The Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle is the main event on the final day of the Cheltenham November meeting, with 14 runners standing their ground for the 3.00 kick-off.
We gave Flying Tiger in the Elite Hurdle last weekend and, turning in, you would have been forgiven for starting to calculate your winnings, so well was the horse travelling. However, it found less than expected and finished third behind London Prize, which re-opposes this afternoon. Running over hurdles for the first time since April and 5lbs better off today there are grounds for thinking revenge may be taken – but wait, let me take you back to March and the Fred Winter at the Festival.
Flying Tiger won that race, but just two necks back in third place was the Brian Ellison trained Nietzsche, which now has a handy 5lbs pull and the assistance of James Bowen, last seen landing our bets on Thomas Campbell just yesterday.
Nietzche hasn’t run over hurdles since, but is fighting fit from a Flat campaign, in which discipline it is rated a commendable 84, and has been pointed at this event for some time. The biblical rainfall yesterday is manna from heaven for this 4-y-o and is our main selection for the race, each way, at 11-1. (4 places)
We are not sure what the eponymous Herr Nietzche would make of the mind of Jenkins, a horse expected to be the star novice of the mighty Henderson yard last season, but who spent most of it not wanting to know. However, the only time Jenkins has encountered soft going, it thrashed Bags Groove by 5 lengths at level weights and with Bags Groove now rated 140, an opening handicap mark of 137 could be an early Christmas present.
Noises from Seven Barrows suggest that Jenkins is a reformed character, so, on a s-o-b basis, we recommend a win bet at 5-1, in case it’s a shoo-in.
We wrap up our coverage of this race with an each way suggestion on a horse that seems to have been around for ages, but, in fact, is still only six. Step forward Old Guard, available at an artisan’s 20-1. Old Guard spent much of last season failing as a chaser, but the season before won this very race off a mark of 145. A close season wind op and a return to hurdling has seen a much improved racehorse and with the impressive Bryony taking off her 5, OG effectively runs off 144, giving it every chance of a repeat.
The rest of the card is more to watch than to bet, with the exception of the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices Chase at 1.50. Just three runners take part and the favourite, at a shade of odds-on, is River Wylde from the Henderson camp. Connections pronounced themselves ‘very happy’ after the 6-y-o’s winning fencing debut at Uttoxeter at the beginning of this month, but, frankly, to our eyes the horse looked anything but a natural chaser and we put up North Hill Harvey against it at a much more rewarding 13-8. All Harvey’s three wins have come over this course, including its chase debut at the end of October and although the 3lb penalty it has to shoulder today is a bit of a drag, there’s plenty more to come from this 6-y-o, so get on.
That’s all, folks.
Nietzche 3.00 Cheltenham e/w @ 11-1 (4 places)
Jenkins 3.00 Cheltenham win @ 5-1
Old Guard 3.00 Cheltenham e/w @ 20-1 (4 places)
North Hill Harvey 1.50 Cheltenham win @ 13-8