There is the prospect of a shower at Cheltenham ahead of day one of their November meeting this afternoon. Conditions are likely to be just on the soft side of good. There have been better cards at the track.
My each way recommendation in the opening handicap hurdle for conditional jockey’s is Art Approval (1.10) who was too keen on his reappearance here last month but still finished his race off well to be beaten 10l. Liam Harrison is a conditional going places and he takes the mount for Fergal O’Brien whose string remain in top form. Today’s slightly stiffer test of stamina should suit and the opening 9/1 with William Hill was too big . Their 9/2 6 places looks about right. Others to consider in a cracking heat are An Tailliur, Neon Moon and Captain Blackpearl.
My Drogo has scared off the British in the Novices’ Chase but the mare Gin On Lime should ensure Dan Skelton’s exciting chasing recruit does not have it all his own way. Henry De Bromhead’s 5-y-old has won four of her five starts over the larger obstacles this summer but My Drogo’s Grade 1 win at Aintree back in the spring marked him down as one of the most exciting horses in training. Skelton kept him away from the Festival in March and his sole defeat came here in a Bumper last October, but he will be very hard to beat if taking to the larger obstacles.
You get the impression Off Your Rocco is not considered top drawer at the Gordon Elliot yard and he must carry a 5lbs penalty in the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. The vote goes to Gelino Bello (3.30) who was very impressive when scoring at Aintree on his hurdles debut last month having finished third in a listed Newbury Bumper back in the spring.
Paul Nicholls suggested in the immediate aftermath of the Aintree event that he would try and win another novice under a penalty before upping the five-year-old in class, but this would not be the strongest race for its grade ever run at Cheltenham I think the champion trainer has found an ideal opportunity for his novice. The 6/4 again with William Hill is right.
At Worcester Head On has won three of his last four starts over fences and you can draw a line through his defeat as he palpably failed to go right-handed at Perth. He was always going best when scoring at Warwick last week and a 7lbs penalty is unlikely to prevent him following up if in the same mood. Note he has been raised 10lbs for last week’s fluent success and is thus 3lbs well-in under the penalty.
The each way nod however goes to top-weight Tallow For Cool (12.30) who is closely matched with the Ian Williams trained market leader on a line through The Newest One and is entitled to come on for last month’s Newton Abbot chase debut. A winning pointer he looks sure to make a better chaser than hurdler and he has been dropped 1lb since his promising return. The 5s with 10Bet looks fair.
Colin Tizzard did us a couple of favours at Exeter midweek and I hope to see Aki Bomaye (1.00) leave behind his hurdles form now switched to the larger obstacles. A winner between the flags the selection is a half-brother to the ill-fated Granit Jack and the grey certainly has the size and scope to improve for the switch to fences. The yard were badly out of form last term but the selection shaped with considerable promise at Ffos Las on debut back in February. He has had a wind operation since a moderate run at Hereford the following month. The selection is 7/2 with MansionBet.
File Illico (1.35) is 6lbs higher than when scoring at Ffos Las on his chase debut when he dug deep having looked as if he was going to win a shade cosily going to two out. Note the runner up – Numbers Man of the Tizzards’ – is entered at Plumpton on Monday. The selection – 3s with Boylesports – won between the flags in his native Ireland and will get further in time, but I hope to see Richie McLernon make plenty of use of his 6-year-old.
Black Poppy (2.10) still held a slender lead when coming down two out at Bangor-on-Dee on his hurdles debut and can make amends if over that mishap for Kerry Lee. The selection was well supported in north Wales having won his sole Bumper at 25/1 back in the spring. Iberio justified favouritism in a Newton Abbot Bumper for Philip Hobbs on debut last month and he looks the obvious danger in a fascinating maiden hurdle. There was 7/2 freely available on Thursday evening but Kerry Lee’s novice is into 6/4 at the time of posting.