Having been saved after Friday’s abandonment, the Cross Country Chase is shoehorned into Sunday’s card while we should also get clues for the Arkle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Champion Hurdle among other things.
A horse who has done well for us before may be the one in the feature Greatwood Hurdle, while one who is already a Cheltenham Festival winner can prove his class once again en route to the big one in March in the Cheltenham Chase at 2.25.
12.45 (2m5f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) – COLDITZ CASTLE
A tough race to call, especially given that many of the main contenders are unproven on ground quite this deep. In the shape of Colditz Castle however of the Alan King yard, we at least have a fancied runner who has run one of his best races on soft ground and who comes into this weekend in good form having run third at Worcester.
There’s plenty of value to be had should you manage to point to the right one, with place challenges possibly incoming from Demon Fou, Don’t Shout and Trendsetter.
1.15 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – KINGSWELL THEATRE
Given that this race has been rescheduled from Friday’s abandoned card and that original selection Kingswell Theatre should handle conditions just fine, we are prepared to stick with the 10-year-old of Michael Scudamore’s.
Coming into this on the back of his fifth in the Durham National at Sedgefield, our horse can resume the progression he’d been showing up to April and he could take this race at a nice price ahead of likely outsiders Tea For Two and Rolling Dylan.
1.50 (Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase – 2m – Grade 2) – AL DANCER
How much the heavy ground here and the small field, liable to lead to a tactical race, will affect the Arkle betting long-term after this result is open to question but for us it’s all about finding the winner on the day.
Put The Kettle On is probably overpriced in all honesty, while Getaway Trump is currently rated 4lbs higher than Al Dancer and yet carries 3lbs less but that could all be about to change.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 6-year-old gelding won well around here during the Showcase Meeting and on a line through his hurdle form we could suggest that there is plenty more to come from him yet. Assuming the ground isn’t too much of a worry, he’d rate a fair bet to get home ahead of his main challenger and put himself on course for the big one in March.
2.25 (Cheltenham Chase – 2m – Grade 2) – DEFI DU SEUIL
The betting would appear to have this spot on in our opinion, only Simply Ned not looking likely to get involved on paper.
The other three are all very close with Saint Calvados taking in this race instead of the big handicap on Saturday, a horse who comes into the event on the back of a course and distance win on heavy ground last month.
Paul Nicholls’ highly thought of Politologue appears to be at a very similar level and, while his form was arguably just a little hit and miss last term, he comes into this season having had wind surgery which may or may not help him along.
The one with perhaps a little more potential however is Philip Hobbs’ JLT Novices’ Chase winner Defi Du Seuil. His class is already evident and it could be argued that he was even more impressive when one race less experienced in the Scilly Isles Novices’ at Sandown when the ground was very soft, a good pointer towards a big run here.
3.00 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – 2m½f – Grade 3) – BENNY’S BRIDGE
Having landed a heavy gamble last time after being tipped up at a much bigger price on our blog, Fergal O’Brien’s Benny’s Bridge can follow-up here as he continues to climb the ranks in search of a place in the Champion Hurdle field at the Festival.
Not proven on the ground but crucially with a love of his local course, he showed in the style of his victory in October that he can get home which will count for plenty with the going gets tough in this race.
The other solid one in the conditions is Paul Nicholls’ Quel Destin who is definitely going places, and while ultimately he may prove to be the better horse, he is just a 4-year-old and at these weights may struggle at the business end to cope with the selection.
3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – 2m½f – Grade 2) – PACIFY
It’s not very often we see a runner having won five races and being unbeaten over hurdles and yet not hitting the top of the market, but that could be the case with Pacify.
True, he has done all his good work thus far over timber on good ground and this is quite a different scenario, but having run very well on soft on the flat you can’t help thinking that if he’s been trained by a Henderson or a Nicholls rather than by Jamie Snowden the bookies wouldn’t be taking such a chance on him.
He is the call here, followed by likely favourite Ecco for Paul Nicholls and the fair value Hang In There of Emma Lavelle’s operation.
4.00 (2m½f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed) – TIME FLIES BY
Very little to go on, as expected in such a race, and so the real advice as always is to watch the betting carefully in the ten minutes immediately preceding post time as a major shortening in price of a candidate can really mean something.
With what evidence we do possess however, JP McManus and Nicky Henderson’s Time Flies By is a likely type and has already run to a good level on debut. What’s more, Barry Geraghty’s mount did so over this course and distance and on heavy ground meaning there are no worries on paper about him being able to put his best foot forward, and all that remains is to hope there isn’t a superstar lurking in the ranks.