Friday 22 October 2021

Showcase Meeting Day Two: Saturday 23rd April 2021 - Before Midnight to Get Home Just in Time

Some early markers could be put down on day two of The Showcase for next year’s Cheltenham Festival, several of today’s runners seemingly possessing plenty of improvement for the season ahead.

Once again, we have a selection in all seven races on the card beginning with the extended two-mile opening affair.

1.45 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – SAMARRIVE

Not many National Hunt yards will prepare their runners for a seasonal opener after a long break as well as that of Paul Nicholls’, his Samarrive looking capable of landing this race under Lorcan Williams.

The four-year-old has plenty of learning to do, but on this genuine surface he shouldn’t struggle too much even under 11st11lbs, while his wins at Angers in France and at Kempton in April showed that he has tons of talent.

He landed the odds comfortably by 13 lengths last time and there is no telling where his ceiling is. Fergal O’Brien’s Samba Dancer is a solid second choice, while Ingleby Hollow for Rebecca Menzies and Gordon Elliott’s overpriced Uncle Henry may also go well.

2.20 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – COOL MIX

Cool Mix is a tentative choice in this 3m1f handicap chase for Iain Jardine, though all being well the lightly-weighted nine-year-old can make the 520-mile roundtrip worthwhile for the yard.

Connor O’Farrell takes the ride as usual on the grey, the pair last season having won at Wetherby over 2m3½f before being placed in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle over three miles and running fifth in the Scottish Grand National. He’s an improving stayer overall and looks too big a price at double-figure odds.

There is plenty of opposition however. Jersey Bean (Oliver Sherwood), Just Your Type (Charlie Longsdon), Domaine De L’Isle (Sean Curran), Shoal Bay (Colin Tizzard) and potential market leaders Storm Control (Kerry Lee) and Cloth Cap (Jonjo O’Neill) all have chances, so stakes should be kept to a minimum.

2.55 (Class 2 Hurdle) – STEPNEY CAUSEWAY

Unfortunately, this extended two-mile hurdle has cut up badly with just four left in at the final declaration stage. The small field however accentuates the need for a turn of foot, something that drew us to Stepney Causeway earlier in the week and he is backed to score for Dan and Harry Skelton.

Most of the money in the ring should go the way of Adonis winner and Triumph Hurdle fifth Tritonic, perhaps amazingly handing us a backable price on the selection.

Despite the favourite’s Festival appearance, it could be said that Stepney Causeway has more experience now having had five hurdle starts to Tritonic’s three. They are both four-year-olds however, meaning our boy potentially has as much improvement in him as his rival.

He’s already reached a similar level to the market leader too, but gets a more than handy weight pull of 8lbs. I Like To Move It is the other serious contender but needs to take a step forward.

3.30 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Sky Pirate has been the one for money this week in this two-mile race, Jonjo O’Neill’s runner having landed the Grand Annual at the Festival back in March.

He may not be at his absolute sharpest on his seasonal bow however, something that off topweight he’ll need to be and so there is arguably value elsewhere.

Chiefly that value comes in the form of Sam Thomas’ Before Midnight. The eight-year-old gelding has shown a real liking for good ground, has the pace needed for the Old Course, and up to his season closer in April had shown a pattern in seven chase starts of almost constant improvement.

Leapaway is next on our list, ahead of the aforementioned Sky Pirate and the JP McManus runner Belargus.

4.05 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – PANIC ATTACK

This three-mile event is an important qualifier for the Pertemps Series, the 15-runner field being indicative of that.

Plenty are in with chances then but balancing up general form, fitness, speed between the hurdles, the potential for further improvement and value at the prices, most of our boxes were ticked by David Pipe’s Panic Attack.

After winning at Uttoxeter and Newbury, Panic Attack finished last season off with a fine second at Aintree and at five years old she surely has plenty more to offer up after her break. That effort was her first after a breathing operation and more is expected this year.

Tullybeg and Born Patriot are two Irish-trained horses bound to attract cash in the ring, while Nicky Henderson’s Haul Away comes into the race on a hat-trick and naturally cannot be ignored.

4.40 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – DOES HE KNOW

There are just the five runners for the three-mile novice chase, Kim Bailey’s Does He Know not being the biggest price in the world but looking the most solid of the quintet.

After an eight-race hurdling career that featured three wins and two seconds, Does He Know began chasing in fine style earlier this month with a simple five-and-a-half-length win at Chepstow over a trip just short of three miles.

He beat an odds-on shot of Paul Nicholls’ that day, a horse who’d finished hurdling with a record of four wins from 5 runs.

He didn’t have to get into top gear that day to score either, so with that in mind and seeing the sort of speed figures he clocked in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival it would seem there is a pretty big step forward to come. Roi De Dubai was next on the list.

5.15 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – OCEAN OF MERCY

Watch the betting throughout Saturday as there is always more knowledge held by trainers than punters in early-season bumpers, but on what we know so far Ocean Of Mercy looks the most solid option here.

