The last of three wonderful days of racing at Prestbury Park takes place on Sunday with the potential for us to see future contenders for the Champion Hurdle in the Greatwood, as well as potential entrants in the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’.
We get going at 1.15 with the first of six races, all of which we have good value selections for starting with the conditional jockeys’ race where a big priced horse may well defy his odds:Embed from Getty Images
1.15 (2m5f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) – FOLLOW THE BEAR
Ned Curtis takes the ride on Nicky Henderson’s charge, a six-year-old gelding who needs to take a step forward from him seasonal bow at Aintree when beaten 15 lengths.
He hasn’t won in fact since May 2017 at Kempton Park but remains capable and showed a good level of form this time last year when third at Worcester and it’s thought today could be the day he rediscovers his best before perhaps starting to make his way up the hurdling ladder somewhat.
One at a big price who could also go well is David Pipe’s Three Star General who, like the selection, is only a young horse and not one to give up on just yet. Ballyhome will be much more popular in the betting than the aforementioned pair and looks good for place money representing Fergal O’Brien.
1.50 (2m Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN
Nicky Henderson is the man the watch and his 6yo may yet for the Arkle itself in March at the Festival, though that becomes a more realistic prospect if he does manage to take this race.
He reached a mark of 151 over hurdles, albeit in a short five-race career over the smaller obstacles and it seems the yard think he’ll be much better over fences making him potentially quite a formidable opponent for his rivals in this race.
Although he didn’t have much to beat he performed perfectly well on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter at the start of this month which should have set him up nicely to tackle Grade 2 company for the first time and he is taken to score ahead of Philip Hobbs’ seasonal debutant Defi Du Seuil.
2.25 (Schloer Chase – Grade 2 – 2m) – SCEAU ROYAL
Sceau Royal’s debut season over fences saw him win four and finish a close runner-up here at Cheltenham and so it’ll be no surprise if he’s a short priced favourite on Sunday for Alan King and Daryl Jacob.
That confidence could prove to be well founded however as this French-bred just gets better and better and seems certain to be aimed at the Queen Mother Champion Chase back here at the Festival in four months time.
This impressive type jumps well, goes well fresh and is already a Grade 1 winner as a novice meaning there are few chinks in his armour. Any flaws he does show on his first run of the season need to be seized upon and if that is to happen then it is likely to be by Brain Power of the Nicky Henderson yard, a horse who is having his first run since a wind op in July and who was second to Footpad in last season’s Arkle.
3.00 (Greatwood Hurdle – Grade 3 – 2m ½f) – STORM RISING
The most talked about horse in the race is bound to be last weekend’s Elite Hurdle winner Verdana Blue and sure enough, Nicky Henderson’s representative is high on the list.
There is a train of thought with Jeremiah McGrath’s mount though that he may not be at his very best around Cheltenham and we have to consider that, no matter how simple he made it look last week, that the Elite will have taken some winning and so the race must have taken something out of him meaning this quick turnaround is not quite ideal.
Storm Rising is a much more attractive price and has all the credentials needed. He loves Cheltenham, stays well and is improving hand over fist for his new yard and may well just strip much fitter than most in this line-up for Dr Richard Newland and as such rates a very fair bet.
Silver Streak and Western Ryder are others to consider in what is a cracking early season race over the Champion Hurdle distance.
3.30 (2m ½f Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – SEDDON
What we’re looking for in these trials is not so much the best horse according to where they all stand going into the race, but rather which one has the combination of ability and potential and with that in mind we could see somewhat of a coming of age of Tom George’s Seddon.
Having only run three times under rules, once over hurdles, we’ve no idea yet how good he could become but what we do know is that he’s already got to roughly the level shown by chief rival Itchy Feet and done so with less miles on the clock than Olly Murphy’s runner.
A good step forward is expected then and with that victory in Grade 2 company with Adrian Heskin once again in the saddle.
4.00 (2m ½f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – THYME HILL
As impressive as McFabulous was on debut at Chepstow in October the race was nothing out of the ordinary and so until he does it again we should just curb our enthusiasm somewhat.
With that in mind, let’s consider the way Philip Hobbs’ 4yo won his own bumper at Worcester where on the book he achieved less than the Paul Nicholls horse but did it so easily we have no real idea how much he had in hand that day.
Like his main rival he’s been treated carefully, waiting 5½ weeks to come here rather than getting straight back out on the track and the tactic may pay dividends here today with a win under Richard Johnson.
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