The new season at Cheltenham kicks off today with a cracking card for ‘The Showcase’ meeting over two days in the Cotswolds. The card has attracted entries from Ireland, and some of the best early season runners. There are some fantastic races to look forward to, but most importantly, the return of racing at Prestbury Park signifies the start of the 2017/18 National Hunt season proper! Here I will be going through each race, picking out the ones to watch, and ultimately who is going to win (hopefully!). Be sure to follow me on twitter @JakePriceTips for live updates straight from the track, where I will be in attendance of both days.
14:00 – Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2)
We start the season off with a tasty looking 2m5f Novices’ Hurdle, with some brilliant looking entries. Brillare Momento got up to win the Listed Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle on the final day of Cheltenham’s April meeting last season, beating some useful sorts in the process. That game performance wasn’t followed up in May when 2nd at Newton Abbot, however the form has been franked in very impressive style. Local trainer Martin Keighley will expect his Mare to go close here, with an ideal trip and an allowance that takes her down to a lenient weight of 10-13 under Aidan Coleman. It will be a much sterner task taking on the boys today though, and Blairs Cove will be aiming to win a third Novices’ Hurdle. The Dan Skelton trained Irish import was thrown in the deep end over Hurdles at the aforementioned April meeting, where he finished a brilliant 2nd to the classy William Henry. Subsequently he has won two from three over timber, including on seasonal reappearance at the end of September. Whilst getting a run in before this contest will certainly be advantageous to the five-year-old, the price paid is a penalty which means the Harry Skelton mount will be top weight, running off 11-6. Irish maestro Gordon Elliot can’t stop winning wherever he goes at the minute, and Its All Guesswork deserves respect here. The Philip Reynolds owned gelding won on Hurdles debut before two third place efforts in stronger company, and looks to have been primed for this race with a bit of a break from the racecourse. Treackle Tart is also worth a mention, hacking up on seasonal reappearance but up in class for this one.
Whilst it is a very competitive opening race, Brillare Momento is rated the highest of these and is in recipient of weight. It will no doubt be a fast paced event and there won’t be much in the winning distance, however the mare showed she can battle bravely to beat good rivals back in the spring. This race should also produce some good form lines going forward, as most are very capable of producing a run.
Bet: Brillare Momento to Win @ 6/4
14:35 – Novices’ Chase (Class 2)
Sceau Royal has already produced an impressive performance when getting off the mark over Fences on the first time of asking at Warwick earlier this month. Trainer of the Champion Hurdle 6th Alan King said “He was very impressive…we were delighted with him. He jumped super”. Daryl Jacob barely had to move in the saddle that day; but he will face a much tougher task here giving away 5lbs to fences debutant Movewiththetimes. The JP McManus charge finished 2nd to Ballyandy when last seen in the Betfair Hurdle, who has since won over the larger obstacles. Although he missed the spring festivals through injury, he has had a long break to rest up and Paul Nicholls reported he was in good order, adding “we are hoping he will make up into high-class individual”. The promise is certainly there, with two wins over timber and a bumper victory prior to that, and Barry Geraghty comes over for just the one ride here. Amongst the others declared is Dan Skelton’s North Hill Harvey, who disappointed during the spring after a promising victory in the Grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Prestbury Park last November. The Lodge Hill trainer will hope that fences rejuvenate this son of Kayf Tara, who has produced some special chasers including Thistlecrack.
Experience could pay dividends here, with the 5lbs that Sceau Royal has to give away counteracted by being race-fit and proven over the larger obstacles. When you combine this with being rated at least 8lbs above the rest on Hurdles ratings, the conditions of the race are very much in his favour here. Movewiththetimes should be one to keep on side however, and can subsequently do well in this sphere.
Bet: Sceau Royal to Win @ 13/8
15:10 – Handicap Hurdle (Class 3)
Twenty one horses go to post for this Handicap Hurdle and it looks a very tough race to piece together. Eaton Hill has some very smart form beating the now 145 rated Mount Mews at Wetherby in January, but the Novice will likely need the run here stepping into Handicap company for the first time. Lightly raced Cake De L’Isle looks an interesting entry for Jonjo O’Neill, who lost his maiden tag in April. It will be a completely different ball game today in a big field on handicap debut, and the Trevor Hemmings charge will likely struggle to deal with these conditions. Ben Pauling sends Creep Desbois, who was 3rd on Handicap debut back in April, out for this contest and should go well from a winnable weight of 11-9. Top jockey Daryl Jacob started a new partnership with the local trainer in the summer, and it can continue on an upwards curve here with the second season hurdler who had the classy Snow Leopardess behind on only win over timber.
Creep Desbois narrowly wins the vote here, however a market check is advised.
