Racing Daily with BetVictor – Dec 16

If we saw a Cheltenham Festival winner at the two-day International meeting at the weekend, then I feel it was Nicky Henderson’s Pentland Hills who was far too keen on his seasonal reappearance before fading from the last in the International Hurdle.

The four-year-old travelled like much the best horse in the race, and I was surprised to see him pushed out to 12/1 (from 8s) by BetVictor for the Champion Hurdle in the immediate aftermath of the race.

It is well documented that five-year-olds don’t have a great record in the Champion, but the ill-fated Espoir D’Allen showed back in March that it is not impossible for their generation to win the feature race on the opening day of the Festival. The 2020 Champion looks likely to be a wide-open, but hardly vintage, renewal of the race and it was no surprise to see Pentland Hills trimmed back to 8/1 with BetVictor on Sunday morning

An inspection was called at Ffos Las at 4pm on Sunday to see if racing can go ahead although connection appeared optimistic that the meeting would get the green light. If it does, then I hope to see the mare Deja Vue (2.35) follow up her recent C&D success in maiden company. The handicapper has seen fit to raise her by 8lbs for that win in what was a poor mares’ maiden hurdle, but I thought she looked to be getting her act together last time and gets the vote.

There is a disappointing turn-out of two for the Novice Chase at Plumpton over the best part of three-and-a-quarter-miles given winning connections will win a £60,000 bonus if the winner follows up in any chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Diablo De Rouhet has won three of his four starts in Britain since joining Nicky Henderson, but he will do well to give 10lbs to Highest Sun (12.10) who finished second to Henderson’s Pym at Ascot and that form has been franked when the winner followed up at Cheltenham on Friday.

Scrutinise (2.15) has been raised 9lbs for winning over C&D here a fortnight ago, but he remains well treated on bits of his flat form and he looked well ahead of the handicapper here at the beginning of the month. Zoe Davison has her string in good form and Page Fuller is good value for her 3lbs claim.

Gavin Cromwell saddles two in the Mares’ Maiden Hurdle at Naas including Walk Me Home (12.50) who has her first start but is bred to make a jumper given she is half-sister to a couple of decent winning hurdlers. As a daughter of Galileo, it is possible that the filly will want better ground and the betting should provide valuable clues to stable expectations.

Tiger Tap Tap (1.20) went down by a neck to the ill-fated Sir Erec at Leopardstown last Christmas and was only beaten 15L in the Triumph Hurdle back in March. Willie Mullins steps him up in trip this afternoon to 2m 3f and he is taken to belatedly break his maiden tag.

Mullins’ Bapaume (2.25) jumped well but went out like a light at Fairyhouse in a hot Beginners’ race on his chase debut and it is possible that he will find this 2m 3f on the sharp side. I expect Paul Townend to make plenty of use of his six-year-old who was only beaten 8L in the World Hurdle back in the spring.

At Wolverhampton this evening I’m looking forward to seeing Royal Star (7.10) drop back to an extended mile having been campaigned over a mile-and-a-half of late. Roger Charlton’s lightly-raced three-year-old is out of a mile/10f winner but is a daughter of Derby/Arc winner See The Stars.

The selection was keen and failed to get home at Kempton last time and is a fascinating contender receiving weight from her five rivals. Connections will be keen to get a win next to her name for breeding purposes.

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