The further he went the better Thyme Hill looked at Cheltenham on Saturday and if we saw a Cheltenham Festival winner on BetVictor Gold Cup Day I feel it was the Philip Hobbs’ novice hurdler who is 14/1 at BetVictor for the Albert Bartlett (3m) and 12s for the Ballymore (2m 5f). One would imagine he would go for the longer race on good ground and the shorter trip if conditions are testing as they were on Saturday.
They go at Plumpton this afternoon and Quloob, who was rated 90 on the flat, is likely to be all the rage for Gary Moore having shaped with promise when third at Ascot on debut over the minimum trip suggesting today’s additional half-mile would suit.
He acted on soft ground on the level, but heavy winter ground looks less than ideal and preference is for The Grey Scholar (12.30) who won his sole point by 30 lengths on good ground but, as a son of Oscar, should not be inconvenienced by today’s heavy ground. The market should provide valuable clues as to stable expectations but he may not have to be anything special to run a big race on debut.
Champagne Court (1.00) was very impressive at Sandown last Sunday and I would be surprised if a 7lbs rise were enough to prevent him following up for Jeremy Scott and Nick Schofield. Plumpton often get good horses contesting their Monday cards with the executive putting on a £60,000 bonus for chase winners who also go on to score at the Cheltenham Festival. Champagne Court looks the type of for the 0-145 Close Brothers novices handicap chase on the opening day.
Juge Et Parti goes unpenalised for her recent Hereford win but that success was gained on good ground and I wonder if he will be as effective on the forecast soft ground. The mare Coded Message has winning form on heavy ground and ran a good race on her comeback at Southwell recently but the vote goes to the lightly-raced Vaziani (2.00).
The selection ran a better race than his finishing position would suggest at Cheltenham last month and I saw his amateur rider Liam Harrison ride a winner at Uttoxeter on Saturday.
Duhallow Lad (2.30) is only 2lbs higher than when scoring over C&D back in March 2018 and he holds Le Coeur Net on that form although the latter is a talented horse. One of these days he will get his jumping together – when he does, he will be a threat to all.
The selection has had a pipe-opener at Fontwell – a shade keen – and he will hopefully be more amenable to restraint this afternoon.
Cheque En Blanc (3.00) won the corresponding 3m 4f Chase 12 months ago from a 3lbs lower mark and can follow up despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs. The seven-year-old has not won on soft or heavy ground but has run well with plenty of give underfoot.
Timely Gift (3.30) steps up to 3m for the first time in the finale but gave the impression he would improve for the additional distance when second at Fontwell over 2m 6f last time from a 2lbs lower mark. With just 10st 3lbs to carry he would hold outstanding claims if his stamina was guaranteed.
At Wolverhampton Royal Dancer (3.50) ran into an unexposed sort when runner up at Chelmsford last time and he is taken to go one better for Sylvester Kirk and Thomas Greatrex. The selection has only one career win to his name but did little wrong last time and is only 1lb higher.