CHELTENHAM IS BACK!

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The grass is lush and green, the fences are trimmed and sturdy, and the buzz of excitement can not only be heard, but felt as Cheltenham Racecourse host their Showcase Meeting. Welcoming in the new season with a typically enthralling card!

A trip to the parade ring is a must. The views on the walkway sublime. An amphitheatre like no other.

And then off down the shute and away we go, the tapes are up and so is the wait!

The opening card, as you’d expect, features many exciting prospects, with quality novice events, as well as the usual highly competitive handicaps. I’m going start by taking a look at the novice events, before highlighting a few horses in the handicaps that may be worth a second look.
The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle gets the day underway, and boasts a plethora of interesting contenders.

Recent Grade 2 scorer El Bandit lead the charge for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls, and he certainly has good credentials.

Winner of the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow 2 weeks ago (9th Oct), El Bandit has improved with every run for Nicholls, winning his last 4 races.

A novice until the end of October, this could well be his last run over hurdles, with novice chasing a possibility. But if he were to win here, he could easily be tried in hotter waters prior to the switch.

The in form Nigel Twiston Davies runs Templeross, who achieved a fair level of form in bumpers last season before making a successful debut over timber at Newton Abbot in September on seasonal debut, beating the Nicholls trained Rainy City in the process. He should improve for his reappearance.

Trained by Fergal O’Brien, Colin’s Sister showed an above average level of form in bumpers last season, culminating in a fine second to the Warren Greatrex trained The Nipper in a Listed Mares event at Sandown in March.

Her successful hurdling debut at Chepstow will have set her up nicely for this. It will certainly be interesting to see how she gets on against the boys, but she does look an exciting prospect over hurdles this season. She certainly has the potential to land blow here.

It would be careless to merely overlook the Charles Byrnes trained Black Water. An extremely shrewd trainer, as he proved when masterminding the infamous Roscommon coup in August, he has a reputation for being a fine target trainer.

Last year he brought Leave At Dawn over for the Paddy Power Meeting, and set sail back to Ireland with the prize in safe keeping.

His wins have all come in the summer months (May, June and August) and therefore not in the most competitive of waters. However any runner he brings to Britain has to be respected.

Pickamix, the winner of a bumper last season, and maiden hurdle on seasonal debut earlier this month, provides Charlie Mann with an interesting contender.

Noel Fehily looks a good jockey booking and Pickamix certainly shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

Next on the card is the squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase, run over a trip of 1m7f199y. And once again, the entires look very interesting.

Marracudja made a successful chasing debut for Paul Nicholls and the newly formed Ditcheat Thoroughbreds syndicate at Newton Abbott in September, and looks a nice prospect for the season ahead.

Likened to former classy Ditcheat performer Sanctuaire by his trainer, Marracudja has clearly been impressing his onlookers at home.

James Ewart could have a smart novice on his hands in the form of Aristo Du Plessis.

A highly progressive horse, Aristo Du Plessis won 6 of his last 8 races over hurdles, rising through the handicap at a rate of knots. He’s certainly an interesting prospect over fences this season.

The Irish contingent comes courtesy of Jessica Harrington, who has runs two, Neverushacon and Gambling Girl, and Henry De Bromhead, who has Ridestan in the mix, the winner of his last two starts in Emerald Isle.

Neil Mulholland has Pinkie Brown engaged here, who won well at Towcester on his most recent outing in earlier this month. While Harry Fry has the well campaigned, recent Market Rasen runner up, Presenting Arms as a possible.

The field is completed by the likeable Gary Moore trained Baron Alco, who rattled up a fine hat-trick over hurdles last season, before finishing a half length second to the exciting Rock The Kasbah in a Class 1 event at Ascot. A consistent, hardy horse, he’s not one to rule out lightly.

 

The second novice chase on the card, the Class 2 Ryman Stationary Cheltenham Business Club Novice Chase, run over 3m80y, also looks an interesting contest.

Gordon Elliott has runs recent Munster National winner Tiger Roll who, of course, landed the 2014 Triumph Hurdle for owners Gigginstown House Stud.

Tiger Roll has gained plenty of experience through the summer months, and as mentioned earlier when discussing Charles Byrnes, Gordon Elliott is another trainer that you have to take serious notice of when travelling horses. Rule him out at your peril.

Henry De Bromhead has 2 contenders here, choosing to run both both Full Cry and Heron Heights. While Jessica Harrington has Duckweed as a possible.

Heron Heights has won 3 of his 5 starts over fences, but one of his 2 defeats did come at the hands of current favourite Tiger Roll at Kilbeggan in August.

He did however slam another of today rivals, Duckweed, by 8L on his latest start at Clonmel in late September. He could be interesting here.

Full Cry has won 2 of his 8 outings over fences, with both wins coming before a third place finish when last seen on the track at Tipperary earlier this month.

All 3 boast mainly summer form, but still have to be respected with the ground sound underfoot.

Martin Keighley has an interesting novice chaser lined up for this race, in the form of Cottersrock.

The winner of a Down Royal bumper and Kempton handicap hurdle last season, he made a successful chasing debut at Uttoxeter earlier this month (Oct 2nd). Given that he’s trained locally, Cottersrock may prove popular here.

Tempestatefloresco represents Colin Tizzard, and boats an unusual profile given that he only made his debut under rules in August, at the age of 8.

A winner on that occasion, he fell when in contention at the penultimate fence on his next start, before finishing second, and then third, to Paul Nicholls smart performer Frodon (who should most definitely be noted if taking up either of his two engagements at Cheltenham on Saturday) in two subsequent runs. He’s hard to access.

 

The Harrison James & Hardie Maiden Hurdle is the fourth novice event on the card. Contested over a trip of 2m87y, the race has attracted some interesting prospects.

The field is headed by the David Bridgwater trained Accord, who finished runner up to Neil Mulholland’s exciting Peter The Mayo Man on hurdling debut at Warwick in late September.

They think a lot of Accord at home, and his promising performance at Warwick means that his presence should be respected.

Next in is Dan Skelton’s Ckalco Des Loges. This is one of 3 entries held by Skelton’s charge over the next few days. However if turning up here, he would rate an interesting contender.

Ian Williams has the superbly names Thehossbehind in the mix. He finished second on his only run to date in a bumper at Worcester in June 2015, beaten 9L by an inmate of former trainer John Ferguson, namely London Prize. He does, however, have a 16 month layoff to overcome.

Phillip Hobbs has Casper King entered here, whose record under rules reads; 5 starts, 5 second place finishes. He does however boast a fair level of form in both bumpers & Maiden/Novice hurdles.

His latest runner up effort came at Chepstow 2 weeks ago, when beaten by the promising Geordie Des Champs, with the highly regarded Capeland, who got off the mark over hurdles at Newton Abbot this afternoon, back in third. It won’t be long before this son of Scorpion gets off the mark.

Garo De Juilley is set to make his eagerly anticipated stable debut for Paul Nicholls, after attracting the praise of those that look after him every day.

Winner of his last 4 starts on the flat in France, the word is that the son of Ungaro has schooled well over hurdles at home. He could well be one of the more exciting young French exports for team Ditcheat this season.

Nicky Henderson runs 2 in the the race, namely Khezerabad, the current favourite, who finished a respectable third behing Paul Nicholls smart Zubayr in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton last season, and Thomas Campbell, who left an average bumper debut behind him when bolting up next time out in a Kelso bumber, winning by 14L. They both clearly have chances.

