Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a record six times – including four times in the last seven years – and his unbeaten grey Asterion Forlonge was trimmed across the board on Thursday morning for Tuesday’s Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser.
The 6-year-old won a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month although the time of the race was fully 10 seconds slower than that clocked by the mare Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle 24 hours earlier – although the latter did carry 7lbs less. Asterion Forlonge is a best priced 7/2 with William Hill to improve Mullins’ impressive record in the race.
Henry De Bromhead confirmed on Wednesday that Honeysuckle would bypass Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle for a tilt at the Mares’ Hurdle over an additional half-mile forty minutes later. Mullins’ Benie Des Dieux is the 8/11 favourite at bet365 for the Mares’ contest with Honeysuckle 2/1 at William Hill.
Sandown have been forced to abandon today’s card – Leicester went earlier in the week – although the racecourse executive were confident on Thursday morning that Saturday’s card at the Esher track would go ahead.
Ffos Las stage the only turf card on Friday and the mares novices’ handicap chase could develop into a battle of the Williams’s with Venetia saddling Kapga De Lily, Evan hat-trick seeking Miss Zip and Christian Massini’s Dream (2.50) and the latter gets the vote on her chase debut.
The 9-y-old won a handicap hurdle over three miles at Fakenham last time and this dual winning pointer drops back in trip by the best part of five furlongs today. She certainly has the scope for fences and leading conditional Jack Tudor again takes off a valuable 5lbs from her back.
Pres (3.55) jumped well from the front when runner up to the progressive Indian Brave at Newbury last Friday and he has been raised 5lbs for that effort from Saturday but can race from his old mark this afternoon. Chris Gordon’s six-year-old has had a busy period which is a slight concern, but he appears to be taking his racing well and heavy ground holds no terrors.
The 10f Fillies’ Maiden at Chelmsford sees John Gosden saddle two including the newcomer Margueritedevalois who is owned by the trainer’s wife. A check of the market is advised for this daughter of Nathaniel, but she faces two fillies who shaped with considerable promise on debut in the shape of Festive Love (2.35) and Scherzo with marginal preference for the former.
The selection finished runner up at Kempton over a mile last month and today’s step up in trip should suit Michael Bell’s Frankel filly who was doing all her best work late on. The same sentiment applies to Scherzo who finished second at Newcastle over their stiff mile on her sole start last month.
Hayley Turner rides Festive Love and I hope it is a good day for the jockey who keeps the ride on Vexed (4.15) who returns to 2m having met trouble in running dropped in trip at Lingfield last time when the jockey had to sit and suffer and wait for the gaps to appear. The selection was not beaten far when a staying on fourth over today’s C&D on his sole attempt at 2m previously, and David Simcock’s four-year-old is open to further improvement at staying trips.
At Wolverhampton this evening last time out winners Hooflepuff and Charlie D have five wins between them at Dunstall Park, but both run off career high marks this evening. They are overlooked in the 1m 6f handicap in favour of Fearless Warrior (8.00) who finished runner up in the controversial 2m race here in January behind Wanaasah who made all and was, arguably, given too much rope by the other jockeys in what was an apprentice event. That was the selection’s sole start on tapeta, and she has since run very well back on polytrack at Kempton. Zabeel Star won a Jumpers’ Bumper on this surface at Newcastle last time and is another to consider in a competitive heat.