Ruby Walsh returns to the saddle at Thurles this afternoon aboard Lareena for Willie Mullins and let’s hope he comes through his Cheltenham fitness test unscathed.
The five-day entries for the opening day at the Festival were published yesterday and Walsh’s intended mount Footpad (5/4 with BetVictor) will face a maximum of nine rivals in the Arkle.
Samcro was one of 28-entries for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2m) which suggests connections have not yet discounted a crack at the two-mile option although my understanding is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2m 5f) remains his likely Festival engagement. .
BetVictor announced their Cheltenham Festival Jump Starter offer yesterday and new customers who deposit and bet £10 at odds of Evens or greater on any sportsbook market will receive £60 bonus funds including £50 in free sports bets.
There is a good card at Wincanton this afternoon and the valuable 2m handicap hurdle is a cracker with recent Chepstow winner Moabit raised 6lbs for that fluent success for Paul Nicholls. That was the first time he had been ridden the by the excellent Bryony Frost and he has every chance of following up.
I am fascinated however, to see Watcombe Heights (2.40) drop back to the minimum trip, having travelled like much the best horse over an extra five furlongs on his first start for Colin Tizzard earlier in the month.
All nine can be given a realistic chance in the feature chase over three miles and a furlong, but the each way vote goes to Two Smokin Barrels (3.10) representing the Scudamore brothers Michael and Tom.
The selection has won from a higher mark in the past and looked ready for a return to further when just outpointed over a trip just shy of three miles at Leicester last time.
Storm Home (3.45) would be receiving a couple of pounds from Jurby if this were a handicap and there is little between the penalised runners on a line through Grand Sancy, who has finished runner up to both principles earlier in the season. I prefer the chances of the Tizzard-trained runner up who is two years younger than the Oliver Sherwood trained eight-year-old.
Secret Investor (4.15) was bitterly disappointing last time but his previous form suggests a return to a right-hand track and two-and-a-half miles will make him hard to beat. Samburu Shujaa is the obvious danger although he suggested he would prefer going left-handed when third at Exeter last time. Do note a bold show from Golden Sunrise at Fontwell on Tuesday would be a boost for the form of the Hobbs runner.
Clondaw Westie (4.50) has been raised 9lbs for an eight-length win at Leicester last month but he would have won even more convincingly but for giving two fences a clot on the way round at Oadby. Aidan Coleman keeps the ride for Lawney Hill’s charge and of more of a concern is the step up to an extended three miles from two-and-a-half.
At Carlisle, Grove Silver (3.55) can continue the recent good run of Jennie Candlish in his first-time blinkers dropping back to two-and-a-half miles. The selection travelled well but failed to get home on deep ground over three miles last time and he won this corresponding race on similar ground from a 7lbs higher mark in a first-time visor last year.
As mentioned previously Lareena is Ruby Walsh’s first mount back from injury but I’m looking forward to the hurdles debut of Savannah Storm (3.15) who has his first start for Gordon Elliot having been rated 93 on the level when he won a heavy ground maiden for Ger Lyons.