Please Note: The first day of the November Meeting has been cancelled due to rain. Two of the races have been rescheduled to other days in the meeting.
Cheltenham’s November meeting is a brilliant precursor to the Festival in March, several of this weekend’s horses undoubtedly ending up back at Prestbury Park in four months’ time to contest the biggest races of the National Hunt season.
The meeting kicks off on Friday with this intriguing six-race card, one in which we could grab some great value in the markets with a number of favourites seemingly vulnerable.
12.40 (3m1f Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase) – PLANTAGANET
A competitive handicap, one with the spectres of amateur riders and now soft going to contend with from a handicapping point of view, but at the weights we should be able to trust Gina Andrews’ mount Plantaganet to run well for trainer Seamus Mullins.
A consistent sort; the 7-year-old is good around here and appears to be getting better meaning he should be a few pounds ahead of the assessor. At an equally good value price Petite Power can run well for Fergal O’Brien, while Diplomate Sivola and What A Moment also appear to have been underestimated somewhat by odds compilers.
1.15 (2m½f Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – ASHUTOR
Naturally these are mostly inexperienced hurdlers and as such we don’t have as much to go on as we’d like, but in being willing to take a slight leap of faith, should prices seem reasonable, a chance can be taken on Paul Nicholls’ Ashutor.
The 5-year-old’s form when running second in February at Fontwell, allowing for natural improvement, would make him competitive in this race anyway and so considering he’s had some time off and wind surgery to help his breathing we may well see a new horse here.
Going back to this extended two-mile trip should help him too, so at small stakes we can take a chance on Harry Cobden’s mount to get the better of likely favourite Gunnery, a horse of some promise for Nicky Henderson’s yard, and Mack The Man who’s in great form but has to burden top weight in a race full of horses who may just improve past him.
1.50 (2m Handicap Chase) – BRELAN D’AS
When early odds were first published on Thursday, this entire field was priced up at between 11/2 and 18/1 so of course this is a tight, competitive handicap chase.
Doitforthevillage is bound to be popular but it has to be said he’s not getting any younger, while the similarly aged Vengeur De Guye cannot be discounted after his easy win at Kelso in October for which he has been raised 8lbs.
The percentage call here is Brelan D’As. JP McManus doesn’t buy many bad ones and Paul Nicholls doesn’t train many either, and with Barry Geraghty on board we have a full house in terms of the quality of the human element involved.
Form wise, Brelan D’As unseated round here last time but had been well fancied, he was on the improve up to and including his third in the Grand Annual at the Festival in March and at eight years old can get better yet.
2.25 (2m4f Novices’ Chase) – BIRCHDALE
This is a field that has cut up with only four of them taking part, but with the possible exception of Poker Play who looks to be a notch below his rivals, they all have a chance and so tactics allowing we should see a fair and high quality race all the same.
Fergal O’Brien has been having a great time of things and we recommended some of his horses to good effect on the blog last month and now his recent winner Jarveys Plate goes again. He beat Reserve Tank easily last time out, a horse who has gone on to win a Grade 2 since, but while his quality is not in doubt, he has a fairly big weight to carry.
Nicky Henderson’s 5-year-old Angels Breath is back from a break and his yard are looking for him to have a big season over fences, though this is his larger obstacle debut and we cannot accurately say to what level we believe he will run, particularly first time up.
Despite his restrictive price then and the fact that he also makes his chase debut, the suggested bet is another of JP McManus and Barry Geraghty’s runners in the shape of the Nicky Henderson trained Birchdale.
On just his second hurdle start this horse reached a very good level when destroying his field in the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Trials Day at Cheltenham in January, but was pulled-up at the Festival. He’s back and raring to go now, able we think to show his class.
3.00 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – KINGSWELL THEATRE
A terrific race for the public but a nightmare for punters you could argue, we have to take a chance on certain runners being reinvigorated but at the odds we are more than happy to take a swing with Michael Scudamore’s 10-year-old Kingswell Theatre.
Having been still going the right way right up to April, the King’s Theatre gelding received a wind op a short while ago and returned with a more than reasonable fifth in the Durham National. He’ll be fitter and better today, so gets the nod ahead of Tea For Two and Rolling Dylan.
3.35 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 2m5f – Grade 2) – THYME HILL
Formerly known as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle, this race is a great stepping-stone towards March and one horse that it is easy to envisage going on and doing well in four months’ time is Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill who should be backed in this, as long as a price of around 2/1 holds.
Having finished third in the Champion Bumper and starting his hurdling career with a comfortable Grade 2 win at Chepstow, his class is there for us all to see and there is no obvious reason why his form should take a downward turn in this contest.
Both Dancing On My Own and Some Day Soon can both improve and can challenge for places too.