It’s Cheltenham’s season-closing Race Night on Friday evening, a fascinating card featuring seven races for hunter chasers only.
There are some pretty good value bets to be had on what should be an entertaining night of racing, beginning with the two-miler.
5.00 (2m½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – ENVOYE SPECIAL
The opening race looks ideal for seven-year-old Envoye Special, last seen under rules when finishing a decent if distant second to Adrien Du Pont at Kempton Park.
That was over two-and-a-half miles, seemingly his favourite trip, but given the nature of Cheltenham and the New Course in particular he should have enough time to reach his full racing speed when it truly counts under James King.
Jack Andrews’ mount Fumet D’oudairies is next best by our reckoning having put in a good round when scoring at Leicester back in March. The ground was much slower that day and he’s been beaten in a point-to-point at Dingley since then, though at just six there is clear improvement still to come. Sam Cavallaro is likely to prove to be best of the rest.
5.35 (3m2f Point-to-Point Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HOTEL DU NORD
Top point-to-point trainer Will Biddick saddles two in here with a chance, the handler looking to supplement his brilliant Cheltenham Festival win with Porlock Bay last month.
His Definite Dilemma, and especially Hotel Du Nord, have outstanding chances with the mount of Charlie Sprake getting the vote this time.
Based on what the eight-year-old has achieved in point-to-points, rules chases and also over hurdles, he looks like the classiest runner in the field here and will have no doubt been prepared perfectly.
Stablemate Definite Dilemma is indeed next best, while Alan Gill’s Getting Closer may also be worth a second look in the betting.
6.10 (3m1½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – WICK GREEN
There should be plenty of attention here on duo I’m Wiser Now and Trio For Rio given what they have achieved under rules, however Wick Green could now improve past them both in this sphere.
The eight-year-old ran in his first “proper” chase at Exeter earlier in the month, putting up an impressive performance to score by 2¼ lengths on fast ground. He should handle this OK and is bound to put up even better numbers in this bigger field on a tougher track.
6.45 (3m2½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – GARDE VILLE
Chasing a fourth win in a row and reappearing after just nine days off the track is Patricia Rigby’s Garde Ville, and it may be that the smart money will head this way.
Immy Robinson takes the ride on a horse who at 11 seems to be in the form of his life, and while even his brilliantly consistent best wouldn’t be enough to beat a fully on-form Sugar Baron here, that rival has not shown his true form for some time and so the value lies with our selection.
Sugar Baron must till be considered of course, along with Just Cause and Summer Sounds, however Garde Ville’s simple win at Ludlow in a four-runner race seemed to indicate a horse who has a little more to give now which could be enough to prove successful in this arena.
7.15 (3m1½f Mares Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HIGHWAY JEWEL
There does seem to be a genuine pecking order here in the mares’ event, meaning unfortunately the most likely winner is also likely to be much the shortest price of the bunch.
That mare is Highway Jewel, Bradley Gibbs’ seven-year-old. Having won four point-to-points in a row, Highway Jewel was sent off at 20/1 in that sphere at Chaddesley Corbett against good old Hazel Hill and ended up making all to win un-hassled by some 25 lengths.
After, the mare went to Warwick for her first chase run under rules and ran a fine second. That’s top form in these ranks, and she on that basis looks too good for this field.
Miss Seagreen is the one who looks sure to be priced-up second and will attract her share of wagers, while for the tricast African Belle can be said to have some sort of form chance as well.
7.45 (4m½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK
In all Cheltenham meetings other than the Festival in March, Fergal O’Brien can be relied upon to provide a winner or two.
In among the various point specialists here, O’Brien has Captain Cattistock who even based solely on the numbers has an outstanding chance in the race.
Of the four biggest contenders by our reckoning, Captain Cattistock is at least 11lbs well-in at the weights. To add to that, he is only eight years old and can yet improve much further.
Looking at his form a little deeper only adds to the confidence. While he hasn’t been at his very best of late, it’s entirely possible that he hasn’t been enjoying the ground and so now he gets to race at “home” and has four full miles to sort himself out, we can see him pull away.
The other three on our shortlist were Ennistown, Kilkishen and Know The Score who in particular can go well at what should be a fairly juicy price.
8.15 (2m4½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – BARNEY DWAN
We have a real mixed bag in the lucky last, and while there are many ifs, buts and maybes in the field not least connected to Risk A Fine who has been off for 700 days, we can at least play relatively safe with one contender.
That contender is Sally Randell’s eleven-year-old Barney Dwan who is rarely unplaced when hitting the track. An easy win and two good runner-up efforts on the point-to-point scene last year read well, and given that he goes well fresh there should be no worries about him running right up to form.
Lawney Hill runs Clondaw Westie off top weight who also has a chance, while Marcle Ridge remains of interest given that there is potential improvement to be found.
The aforementioned Risk A Fine was rated 135 when with Alan King and even higher when with Gareth Moore, but it remains to be seen how much of that ability remains now he has changed hands once more to Francesca Nimmo.