The Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle is one of the feature races at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day on Saturday and Colin Tizzard’s Finian’s Oscar (3/1 at BetVictor) steps up to three miles for the first time since his point-to-point win back in October 2016. Wholestone (7/2 at BetVictor) must give 3lbs to the favourite and I remain concerned about the form of the Tizzard yard.
They are due to race on soft ground at Warwick this afternoon and Molly The Dolly (1.25) can give weight to her four rivals in the 2m 5f Mares’ Hurdle. The selection was outclassed in a listed contest at Haydock just before Christmas having impressed when scoring over C&D previously. The Dan Skelton-trained mare tried to make all at Haydock last time and it would be no surprise if she were ridden with a more restraint this afternoon.
I am convinced Yanmare remains well-handicapped but this C&D winner can often make mistakes and he needed all of the 3m 6f trip to get on top at Exeter last time. If his jumping holds up he will be hard to beat but the narrow vote goes to stablemate Millicent Silver (2.00).
The selection ran a decent race over hurdles returning from an eight-month break here last month and runs off a mark only 1lb higher than when scoring under similar conditions at Newton Abbott albeit nearly two years ago. Sam Twiston-Davies rides for his father and the combination teamed up aboard the admirable New One at Haydock at the weekend.
Heavy ground also the order of the day in the Borders at Kelso where I hope Donald McCain’s Whitsundays (1.45) can land the extended two-mile chase. The selection got going too late when runner up over slightly further at Sedgefield last time and he is taken to reverse earlier Bangor form with Uno Valoroso who was, arguably, unlucky not to follow up at Haydock last time when a bad mistake at the last cost him his chance.
Cool Mix (2.55) has finished runner up in his last couple of starts and deserves to go one better. Connections appear to have found a good opportunity for this six-year-old to break his maiden tag.
The big betting race of the day is the Thyestes Chase from Gowran Park and I am sure there is a big race in Sumos Novios between now and the end of the season although I am not convinced he will appreciate this thorough test of stamina. The booking of 5lbs claimer James Bowen catches the eye for Gordon Elliot’s Out Sam, but marginal preference goes to Monbeg Notorious (3.00) who goes straight into this competitive handicap from a Beginners Chase where his jumping got better as the race progressed. Jack Kennedy takes the ride and the seven-year-old (10/1 at BetVictor) is visored for the first-time this afternoon.
Last year’s Pertemps Hurdle winner Presenting Percy (1.50) reverts to timber, having won a handicap chase at Fairyhouse last time, in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle and he can get the better of the Mullins pair Bacardys and Lets dance who are both stepping up to three miles for the first time.