Trained in County Kilkenny by Paul Hennessy, Ocean Of Mercy was only just held on his bumper debut at Navan in September at odds of 40/1. Shuil Donn may be another strong contender.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Showcase Meeting Day One: Friday 22nd April 2021 - The Showcase Welcomes In New Cheltenham Season

Cheltenham is back! The Showcase meeting kicks our season off on Friday and Saturday, both days promising a ton of fantastic jumping action and we have a selection here for every race on day one.

1.55 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – OFF YOUR ROCCO

The first race of the new season may well go to the returning, controversial Gordon Elliott courtesy of his Off Your Rocco.

His recent form in winning twice in a row puts him in poll position here, and that’s without the prospect of much improvement to come although he may yet take another step forward in these dryer conditions.

Early tissue prices don’t have him up at huge odds it must be said, but they do list him as second favourite only behind Philip Hobbs and JP McManus’s Camprond so we may yet get a backable price to aim at in the opening race. Jack Kennedy takes the ride.

Camprond, the mount of Aidan Coleman, is indeed our second choice with the likes of Mars Harper (Elliott) and All Clenched Up (Fergal O’Brien) appearing as though they have work to do.

2.30 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – FIDELIO VALLIS

After Harry Skelton’s championship-winning season in the saddle last time it’s perhaps no surprise that he and trainer brother Dan have the favourite in the shape of Third Time Lucki. They may be vulnerable, however.

Paul Nicholls is odds-on to become champion trainer this season, and his Fidelio Vallis has an outstanding chance of adding to his already growing tally.

Despite staying further and proving himself up for a fight, the six-year-old has clocked some consistently good speed figures which will help around the Old Course over this two-mile trip.

Although he’s young and has more to come, he also boasts experience having had six goes over fences, winning four times already and he could be decent value to score here ahead of Any News for Neil Mulholland.

3.05 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – SIRUH DU LAC

After being predicted in some quarters to head the betting, we were very surprised to see early prices of 7/1 offered up on Wednesday for David Pipe’s Siruh Du Lac who gets the vote.

He hasn’t run since last year’s November meeting, but he’s ready to go now and we shouldn’t forget that he was sent off at just 12/1 for the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Now back over hurdles for the first time since 2017, he can make his experience count at a time when winning this would be simply thought of as good prep for the rest of the season and at the odds, we can afford to take a small chance.

Almazhar Garde is also too big a price, while closer to the head of the market Dragon Bones looks the most solid for each-way and Placepot punters.

3.40 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – DANNY KIRWAN

On his return to the track after a 207-day hiatus and a breathing operation, there is plenty to like about the chances of Danny Kirwan.

Another for the Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden combo, Danny Kirwan reached a career high when winning nicely at Wincanton back in March and he’s often gone well after a break in the past.

Annual Invictus is a young horse with better to come, while Back On The Lash and likely favourite Faivoir, again for the Skeltons, all look closely matched at these handicap weights.

4.15 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – ART APPROVAL

We found this to be a terribly close and competitive affair when assessing the event, a 2½-mile handicap hurdle, and the betting has also reflected this. It’s awfully close on our book between Art Approval and Sometimes Always, the former just getting the vote.

Sometimes Always was on a roll around this time last year for Ian Williams and now he’s had a break there may be more to come, however Art Approval is very much getting better all the time and is trained by a handler we cannot ignore at this meeting.

Local trainer Fergal O’Brien knows exactly how to get winners here, particularly at this meeting, and there’s no doubt his five-year-old will have been prepped to perfection.

Captain Morgs, Guard Your Dreams and Found On all made the shortlist too.

4.50 (Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MARQUIS OF CARABAS

If we’re right (and lucky), Fergal O’Brien may be on for a quickfire double towards the end of the card.

His Marquis Of Carabas is a bit of a labour of love having been off the track exactly two-and-a-half years, but we know for sure this has been plotted by the yard and the now eleven-year-old should come out flying.

He was rated 127 and getting better when last seen on course, but begins the new chapter of his chasing life off just 119 in the handicap and has the assistance of top amateur Derek O’Connor in the saddle.

Bermeo is solid over this sort of trip (3m1f), although the younger Debden Bank, on a four-timer now, may well improve past him.

5.25 (Maiden Hurdle – Class 3) – JOHN LOCKE

As always in bumpers and maiden hurdles our advice is to check the betting in the final ten minutes before the race, as any stable-led plots will become apparent then.

On what we know so far however, John Locke may be the one to side with in the lucky last. In narrowing the field down to three preferred runners, it was Dan and Harry Skelton’s horse who showed up best.

Also on the list was Top Bandit for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, though in finishing third on his hurdling debut at 6/4 he may well have just disappointed a few people at Limerick and will need to improve now.

He doesn’t set a daunting standard for newcomer Cardano to aim at, a horse who reached a high of 100 on the Flat as recently as May and who remained in good form in that sphere right up to September.

John Locke however was fourth to both Tritonic and Monmiral (Grade 1) earlier in the year and should be too good here.