rider Keith Donoghue will maintain the partnership tomorrow and he is undoubtedly the one that they all have to beat.
Josies Orders and Fact Of The Matter were in receipt of 15lbs and 26lbs respectively when finishing ahead of Tiger Roll over this course and distance in November, but they will find it hard to uphold that form off level weights tomorrow.
The former is 4-7 in Cross Country Chases at Prestbury Park and rates a very solid contender for Enda Bolger, who has won this race no fewer than 5 times in it’s 14 year history. While the latter, who reversed the form with Josies Orders when victorious in December, is open to plenty of improvement given his lightly raced profile in this discipline.
Both warrant the utmost respect and hold solid place claims at the very least.
Auvergnat will provide the aforementioned Enda Bolger a solid second string to his bow.
The battle-hardened nine-year-old landed the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase when last sighted over Christmas and also boasts plenty of experience in the Cotswolds. However, his form figures of U4F4 fail to inspire great confidence.
Ballycasey made a promising debut in this sphere when placing fifth behind Fact Of The Matter in December.
Rich Ricci’s former Grade 1 performer conceded weight to the majority of his rivals yet wasn’t beaten far, and he has since returned to Cheltenham in order to gain more experience over these unique obstacles, which can only enhance his prospects.
The ageing will need to bounce back from a poor showing over the banks at Punchestown last month. However, he was found to be lame after that outing and could easily be overpriced as a result.
Jarob made a good debut in the sphere when placing third behind Josies Orders and Fact Of The Matter in November – one place ahead of Tiger Roll.
Gearoid O’Loughlin’s twelve-year-old received 25lbs from Gordon Elliott’s Grand National winner on that occasion and will therefore find life tougher off level weights. However, he could run into a place if replicating that effort.
Bless The Wings boasts a wealth of experience in threse contests and enjoyed a pipe-opener over hurdles at Navan last month. He could only finish fifth of seven runners in November and sixth of eleven runners in December, however, he could easily bounce back to form tomorrow.
French raiders Urgent De Gregaine and Amazing Comedy also have previous experience in the Cotswolds.
The former placed second in this race 12 months ago and will arrive here fresh having been off the track since October. While the latter was well supported when placing fourth over this course and distance in December. He may, however, struggle on these revised terms.
Former Grade 1 winner Tea For Two and the battle-hardened Aubusson will represent Jane Williams. While Ultragold, who is running here in preparation for Aintree next month, will represent Colin Tizzard.
The middle named contender boasts the most experience in this sphere but would be some way behind the other pair over regulation fences. However, all three look vulnerable against vastly more experienced rivals.
Vyta Du Roc is also a fascinating contender who lacks experience. While Punchestown specialist Hurricane Darwin was pulled up in this contest 12 months but is definitely worthy of a second chance.
Kingswell Theatre was successful over these obstacles in November 2017 but hasn’t been sighted since placing fourth over the same course and distance one month later. While Devils Bride, who was rated 159 at his peak but has shown little enthusiasm of late, completes the field.
Last year’s winner TIGER ROLL demonstrated his well-being when running out a comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan last month and it will take a very big performance to deny him tomorrow. Josies Orders, Fact Of The Matter and Auvergnat are all capable of running big races, however, BALLYCASEY may represent the best each way value given his impressive run in December when conceding lumps of weight to the majority of his rivals.
4.50 – FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) 2m87y
Band Of Outlaws was propelled to the head of the betting following an eye-catching 4.75 lengths success at Naas last month.
Joseph O’Brien has been dominant in juvenile division this season and this promising son of Fast Company would undoubtedly be contesting the Triumph Hurdle but for the presence of his stablemates Sir Erec and Gardens Of Babylon, who both rate big players in Friday’s Grade 1.
The 93 rated flat performer barley jumped a twig on debut but has been much better on his latest two outings. He could easily be better than this grade and should therefore go close with J J Slevin in the saddle.
Fine Brunello, who placed second behind stablemate Fakir D’oudaries in the Grade 2 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day, will also represent the Melbourne Cup winning trainer.
The JP McManus owned juvenile placed fourth behind the above mentioned Band Of Outlaws on his solitary start in Ireland and it is obviously advantageous that he is proven at Cheltenham. Therefore he is definitely one for the shortlist.
