The ground was given as good to soft at Cheltenham on Thursday ahead of the opening day of their two-day December meeting. There is no significant rain forecast tomorrow or Saturday – although light showers forecast Thursday evening – and conditions should be just about perfect.
Any News was a facile winner on his hurdles debut at Bangor-on-Dee but the market leader – Easy As That – hardly jumped a twig and marginal preference in the opening Novice Hurdle is for Lucky One (11.30) who appreciated the drop back to the minimum trip when scoring at Southwell last time for Paul Nicholls. The selection was formerly trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland and was visually very impressive in Nottinghamshire when he bounced off ground officially described as good to soft but was almost good. The selection is 5/2 with Boylesports.
The Peterborough Chase was abandoned at Huntingdon on Sunday but is rescheduled for today and we have a top-class renewal to enjoy. Mister Fisher will enjoy conditions more than the soft/heavy ground of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but I hope to see former Grade 1 winning chaser Kalashnikov (1.50) return to something like his best form.
Amy Murphy’s stable star disappointed in his last couple of starts last term, but had his wind operated on during the summer and ran very well for a long way in a valuable 3m hurdle at Haydock on his reappearance. The stable have not had a winner for a month, but they have had a couple of inmates run very well in defeat in recent days. The selection is 9/2 with Boylesports.
The mare Court Maid (2.25) has won three of her four starts for Tom Mullins since being sent over fences including a fluent win over 3m 5f at Fairyhouse last time. Connections bring her across the Irish Sea possibly as a sighter for the NH Chase back here in March, but she will be staying on when others have cried enough over this 3m 2f+ trip. There was 3/1 freely available when betting opened but she has been backed into 7/4 with 10bet. Note because of rail movements we must add 126 yards to the advertised distance of the contest.
Steely Addition has been a bitter disappointment in recent outings, but the handicapper has relented, and the Philip Hobbs yard are in good form of late. I will be monitoring the market to see if there is any stable confidence.
At Bangor-on-Dee I hope to see the maiden Eurkash (12.20) get off the mark on his second start over fences having run well in third at Hereford last time when he jumped left at all his obstacles. A return to a left-handed track will suit and Gavin Sheehan takes over in the saddle. The 4s with BetVictor looks fair.
Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten Glynn (2.17) makes his handicap debut off an opening mark of 134 at Doncaster and I thought he looked very smart when scoring over today’s C&D back in January. The selection had previously won his sole point and has had his wind operated on since his last start. Jerry McGrath, who rode him on his British debut, keeps the ride. The 13/8 with William Hill did not last long and, at the time of posting, he is into Evens with the same firm.
Earlier on in the card I’m not convinced Captain Blackpearl will be able to defy a 13lbs rise for his Kempton comeback success especially if the forecast overnight rain hits the ground.
Chris Gordon has his string in good form and Shut The Box would have been the recommendation on good ground, but the nod goes to Evander (1.42) who ran very well in a better race at Market Rasen last time and won twice on soft ground over hurdles last season. He is a winner of his sole point-to-point and only 3lbs higher for the last of his hurdle successes. He is the ousider of the four-runner field at 9/2 with Unibet.
At Punchestown Captain Guinness (12.25) is on something of a retrieval mission having pulled up at Tipperary on his chase debut. The selection was reported to be clinically abnormal post-race and he is best judged on his run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle back in March when he was going as well as anything when brought down two out. He jumped well enough on his chase debut, but he could not live with the exciting Unexcepted from halfway. That was surely not his running.