It’s been a brilliant November meeting already, but isn’t over yet! The Champion Chaser and former Arkle heroine, Put The Kettle On, returns to the scene of her most famous successes while the Greatwood Hurdle gives us an early look at some potential Champion Hurdlers for four months’ time.
1.10 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – DOES HE KNOW
Despite the makeup of the Old Course at Cheltenham, this race should be all about stamina as this inexperienced field of chasers tackles three miles while their trainers perhaps dream of future Gold Cup glory.
Oscar Elite comes back from a big break and stayed well enough over hurdles, winning over three miles on heavy ground, while Threeunderthrufive has had chasing experience already and has won over this distance on good ground.
The one that just looks a class above them perhaps is Kim Bailey’s Does He Know. 2-2 over fences, the six-year-old is a course and distance winner now and can still get much better yet.
Ground conditions are fine for him, he jumps these fences well and his handicap mark of 147 does not look anything like beyond him.
1.45 (Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – EMPIRE DE MAULDE
We see champion jockey-elect Brian Hughes at Cheltenham all too seldom, especially with winning chances, but he has a good one in the second race here and in top company too.
This is a good stayers’ race over nearly 3½ miles, one that is perfect for Hughes’ mount Empire De Maulde, trained in Scotland by James Ewart.
First or second in eight of his 13 chases to date, Empire De Maulde has won at Aintree and Kelso over longer trips, yet showed decent speed to run second at Kelso over 2m1f in September and that experience can stand him in good stead here.
He’ll have enough tactical speed to stay in a good position in this race, has the proven stamina to see it out and on the evidence of his latest win should still be a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper.
Yala Enki is not getting any younger and yet is the main danger in terms of the betting, and while he’ll have to be watched for the top Cheltenham pairing of Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost, he may just be outgunned this time.
2.20 (Cheltenham Chase – Grade 2) – PUT THE KETTLE ON
There are just the four runners for this Grade 2 contest, but what a quartet it is. We’re in for a real treat here indeed.
The outsider of the bunch is Rouge Vif, rated 159 and a Grade 2 winner in the past, Politologue (167) is a former Champion Chase winner, while Put The Kettle On (159) and Nube Negra (165) were first and second in the Champion Chase last season.
The quality is all there, and at the weights it may play to stick with the mare Put The Kettle On. Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old loves it here, winning the Arkle a year before her big victory here in March.
There may not be much between her and Nube Negra all things considered, but it would be no surprise to see them finish in a familiar order, while even at ten there is life left in Politologue yet who cannot be discounted.
2.55 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – NO ORDINARY JOE
A cracking race; competitive, high-class and full of speed. Whether or not we see a potential Champion Hurdle winner, we will see a brilliant betting event in its own right and it’s JP McManus who may hold the key once again in this division.
Having had the likes of Epatante and Buveur D’Air in recent times, both Champion Hurdle winners, he knows a good one so it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on No Ordinary Joe.
No Ordinary Joe is trained by Nicky Henderson, as were the aforementioned pair of champions, and while he is coming from a lower base, he could yet be something very good in this sphere.
After a decent fourth on his hurdling bow, he’s won two egg and spoon races very easily in preparation for what’s to come this season and that has perhaps looked after his handicap mark somewhat, a mark that appears not to represent his true ability which presents us with a betting opportunity.
He gets the call here, though challengers should be many including Tritonic, Cormier and JP’s other runner Camprond among others. West Cork is also worth watching after nearly two years off the track.
3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – I LIKE TO MOVE IT
Unfortunately, we have another four-runner event here and that’s a great shame. Given the level of this race (Grade 2) and the fact that, as the name suggests, it is a recognised trial for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March, we could have expected plenty more runners.
That said, this is a winter game so the good ground may have accounted for a few potential candidates, while at £28,000 to the winner we can’t call the event particularly rich either which is something that needs to be addressed.
What we’d like to see in that case is an authoritative winner, one that can throw their hat into the ring for March and the most likely horse to do it is I Like To Move It for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
His two hurdle successes so far have been achieved without much fuss and he accounted for Tritonic last time who was a strong fancy for the Triumph Hurdle last year and is in with a shout on this card in the Greatwood Hurdle. Olly Murphy’s Washington is next on the list.
4.00 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – TIMEFORATUNE
We finish with another bumper race, and another good one at that with this event more than likely to live up to its Listed status.
Aucunrisque is a strong contender, as is Flying Sara on what we know so far, while having had only one run there could be lots to come from Nicky Martin’s Leading Choice and that one should be watched in the betting throughout Sunday.
The boring but safe choice however is Timeforatune. The likely market leader, Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old is two from two now and has so far reached a level just above that of those in opposition here.