Star Max, who is yet another contender from Owning Hill, got off the mark at Gowran Park last time out and could easily feature if taking confidence from that success.
Lethal Steps is rated 102 on the flat and has improved with each start over hurdles this season. The Cheveley Park Stud owned grey has been the subject of steady support in the antepost markets following a fine third placed effort behind two smart types when last sighted at Punchestown.
That effort came over a trip just shy of two-and-a-half-miles and this drop back to 2 miles and likely strong pace could easily unlock significant improvement in the four-year-old, who could have no better partner than the mercurial Davy Russell.
Top weight Torpillo will be suited by conditions but is certainly vulnerable to pacier rivals. While Cracker Factory, will also carry the familiar two tone green silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, was only one-and-a-quarter lengths behind Triumph Hurdle hopeful Quel Destin in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham in November.
The thrice raced four-year-old got the better of Gordon Elliot’s four-time scorer Chief Justice at Wetherby in early November and it is interesting that his canny trainer, who often does well with his juvenile hurdlers, elected to give him a prep-run on the All Weather as opposed to over hurdles – presumably with the intention of protecting his mark for this contest.
Belargus displayed very little in his first two outings over timber before getting off the mark at Ascot in January. He beat Zafar (second) and Beat The Judge (third) that day, who are both well regarded by their respective trainers. Therefore it would be no surprise to see this JP McManus owned gelding improve once again.
Beat The Judge made an impressive debut over Christmas before placing third behind Belargus at Ascot. He chased home the hugely impressive Fusil Raffles on his latest outing at Kempton and could easily be fairly treated off a mark of 135.
Maze Runner and Coco Beach chased home the aforementioned favourite Band Of Outlaws at Naas in February and could easily have more to come for Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott respectively. While Dogon, who was pulled up on his British debut at Cheltenham in January but shaped with much more promise on his second outing at Wincanton, could also find more for Paul Nicholls.
The Irish champion trainer will also field Ciel De Neige, who is yet to be seen since arriving from France and could therefore be anything at this stage. His form figures across the channel read 445 and the market may prove the best guide as to how he will perform.
Ian Williams will field Oi The Clubb Oi’S, who was a close up third behind Quel Destin in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster last month. While Chief Justice, who has undergone wind surgery since his latest outing, has plenty of experience and could easily run well at a price.
Our Power and Prabeni will represent Alan King and Charlie Mann respectively.
The former was 2 places and 5 lengths behind the aforementioned Fine Brunello at Cheltenham in January could easily put his previous course experience to good use. While the latter progressed from his debut third to land back-to-back races at Huntingdon and Doncaster, on each occasion pulling clear of the third with his main market rival.
Both could outrun their price.
Got Trumped finished fourth behind Surin and Gardens Of Babylon before placing sixth in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and could run a big race for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power. While Fanfan Du Seuil, who defeated the above mentioned Our Power at Exeter before placing second at Cheltenham in December, will represent Tom George.
Zizaneur, who is the most experienced runner in this field, has placed second on both of his British starts and doesn’t appear to be overly well treated off a mark of 132.
La Sorelita has been disappointing since arriving from France and will need to progress markedly in order to feature. While Fox Pro, who is yet to race in the UK, could be anything and represents shrewd connections.
Praceps was two-and-a-half-lengths behind the aforementioned Beat The Judge in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton three weeks ago and could be fairly handicapped off a mark of 129. While King D’argent, who is another contender to have had wind surgery since his latest start, was Dan Skelton’s only entry in this race and could run much better than his price would suggest.
Short priced horses don’t have a great record in this race, however, both BAND OF OUTLAWS and LETHAL STEPS hold very strong claims. The former would be a big player in the Triumph Hurdle but for the presence of his stablemate Sir Erec and looked to have any amount in hand when sprinting to victory at Naas last time out. While the latter appears to have been trained with this race in mind and will welcome the return to two miles and likely strong pace. Cracker Factory makes the most appeal of those at bigger prices
5.30 – WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER (STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE) (Grade 1) 2m87y
Envoi Allen cost Cheveley Park Stud a cool £400,000 at the Cheltenham February Sale last year and will bid to claw back some of the hefty fee in this concluding Grade 1 contest.
Gordon’s Elliott’s imposing five-year-old has won all 3 of his starts under rules, culminating in a Grade 2 success at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.
