It’s always a sign that the National Hunt season is up and running when the action returns to Cheltenham and today is the first day of the course’s two-day October meeting, with a competitive, if unspectacular, card of seven races.
First thing to say is that, at this time of the year, the appendage ‘if fit’ has to be applied to most selections, so the advice for today is to limit your stakes but not your enjoyment.
Racing kicks off at 2.00 with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f and this looks at the mercy of Brillare Momento, trained by Martin Keighley. Already a Listed race winner over this course and in receipt of the mares’ allowance, she should win, er, if fit.
At 11-10, we are unable to get too excited but a winner is a winner and the return can fund the later bets.
The squareintheair.com Novices Chase at 2.35 sees Sceau Royal have its second run over the larger obstacles, having looked a natural when winning at Warwick 3 weeks ago. However, the opposition today is different gravy and the 2-1 available about Paul Nicholls’ runner Movewiththetimes is the recommended bet. Rated 146 over hurdles and in receipt of 5lbs it’s not hard to see this 6-y-o coming home in front under Barry Geraghty.
At 3.10 just 21 runners line up for the Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle, but we’ll have a go at it with two against the field, each way to small stakes. Master Dancer at 10-1 and Cake De L’Isle at 14-1 are the ones suggested.
The Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices Chase at 3.45 sees a re-match between the Irish trained Fagan and Nicky Henderson’s runner Beat That, which has a 5lb ‘pull’ after coming down at the last at Perth in July. Not far behind then and a dual Grade 1 hurdle winner in his previous life, Beat That is a sporting selection at 9-2 to turn over the favourite.
At 4.20, the Amateurs have their few minutes in the sun with the Joel Dommett Here On 6th April Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase over 3m 1f and, once again, we’ll put up two against the rest, also each way to small stakes. Petite Power is an ‘if fit’ and a ‘if it stands up’ selection, but at 14-1 and with the excellent Lily Pinchin aboard it’s worth a stab, together with last year’s second Azure Fly at 12-1, which will be staying on when the others have had enough.
The Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle at 4.55 sees the hurdles debut of Colin Tizzard’s Slate House, which cost a measly 260,000gns after winning an Irish Point-to-Point and is odds-on to make a winning start. However, the two horses it beat in the Point haven’t managed to win a race between them and are rated just 115, so whoever was the recipient of the exalted wonga could be having a good giggle. Bearing in mind this horse could win by half the track, we are of a mind to oppose it with the second favourite Dans Le Vent at 7-2. This Jamie Snowden trained 4-y-o has serious Bumper form, having been placed in a Listed event at Newbury before finishing 6th in the ‘big ‘un’ at the Festival last March. Given a poor ride by Gavin Sheehan on hurdles debut when a fast finishing third, provided the jockey has his head on today, we are assured of a run for our money.
The card closes with the (deep breath) Experience The Theatre At The Festival Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at 5.30 and we leave this confidently in the hands of Mr N J Henderson. Cool Macavity, first ride for the yard for James Bowen and Percy Street, under Ned Curtis, should fight this out between them so we recommend each way bets on both at 7-1 (4 places with Coral).
Roll on 2.00pm.
Brillare Momento 2.00 win @ 11-10
Movewiththetimes 2.35 win @ 2-1
Master Dancer 3.10 e/w @ 10-1
Cake De L’Isle 3.10 e/w @ 14-1
Beat That 3.45 win @ 9-2
Petite Power 4.20 e/w @ 14-1
Azure Fly 4.20 e/w @ 12-1
Dans Le Vent 4.55 win @ 7-2
Cool Macavity 5.30 e/w @ 7-1
Percy Street 5.30 e/w @ 7-1