First day of the three-day Cheltenham November meeting takes place today, with a slightly low key start to the proceedings, albeit with a few interesting betting opportunities.
Most impossible race to analyse is the Fairlight Books Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at 1.15, with a field of 19 fighting it out over 2 miles, but, nothing ventured etc, we are having a crack at it.
Favourite at 9-2 is the Jonjo trained, JP owned Counter Shy, which has won and finished second in its two hurdle races so far. However, an opening mark of 124 does not look generous and, even though the trainer has taken this race twice in the past five years, we pass today.
Two runners are technically ‘well-in’ and are priced up just behind the fav – Magic Dancer, unpenalised for a Conditionals win just 4 days ago and Oxwich Bay, just beaten in a Warwick event a week ago. Leaving aside the problem of running so soon after earlier exertions, Magic Dancer beat a non-staying 3-y-o and not much else, while Oxwich Bay is effectively 5 lbs higher owing to a jocke y change. At the current prices, we pass again and concentrate on horses at more ‘working man’ prices further down the list.
War On The Rocks at 12-1 (each way) is our first choice. Having its first run for two years, this Fergal O’Brien trained 8-y-o ran an absolute stormer four weeks ago, staying on strongly into third behind one of today’s opponents, Arty Campbell. With previous hurdle form making this horse a ‘gift’ off a plater’s mark of 110, provided the dreaded ‘bounce’ doesn’t come into play it has to be our top bet.
In case it does, best to have an each way bet on its conqueror, Arty Campbell at a juicy 25-1. This horse has been rejuvenated by different riding tactics (exaggerated hold-up) and its new mark of 106 still compares very favourably with its Flat mark of 83.
Finally, it’s worth having an each way bet on the Northern raider Slanelough, making its handicap debut for Rose Dobbin. Consistent without winning last season, this 5-y-o showed big improvement first time out this, winning a competitive Novice event at Carlisle. The handicapper has chosen to leave the horse’s mark unchanged at 119 and with the fourth in that race winning well next time, the 25-1 on offer should be taken.
The card opens with the Market Insurance Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase over 3m 1f and in this we like Ian Williams’ representative Indian Castle at 13-2 (each way). A previous course winner off 135, this 9-y-o was having its first run for 18 months when a well-backed second over today’s CD at the end of October. Just raised 1lb to 128 for that effort, which was also in an Amateurs race, Sam Waley-Cohen can make it second time lucky.
The BetVictor Handicap Chase at 1.50 can also fall to Ian Williams with Kapstadt at 7-2. Least experienced over fences of the field, provided the jumping holds up, this 7-y-o can triumph under Will Kennedy.
The Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase at 2.25 sees the second run over fences of Finian’s Oscar, penalised for its chase debut victory at Chepstow. With two highly promising debutants from Messrs Henderson & Nicholls in opposition, we’ll sit this one out.
After this race, the proceedings are turned over to Walt Disney Productions so that Mickey and his friends can have their twelve minutes of fun, before real racing continues at 3.35 with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 2 race over 2m 5f. Favourite for this is the Colin Tizzard trained Vision Des Flos which was an enormously expensive purchase from the p-t-p field and ran a race full of promise on stable debut, when third behind Poetic Rhythm, who re-opposes, but is penalised. 4-y-os find it difficult to beat their elders in these kind of races and we think Nicky Henderson’s immensely promising novice On The Blind Side will do the biz at 3-1.
Back tomorrow and also Sunday.
War On The Rocks 1.15 Cheltenham e/w @ 12-1 Betfred (5 places)
Arty Campbell 1.15 Cheltenham e/w @ 25-1 SkyBet (5 places)
Slanelough 1.15 Cheltenham e/w @ 25-1 Betfred (5 places)
Indian Castle 12.40 Cheltenham e/w @ 13-2 SkyBet (5 places)
Kapstadt 1.50 Cheltenham win @ 7-2 10Bet
On The Blind Side 3.35 Cheltenham win @ 3-1 Betbright