Tom George’s Bigpipenotobacee and the he Nigel Twiston Davies trained Gulshanigans completed the field. But it’s fair to say that both will need to step up on what they have previously shown to be a factor here.

 

Now for a quick look at horses that might be worth a second look in the handicaps.

 

3.20 CHELTENHAM

FLORRIE BAY:

Nigel Twiston Davies could hardly be in better form, currently operating at an impressive strike rate of 42% (11-26) in the last 14 days.

I like the look of Florrie Boy in this hotly contested handicap, in which the son of Milan is set to carry 10-2, taking in to account Jamie Bargary’s 5lbs claim.

Twice a winner last season, Florrie Boy rose through the ranks, scoring in two Class 4 events before finishing a respectable second to an improving horse of Phillip Hobbs, Braavos, in a Class 3 event at Perth.

He then turned up at Haydock to contest a Class 2 event, where he ran with credit, coming home a 15L sixth to Harry Fry’s consistent Whataknight. Recent novice chase winner Minella Daddy came second, David’s Pipe’s smart Dell’Arca was fourth, Phillip Hobbs grey Brother Tedd was fifth and Paul Nicholls multiple winner Southfield Vic finished one place behind Florrie Boy, to give you an idea of the form.

Both his wins last season came on good ground, and with the Twiston Davies yard in such good form, Florrie Boy could easily outrun his price here.

CURRENT PRICE: 10/1
ARCTIC GOLD:

Twiston Davies also runs Artic Gold, who enjoyed a successful season over hurdles last term, winning 4 times, including twice in Class 3 events.

Perhaps outclassed in two Class 2 outings, first behind Flintham, and then when finding himself unfortunate enough to bump into the hugely exciting Nicky Henderson trained Different Gravey at Ascot, he still ran credibility, finishing sixth on each occasion.

An impressive winner at Ffos Las when last sighted, he forfeited weight to all of his rivals and still won nicely by upwards of 3 1/2L.

Most of his racing has come on ground with plenty of cut, however he did win his maiden hurdle on good ground at Stratford last term, so he should handle conditions.

10lbs claimer Tom Humphries will be doing the steering, which more than counteracts the 7lbs rise the son of Gold Well incurred for his Ffos Las victory. Only a 5yo, there’s every chance that he will be bigger and stronger this year after another summer at grass.

CURRENT PRICE: 16/1
5.05 CHELTENHAM

Neil Mulholland runs the interesting Fingerontheswitch here, who must be better than the 2 attempts he has put up so far over fences.

A smart novice hurdler last season, Fingerontheswitch beat reliable yardstick Ballydine at Worcester, before finishing fourth to future Albert Bartlett winner Unowhatimeanharry at Cheltenham in November.

Since switched to fences Fingerontheswitch has finished fourth, behind Tempestatefloresco (who runs in the 3.55) at Newton Abbot, before finishing second of 2 at Cartmel in late August.

A winner of his third PTP, Fingerontheswitch finished second to the very talented Shantou Village on his second start between the flags, beaten just 4L. Running off a mark of 123, he has to be worth another chance here.

It’s also worth nothing that the yard won this race in 2014 with The Young Master.

CURRENT PRICE: 10/1
5.40 CHELTENHAM:

WISHFULL DREAMING:

Connections have always held Wishfull Dreaming in some regard, and he showed 2 weeks ago, when bolting up at Chepstow, just why they do.

The winner of a Listed bumper at Cheltenham on his second start under rules, The son of Alflora has always promised to be above average, and now he looks to be confirming it.

He travelled and jumped supremely well at Chepstow. And when Richard Johnson said go, the race was put to bed in a matter of strides.

Raised 8lbs for that romp, Phillip Hobbs has reduced that penalty by 3lbs, by putting up conditional jockey Ciaran Gethings. If in the same form, he could be very tough to beat.

CURRENT PRICE: 7/2
CLIFFS OF DOVER:

Paul Nicholls looks to have found a smart recruit to the jumping game in the form of the 3yo, Cliffs Of Dover.

Winner of 3 of his 4 starts over timer, the progeny of Canford Cliffs has won twice in the last week alone, seeing off Moonday Sun at Wincanton last Friday, before taking the scalp of previous easy scorer, and odds on favourite, Lord Huntingdon at Kempton on Sunday.

A slick, quick hurdler, he could be very well in here, and the talented Harry Cobden will once again be claiming his 3lbs allowance. The only real question marks being whether his busy schedule will catch up with him, and whether taking on his elders will prove to much at his tender age.

CURRENT PRICE: 7/1

 

All that’s left to say is good luck!

Have a great 2 days!image

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Value Hunting – The International Meeting (Saturday)

If short prices doubles are your thing then roll up and back the JP McManus owned duo Apple’s Shakira and Movewiththetimes, who have both shown immense promise this season and are currently trading at somewhat prohibitive prices.

However, whilst I agree that they are by far the most likely winners, one less than fluent leap could see your 5/4 double go down the drain quicker than a dose of Mr Muscle. Therefore, i would much rather look for some genuine value.

The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is a very open affair in which Clan Des Obeaux could easily carry top weight to victory despite facing a battalion of last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup contestants including winner Splash Of Ginge, whose army of followers will once again descend on the Cotswolds to cheer on their heroic fan-favourite.

That said, the potential handicap blot is undoubtedly King’s Odyssey, who was running a big race in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and boasts a course and distance win on his CV from a 1lb lower mark.

Evan Williams sent the King’s Theatre gelding to Carlisle last month where he enjoyed a nice ‘pipe-opener’ over an inadequate trip of two-miles, which will hopefully have put an edge on the eight-year-old.

Trip, track and ground look ideal for King’s Odyssey, and a mark of 140 means that he lines up with a nice racing weight of 10-11.

He certainly appears to have plenty in his favour.

The Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Trial has only attracted five runners with Ben Pauling’s unbeaten Equus Secretus currently shading favouritism.

Nigel Twiston-Davies still has his string in fine form and sends the four-timer seeking five-year-old Count Meribel, who will undoubtedly prove popular given his trainers fine record in the race (won two of the last three renewals courtesy of Blaklion in 2014 and Wholestone in 2016).

However, his neighbour Fergal O’Brien has also been enjoying a superb season thus far and will be represented by Global Stage, who was considered good enough to compete in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January.

The master of Grange Hill Farm openly admits that the youngsters season was left at Sandown that day and that he expects much more from the former point winner this term.

The imposing six-year-old should relish both the ground and extra yardage on his first foray over three miles, which could easily bring about significant improvement that could see him go very close.

15/2 looks a fair price.

The closing Mares Handicap Hurdle looks a typically competitive heat in which last months Grade 2 runner-up Momella – beaten only by last weeks hugely impressive Sandown winner On The Blind Side – could be extremely well handicapped from a mark of 134.

However, the best value bet of the day has to be Ron’s Dream, who finished second in this contest in 2015 and arrives here off a 2lb higher mark.

Happily, James Bowen will partner his dads talented mare and will take what could prove to be a vital 5lbs off her back on ground that holds no fears for the seven-year-old.

Experience and a will to win are two assets that make a price of 20/1 look extremely generous, especially when you factor in her hugely talented jockey whose claim is nothing short of daylight robbery.

With four-places widely available, she looks a solid each-way investment.

