The International meeting gets underway on Friday and, while Saturday’s card is the one most people are looking forward to, todays has on it the £60,000 Grade 3 BetVictor Handicap Chase, a race that may have implications for bigger upcoming events.
12.10 (2m1f Novices’ Hurdle) – GLORY AND FORTUNE
5-year-old Chantry House should be very popular here, representing crack connections JP McManus, Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty. He in fact should be the market leader and he shows up pretty highly on our ratings too, though he is vulnerable we feel to one with a little more racing experience.
That contender is Glory And Fortune who, while only a 4-year-old, has run in two hurdle races already, acquitting himself well including at Haydock last time out in a Listed race when he was hampered in his run en route to finishing third. He should improve and will be good value to land the opener.
12.45 (3m1½f Novices’ Chase) – PYM
Stoney Mountain is interesting now going chasing while Imperial Aura should go on after winning last time, however in fighting for place money they may have their work cut out to get past Rockpoint who is consistent rather than brilliant, but has run well around here twice now and is clearly improving steadily.
The one to be on though seems likely to be Nicky Henderson’s Pym, the 6-year-old who has already left his hurdle form well behind after just two chase starts, reaching a mark of 149. He won very well at Ascot last time with the major point about him being that he can jump brilliantly, meaning he’s able to take lengths out of his opposition and keep much needed energy for the hill.
1.20 (2m1f Handicap Hurdle) – BARNTOWN
With 14 runners this at first glance looks like a highly competitive handicap hurdle, but there are three that for various reasons appear as though they may be a little way ahead of the handicapper and as such should be the ones to concentrate on.
Ecu De La Noverie, Philip Hobbs’ runner who is a good deal better now than when he last ran over hurdles and Oakley, our next best and also trained by Hobbs, is very much going the right way and seems to handle this track quite well but they may both have it all to do to get beyond Barntown.
Right at the bottom of the weights, Tim Vaughan’s runner doesn’t have a lot to carry and yet is used to an undulation and some heavy ground, so should see things out well here. Given natural improvement from his latest Lingfield success, he could be a horse heading into the 120’s making his official mark of 112 for this race look very lenient indeed.
1.55 (2m4½f Mares’ Handicap Chase) – CHEQUERED VIEW
None of the six mares involved here can be considered to be out of form as such, and so this is a pretty open race on the face of it.
At nice prices the likes of Skewiff and Parlour Maid can get involved in the finish, but the solid one of the bunch appears to be last-time-out winner Chequered View and she gets the nod.
Her win at Fakenham was achieved on good ground and over three miles, but her stamina could come in handy at the death here and arguably her most impressive performance to take came over this trip on soft ground at Worcester in the early autumn, meaning there’s not much not to like about her profile.
2.30 (BetVictor Handicap Chase – 3m2f – Grade 3) – WEST APPROACH
It’s tight at the top in this important race, but while several are in contention on paper there are doubts lingering over them. Whether it be taking a punt on some coming back to form or chancing whether or not they’ll handle Cheltenham, runners such as Singlefarmpayment, Dandy Dan and Cogry are all viable options but all have question marks.
West Approach on the other hand, the likely market leader for trainer Colin Tizzard, does handle Cheltenham just fine and is going the right way.
Having won well here over a slightly longer trip in November, he was sent off favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury no less but crashed out at the seventh. If you’re in the frame of mind to say he was the rightful favourite that day, which we are, then we have to believe he can put in the sort of performance that would make him well handicapped today off a mark of 150 and with no concerns regarding the track, the trip or underfoot conditions, he is the percentage call.
3.05 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – NEVERUSHACON
There are some good old favourites lining up here including Yanworth, Josies Orders and Kingswell Theatre who we think could go very close at the weights, but interesting too in this sphere are Chic Name and Jessie Harrington’s Neverushacon who rates as just about the selection.
The 8-year-old was behind Yanworth last time in Ireland but should enjoy it here while he also looks capable of coming on plenty from that run at Punchestown. Should he indeed improve in this contest, then off 11st4lbs he is weighted to win we feel and at around 10/1 would represent great value too.
3.40 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – GOODBYE DANCER
The lucky last is a very, very wide-open race and so a leap of faith will be required to a degree. At the likely prices though, it could be worth taking a chance on Fergal O’Brien’s Goodbye Dancer.
The local trainer has a great record here and has only just recruited this horse from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard, a move that it is hoped will trigger some reinvigoration and improvement in his form.
Having already shown a liking for Cheltenham, he may well make light of his current mark now he’s had a change of scenery and could get the better of the likes of Ask Ben, Falco Blitz and No Getaway.