Heavy ground is the order of the day at Cheltenham for today’s feature meeting on the opening day of 2018 and happy birthday to all our equine stars who celebrate their birthday today.
I don’t think Springtown Lake (12.10) will meet anything of the calibre of last month’s Sandown conqueror On The Blind Side in the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and he can get to winning ways for Philip Hobbs. The selection has to prove he can cope with heavy ground, but he has the best form in the book and is taken to return to winning ways dropped back in grade.
Southfield Theatre hinted at a return to his best when third here at the last meeting in first-time blinkers and he has been dropped another 4lbs as a result. Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc (12.50) gets a narrow vote having disappointed in the race formerly known as the Hennessy at Newbury last time but can put that rare modest effort behind in first-time cheek-pieces.
Willoughby Court (1.25) must give weight to his four high-class rivals in the Grade 2 Dipper Chase including 5lbs to Yanworth who he beat by just 3l at Newbury last time off level weights. The selection is 11/10 at BetVictor but is likely to drift slightly given on a point of handicapping Yanworth should reverse the form. The Ben Pauling runner looked value for more than the winning margin at the Berkshire track, however, and he is taken to confirm the form.
Ballyhill must go close in the valuable 2m 4f handicap chase but my two against the field are top-weight Top Gamble and Burtons Well (2.00) with marginal preference for the Venetia Williams trained nine-year-old who has been off the track since finishing second at Stratford on ground quicker than ideal in the autumn. The selection is 4/1 with BetVictor.
Colin’s Sister (3.10) must carry a 6lbs penalty for her Wetherby win earlier in the season but she is taken to land the Relkeel Hurdle for Fergal O’Brien. The mare was below par at Newbury last time but I am prepared to forgive one modest effort and she might appreciate the return to 2m 4f from three miles. The mare is 2/1 with BetVictor and gets the vote in what looks a sub-standard renewal of this Grade 2 contest.
In the last at Musselburgh Misfits (3.25) should appreciate the return to three miles in a race he looks to have been laid out for having been seeing plodding on over the minimum trip at Kelso on his sole start so far this term.
The 3m Novices’ Chase at Catterick looks a cracker with Impulsive Star (1.35) just edging out Three Ways as long as he is over his fall here at the last meeting when he was three lengths clear at the time. Three Ways looks a thorough stayer and remains one to keep on the right side of for the second half of the season.