Sunday means day three and the final day of the fantastic November Meeting at Cheltenham.
We’ve seen some excellent action so far, some of it of course having a bearing on the upcoming Cheltenham Festival which we are already counting down to.
This time around, the Grade 2 Shloer Chase and the Greatwood Hurdle are the standout races. In the former, Nube Negra and Edwardstone are both expected to be on the Champion Hurdle trail and go head-to-head, while the latter is very competitive.
We begin with a classy-looking novices’ chase in which one of our favourites may well land a high-profile opening win of the season.
1.10 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – MISTER COFFEY
On these pages we really rather fancied Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey to win the Kim Muir at the Festival back in March, a race in which he was a respectable and well-backed runner-up.
He also went off 5/1 favourite for the Topham at Aintree in April but frankly needed a rest, something he’s had now which should lead to him resuming his progress over fences.
With that, we reckon he can outclass Irish challengers Bardenstown Lad and Indigo Breeze, trained by John McConnell and Gordon Elliott respectively.
1.45 (Shloer Chase – Grade 2) – EDWARDSTONE
In what looks like a match between Edwardstone and Nube Negra, we could not put anyone off backing a Champion Chase runner-up who took this race easily last year and is second favourite.
As good as Nube Negra is however, his challenger Edwardstone looks the real deal and is offered as the selection in what we know as the Cheltenham Chase.
Alan King’s runner was a novice last season, but is the same age as Nube Negra and doesn’t lack experience. What he has done is improve plenty in his eight chases and really came of age when running out an impressive winner of the Arkle back in March.
He has the speed and the jumping prowess, he can do it on softer ground if the rain comes, he’s very classy and is firmly on the road to the 2023 Queen Mother Champion Chase.
2.20 (Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – SLIPWAY
In an open heat two horses stand out in the betting market; Fantastikas and Does He Know. Both horses have obvious chances on the book, however they may both prefer things to be a little softer out there and so they are vulnerable.
It’s not as though certain others in the pack are incapable at the weight anyway. One challenger, Back On The Lash, definitely wants it quicker and he has plenty of experience around Cheltenham including over on the cross-country course.
Even better off at the weights could be the bang in form Slipway of Ben Pauling’s yard and he promises to be a nice price for backers too.
Although pulling up a couple of times as well, he finished last season with a win at Southwell and a good fifth at Newbury, before heading to Perth where he won easily. He’s entered in this race and over at Fontwell.
2.55 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – I LIKE TO MOVE IT
Not many trainers truly use the Greatwood as a bona fide Champion Hurdle trial, mostly because they tend to try and win it with a lower-rated horse at the bottom of the weights.
There is a chance however that it may be treated as a trial this year given that, although ever so narrowly, we like the topweight in the race I Like To Move It.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner is rated 142 which means he’s not in the Champion Hurdle bracket yet, but he does have class and at only five years old he can continue to climb the hurdling ladder.
The difference in this competitive race is that he has more speed than the others between flights which may count for a hell of a lot. He was a Grade 2 winner at this meeting last year, a good one too, and he may be able to outclass this field.
There are plenty of others to note; Severance, Sonigino and Gin Coco being the best of them for sure, while Dads Lad is bound to attract plenty of support in the market.
3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – IBERICO LAD
The very race I Like To Move It won last year was this Supreme Trial, otherwise known as the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.
As you’d imaging there’s not a whole lot for us to go on here. What we do know is that while top contenders such as Springwell Bay and Fennor Cross are decent, they aren’t so far above standard for a race of this nature which means it could be one by an unknown quantity with potential.
That brings in Iberico Lad. New owner JP McManus doesn’t get it wrong very often with his French recruits and surely, he’ll be expecting plenty from this four-year-old as the season goes on.
He won in his homeland back in May over 1m7f, quickening clear nicely on soft ground in the style of a horse who may appreciate a better surface. He’ll get that here and it might just be that Iberico Lad has that bit of star quality needed to separate himself from the rest of this inexperienced field. Aidan Coleman rides.
4.00 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – NOTNOWNED
These bumper races are never easy to call in advance so, as always, we recommend you have a close look at the betting in the half-hour or so before post time to see what is truly fancied.
As far as picking one out based on known information goes, John McConnell’s Notnowned is definitely the one who stands out.
Second in a point-to-point in April, the son of Notnowcato was beaten on his bumper debut but ran well at 25/1 before landing a similar race in very easy fashion at Bellewstown over the summer.
On that evidence he’s clearly improving very quickly, so the fact that his current level of form beaten that offered by Roger Pol, Cape Vidal and Crambo means he has an outstanding chance of making it two from three in bumper races.