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King’s Odyssey 15/2

Global Stage 15/2

Ron’s Dream 20/1

The International Meeting – Friday

The first of two days in the Cotswolds this weekend, hopefully the action on track will keep the winter chills at bay as Prestbury Park presents a 7-race card commencing at 12.10.

Subsequent Cheltenham Festival silver medalist Cantlow and Aintree Grade 1 winner Pingshou both notched victories on this card last year, the former in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase and the latter in E.B.F Stallion Novices’ Hurdle. Hopefully there will be just as much talent on display this time around.

Here’s a quick look at all seven races.

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12.10  THE BRITISH STALLION STUDS EBF ‘NATIONAL HUNT’ NOVICES HURDLE 2m 179y (Class 3)

Surely it’s only a matter of time before Summerville Boy gets off the mark following a brace of fine second placed efforts behind smart prospects Mr One More and Slate House.

The five-year-old’s latest effort came in the Grade 2 Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at the November Meeting where he displayed an ability to perform on soft ground, something that will be required tomorrow.

Trip, track and ground hold no fears.

Colin Tizzard will be represented by Shoal Bay, who has already landed a bumper and maiden hurdle this season.

The promising four-year-old is yet the encounter ground on the softer side of good. However, he has displayed a pleasing attitude thus far and has sound claims tomorrow.

Last season’s Champion Bumper fifth Western Ryder got off the mark at Chepstow last month and will be the mount of champion jockey Richard Johnson.

Thoroughly consistent in hugely competitive bumpers last term, the Warren Greatrex trained five-year-old will be hoping for a truly run contest tomorrow that would bring his undoubted stamina into play.

Lalor had Western Ryder back in third when landing the Grade 2 Aintree Bumper in April.

The talented youngster arrives here following a brace of respectable performances in novice hurdles, where he bumped into smart prospects such as Onefortheroadtom and Mr One More.

Whilst this looks a hot contest, it would be no surprise if Lalor went close.

Paul Nicholls is responsible for smart point-to-point winner Some Man, who could only finish fourth on his racecourse debut at Worcester last Month.

A £165,000 purchase, the Beat Hollow gelding put in an impressive performance between the flags and it would be no surprise if the scopey four-year-old took a big step forwards tomorrow.

Martin Keighley’s Spice Girl arrives here in search of a five-timer (3 bumper wins).

Extremely well placed by her trainer, this represents a huge rise in class for the talented mare. However, no horse with a formline of 81111 can be written off and the four-year-old will look to put here vast racecourse experience to good use tomorrow.

It’s Got Legs and Sartene’s Son complete the field.

CONCLUSION: Western Ryder will undoubtedly prove popular given his hugely consistent profile in bumpers last season. Whilst both Lalor and Some Man are exciting prospects who look sure to get off the mark before too long. However, SUMMERVILLE BOY has some very strong form in the book and is proven on both the track and the ground. Therefore, he is the selection.

2016 Winner:   PINGSHOU   C. Tizzard

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12.45  THE UNICOIN GROUP NOVICES’ CHASE   3m 1f 56y (Class 2)

A small but select field go to post for this stamina-sapping contest with previous winners Coastal Teip and Duel At Dawn leading the way.

The former is a gorgeous, scopey type who displayed that stamina was his forte when making a successful debut in this sphere at Exeter in October.

Second at Aintree when last sighted on the track, Nicholls sent out Arpege D’Alene to finish second in the corresponding contest 12 months ago and will be hopeful that Coastal Tiep can go one place better.

Duel At Dawn, who scored by 16 lengths at Exeter last month, will represent Alex Hales and Kielan Woods.

An above-average hurdler, Duel At Dawn has always promised to be an even better chaser and clearly benefitted from his debut experience at Chepstow. He holds leading claims here.

Sizing Tennessee looked set to lower the colours of prolific scorer Black Corton at the Showcase Meeting in October before parting company with Bryan Cooper at the penultimate fence.

The experienced nine-year-old went to Ascot in search of compensation but only made it as far as the second fence where he blundered badly and gave Cooper yet another a heavy fall. The pair will be hoping that it’s third time lucky tomorrow.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Tintern Theatre completes the field.

The six-year-old has been gaining plenty of experience over fences this season. However, this looks another tough assignment and more will be required.

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CONCLUSION: Coastal Tiep looks a promising staying chaser who undoubtedly holds strong claims over this stamina-sapping trip. Whilst Duel At Dawn also possesses both ability and promise and could easily have a big say if jumping fluently. SIZING TENNESSEE comes with obvious risks attached but did look set to score at the track in October. If Bryan Cooper can get the nine-year-old jumping, he could easily make his vast experience count.

2016 Winner:   SINGLEFARMPAYMENT   T. George

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1.20  THE CATESBY HANDICAP HURDLE   2m 179y   (0-140)   (Class 3)

Although runners are thin on the ground, this is still a puzzling handicap contest that will take some solving.

Qualando is without a win since landing the 2015 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Whilst Master Of Finance has not tasted success since October last year.

Smaoineamh Alainn, Champagne City, Attest and Sea Wall all arrive here at the other end of the spectrum having notched multiple victories over the last 12 months.

Champagne City may fare best of the quartet given his thoroughly respectable effort at the track last month when finishing a solid third behind two clearly well handicapped opponents – namely Magic Dancer and Oxwich Bay.

The intriguing contender in the field is undoubtedly Okotoks, who will be making his stable debut for the flourishing Grange Hill Farm operation of Fergal O’Brien.

Previously trained by Tony Martin in Ireland, the lightly-raced seven-year-old displayed a respectable amount of ability in the Emerald Isle where he picked up a bumper and a maiden hurdle before enduring a spell on the sidelines.

Market support would be encouraging.

Raven’s Tower looks the best of the rest.

Remiluc and Cornborough complete the field.

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CONCLUSION: Of those with winning form, Champagne City and Attest are worthy of a second look as both appear to have scope for further progress. However, i am happy to take a chance on the fitness of OKOTOKS who could easily be ahead of the handicapper if ready to go first time out for his in-form trainer.

2016 Winner:   KAPSTADT   I. Williams

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1.55  THE CF ROBERTS ELECTRICAL & MECHANICAL SERVICES MARES’ HANDICAP CHASE   2m 4f 166y (Class 3)

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CONCLUSION: Both Ms Parfois and Theatre Territory have potential over fences. Whilst Sheer Poetry ran a creditable race over hurdles at Prestbury Park last month and could easily run a big race returned to fences. However, this could be the day for TIMEFORWEST who improved with experience over hurdles last season.

2016 Winner:   STILL BELIEVING   E. Williams

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2.30  THE DECEMBER HANDICAP CHASE   3m 2f (Grade 3)

The feature contest on the day despite only attracting six runners, this could easily turn into a battle of wills given the soft underfoot conditions.

The Harry Fry trained Wotzizname is currently favourite following a sound staying performance at Exeter last month.

The imposing seven-year-old doesn’t do anything quickly. However, he stays very well and will undoubtedly be there or thereabouts if his jumping – which hasn’t always been fluent – holds up.

Robinsfirth will undoubtedly prove popular following a brace of fine efforts at Cheltenham and Newbury.

Robbie Power seems to get on well with the eight-year-old who will once again compete off a mark of 142.

He holds leading claims.

