There were concerns for the Saturday afternoon card at Cheltenham following the abandonment of Friday’s meeting but while racing is now scheduled to take place, conditions will be testing.
The feature race has attracted several sponsors over the years but is currently known as the Betvictor Handicap Chase attracting a field of nineteen runners. With the Ballymore Novices Hurdle transferred from the ill-fated Friday card, there is some quality racing with four contests featured in this preview. Three of the races will be televised on ITV.
This 2m5f Grade 2 hurdle has been rescheduled from Friday and has attracted a decent field. The Philip Hobbs trained Thyme Hill is expected to start favourite but was workmanlike when winning his first start over hurdles last month at Chepstow. He could improve for that outing and ground conditions should be no problem.
Two other challengers were separated by just two lengths when making their seasonal debuts at Cheltenham later last month. Champagne Well won on that occasion but L’Air Du Vent will be 3lb better at the weights this time and may have benefited from his opening appearance over obstacles.
One horse worth watching may be Irish raider Dancing On My Own who raced in decent company last season and who seemed to appreciate the testing conditions when a very easy winner of a minor hurdle event at Wexford last time. This distance may be a concern but that 28-lengths victory should not be ignored.
Tip – Dancing On My Own to Win (9/2)
Staged over 3m3f, this Grade 3 handicap chase could become a gruelling event in the conditions, but the David Pipe trained Ramses De Teillee is likely to appreciate the testing ground. Set to carry top weight of 11st 12lb, he confirmed his fitness by winning a hurdle race at the course last month and is a confirmed Chepstow specialist where he has won several times in bottomless ground.
Likely opponents include West Approach who hasn’t won a Steeplechase since December 2017 but who should handle the conditions, while locally trained Pop Rockstar won on his seasonal debut at Carlisle last month.
The Jonjo O’Neill gelding has winning form in heavy ground but has never raced at Cheltenham and this distance may test his stamina reserves.
Tip – Ramses De Teillee to win (5/2)
For this Grade 3 2m4f chase, connections of Slate House will be hoping for a repeat of his easy course and similar distance performance when winning last month in testing conditions. A poor effort in the Arkle Chase at the same course back in March resulted in further wind surgery and the Colin Tizzard trained gelding appears to have benefited.
There is also expected to be a challenge from Siruh Du Lac who won all four starts last term including two victories at this course during January and the March Festival. Although he has won in soft underfoot conditions, he was beaten in heavy ground last year at Worcester.
Other horses to consider include Irish raider Us And Them who is ultra-consistent but rarely wins, while Count Meribel finished creditably in second position behind the impressive Lostintranslation last time at Carlisle and he is a previous course winner.
Low-weighted Springtown Lake is another horse who could be prominent with his stamina and appreciation of heavy ground. Trainer Philip Hobbs often has some success with his early-season performers.
Tip – Count Meribel to Win (8/1)
Eminent Poet is expected to be a viable contender for this 3m Listed handicap hurdle as he is one of Venetia Williams’ confirmed mudlarks. He has not raced since finishing down the field in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival but he won first time out last term in heavy ground at Sandown and his two other wins within the past twelve months have been earned in similar testing conditions.
The 8-year-old gelding will face opposition from several fancied opponents including Tobefair. The Debra Hamer trained gelding has also proved himself in heavy going when winning a Cheltenham last month when carrying 11st 12lb. Carrying a stone more than Eminent Poet will not be ideal.
Among the lower-weighted horses, Smackwater Jack has won just once in seven hurdle outings but may have been an unlucky second at Aintree last time whereas The Butcher Said has been campaigned successfully on Summer jumping ground and may not be totally suited by these conditions.
Tip – Eminent Poet to Win (13/2)
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