Friday marks the start of Cheltenham’s brilliant two-day International Meeting.
Lookout for Saturday’s blog. We have tips and info for the Triumph Trial, the December Gold Cup, the International Hurdle and the Grade 2 Bristol Novices’ among others.
As for today, we have a selection for each of seven races on the card beginning with the cross-country race.
12.05 (Crystal Cup Cross-Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – CREALION
We’re going over the familiar 3-mile, 6½-furlong cross-country course for the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup to open the card. There are some familiar names here too.
Likely favourite Delta Work spoiled the Tiger Roll party by winning the cross-country at the festival in March, finished third in the National and won last time out. That all sounds great, but he’s had a hard time and may be handicapped a little high.
Plan Of Attack, Foxy Jacks, Diesel D’Allier, Singing Banjo and previous course and distance winner Back On The Lash can all also make claims, but Crealion is too big a price.
The sudden improvement in his form when he won easily in France last time was no fluke and he is well handicapped on that. He also has more speed than the others at these weights (yes, that counts even at this distance between obstacles) and he may be able to dash clear if getting a clean round.
12.40 (National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle – Class 3) – TIMEFORATUNE
This race is for the 4-6-year-olds over 2 miles and 1 furlong, one in which the Twiston-Davies horse Master Chewy is bound to attract the most money.
He was ahead when he fell last time so many will treat him like a last time out winner, however he is too short a price and we’ll never know what he would have done on the run-in.
Paul Nicholls’ Timeforatune on the other hand is improving fast. He didn’t go on as much as hoped last time, but he was very green indeed and is learning all the time. With the experience under his belt, he can prove his class in this event.
1.15 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – GREEN VAULT
There are only four runners in this race, three of which are out of the handicap.
Because of that, topweight Mister Coffey is a likely short-priced favourite and there are no particular weaknesses in his game with these conditions in mind.
On our numbers however, even from out of the weights, Green Vault may be only a few pounds behind so more improvement than we expect and/or a mistake from Mister Coffey brings him right into it.
Given that Lucinda Russell brings only this horse for today from Scotland, she may feel he has a big chance and so at the odds he is worth a small interest.
1.50 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MARTA DES MOTTES
This race is a Challenger Mares’ Chase Series qualifier over the extended 2½ miles. Joint topweight Legends Ryde is relatively solid, as is Gazette Bourgeoise, but there is a lot to like about the chances of Marta Des Mottes at these odds.
We’ve compared her with the horses she’s beaten, looked at her speed figures and more, with everything pointing at the fact that the handicapper has got her all wrong.
This mare could be closer to a 120 horse than a 108 horse, meaning she looks very well in indeed and its not as though conditions are against her either. Ben Poste rides for trainer Tom Symonds.
2.25 (Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK
The feature race on day one is this 3¼-mile handicap chase worth £60,000. If the quicker conditions hold, there is more than enough in the profile of Captain Cattistock to suggest he can add another Cheltenham win to his record.
As well as the fact that his form stands up well, his local trainer Fergal O’Brien has been in excellent form so it’s fair to say the chances are the horse will be at his best.
He’s already had a pipe-opener this season so he’s race fit anyway, making him our favourite ahead of Switch Hitter, Nassalam and Commodore who won the race last year.
3.00 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – MULLENBEG
We’re back over the two-mile, one-furlong trip for this handicap hurdle. The top one Zoffanien remains of interest, likely at a nice price, while Punctuation could also improve enough to take a hand in the finish.
Anyharminasking is rock-solid by our reckoning and may well have been the ultimate selection ordinarily, but it’s just too hard to ignore the claims of Milton Harris’ Mullenbeg who gets the vote to make it four wins in a row.
According to our own stats, the handicapper has got Mullenbeg’s latest run dead on at 122. That’s based on the bare form shown, but it doesn’t take into account the improvement he undoubtedly still has and the fact that he won his race rather easily, meaning he could have pulled out more if necessary.
If he does indeed take another step forward then that may be enough for him to rack up the four-timer under jockey Jonathan Burke.
3.35 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – DUSART
Nicky Henderson has a very strong hand here as we finish over three miles in this handicap hurdle.
His Captain Morgs was entered along with Call Me Lord in a Pertemps qualifier last week but was rerouted to this race and is of some interest.
We’re not exactly sure Captain Morgs is the best handicapped horse at the moment however and it seems top stable jock Nico de Boinville may agree as he has chosen Dusart back from an absence.
The last time we saw this horse over hurdles was spring 2021. Since then, he’s gone chasing and had a breathing operation and a long break, but all in all he looks well handicapped for hurdle races in conditions he likes.
Annual Invictus, Flight Deck and Uhtred were also considered, all of whom may be the subject of some each-way bets.
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