Michael Scudamore is responsible for Midlands Grand National runner-up Mysteree. The stamina-laden nine-year-old finished just one-and-a-half-lengths behind Chase The Spud at Uttoxeter – who comfortably beat Robinsfirth at Newbury – and has a very good record when fresh, winning on his seasonal debut in each of the last three years.

Shanroe Santos, who blundered and unseated his rider at Sandown last week, is another contender who will enjoy the severe test of of stamina.

Southfield Theatre and Abracadabra Sivola complete the field.

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CONCLUSION: Both Wotziznameand Robinsfirthrate strong contenders for this Grade 3 prize with ground and trip very much in their favour. However, both those factors also apply to MYSTEREE who also has a very good record when fresh, which may give him the edge tomorrow.

2016 Winner:   THEATRE GUIDE   C.Tizzard

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3.05  THE GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY HANDICAP CHASE   3m 6f 37y (Class 2)

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CONCLUSION: Last month’s brave winner Kingswell Theatre will likely make a bold bid from the front once again. While last year’s winner Cantlow, National Hunt Chase winner Tiger Roll and Cross Country regular Bless The Wings are also lively contenders. Former Stayers Hurdle winner – and last season’s Gold Cup sixth – More Of That is a fascinating contender if taking to this unique discipline. Josies Orders is 3/3 around the Prestbury Park and should be ready to roll after two satisfactory starts in recent weeks. However, at the prices, I’m going to chance the French based Cross Country regular KAPVILLE who arrives here in good heart following a victory at Lyon Parilly last month. Set to carry just 10-0, the ten-year-old can make the most of his vast experience.

2016 Winner:   CANTLOW   E. Bolger

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3.40  THE CITIPOST HANDICAP HURDLE   2m 7f 213y (Class 2)

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CONCLUSION: There’s plenty of potential players here starting with top-weight SHANTOU BOB, who should have benefited for a recent pipe-opener at Carlisle and ran a hugely creditable race when finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. FLY CAMP is another interesting contender having beaten subsequent Chepstow scorer and Greatwood Hurdle runner-up Misterton at Exeter in February before pulling-up at Sandown where something appeared to go amiss (dismounted). He could easily continue his progress tomorrow.

2016 Winner:   CALL TO ORDER   J. O’Neill

12.10 Summerville Boy 7/4 12.45 Sizing Tennessee 6/4 1.20 Okotoks 11/2 1.55 Timeforwest 7/1 2.30 Mysteree 4/1 3.05 Kapville 20/1 3.40 Fly Camp 11/1 Shantou Bob 18/1

3 Christmas Crackers

King George VI Chase

It’s no surprise to see multiple Grade 1 winner Might Bite a short-priced favourite for Kempton’s festive feature following the somewhat disappointing reappearance of last year’s victor Thistlecrack at Newbury.

However, the master of Venn Farm Stables may still hold the joker in the pack with Fox Norton attracting steady market support ever since connections elected to side-step the Betfair Chase with Sizing John last week.

Tizzard announced at his open day in August that he would dearly love to run the dual Grade 1 winner in the the Boxing Day highlight and, should the race be confirmed as a likely target, his price could easily tumble even further.

Fox Norton ran out an impressive winner of the Melling Chase in April and could be a serious threat to all if seeing out this longer trip. At the prices, it may be worth throwing a Festive ‘fiver’ on Foxy.

FOX NORTON – 8/1 (Generally)

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The Leopardstown Christmas Chase

Formerly run as the Lexus Chase, this is a contest that Gigginstown House Stud simply love to win. Indeed, Road To Riches (2014), Don Poli (2015) and Outlander (2016) have all carried the familiar colours of Ryanair Supremo Michael O’Leary to success in the last three years and it wouldn’t surprise me if Disko enhanced an already enviable record this Christmas.

Noel Meade’s dual Grade 1 winner returned to action with a pleasing Grade 2 success at Down Royal last month, over a trip perhaps shy of his optimum, whilst conceding weight to each of his six rivals.

The bold-jumping six-year-old chased home subsequent Irish Grand National winner Our Duke and the potentially high-class Coney Island over three-miles at this meeting last year before exacting his revenge on the victor when turning the tables over two-miles-and-five-furlongs in February.

A Grade 1 winner over this trip at Punchestown during the spring, Meade has made no secret of the regard in which he holds the ever improving Disko. At 6/1 he could be the party starter!

DISKO – 6/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)

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Desert Orchid Chase

Champion Chaser Special Tiara landed this Grade 2 prize in both 2014 and 2016. Therefore, it’s no surprise to see Henry De Bromhead’s likeable ten-year-old priced up as the early 9/4 favourite.

However, with the mighty Douvan set to contest the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown next weekend I wonder if the wily Willie Mullins may have Ryanair Chase hero Un De Sceaux pencilled in for this two-mile speed test.

The Hilly Way Chase appears to be his most likely stating point. However, if enjoying nothing more than a canter around Cork, connections could easily be temped by this Festive feature.

This race often attracts a select field and any give in the ground would render conditions ideal for the often electric nine-year-old, who would undoubtedly be a sight to behold over the fast and furious Kempton fences.

Ante-post betting is a fine balance of risk versus reward. At 5/1, I’m prepared to take the risk that Mullins will send Un De Sceaux to Kempton this Christmas. And, if he does, the fleet-footed French-bred can add this Grade 2 prize to his already overloaded trophy cabinet.

UN DE SCEAUX – 5/1 (Paddy Power)

Another Royal Announcement?

There’s action aplenty at both Newbury and Newcastle this Saturday with the newly dubbed Ladbrokes Trophy taking centre stage at the former, while champion hurdler Buveur D’Air aims to get his season off to the perfect start in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Tyneside.

After decades of sponsoring Newbury’s early season showpiece, the ‘Hennessy Gold Cup’ is no more.

The Hennessy is a term that instantly evokes memories of Arkle the great and Denman the destroyer, and has been the destination of racehorse royalty for more years than many of us can remember. However, a name change makes no difference to the prestige of the prize and it bears no effect on the what it takes to win the stamina sapping contest.

Happily, this looks a typically competitive renewal, with Irish raider Total Recall a well supported favourite following a facile success in the Munster National.

Both American and Singlefarmpayment have also attracted plenty of support on the back of fine novice campaigns. Whilst Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc and Noel Meade’s A Genie In Abottle have been all the rage in recent days.

However, there are two contenders lurking at double figure prices who could easily feature if those at the head of the market fail to perform.

First up is Royal Vacation, who represents last year’s winning trainer Colin Tizzard.

Jean Bishop’s Grade 1 winning seven-year-old enjoyed a fine novice campaign, winning three times from nine starts including the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – somewhat fortuitously – and a competitive handicap on Cheltenham Trials day from a mark of 143.

Two pulled up efforts in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and the Josh Gifford Novices Handicap Chase at Sandown may look alarming at first glance. However, I am still of the opinion that the RSA was a funny race last season and his subsequent non-finish saw him pulled up sharply before the seventh, perhaps indicating that something had gone amiss.

Royal Vacation enjoyed a spin around Wetherby four-weeks ago which should have him spot on for this early season assignment. And it’s certainly a bonus that the handicapper dropped him 3lbs for finishing third, one place ahead of subsequent BetVictor Gold Cup scorer Splash Of Ginge.

The talented bay gelding underwent a breathing operation during the summer – something that Colin Tizzard was happy to reveal at his open day in August – and can rely upon the services of in-form jockey Paddy Brennan, who has carried these familiar blue and pink silks to third (2013), second (2015) and eighth (2016) placed finishes in three of the last four renewals when partnering the popular chaser Theatre Guide.

