Cheltenham are optimistic that the last couple of days of their November meeting will go ahead as planned with the rain which forced the cancellation of Friday’s card set to abate with just the isolated shower forecast on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday’s Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle has been rearranged and will open a bumper eight-race card this afternoon. The form of Thyme Hill’s Chepstow win was given a knock when the second – Fiddlerontheroof – was beaten at the weekend and I hope to see L’Air Du Vent (12.05) improve on his recent third here on his hurdles debut when he travelled like a very good horse. He must show he handles deep ground and is considered very much a future chaser by connections, but he gets the each way vote at 4/1 with BetVictor.
In the BetVictor Smart Cards Handicap Chase West Approach (1.50) is just 2lbs higher than when runner up over a couple of furlongs shorter at last month’s opening meeting and he is taken to make the most of the weight – 11lbs – he receives from Ramses De Teillee who made a winning seasonal reappearance over hurdles here last month. The selection is 3/1 at BetVictor.
The BetVictor Gold Cup is the feature race and one of the most eagerly-awaited and competitive handicap chases of the whole season despite the late defection of Saint Calvados whose connections have decided to take up the option of running in tomorrow’s Shloer Chase over the minimum trip.
The weights are now headed by the Arkle runner up Us And Them with Siruh Du Lac and Slate House the best backed horses antepost. All three have outstanding claims in a top-class renewal of this valuable and prestigious contest, but the each way vote goes to Count Meribel (2.25) whose career form figures in the month of November read 211112.
His form often tails off in the second half of the season and he has yet to prove he can handle the hurly burly of a 20-runner field, but he ran very well behind the top-class Lostintranslation on his reappearance and can reward each way support at 8/1 with BetVictor who are betting five places on their flagship sponsorship.
My two against the field in the BetVictor Intermediate Hurdle are Legends Gold and Remastered (3.30) with preference for the latter who was given a poor ride on his reappearance when he went off as if his tail was on fire. He had no chance of keeping up the gallop, but I hope to see Tom Scudamore – who is back in the plate – give his mount a more conservative ride. At 7/1 with BetVictor he gets the each way vote.
The 2m Novices’ Chase at Wetherby is a cracker. I am a huge fan of Ravenhill Road but he has left the yard of Brian Ellison since his last start and joined Sue Smith has made a very quiet start to the campaign. Good Boy Bobby (1.05) ran a terrific race at Carlisle on his chase debut and that form was franked when winner Brewin’upastorm followed up at Taunton earlier in the week.
I feel there should be more to come from The Dubai Way (2.15) this term and he gets the vote in the 2m4f handicap for Charlie Mann who got a win out of the gelding at Plumpton back in the spring. He was previously trained by Harry Whittington and he is a chaser I have had on my radar for some time.
I am also a big admirer of Alrajaa (1.00) who has won his last three on the all-weather and is well drawn in stall four at Lingfield to maintain his progress despite a 7lbs hike for his latest success at Kempton.
On to tomorrow’s Cheltenham card and It is fascinating to see last season’s JLT (2m 5f) winner Defi Du Seuil (2.25) drop down to the minimum trip for his seasonal reappearance and he receives 3lbs from both Sceau Royal and Politologue. At 5/4 with BetVictor I would be disappointed if he didn’t justify favouritism.
The feature race is the Greatwod Hurdle and Humble Hero would have been the selection on decent ground for Dan and Harry Skelton, but my two against the field on the forecast soft ground are Harambe and Quoi de Neuf (3.00) with marginal preference for the latter who is 10/1 at BetVictor who are betting each way 4 places on this 15-runner handicap.
The selection – trained by Evan Williams – finished runner up on his comeback at Chepstow from a 2lbs lower mark and a low weight – 10st 6lbs – will surely help on ground that looks sure to be extremely testing.
At Punchestown Stormy Island (1.05) won the corresponding listed hurdle 12 months ago and she can follow up in the listed contest for mares. Trained by Willie Mullins the selection finished runner up in her next four starts including twice at the very top table.