The striking son of Muhtahir is undoubtedly a chaser in the making and would certainly need a truly run race in order to be seen to best effect. Should he get that, his chance is obvious.
Gordon Elliott will also saddle Abacadabras, who was in the process of running a big race in the above mentioned contest before running out in the closing stages.
The Gigginstown House Stud representative landed a Galway Bumper in October and he could easily run a big race if everything goes right.
Blue Sari made a deep impression when readily sprinting clear at Gowran Park on Thyestes Day.
JP McManus snapped up the exciting four-year-old on the back of that promising performance and Willie Mullins feels that he is ready for this acid test despite his tender years.
Blue Sari will receive an 8lb weight-for-age allowance which can only aid his chances. And he could prove very hard to catch if displaying his potent turn of foot once again.
Meticulous and Sempo will represent Joseph O’Brien.
The former has improved with each start and was only one-and-a-quarter-lengths behind Envoi Allen when placing second at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. While the latter, who placed third in a very hot bumper over Christmas before bolting up by 15 lengths at Thurles, could easily run a very big race.
Master Debonair boasts form figures of 21 at Prestbury Park this season and the fact that Colin Tizzard has resisted the urge to send him over hurdles should not go unnoticed.
The well bred son of Yeats bumped into a more experienced rival at the Showcase Meeting in October before going one place better in November. The form of those contests have worked out well and the time off will have afforded him the chance to grow and mature both mentally and physically.
Tizzard has remarked that he is the sharpest horse that he has trained since the mighty Cue Card, who landed this race as a four-year-old in 2010 (40/1). Both his form at Cheltenham and his potential for improvement render him a very live candidate tomorrow.
Thyme Hill was only a neck behind Master Debonair in November and is also entitled to improve for that outing. While Cascova, who placed second in 1m5f209y Listed bumper at Prestbury Park on New Years Day, also has scope for further progression.
Ask For Glory ran out a very impressive winner at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National Day.
Paul Nicholls’ exciting recruit landed his solitary start between the flags at Bartlemy last May, and the manner in which he put the race to bed with 2 furlongs left to run at Chepstow marked him out as a well above average prospect.
There is little, if any, collateral form to assess but Paul Nicholls has only had 1 runner in the last 8 renewals of this race, therefore he must feel that Ask For Glory has the right credentials.
Flic Ou Voyou, who placed fourth on debut before snaring a brace a victories at Wincanton in November and December respectively, will also represent team Ditcheat. While Jelski, who also improved from his racecourse debut to land a bumper at Ffos Las in January, will also face the starter.
The Glancing Queen landed a Listed Mares bumper at Prestbury Park on debut before placing third behind David Pipe’s unbeaten performer Eden Du Houx in an traditionally warm contest at Ascot. She could easily go well at a double figure price.
Thor De Cerisy and Some Detail, who will also need to find significant improvement in order to feature, complete the field.
Envoi Allen is a top class chaser in the making and will appreciate the recent rainfall that will bring his stamina into play. While Blue Sari, who is Willie Mullins solitary representative this year, made a striking impression at Gowran Park on Thyestes Day and is very dangerous in receipt of 8lbs. However, the fact that Paul Nicholls has elected to run ASK FOR GLORY should not go unnoticed. The 10-times champion trainer has run only 1 horse in the last 8 renewals of this race, therefore this promising five-year-old must be showing his trainer all of the right signs at home. The winning pointer made a hugely impressive debut at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National day, where he cruised around in front before readily kicking clear with 2 furlongs left to run. He showed a fantastic charge of gear that day and clearly possesses plenty of stamina having won a 3 miles point on soft ground. Therefore he is a very solid contender for his bang in-form trainer.
1.30 – City Island 10/1 – 1pt each way
Sams Profile 12/1 – 1pt each way
2.10 – Delta Work 11/4 – 3pt win
2.50 – Brio Conti 14/1 – 1.5pts each way
Dancing On My Own 25/1 – 1pt each way
3.30 – Altior – No Bet
Politologue 25/1 – 0.5pt each way
4.10 – Tiger Roll 11/8 – 4pt win
Ballycasey 25/1 – 0.5pt each way
4.50 – Band Of Outlaws 7/1 – 2pt win
Lethal Steps 8/1 2pts each way
Cracker Factory 40/1 – 0.5pts each way
5.30 – Ask For Glory 9/1 – 2pts each way
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