CHELTENHAM TUESDAY 11/3/2014
SUPREME NOVICE HURDLE 2m 110yds
OVERVIEW – A wide open opener to the Festival. The stats for the past 10 years tell us that just one favourite has scored, with the Irish taking half of them and Willie Mullins claiming two victories – one with a 40/1 chance (Ebaziyan in 2007)! Mullins is three handed on this occasion with Grade 2 Hurdle winner Vautour the stable choice of Ruby Walsh. However the apparent stable ‘second string’ Wicklow Brave holds excellent prospects as the dual hurdle winner and three time bumper scorer will not be inconvenienced by better ground.
The home challenge is headed by the unbeaten Irving (Paul Nicholls – who has won this twice in past decade) and though he has been impressive to date this is a sterner challenge and the yard have not been as dominant as usual of late. Surprise Betfair hurdle winner Splash Of Ginge will have his supporters but Josses Hill (Nicky Henderson) might prove the home teams best prospect. The money has come for the progressive J P McManus owned dual handicap winner Gilgamboa (Enda Bolger) and his chances have to be taken seriously but the Pat Fahy trained Western Brave (beaten under length by Vautour in Punchestown Grade 2 last time) may prove the best ew bet.
VERDICT – Wicklow Brave is taken to beat stablemate Vautour and Josses Hill with Western Boy, Gilgamboa and Sgt Reckless also in contention for the minor honours.
ARKLE TROPHY CHASE 2M
OVERVIEW – Champagne Fever bids for his success at the Festival in a row and he carries the confidence of a large contingent of the Irish. Despite the fact that he is a tough opponent to pass up the hill here i’m inclined to take him on this occasion with a horse who boasts a similarily fine record at the venue. Dodging Bullets has taken well to chasing and was was only just outgunned by Module in the Grade 2 Betfair Chase in Newbury on very heavy ground latest – his sole defeat over the major obstacles. On the forecast better ground he can edge out the Charles Byrne trained Trifolium who has made a fine return from injury to prove himself a near top chaser as evidenced by his dismissal of a decent field in the Irish equivalent – his sole appearance saw him finish a fine third in the Supreme Novice hurdle in 2012. Former Champion hurdle winner Rock On Ruby will carry plenty of home support with drying ground to suit but the record of older horses in the race is somewhat offputting.
VERDICT – Dodging Bullets gets a narrow vote to beat Trifolium and Champagne Fever.
BAYLIS & HARDING HANDICAP CHASE 3m 110yds
OVERVIEW – Another race which is rarely kind to followers of the ‘jollies’ – only one in the past 10 runnings and average price of thr winner is 16/1. Having said that the horses those the bottom of the weights traditionally do well and we will be taking three against the field. The Irish have a poor record in the event (no success in the past ten) but the former point winner Gone Wrong holds some appeal off a nice racing weight (10-6) in his quest for a hat trick over fences. Nevertheless the former point scorer does not boast an encouraging jumping record (3 falls from 10 starts) and King Massini and Tour Des Champs look better bets to land the prize. The former took some time to land a couple of points in Ireland but he is now 3 from 4 over over fences (including here over 2m 5f) for the in form Evan Williams yard. Local trainer Nigel Twiston Davies supplies the main danger in the visored Tour Des Champs who has shown form over the track (runner up to Baltazar King over CD last October). In a wide open contest cases can be made for Lucinda Russell’s Green Flag (failed to complete last time), last years winner Golden Chieftain and Muldoon’s Picnic from the in form Kim Bailey yard.
VERDICT – King Massini can spring a surprise under Adan Wedge with Tour Des Champs, Green Flag and Muldoon’s Picnic the next best.
CHAMPION HURDLE 2m 110yds
OVERVIEW – An excellent renewal with the ‘Hurricane’ chasing his third title and an entry into the history books. However Willie Mullins brilliant 10yo faces a stern test from the up-and-coming youngsters and it is one of these that we will take to spoil the Hurricane Fly party. Dessie Hughes along with Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson have landed a brace of wins in the big race in the last decade and he can make it 3 with the 5yo Our Conor. A highly impressive wide margin winner of the Triumph Hurdle last year not everything has gone swimmingly for the son of Jeremy in the interim and indeed he has gone down to the reigning champ twice already this campaign. However back at the scene of his most impressive performance and drying ground to suit Danny Mullins mount can beat the pride of the Twiston Davies yard – The New One.
This fellow was most impressive in landing the Neptune Novice Hurdle last year and is a four time winner around here and he looks certain to go close. My Tent Or Yours beat the last named narrowly in Kempton and will be fancied to give the Henderson yard another winner in one of the showpiece races of the week but could struggle to uphold that form while an improved run from the Jessica Harrington trained Jezski would hardly surprise – especially if the fitting of a hood and more positive tactics are used.
VERDICT – In what could prove a thriller Our Conor is tipped to edge out The New One and Hurricane Fly with Jezki just losing out on the placings.
Compiled by Mike Barrett
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