Tizzard has his string in fine form at present. And with ground and trip no concern, Royal Vacation looks fair value.

My second fancy boasts an even juicier price, as I believe the Warren Greatrex trained Missed Approach could outrun his double digit odds of 25/1 with Champion Jockey Richard Johnson in the saddle.

Johnson landed a maiden success in the Newbury marathon 12 months ago when guiding subsequent Welsh Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup third Native River to hugely popular victory. And, although Missed Approach is at the opposite end of the betting this year, he will be hoping for a bold showing from the seven-year-old who displayed at fair level of form as a novice.

The bold-jumping bay followed up a satisfactory chasing debut at Exeter with a smart success at Lingfield, where he scored a 6 lengths’ victory over the re-opposing Label Des Obeaux who is now rated 8lb superior (153).

A fine second placed effort in the National Hunt Chase – finishing 20 lengths’ in advance of the aforementioned A Genie In Abottle – preceded a fair showing in the Scottish Grand National, where he conceded top weight to his rivals, finishing eighth.

The handicapper dropped Missed Approach 3lbs for that run, which allows him into the race off a mark of 145 (10-6). And it is also worth noting that Greatrex elected to run his charge over hurdles in preparation for Saturday, possibly with the intention of protecting that mark.

Missed Approach won over hurdles at this meeting in 2015 (1-1 at the course) and could easily run a big race with conditions to suit. At 25/1, he has place claims at least.

Onto Newcastle and the feature event from a betting perspective is undoubtedly the Rehearsal Chase.

This is a race for a tough, battle-hardened performer who relishes soft ground and a real test of stamina. Step forward Bishops Road, who finished fourth in a red-hot renewal of this race 12 months ago and will compete off a 10lb lower mark on Saturday.

Kerrie Lee’s mud loving nine-year-old conceded weight to both Otago Trail (Winner 11-3) and Definitly Red (third 10-13) last season, while last weekend’s breathtaking Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai (second 11-11) shared an equal burden.

A fine third placed effort behind old adversaries Bristol De Mai and Otago Trail In the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase in January followed a mid-division finish in the Welsh Grand National. With a pulled up effort in the Aintree equivalent his only subsequent outing.

Having displayed an ability to go well fresh in previous years – he made his seasonal debut in this event 12 months ago – it could be significant that Kerrie Lee has elected launch his campaign in this contest once again. And, ominously for his opposition, he will encounter his optimum conditions.

A thoroughly consistent performer, 8/1 looks more than fair when you factor in his 10lb lower mark this year. Therefore, I would be extremely surprised if he wasn’t involved in the finish.

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SELECTIONS:

Royal Vacation – 16/1

Missed Approach – 25/1

Bishops Road – 8/1 (NAP)

Slate can bring the house down

The meteoric rise of Colin Tizzard is nothing short of a magic trick that even Dynamo would have been hard pressed to pull off.

Wind back the clock to March 17th 2010 and the chief of Venn Farm Stables could be found saddling a 40/1 shot for the Champion Bumper. Little did he know how pivotal the next 20 minutes would prove to be in his career.

Cue Card has continued to fly the good flag Tizzard stoically ever since, with further Grade 1 success achieved in the Aintree Bowl, Ascot Chase (2), Betfair Chase (3), King George VI Chase and Ryanair Chase in a career that has, thus far, spanned nine seasons.

The fan-favourite enjoyed his most productive campaign in 2015/16, the same year in which the mighty Thistlecrack began his reign of dominance in the staying hurdle division. Little did we know, nor dare dream, that the stablemates would ever cross swords on a racecourse.

However, the 2016 King George VI Chase proved that the daring Dairy Farmer turned Grade 1 winning racehorse trainer had truly arrived at the top table of his profession, with the younger legs of Thistlecrack leading home his illustrious stablemate who displayed the familiar blue and pink silks (Jean Bishop) that Royal Vacation had carried into the winners enclosure little more than an hour earlier.

This Grade 1 double proved to be the turkey in the sandwich as the tough-as-teak Native River topped and tailed the Boxing Day bonanza with success in both the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh Grand National. A remarkable feat by both horse and trainer.

Already Tizzard’s CV would more than earn him a place on the hit TV show ‘The Apprentice’. However, one thing missing is a Grade 1 novice hurdle victory at the biggest show on turf.

Happily, Tizzard needn’t rely upon Lord Sugar for a cool quarter of a million pound investment as Eric Jones, Geoff Nicholas and John Romans clubbed together to acquire the services of Irish point-to-point winner Slate House this summer.

An impressive ten-length winner at Tattersalls Farm last November, the imposing son of Presenting made £260,000 at the Cheltenham Festival Sales where Joe Tizzard stepped in and gambled upon finding an owner for the hugely promising five-year-old.

Both of his starts under rules have come over the course and distance of the curtain-raising Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with the runner-up in October – namely Dans Le Vent – advertising the form of his debut success when scoring at Wincanton on Thursday.

Now, what price should a dual course and distance winner who cost £260,000 be for the Cheltenham Festival opener?

I was surprised to see that 33/1 was available in the immediate aftermath of his latest success. And, even more surprisingly, he can still be supported at 25/1 now.

Obviously, there are countless reasons for this rather generous looking price, with many potential players yet to show their hand and the possibility of Slate House trying a trip in excess of two-miles fairly high on the list.

Bullionaire, Debuchet, Getabird and Pym are all potential players who are yet to jump hurdles. While on the subject of trip, Tizzard recently commented that that Slate House wants “a fast run two-miles, or maybe further”, leaving the door ajar for both the Supreme and Ballymore Novice Hurdles.

However, we all know that you have to consider many factors when weighing up the ‘pros and cons’ of an ante-post investment, one of those factors being opposition.

Gordon Elliott’s hugely exciting Samcro currently heads the betting for the two-and-a-half-mile Ladies Day opener at 5/2. While the Sky Bet Supreme market has a much more open look to it, with Mengli Khan the 14/1 favourite.

Samcro is already a strong contender to be the ‘Irish banker’ come March following his hugely impressive start to life over timber. Therefore, why not tackle a race that has often been a happy hunting ground for horses with stamina, as proven by Al Ferof (2011), Champagne Fever (2013) and Vautour (2014) in recent years.

While his Grade 2 success at the November Meeting may not have set the pulse racing it should be noted that the deep ground and omitted hurdles would not have played to the five-year-olds strengths.

Breeding would suggest that Slate House may be seen to best effect on decent ground. While the youngsters super-slick hurdling is undoubtedly a strong asset that will stand him in good stead in the heat of the battle.

I can’t help but think that if Slate House donned a set of pink and green silks for Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins he would a mere fraction of the price he is now. Therefore, he has to be worth a small investment at 25/1.

He certainly has the right credentials.

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Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Slate House 25/1 (Sports Winner)

REVIEW: The November Meeting

FRIDAY:

The November Meeting got underway with a three-mile-one-furlong amateur riders handicap chase featuring many battle-hardened warriors such as Indian Castle, What Happens Now and winner What A Moment – who was doubling up in the race having also won 12 months ago. However, it was the Charlie Mann trained Pickamix who caught my eye on just his third start over fences.

Having jumped off prominently the athletic grey drifted down the field before coming home with a rattle following a less than fluent leap at the last. Beaten just over half a length having been a good twelve-lengths down when jumping the final fence.

