Lords, punters, fans, parody horse accounts, ladies and gentlemen. I must admit defeat. Your fan of both codes, perhaps not the most esteemed writer on the block, must admit defeat. The jumps has returned, and your correspondent, upon the orders of JP, must get back to work. Racing returns to Cheltenham with the Showcase meeting after a long time off – well, for the readers – and for the foreseeable future, we have a hell of a lot to look forward to.
Cheltenham is racing for the first time and we have been treated to a good card, starting with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2.00). Brilliare Momento us the favourite after a solid hurdling debut when she failed to give a lot of weight to a useful horse in the shape of Momella giving nearly a stone to the runner up, and she should go close, although there might be less between her and Blairs Cove then the market suggests despite the significant weight concession she gets. That said, the favourite didn’t run at all badly then and ought to take the beating.
It’s All Guesswork has to be respected, coming over for Gordon Elliott, but she has been beaten and well beaten twice before and there could be more improvement coming from Treacle Tart and Jabulani in a content that is perhaps more open than the market might suggest.
The Squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase (2.20) is only the second race of the day but it looks to be the best and we should earn a lot about three horses who ought to be taking high rank at the end of the season in the two-mile division. Sceau Royal has already been seen over fences and was a deeply impressive winner over Ballyhill on his chasing debut when expected to win impressive at Warwick and following up as the market suggested he would. Last year’s Elite Hurdle winner ought to go well over fences and take the beating here but Movewiththetimes looks to have plenty of promise for the coming season too and he is of serious interest here. The Betfair Hurdle runner up was very raw last season – he’d had just dour runs over hurdles – but looked as if he would appreciate a fence all through last season and surely has a lot more to come facing the bigger obstacles this season and he does get a handy weight allowance from Sceau Royale to begin his career today.
North Hill Harvey took the Greatwood last year but his two efforts afterwards were really disappointing with no tier real reason for this blowouts and he could be watching exercise for all that he still retains a considerable amount of promise ahead of this season novice chasing for a trainer and jockey team that is having huge success.
Mick Thonic and Chiu are reasonable horses but they do not look well in at the weights here.
The Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle (3.10) could go to any one of a whole host of horses with legitimate claims, none of whom yet stand out.
Gordon Elliott came over to great success last season and he can get straight on the winning thread once again with Fagan in the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices’ Chase. Second to Uknowhwatimeanharry in the Albert Bartlett of 2016, his career went off the rails a bit afterwards but he was a very cosy winner on his debut when given a sighter on debut and he ran a fine race when giving 6lbs to Ballyandy at Perth on his second start, in a race that became a sprint over 2m5f, not an ideal situation for a horse who stays three miles so very well. He looked to have the better of Beat That before he fell at the last when they met then and he can give 6lbs to him today.
Black Cordon, who was a taking winner of a valuable intermediate chase at Newton Abbott when he beat Sizing Tennessee with a good deal of ease, is another one who ought to go well here under the very taking Bryony Frost – who has already had plenty of success this season for Paul Nicholls. He jumped brilliant when cosily taking a good contest at Newton Abbot and is another who can beat a rival on much worse terms here whilst Ballymaillin was professional in winning on his chase debut at Worcester and is not to be underestimated.
The Joel Dommett Here On 6th April Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (4.20 is an incredibly tricky puzzle to solve with so many runners holding a realistic chance but Azure Fly was second last year and broke a long losing streak here when he took a handicap chase at Newton Abbott on his ‘reappearance’ this summer. He’s gone up just 3lbs for that and will be race fit against a number of interesting rivals with the significant 7lbs claim of his rider off a reasonable mark – he went up just 3lbs for winning last time – and makes a great deal of interest from that perspective.
It was a bit of a shame that Dan Le Vent couldn’t take her maiden hurdle at the first time of asking, but she is not one to give up faith in yet and it will be interesting to see how she shapes up in the Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle (4.55) against the useful point buy Slate House, who went to Colin Tizzard’s for £260,000 in March after winning his point at Tattersalls Farm. The form of The Skelton’s means that Gorton Joe has to be given serious thought too, having shaped OK on his debut on his bumper debut at Warwick in April and Point Of principle’s Aintree bumper Seventh is technically the best bumper form in the field.
The Experience The Theatre At The Festival Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is the most difficult of getting out stakes and it would be in surprise to see any of the contenders win here. Percy Street was a disappointment on his return at Chepstow, but he form he showed in juvenile handicap hurdles at the Festival an then Ascot last season has to rank highly here and if he improved physically for that return then he scan go close, but the market has this nailed with favourite Dreamcatching 11/2 and fifth favourite Lion In His Heart 8/1 and there doesn’t look to be any obvious value here.
Whilst this is the first meeting of the year at Cheltenham, already in the far distance we can see the behemoth of the meeting that takes place here in March and some horses already make appeal for the biggest races of the season, both at Cheltenham Festival 2018 and before it.
This year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup has a fantastic shape to it if all involved can stay fit – and we dearly hope so on these pages – but two horses currently standout. Might Bite, winner of last year’s RSA, produced two of the most remarkable performances of the whole season when he firstly took the Kauto Star’ Novices’ Chase and then the RSA itself. He was set to win the former by at least 12 lengths before he fell at the last, and he if had stood up then according to Simon Rowlands of Timeform (@RowleyfileRRR) he would have run the at least 2.5’s quicker than Thistlecrack when he won the King George, despite the pair being level on the home turn, an astonishing performance on the clock.
At Cheltenham, he was 10 lengths clear rounding the turn……
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Advice for Cheltenham Showcase 2017 – Day 1
3.45 Cheltenham – 2 pts win Fagan (6/4 general)
4.20 Cheltenham – 1 pt each/way Azur Fly (12/1 general)