Bet: Creep Desbois Each/Way @ 16/1
15:45 – Novices’ Chase (Class 2)
Although trained by Gordon Elliot in Ireland, Fagan has become accustomed to racing in Britain, with nine of his ten National Hunt starts this side of the Irish Sea. The highlight of these runs is undoubtedly when 2nd to Unowhatimeanharry in the 2016 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, in a brilliant performance. The Gelding has already started his chase career nicely with a win over 3 miles at Perth where Beat That looked well held despite falling at the last, followed by a very close 2nd to Ballyandy over shorter last month. Today’s trip will suit a lot better than when facing the former Champion Bumper winner, and he can put the 3lbs received from Black Corton to good use. The Paul Nicholls charge won a very classy looking race at Newton Abbot recently, but the step up in trip here will surely mean the race has come too soon. Ballymalin is an interesting entry, with the Nigel Twiston-Davies charge winning gamely on Chase debut at Worcester in a brilliant battle. The progressive seven-year-old will need to find more improvement to win this one, however the ground and trip will suit.
Gordon Elliot’s winning streak can continue here with the classy looking Fagan, making the trip over from Ireland worth it for Davy Russell and co.
Bet: Fagan to Win @ 6/4 (NAP)
16:20 – Handicap Chase (Class 3)
Azure Fly scored under a tremendous ride from J J Burke at Newton Abbot last month, which would’ve blown away the summer break cobwebs ready for this one. Trained by Charlie Longsdon, the gelding has already raced at Cheltenham seven times, going closest when 2nd in this race last year. Amateur rider Mr J Nailor is booked to ride once again, taking off 7lbs from the allocated weight of 11-11. This gives the 123 rated chaser a live chance, but it is again Gordon Elliot who has sent over the likely winner. Presenting Julio has been a revelation for the Irish trainer, winning two from four over fences. Most recently he won impressively at Killarney in August, and with one of the best amateurs around in Jamie Codd booked, the Cullentra House handler could be on for a quick-fire double here.
Bet: Presenting Julio to Win @ 4/1
16:55 – Maiden Hurdle (Class 3)
Dans Le Vent somewhat disappointed when only 3rd on debut over hurdles, but should’ve learnt a lot that day and improvement is expected here. 6th in the Champion Bumper at The Festival in March, Jamie Snowden looks to have a promising one here if he has polished the youngsters jumping. There is undoubtedly talent there with two national hunt flat race victories, but he may bump into one here in the form of Slate House. The exciting Colin Tizzard trained point-to-point winner was sold at auction for £260,000 in March at the Cheltenham sales, and assistant trainer Joe Tizzard hasn’t been able to hide his excitement saying “We had him in for a couple months and could see he’s a smart horse…He’s certainly one to keep an eye on”. The attraction of Robbie Power over from Ireland to ride the promising Novice speaks volumes, and this could be the start of a lot bigger targets to come if all goes well.
Bet: Slate House to Win @ 5/6
17:30 – Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 3)
The last race of the day sees conditional Jockey’s take to the track over a 2m½f trip. Dreamcatching is an eye-opening entry for Paul Nicholls, with 3lbs being claimed by Stan Sheppard. If stablemates are to go by then he might need this run, however the Novice did win three times over timber last season. Despite winning his last two races, the French import disappointed in the Fred Winter where he could only manage 15th, and others are preferred here. Lion In His Heart has been sent over to run for irish trainer Henry de Bromhead and is a fascinating character. When 2 lengths clear and the race in his own hands last time at Tipperary he ran out after the last (not for the first time!), but this shouldn’t be an issue with the track layout at Prestbury Park. If top conditional Jonathan Moore can galvanise this Gigginstown runner, then he will have every chance despite top weight, with some excellent pieces of form behind Lagostovegas and Tigris River. Having his last run at the beginning of the month, he will be extremely fit and have every chance here. Amongst the others to note is Cool Mccavity, who marks the start of a link-up between promising conditional James Bowen and champion trainer Nicky Henderson. The nine-year-old only ran 16 days ago when winning at Towcester for fitness, and will have every chance here thanks to a 6lbs claim, bringing him down to a weight of 11-5.
Bet: Lion In His Heart Each/Way @ 8/1
I hope I’ve helped you to pick out some winners for the Cheltenham season opener, and that everyone enjoys a profitable day! Remember to follow me on Twitter @JakePriceTips for live updates throughout the meeting, including photos of our selections in the parade ring.
The next meeting I will be covering with a Preview is day 2 of The Showcase at Cheltenham on the 28th October. A list of my racing schedule can be found here.
I would also like to note that I have recently updated my website, brining in my own JakePriceTips.com domain, so any support would be greatly appreciated!
Best of Luck with all your bets!🏇
– Jake Price