Had he seen a stride at the last who knows what may have been. And I’m sure it won’t be too long before the six-year-old gets off the mark over the larger obstacles.

In the following handicap hurdle Coeur Blimey ran an eye-catching race despite producing a less than fluent round of jumping under Lucy Gardner.

A smart bumper horse in 2015/16 – beating subsequent Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy at Ascot December 2015 – the six-year-old was outpaced upon turning for home before staying on nicely after negotiating the final flight of hurdles.

The Winged Love gelding will undoubtedly benefit from a return to two-and-a-half-miles and looks dangerously well handicapped off a mark of 121 (prior to Friday). He is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Doitforthevillage ran out a convincing winner of the BetVictor Handicap Chase at 1.50, a race that Paul Henderson won with 20/1 outsider Un Beau Roman – who could only finish fifth on Friday – 12 months ago.

Interestingly, Un Beau Roman returned to Prestbury Park to finish second behind 2016 Topham Chase winner Eastlake at the International Meeting four-weeks later, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the canny trainer follows the same route with Friday’s winner.

If indeed he does, the eight-year-old is well worth keeping onside.

Finian’s Oscar made it 2-2 over fences in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase, quickening up smartly after a terrific leap at the last to see-off Paul Nicholls’ smart performer Movewiththetimes.

Whilst the super exciting five-year-old wasn’t always fluent at his fences I feel it’s important to remember that he is a novice – which obviously means that he requires experience over the larger obstacles.

The Oscar gelding had to concede 8lbs to his 3 talented rivals and won a shade cosily after responding well to Bryan Copper’s urgings up the hill. That experience could prove invaluable.

In the concluding Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle On The Blind Side, who had created a good impression when winning on his rules debut at Aintree in October, displayed that stamina would be his forte in the long term having been the first off the bridle but the strongest at the finish.

Outpaced coming down the hill, Nico de Boinville switched the scopey five-year-old to the middle of the course after negotiating the final flight of hurdles, where he positively flew past the leading pair Momella (second) and Poetic Rhythm (third) to record an impressive two-and-a-half length success.

Nicky Henderson was full of praise for the son of Stowaway in his post-race interview and earmarked the Albert Bartlett as a potential long term target given his obvious stamina. With a Grade 2 win at the course already on his CV, he should not be underestimated.

The big disappointment of the race was undoubtedly Vision Des Flos, who trailed in a full twenty-five lengths behind the talented winner.

Having won a Punchestown Festival bumper the four-year-old changed hands for a hefty fee in the summer. However, the youngster has endured a tough start to his career in Britain, competing in Grade 2 company at both Chepstow and Cheltenham.

Hopefully connections will elect to give the Balko gelding a low key engagement to build up his confidence before tackling graded company again.

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SATURDAY:

It’s fair to say that Apple’s Shakira stole the show with a stunning success in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial on Saturday, defeating the Philip Hobbs trained Gumball – who had been the ante-post favourite for the main event in March following a brace of effortless wins at Stratford and Chepstow – by comfortable seventeen-lengths.

Having been asked for a slight effort coming down the hill, she was firmly back on the bridle upon turning for home. Then, of course, it was impossible not to be impressed by the manner in which she sauntered up the Cheltenham hill to double her career tally in scintillating fashion.

Understandably, bookmakers slashed the three-year-old’s price for the main event in March. And, while it’s early to be calling the winner of any Cheltenham Festival race, there’s every chance the Seven Barrows inmate could go one place better than her illustrious Cheltenham Festival winning sister Apple’s Jade (runner-up in 2016) in the juvenile championship contest this spring.

In the following novice chase best buddies Bryony Frost and Black Corton notched their fifth successive victory following an error strewn round of jumping from both Ballyoptic and West Approach.

However, take nothing away from the fleet-footed winner who once again produced a fluent round of jumping which saw the six-year-old further enhance his impressive record over fences, which now reads 21211111.

Both horse and jockey continue to flourish despite the reappearance of the ‘winter horses’. Underestimate the duo at your peril.

Prestbury Park favourite Perfect Candidate undoubtedly received one of the biggest cheers of the day following his Grade 3 success in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase. However, the Philip Hobbs trained Three Faces West may be the one to take out of the race having put up a creditable performance on his first start for 339 days.

Hugely progressive this time last year, injury had kept the nine-year-old off the track since a decisive victory at Newbury last December. And, with a record of 43P when fresh, it’s entirely possible that the Paul and Clare Rooney owned gelding will improve for his seasonal reappearance.

He’s one to look out for next time.

The scenes in the winners enclosure when Splash Of Ginge edged out Starchitect in the BetVictor Gold Cup epitomise exactly what National Hunt Racing is all about. However, the two to take out of the race may be Ballyalton and Tully East who certainly didn’t have luck on their side.

The former ran a huge race to finish fourth under Tom O’Brien, which is made even more impressive by the fact that he lost a shoe on the way around.

Obviously, he still performed with great credit to finish fourth in such a hugely competitive Cheltenham handicap. However, as we all know this is a game of very fine margins. Therefore, his effort can be upgraded and it will be interesting to see how the ten-year-old is campaigned over the winter months.

The latter ran a very creditable race on unsuitably soft ground. And, having perhaps ended up further down the pack than Denis O’Regan would have liked, the Irish raider expanded his energy making up ground coming down the hill, meaning that he simply had nothing let to give upon turning for home.

Both could have Cheltenham Festival handicaps in their agenda come the spring.

Thomas Campbell once again displayed his aptitude for three-miles when seeing off last year’s victor Anteros in the Listed Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle under a confident James Bowen ride.

This was the first time that Nicky Henderson’s talented youngster had encountered soft ground. Pleasingly, he handled it well and could line up in the Betfair Stayers Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday. Presumably James Bowen would maintain the partnership.

In the concluding Listed Mares Bumper Posh Trish made the most of both track position and the underfoot conditions to see-off old adversary Grageelah Girl, whom she beat at Aintree last month courtesy of a Stewards Enquiry.

The Paul Nicholls trained winner is undoubtedly a smart mare who could enjoy a very productive season – whether that be in bumpers or over hurdles. Whilst Fergal O’Brien’s runner-up – who was trapped on the inside when Posh Trish made her move – also rates a very smart prospect.

Philip Hobbs’ debutant Pineapple Rush also warrants a mention having taken on much more experienced rivals and running a race full of promise, securing a thoroughly respectable third-placed finish.

Winning a bumper should be a formality before having her attentions switched to hurdles.

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SUNDAY: Harry Fry landed the opening conditional jockeys handicap hurdle for the third year in succession, following on from Unowhatimeanharry in 2015 and Behind Time in 2016.

Melrose Boy ran out a comfortable winner under Kieron Edgar – who himself was recording a fourth success in the race – and will undoubtedly prove popular when next sighted on the track. However, the Evan Williams trained Wylde Magic may be the one to take out of the race given both his respectable level of form last season and the wave of support that saw him backed-in from 14/1 on Saturday night to 7/2 by flag-fall.

Third behind subsequent winners Minella Awards and Prime Venture in the ultra-competitive Grade 3 EBF Final at Sandown in March, the bold jumping six-year-old looks fairly treated off a mark of 118 and may find more improvement when tacking three-miles. He is definitely one for the tracker.

