Cheltenham makes a long awaited return to the racing calendar this weekend as we fully begin the transitional period between Flat racing and the National Hunt season.
It’s a seven-race card to get us going and we’ll be racing here again on Saturday so keep an eye out for more information, though we start with a fairly low key novices’ hurdle on Friday’s card:Embed from Getty Images
2.00 (2m5f Novices’ Hurdle) – HAVANA BEAT
Tony Carroll’s gelding was improving nicely over hurdles when falling at Haydock Park back in May and we should see an even better horse this season, starting hopefully with a win here.
The son of Teofilo had a sharpener on the all-weather at Kempton recently where he recovered from a slow start to be 9 lengths off the pace at 50/1, but this is much more his niche. A step forward from his win at Aintree in April may see him win this at the main expense of Go Another One and Make My Heart Fly.
2.35 (2m Novices’ Chase) – DIAKALI
All things being equal, and they aren’t always equal at Cheltenham to be fair, Gary Moore and Joshua Moore should be winning this with Diakali who is now 2 from 2 over the bigger obstacles with both wins very wide margin ones in the summer.
This race is definitely more competitive however he looks a really nice type and if jumping cleanly can take care of One For Billy and Caid Du Lin to keep his 100% chasing record intact.
3.10 (2m5f Handicap Hurdle) – MR ANTOLINI
This is traditionally a very good time of year for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and he can score once more in this competitive handicap at a nice price with this Mr Antolini.
Second in the Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton when last seen in April, he took the Imperial Cup before that and despite an 8lb rise in the weights since then he looks good to go forward a little more this season, especially now he’s going up in trip.
Whatthebutlersaw and the four-year-old Melody Of Scotland may yet prove significant dangers but I’d be disappointed if our horse is not there or thereabouts at the finish.
3.45 (3m+ Novices’ Chase) – LIL ROCKERFELLER
We’re not suggested here that Neil King’s runner should be getting up to the high class levels of form he has shown as a hurdler, but then again he really shouldn’t need to in order to win this novice event.
His chasing debut was a winning one at Uttoxeter and while that form in itself isn’t enough to back him with extreme certainty here, we know he is bound to have improved from that and any step forward over fences in this race should make him good enough to beat Treacle Tart, who is fair value, and also Arctic Gold.
4.20 (2m+ Maiden Hurdle) – SEVEN DE BAUNE
It’s incredibly difficult to predict what any of these horses may be over hurdles in the fullness of time, but the level to which Seven De Baune ran in a bumper at Uttoxeter and the manner in which he won the race suggests he may just about be the best of this particular field.
A look at the early prices places this chap at around the 7/1 mark and that would represent terrific value, though watch out also for strong runs from Thomas Darby and in particular Sebastapol in behind at fair prices also.
4.55 (3m1f Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase) – ANOTHER FRONTIER
It’s Nigel Twiston-Davies’ time of year, this horse is fit and in winning form and he’s our second top weight. In other words; let’s stick with the class option.
After a near 7-month break, Another Frontier reappeared at Uttoxeter recently with a rather comfortable win, certainly more comfortable than a rise of 5lbs in the ratings would suggest and the fact that he looked a little rusty that day too lends weight to the theory that he’ll have improved plenty for that run.
Oighear Dubh and Asking Questions look perhaps the most obvious dangers in what is admittedly a very competitive race but one that our boy looks very capable of winning.
5.30 (2m+ Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) – NOAH AND THE ARK
We’re taking a bit of a chance here on a young horse who is in terrific form at present. Noah And The Ark is just a four-year-old of Donald McCain’s but one who is improving rapidly and who can take another significant step forward by winning this race at a nice price.
His wins at Stratford and Kelso don’t read so well just on their own, but he’s been doing it so easily and if anything looks as though he’ll get better with a stronger test and he’ll certainly get that here around this course.
Magic Dancer looks best of the rest after his wind operation while both Lord Condi and Malachite are entitled to go well in the lucky last, hopefully just for place money.