There are 152-entries at the five-day stage for Cheltenham’s opening fixture of the season on Friday. The ground was described as good to soft at noon on Monday although a dry week is forecast, and the hope is that the entries hold up for what promises to be a terrific two-day meeting.
There is a good card at Exeter this afternoon and Eden Du Houx (2.25) is taken to make a winning hurdles debut having won a point and a couple of Bumpers last season including a listed contest at Ascot last time. That form has worked out very well with the third winning the Aintree mares’ Bumper and the fourth and fifth also scoring next time.
He won’t have things all his own way, however, with Hang In There having some excellent form in his native Ireland although he only got as far as the first before being badly baulked and unseating Adam Wedge on his British debut here earlier in the month.
There is a competitive handicap chase over 3m, and a check of the market is advised for Golden Sunrise in his first-time blinkers. His best runs last season were all at Exeter and Robbie Power takes over in the saddle for the first time.
Tom George had a winner at Market Rasen on Saturday after a quiet period and Another Stowaway (3.35) has had his wind operated on since finishing down the field here over an inadequate trip back in March. Three miles, good ground on a right-handed track clearly suits the selection who I hope will be ready for his reappearance.
The Mighty Don is a favourite of mine, but his chase campaign was aborted last season after just the one run when he only got as far as the sixth having looked anything but a natural. He is reluctantly overlooked.
Southfield Stone (4.10) won four times over hurdles last season – including at Grade 2 level – and all those successes were gained on right-hand tracks. The selection has the scope for the larger obstacles, and he is likely to be a regular visitor to Exeter, Sandown and Ascot this winter. Moonlighter is another to consider on his chase debut although he may improve for the run and might want slightly further going forward. The race honours the great Best Mate, who was a three-time course winner as well as three-time Gold Cup winner, who sadly lost his life here 14 years ago.
At Yarmouth Mac Ailey (4.00) can follow up his recent C&D success from a 6lbs higher mark. The step up to 10f looked the key to that initial career success last week although he was drawn in stall two on that occasion. He is drawn on the wing in stall 15 – of 16 – today but he does bring the best form into the race.
Dutch Story (5.00) gave Stallone – who ran at Windsor yesterday – a fright over today’s C&D last week and can run off the same mark this afternoon for Martin Dwyer and Amanda Perrett. The classic generation have won the last couple of renewals of this 7f handicap and the selection’s course record reads 12.
BetVictor are betting four places on the 14-runner handicap which opens the card at Kempton this afternoon and Liberty Filly (4.55) was not knocked about when a close fifth here last time over 7f and promises to be well-served by the step up to a mile. Her draw in stall 11 is less than ideal but she does appear to be slowly getting the hang of things.
Raeeb (6.30) was no match for the promising Kinross at Newmarket last time but he was trying to give Ralph Beckett’s colt – who is entered at Newbury on Friday – 6lbs on that occasion. Jim Crowley takes over in the saddle with Oisin Murphy having a mini break in Spain and he could have ridden the only other winner in the field Danyah.
Arabist (8.00) is another selection who has not had much luck with the draw but, after just three career starts, I hope to see John Gosden’s three-year-old follow up last month’s Haydock maiden success. That victory was gained on heavy ground, but this son of Invincible Spirit has plenty of all-weather winner in his pedigree.