Last year’s Greatwood Hurdle winner North Hill Havey put up a superb fencing performance to land the Grade 2 Racing Post Arkle Trial Novices Chase for Dan and Harry Skelton, who could have a serious contender on their hands for the main event come March.

That was a second course and distance win for the six-year-old following his success at the Showcase Meeting last month, where he lowered the colours of Grade 2 winning hurdler Sceau Royal and the aforementioned Movewiththetimes, who gave the form a boost when running so well on Friday.

Unfortunately, River Wylde, who looked a million dollars in the pre-parade ring, didn’t appear to enjoy the soft ground (had never encountered ground softer than good to soft) on Sunday. However, returned to a sounder surface, he still remains a very smart prospect.

Fox Norton made it back-to-back victories in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase, skipping clear of his field between two out and the last on route to a smooth eight-length success under Bryan Cooper.

The dual Grade 1 winning seven-year-old will now head to Sandown where he could meet Ryanair Chase hero Un De Sceaux, the returning Douvan and recent Haldon Gold Cup winner Politologue in the Tingle Creek Chase. A contest for which he is currently the 2/1 joint favourite.

The Greatwood Hurdle went the way of Alan King and Elgin who was following up a recent success at Ascot when holding off the Harry Fry trained Misterton, who also ran a career best race on ground that would have been far from ideal.

With that in mind, the bold-jumping grey – who had been up with the pace throughout the two-mile contest – may be the one to focus on going forward, especially when returned to his favoured good ground.

Long term, the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival could prove to be the ideal long-term target should connections be prepared to bide their time with the talented son of Sagamix.

He is currently available at 33/1.

Slate House maintained his unbeaten status under rules with victory in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle, which once again featured dolled off hurdles in the home straight.

The lack of both pace and hurdles would not have played to the strengths of Colin Tizzard’s hugely promising £260,000 purchase. Therefore, it’s a nod to the talent that the five-year-old possesses that he doubled his tally in determined fashion.

Whilst he had to battle on Sunday, I was surprised to see that he is still available at 33/1 for the main event in March, despite winning twice over the course and distance of the Festival curtain raiser.

He looks a smashing long term prospect.

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THE SALES RING: Friday night saw the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November Sale, the very same sale in which Finian’s Oscar made £250,000 last year.

Below are some of the most notable purchases;

KNOW THE SCORE – £380,000 The impressive six-length winner of a maiden point at Ballinaboola (12/11/17)

Sold to David Pipe.

GOOD MAN JIM – £360,000 – A hugely impressive fourteen-length winner at Dowth Hall (29/10/17)

Sold to Roger Brookhouse.

GALLAHERS CROSS – £260,000 – The smart winner of a bumper at Galway (29/10/17)

Sold to Highflyer Bloodstock.

LUST FOR GLORY – £240,000 – A five-length debut winner at Lisronagh (28/10/17)

Sold to Highflyer Bloodstock.

QUEENS CAVE – £175,000 – A ten-length debut winner at Dromahane (12/11/17)

Sold to David Pipe.

BRACE YOURSELF – £165,000 – Second in a Portrush maiden point-to-point (28/10/17)

Sold to Noel Meade.

The November Meeting – Sunday

If you’re reading this the good news is that you’ve survived a tricky opening 2 days of the November Meeting and head into the final circuit with a shirt still on your back.

Sometimes you have to take what you can get in this game!

The bad news is, however, that it doesn’t get any easier on the rather originally named ‘The November Meeting – Sunday’ card, which features three Grade 2 contests – namely the Arkle Trophy Trial; the Shloer Chase; and Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – as well as the hugely competitive Grade 3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.

So for those who have stayed the trip, here’s a look at the final stamina sapping furlong of November’s three-day marathon.

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1.15  THE VELCOURT CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ HANDICAP HURDLE   2m 5f 26y   (Class 3)

Harry Fry has landed this race in each of the last two seasons, with the high class Unowhatimeanharry – who competed off a lowly mark of 123 – scooping the prize in 2015 and the JP McManus owned Behind Time returning victorious 12 months ago.

This year the burgeoning young trainer relies upon the potentially well treated Melrose Bay who bumped into a number of smart prospects in three-starts over timber last season.

Having finished third behind Rolling Dylan on hurling debut at Uttoxeter in November, the son of Saint Des Saints bumped into Nicky Henderson’s Grade 2 winner – and subsequent Supreme Novice Hurdle fourth – River Wylde at Ludlow, finishing second.

Third behind the smart pair Eaton Hill and Mount Mews on his third and final start of the campaign, a mark of 123 could seriously underestimate the level of form Melrose Bay is capable of.

However, at a bigger price I’m going to side with the Evan Williams trained Wylde Magic who has respectable form on soft ground, including when placing third in the always competitive EBF Final at Sandown in March.

A recent outing at Chepstow will have blown away the cobwebs and talented conditional jockey Mitch Bastyan takes a valuable 3lbs off the six-year-olds back.

At a generous price of 12/1, he looks a solid each way bet.

2016 Winner:   BEHIND TIME   H. Fry

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1.50 THE RACING POST ARKLE TROPHY TRIAL NOVICES’ CHASE   1m 7f 199y   (Grade 2)

Last season’s Supreme Novice Hurdle third River Wylde is currently favourite following a pleasing debut success at Uttoxeter last month.

Winner of the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices Hurdle in February, the talented six-year-old looks set to take high-rank amongst the best two-mile novice chasers this winter. He could easily give the favourite something to think about.

Paul Nicholls sends the dashing grey Capitaine who has won his two starts over the larger obstacles by a combined distance of thirty-two lengths.

An above-average hurdler last term – the flashy five-year-old chased home Finian’s Oscar in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January. He will be hoping to exact his revenge tomorrow.

North Hill Harvey won the valuable Greatwood Handicap Hurdle on this card last year and made the perfect start to life over fences at the Showcase Meeting last month.

The imposing son of Kayf Tara has always looked a chaser in stature and confirmed that theory when lowering the colours of smart prospects Sceau Royal and Movewiththetimes – who gave Finian’s Oscar a race on Friday – over course and distance three weeks ago. Granted an uncontested lead, he could prove very hard to pass if getting into a rhythm.

CONCLUSION: NORTH HILL HARVEY made a superb start to life over fences when accounting for previous winner Sceau Royal and talented performer Movewiththetimes at Prestbury Park last month. Twice a winner on soft ground at Cheltenham, he will handle conditions that may hinder his opposition. Therefore, he maintain his unbeaten status over fences.

2016 Winner:   LE PREZIEN   P. Nicholls

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2.25 THE SHLOER CHASE   1m 7f 199y   (Grade 2)

The high-class Fox Norton will bid to land back-to back victories in this Grade 2 contest tomorrow, having landed this prize on his first start for Colin Tizzard 12 months ago.

Runner-up in the Champion Chase in March, the hugely talented seven-year-old secured Grade 1 success at both the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals this spring. Form that makes him very much the one to beat here.

Champion Chaser Special Tiara will be in opposition once again. And – given his impressive record at Prestbury Park – has to be respected following his hugely popular, and much deserved, victory at the greatest show on turf earlier this year.

Having taken a rather unconventional route to this race, Cloudy Dream rates an intriguing contender for Malcolm Jefferson and Bryan Hughes – who will riding with supreme confidence following a fantastic four-timer at Ayr on Wednesday.

