Cheltenham’s two-day April Meeting gets going on Wednesday, keeping things ticking over for National Hunt fans while the flat horses are strutting their stuff over at Newmarket at the Craven Meeting.
We have a 7-race card featuring a nice novice hurdle and Grade 2 handicap chase among other things, and we’ve picked out a selection for you in every race beginning with the 2.05 and a chance for Jamie Snowden to get amongst the winners at Prestbury Park.
2.05 (Class 2 Novices’ Hurdle) – THISTLE DO NICELY
There are plenty in with chances here in a competitive enough two-and-a-half mile race despite a smallish field, but on what we saw at both at Taunton over 2m3f and here at Cheltenham at the Festival when never being in the right position, Thistle Do Nicely can improve on good ground over the extra yardage.
Jamie Snowden’s five-year-old has kept improving, albeit slowly and steadily, so we have to believe there is more to come and he may be just a little more battle-hardened than some of the others.
Philip Hobbs’ Cotswold Way is next on the list after his demolition job at Taunton while Dr Sanderson comes into thoughts as well.
2.40 (Silver Trophy Chase Handicap – Grade 2) – MR WHITAKER
Mick Channon’s 7yo gelding has some very solid past form, including round here, and cannot be judged on his disappointing run in the Ultima at the Festival given that it was over 3m1f and on very soft ground.
These conditions should bring out the best in him and if they do, he looks fairly well off in the handicap ratings and in his new headgear can put his best foot forward under Jonathan Burke.
Both Highway One O One and Kings Monarch are very close behind by our reckoning and should each go well, though hopefully only for place money behind the former Close Brothers Handicap Chase festival winner.
3.15 (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – ESPOIR DE TEILLEE
Tom George’s runner missed the festival but has generally been on a pretty steep upward curve and given the trip and ground for today’s contest there is no reason to believe that improvement has suddenly stopped.
In taking another step forward here, Espoir De Teillee can prove to have a little in hand on this field and potentially at a very nice price, rating him a fair bet to land this £15,000 prize ahead of Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be, Jeremy Scott’s Unison and Ben Pauling’s Gowiththeflow all of whom have solid chances on the book.
3.50 (Class 3 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase) – TIKK TOCK BOOM
Ian Williams’ Tikk Tock Boom has had just the one chase race and did well enough, finishing second at Warwick over three miles, and with this extra furlong-and-a-half looking likely to suit and him sneaking in at the bottom of the weights he looks overpriced to gain a first win over the larger obstacles.
Including hurdles runs the 7yo’s form figures in recent times read 6312 with improvement coming after each outing so it’s expected that jockey Tom O’Brien will get a good spin round and at the very least, give us a good run for our money.
Minella For Me and The Dellercheckout make the shortlist too for Tom George and Paul Nicholls respectively.
4.25 (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – FIRST ASSIGNMENT
There are plenty of value prices to be had in such a competitive heat – if you can find the right horses of course – and we feel we’ve done that in the shape of First Assignment, trained by Ian Williams once again.
As a six-year-old we can assume there is a fair amount of improvement still to come from this horse in the fullness of time, so despite having had five runs this season and having looked held by the handicapper the last twice, conditions here may mean a proper return to form and therefore a return to the winner’s enclosure too.
Having won a Listed 3m handicap hurdle on good ground here back in November, one can conclude that conditions maybe haven’t been to his liking since then despite a solid third behind Paisley Park having been registered in the meantime and today could be the day.
Both Thomas Campbell at the top of the weights and Copper Gone West at the bottom can give our boy a run for his money but will hopefully both be fighting for place money only.
5.00 (Class 2 Handicap Chase) – DINGO DOLLAR
Both Rocky’s Treasure and Dingo Dollar have outstanding chances on the book, but given that the latter named was extremely well fancied and strongly backed for the Scottish Grand National last Saturday at Ayr before being withdrawn due to the very fast ground, it seems he is primed to put in a very big performance and so is taken to land this.
Alan King’s charge was a decent second at Doncaster last month on this sort of ground and when you consider that it’s likely the race was treated merely as a prep for Ayr, lots of improvement can be expected from that run to this. Wayne Hutchinson rides.
Rocky’s Treasure is a clear second-best, while Allelu Alleluia sneaks onto the shortlist as well and can give supporters a decent run.
5.30 (Class 3 Handicap Hurdle – Conditional and Amateur Jockeys) – LAUGHING LUIS
Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O’Neill Jr, claiming 3lbs, look a fearsome combination in the context of this race and their Laughing Luis is showing fine improvement over hurdles with two wins from five so far.
A further step forward can be expected over this course and distance from the 5yo son of Authorized and as such, he should have enough weight in hand to see off this field and claim the lucky last.
Kerry Lee’s Magic Dancer has done precious little wrong and can get involved in the finish once again, while Turning Gold of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard makes up the shortlist and could provide some value for each-way punters.