The opening day of Cheltenham November meeting is today’s racing highlight.
I am looking forward to seeing Station Master (12.40) in the opening Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase for Kim Bailey who saddled the winner of the corresponding race back in 2014 and who trained the 5/1 market leader Dueling Banjos 12 months ago. The latter would have gone very close but for making a terrible mistake at the water jump. Jamie Codd comes over from Ireland for the ride and the form of his recent Uttoxeter second was franked when the winner – Just A Sting – followed up at Exeter on Wednesday.
The Young Master bounced back to form when scoring on his seasonal debut at Chepstow last month – at the time of writing it is unclear whether the Neil Mulholland trained 10-year-old will wait to run on Saturday. Whatever race he lines up in he is worth more than a passing interest.
Modus has been all the rage (9/2 into 5/2) for the BetVictor Handicap Chase with the sponsors during the week but the each way alternative is A Hare Breath (1.50) who has a terrific record fresh and landed a gamble at this corresponding meeting three years ago. The selection is 6/1 at BetVictor and can reward each way support if his jumping stands the test.
Grand National winner Tiger Roll will start favourite for the X-Country event, but Gordon Elliot suggested earlier in the week that his prime target was a fourth win at the Cheltenham Festival in March followed by a bid to become the first horse since Red Rum to win the Grand National back-to-back. He is the 3/1 favourite with BetVictor but is overlooked this afternoon.
French raider Urgent De Gregaine (3.00) is 10lbs better off with Tiger Roll for two lengths at the Festival and finished third in this corresponding race 12 months ago off the same mark he runs off today. Trainer Emmanuel Clayeux gave him a recent pipe-opener at Auteuil and he should be cherry-ripe for today although this will be the fastest ground he has encountered for some time. At 6/1 with BetVictor I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race.
Dinons has won his last five starts for Gordon Elliot and was clear when coming down at the last on his only other start over timber. He is a class act and a worthy favourite, but I felt Pym (3.35) was crying out for a step up in trip when beaten at Ascot at the beginning of the month.
The selection is the half-brother to several previous winners up to three miles and, in receipt of 3lbs from the Elliot horse, he gets the narrow vote. Coolanly only got as far as the fourth at Chepstow last time but was well supported in that competitive Grade 2 and is another to consider in a cracking finale.
At Newcastle and Chozen (12.30) has been raised a harsh looking for 9lbs for a hard-fought half-length win at Southwell last time but the third horse was a further 16l away and I feel he can double up for Tim Vaughan.
Imada was taken out of a race at Ayr earlier in the week on account of the heavy ground and is one to keep on the right side of going forward although he may need slightly further than the minimum trip.
Granville Island finished last season with a hat-trick of wins and looks sure to go close in the Veterans’ Chase, but I feel Brandon Hill (1.40) has been shaping as if a drop back in trip would suit this bold front-runner.
Over at Lingfield and Referee (3.10) is an already well-bred gelded son of Dansili who shaped with considerable promise on his belated racecourse debut at Kempton last month. He is entitled to come on for the experience and gets a narrow vote in a competitive Maiden.