The northern raider chased home the awesome Altior in last season’s Arkle Novices’ Chase and returned to action with a fine second-placed effort in a stellar renewal of the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month.

His consistent profile, scope for improvement and potential fitness-edge render the classy grey a serious contender tomorrow.

Seasoned campaigners Simply Ned,Vaniteux and Sir Valentino complete the field.

CONCLUSION: While it’s common knowledge that this was not the intended plan, CLOUDY DREAM has the potential to go very well tomorrow following a pleasing seasonal reappearance at Aintree last month. Fox Norton is undoubtedly a worthy favourite, but the selection has fitness on his side and could easily have more to come.

2016 Winner:   FOX NORTON   C. Tizzard

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3.00 THE UNIBET GREATWOOD HANDICAP HURDLE   2m 87y   (Grade 3)

Unfortunately, time is against me. Therefore, I will only be giving my selections for the Greatwood.

NIETZSCHE – 12/1

Nietzsche already boasts a fair piece of Prestbury Park form when beaten just two-necks into third place in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Form figures of 2213113 demonstrate the consistency the the four-year-old has achieved in his hurdling career to date. And race fitness is assured after two recent runs on the level in hugely competitive company.

It’s hard to say whether a mark of 136 is attractive. However, Ellison is enjoying a superb start to the 2017-18 campaign and likes to aim one at this early season prize having gone relatively close with gallant contenders such as Totalize and Bothy in recent years.

He could go well with talented conditional James Bowen on board.

WILLIAM H BONNEY – 16/1

William H Bonney landed a competitive handicap hurdle on Cheltenham’s Trial’s Day in January and attempts to double his Prestbury Park tally from a 1lb higher mark tomorrow.

The form of that handicap success looks very solid indeed, with second and third Man Of Plenty and Divine Spear running consistently ever since, while Wait For Me (fifth), Dream Berry (sixth), Court Minstrel (ninth) and John Constable (tenth) have all won subsequently.

King blames himself for lacklustre efforts in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and at Sandown and Haydock in the spring, suggesting that the Cheltenham race had taken more out of the six-year-old than he had first thought. As a result, however, William H Bonney looks fairly handicapped once again and it makes perfect sense to target a valuable prize such as this.

Consistently campaigned in class 1 company – the son of Midnight Legend boasts form figures of 2121107 on ground officially described as soft. Therefore, the relentless rain today will play to his strengths.

16/1 looks generous.

2016 Winner:   NORTH HILL HARVEY   D. Skelton

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3.30 THE SKY BET SUPREME TRIAL NOVICES’ HURDLE   2m 87y   (Grade 2)

This looks to be a very warm renewal of the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle, for which

Although he beat fair types last month, this will give a clearer indication as to how far the son of Presenting can go over hurdles this season. It’s no surprise to see him at the head of the market.

Exciting mare Dame De Compagnie created a deep impression when scoring in smooth fashion on her british debut at Uttoxeter earlier this month.

Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson hasn’t hidden the regard in which he holds the talented four-year-old and she could be very hard to beat tomorrow receiving 7lbs from all of her rivals.

Colin Tizzard’s £260,000 purchase Slate House is undoubtedly the biggest threat to Dame De Compagnie following a smart debut success at the Showcase Meeting last month.

A ten-length winner of his second start between the flags at Tattersalls Farm (Soft) last November, much was expected of the imposing five-year-old when making his rules debut 3 weeks ago. Happily for connections, he didn’t disappoint. It will be extremely interesting to see how the imposing son of Presenting gets on tomorrow.

Summerville Boy arrives here on the back of a satisfactory hurdling debut at Stratford last month, where he finished second behind a smart prospect in the care of Harry Fry – namely Mr One Man.

A smooth bumper winner at Killarney in May – Roger Brookhouse signed a cheque for £130,000 to secure the services of the promising five-year-old who is now in the care of Tom George. This represents a rise in class.

Dan Skelton runs Aintree Grade 1 third Bedrock, who disappointed at the Showcase Meeting last month when sent off a well supported 8/15 favourite for the Masterson Holdings Hurdle, finishing third.

This looks a much more competitive race and he may lack the gears to challenge the likes of Dame De Compagnie and Slate House should it turn into a sprint tomorrow. He does, however, hold an experience edge over many of his rivals.

Better Getalong, who won a novice hurdle at Ayr last month and already boasts form around Prestbury Park – finished twelfth in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March – will represent Nicky Richards.

The booking of top jockey Noel Fehily catches the eye. However, he will need to improve to trouble the two at the head of the market.

CONCLUSION: Conceding 7lb to Dame De Compagnie will not be easy. However, SLATE HOUSE has already proven his ability to act at the course and has no concerns with the soft ground he will encounter tomorrow. Therefore, he looks the value.

2016 Winner:   MOON RACER   D. Pipe

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4.00 THE HIGH SHERIFF OF GLOUCESTERSHIRE’S STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE   2m 87y   (Listed)

The meetings comes to a close with another tricky looking bumper featuring smart types from many of the usual suspects.

Ballygomartin landed a bumper at Bangor first time out and will represent local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

His victory came on good ground, something he certainly won’t get tomorrow. The market may prove the best guide as to how well the four-year-old will go.

Philip Hobbs runs debut winner Crooks Peak, who looked at nice prospect when landing a Newton Abbot Bumper by a comfortable six-lengths last month.

Hobbs has his string in fine form at present. If handling conditions, the four-year-old holds leading claims.

Irish raider Vocarium will represent Peter Fahey and Barry Geraghty.

The Poet’s Voice gelding chased home Willie Mullins’ smart mare Ainsi Va La Vie – who was 3/3 in bumpers – at Galway in August. It’s interesting that here brings the four-year-old here.

Air Navigator made a successful debut at Exeter in February and will represent the powerful partnership of Tom George and Adrian Heskin.

It has taken six-years to get the son of Yeats onto the racetrack and connections will be hoping that he can make up for lost time with another success tomorrow.

Olly Murphy may be a newcomer to the training ranks, but he certainly knows the time of day having spent five-years under the tutelage of Cheltenham Festival Champion Trainer Gordon Elliott in Ireland.

Murphy has mentioned former pointer Rio Quinto on more than one occasion when asked about potentially nice horses he has to go to war with this winter. And, having done much of the buying for the master of Cullentra Stables in recent years, he certainly knows what to look for.

Skidoosh accounted for the re-opposing Lisdoonvarna Lad at Worcester last month, where they were sent off at double figures prices (22/1 & 20/1 respectively).

The pair pulled eight-lengths clear of the field, marking them out as potentially smart youngsters. They could easily play a part tomorrow.

Colin Tizzard fields the unraced Sizing Cusimano, who looks a likely type on paper, but will have to be fairly smart to land a contest of this nature on his first visit to the racetrack.

Rockery Garden, Woulduadamandeveit, Mahlervous and Mount Batur complete the field.

CONCLUSION: Whilst there are some with reasonable form under rules, I’m going to take a chance on the Olly Murphy trained RIO QUINTO who has been the subject of positive reports from his trainer and could easily outrun his double figure price.

2016 Winner:   POETIC RHYTHM   F. O’Brien

SELECTIONS:

1.15 Wylde Magic 12/1

1.50 North Hill Harvey  13/8

2.25 Cloudy Dream 7/2

3.00 Nietzsche 12/1

        William H Bonney 16/1

3.30 Slate House 2/1

4.00 Rio Quinto 16/1