Good ground at Cheltenham for the first day of their Showcase meeting but there is no rain forecast over the weekend and the executive may be forced to water on Friday evening ahead of Saturday’s card.

The Novice Chase is a belter, and the hope is that Dan Skelton gives the green light for Third Time Lucki to make his eagerly awaited chase debut. The 6-y-old was taken out of a race at Wetherby on account of the good ground earlier in the month and has yet to win in three previous runs at Cheltenham, but he has an outstanding record fresh and is a fascinating contender.

Fidelio Vallis has won four of his six chase starts and looks sure to go hard from the front but is penalised 8lbs for those victories and the vote goes to Any News (2.30) who went down by just a neck on his chase debut at Warwick.

The selection – 11/4 with Boylesports – has a history of going well fresh so he may not come on a ton for that run, but he jumped soundly, has run well at Cheltenham in the past and gets a narrow vote in a race that the winner has been returned no bigger than 10/3 in the last eight years.

The Novices’ limited handicap chase is another tremendous race despite only five going to post. Favoir has won his last three including on chase debut at Uttoxeter earlier in the month, but he has nothing in hand of Annual Invictus who meets the winner on 6lbs better terms and looks sure to appreciate todays step up in trip. Do note Favoir is closely matched with chase debutant Torn And Frayed on hurdle form here back in the spring.

At the prices, however the value lies with Back On The Lash (3.40) who has won three of four starts over fences and the form of his latest win at Uttoxeter has been franked by the second and third. He is 3lbs higher today, but his fast fluent jumping is likely to be an asset. Sean Bowen is likely to try and make all on Martin Keighley’s seven-year-old who will get further in time. The selection is 9/2 with William Hill.

Captain Morgs looks fairly treated for Nicky Henderson in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle, but he did jump right at Fakenham back in February although he hung left at Kempton on his penultimate start! He is 6s from 17/2 with William Hill.

Alan King has his string in good order, and I feel Dal Horrisgle (4.15) can bounce back after what was a disappointing run at Uttoxeter last time. The ew selection – 11s with 10Bet 4 places – is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time by Alan King having had his wind operated on after a facile success at Market Rasen in a moderate three-runner race back in June.

The concluding Maiden hurdle is another terrific contest and I hope all the main protagonists stand their ground. Cardano is rated ninety-six on the level but was taken out of a race at Wetherby last week on account of the fast ground. Note he was well supported in the market before his defection.

Few Bumper horses impressed me more than Go Dante (5.25) did at Wincanton back in March and I am looking forward to his hurdle debut this afternoon. That success came on soft ground and the form is nothing special, but he looked a class act on that occasion and was being aimed at the G2 Bumper at Aintree before connections decided to draw stumps. Jockey Aidan Coleman suggested in Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow that he had schooled well over timber and “definitely had the pace to start off over two miles.”

The opening 5/2 on Thursday looked too big and the selection is 13/8 with MansionBet at the time of posting.  

Soft ground at Doncaster for their flat card and I hope to see Titian (3.50) build on his second at Beverley on his belated reappearance at Beverley in August. The gelding – 2s with Boylesports – was taken out of a race at Yarmouth the following month, bit has only had five career starts and is open to further improvement. Ryan Moore is booked with Tom Marquand at Newbury and the selection ran very well on his sole previous start on soft ground.

I think the step up to 1m 5f+ on soft ground will suit Crema Inglesa (3.58) at Newbury and Jamie Osborne’s filly can reward each way support with John Egan taking over in the saddle. The selection – 11/1 into 17/2 with William Hill – got going too late over 12f on good ground last time and she won well on soft ground – albeit over 10f – at Sandown on her penultimate start.

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