Let’s not underestimate the importance of this Saturday’s Cheltenham card.
After this, the second day of the International Meeting, we will only see New Year’s Day and Trials Day at this course before the big one in March.
In its own right, this race day is a fantastic spectacle too. Today we have seven races, two of them graded and one being among the top betting handicap chases all National Hunt season.
We have a tip in each race, beginning with the young horses.
12.05 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Class 2) – SCRIPTWRITER
This race isn’t always the most reliable trial for the Triumph Hurdle despite its title, but it is a nice race for the soon to be four-year-olds over 2 miles and a furlong.
There is added confusion this year as the big two in the betting, Joseph O’Brien’s Nusret and Milton Harris’s Scriptrwiter, are also declared at Doncaster owing to uncertainty over the frosty weather.
Assuming Scriptwriter runs in this race, he may have the edge on the Irish horse. He was better on the Flat than his main rival and has done nothing wrong over timber so far, winning both of his hurdle races to date.
If the main pair don’t run, Perseus Way would be the obvious way to go but by then he would be no sort of a price we’d imagine.
12.40 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – MONMIRAL
We’re going over the extended two and a half miles for this Class 2 novice race, one in which Monmiral is the obvious selection although he’s not a great betting prospect on his own.
He looks reliable for multiple bets however, Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old running second to none other than Jonbon on his chase debut and he’s in very much calmer waters now.
1.15 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – THYME WHITE
This two-miler feels a little like the calm before the storm on Saturday afternoon. Not that this race isn’t very competitive mind you, as the eight runners are fairly tightly matched.
Of course, we cannot rule out Gumball, Editeur Du Gite and Dolos, but it can be argued that they are not progressive and are therefore risky at the weights.
Thyme White on the other hand is going the right way for Paul Nicholls. More was expected at Ascot last time, but he was excellent the time before that at the same track and is heading in the right direction.
Third Time Lucki can be considered very well in on his track form of only a year ago, but he did go backwards last season and the wind operation he had recently needs to have done the trick.
If it has, he is a massive danger but the safe play at this point is Thyme White for Nicholls and Lorcan Williams.
1.50 (December Gold Cup Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – STOLEN SILVER
The December Gold Cup is one of the top pre-Cheltenham Festival handicap chase races of the season. Worth some £130,000, the race is run over the extended 2½ miles and this time it presents Stolen Silver with a chance to regain the winning thread.
Sam Thomas’s seven-year-old is at the stage of his chasing career which should still be before his peak, so we know he has more to offer us.
After a perfectly reasonable fourth in the Stable Plate at the festival in March, he returned to his favourite track in April and destroyed Simply The Betts in the Silver Trophy by 11 lengths.
After a break Stolen Silver returned to Cheltenham last month and was sent off favourite for the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He unseated that day but is back for more now and given the time that has gone by, it’s a fair bet that he’s a good few pounds ahead of his handicap mark in favourable conditions.
Fantastic Lady is very interesting away from the Paddy Power Gold Cup form, which is also represented by Il Ridoto and Deyrann de Carjac who have each-way chances.
2.25 (International Hurdle – Grade 2) – I LIKE TO MOVE IT
The other race on the card worth £130,000 is this, the 2-mile, 1-furlong International Hurdle.
Horses winning this haven’t had such a great record in the Champion Hurdle thereafter, though many go on to stay longer distances so keep this result in mind for other festival races.
Epatante is the star name here and she also represents Constitution Hill’s form from his stunning Fighting Fifth Hurdle win at Newcastle.
She has her mares’ allowance as well but she does remain vulnerable. Knappers Hill is on a good winning run too, but we really love the chances of our runaway winning NTF Greatwood Hurdle horse I Like To Move It.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse is improving sharply and may even turn into a Champion Hurdle type in time, taking this en route to the festival looking like a natural step.
3.00 (Bristol Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT
There have been some good winners of this down the years, including subsequent top staying chasers Blaklion and Coneygree.
Strictly on the numbers Paul Nicholls’ likely second favourite Outlaw Peter catches the eye, but there should be a lot more improvement to come from Weveallbeencaught meaning it could be a quick double for the Twiston-Davies yard.
From his point-to-point last December, to his bumper win in March and through to his debut Grade 2 third here last month over hurdles, he has improved in absolute lumps and that cannot be ignored.
Another big step forward is expected and if it comes it would be enough to see him win.
3.35 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – THEATRE GLORY
The safe way to go in the last is to side with Nicky Henderson’s Theatre Glory.
She won three races last season, including one at Cheltenham on good ground, and she was only 4/1 on her return to action when unseating.
Better for the experience, she can carry on her progression now and win for a sixth time in total in her career.
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