Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse is not discounting the word heavy featuring in the going description in the run up to the Festival which starts tomorrow week and connections of RSA Chase favourite Monalee are not ruling out a crack of the JLT Chase over 2m 4f than the 3m Novice Chase alternative in lieu of the news.
Monalee was trimmed to 4/1 with the BetVictor for the JLT (from 5s) and punters have the insurance of money back if the Henry de Bromhead trained gelding goes down the RSA route given their Non Runner No Bet concession.
The news also broke over the weekend that Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle favourite Cracking Smart was ruled out of the Festival by trainer Gordon Elliot and Nicky Henderson’s Santini is the new 4/1 favourite with BetVictor (from 5/1).
Southwell are optimistic of being able to stage their turf jumps card this afternoon with no inspection – at the time of writing – called by the racecourse executive.
Mondo Cane (2.20) is now eleven but showed he was no back number when beaten half a length over the minimum trip at Leicester last time and the hope is that he can go one better in the opener from a 2lbs higher mark.
The maiden One Style (2.50) helped force a strong pace over two-and-a-half miles returning from a near two-year lay-off but he jumped well, is entitled to come on for the run and drops back to the minimum trip this afternoon. The handicapper has dropped him 4lbs for that effort and he gets the vote despite the burden of 12st 2lbs.
Peppay Le Pugh ran well on his chase debut at Carlisle and is another looking to break his maiden tag although a bigger danger may come from former point winner Zamparelli who makes his chase debut from what looks an attractive mark although he will certainly get further in time.
Along Came Theo (5.00) has finished runner up in his last three starts and really should have won last time when he appeared to think he had done enough when he hit the front. Will Kennedy takes over in the saddle and the hope is that he can produce the eight-year-old fast and late.
Lingfield inspect at 7.30 and the mare Kupatana (2.40) was too keen to do herself justice at Newbury on her rules debut but this winning pointer cost connections £120,000 at Goffs Sales last spring and she can win in this grade if proving more amenable to restraint.
I am not convinced Knocknanuss is crying out for a step up in trip on heavy ground but I think Marley Firth (3.45) has been crying out for an extra half-mile, having stayed on well when third at Chepstow over the minimum trip last time. The selection won a 3m point and a Chepstow Novice Hurdle (on heavy ground) back in November for jockey Bridget Andrews who is back in the plate today.
Bagging Turf has not been firing in two starts so far this term for Gary Moore and it is possible that she is a better horse going right-handed. I am going to take a chance on top-weight Vicenzo Mio (5.20) in the final reverting to fences having run some decent races over timber of late without looking as if he is a winner waiting to happen.
At Kempton, Tommy Silver (2.30) can land the Bumper for horses who have run in at least one chase for Paul Nicholls who could have a decent day. The selection finished third over fences behind the top class Cyrname and he should have too much pace for today’s field.
Far Cry (3.00) ran a race full of promise on debut when third at Lingfield (polytrack) and with that experience under her belt she can score for Hughie Morrison. She has little to fear from Henderson’s Simonia on that running and the well-bred debutantes Giving Back and Rose To Flame should be noted in the betting.
One time top class chaser Josses Hill is the class act on show but he faces a stiff task over two miles against Chesterfield and Zubayr (3.30) with a narrow vote going to the latter. Chesterfield beat Zubayr in last season Scottish Champion Hurdle but I think the Nicholls-trained runner will get his revenge in the best race on the card.