The Cheltenham November meeting is always a spectacle and it is full to the brim of top-class National Hunt racing for us to savour. And, importantly, get hints on the Festival in roughly four months time. Sadly, Friday of this meeting was abandoned after a deluge of horrific weather conditions on the Cotswold track. Luckily, the grade two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle has been rescheduled for 12:05.
12:05- Ballymore Novices Hurdle
(Registered as the Hyde Novices Hurdle)Last year’s winner Coolany came fifth in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. This race only started in 1996 and Massini’s Maguire is the only horse to have done the double in the 2006/07 season.
That horse subsequently won a few chases around Cheltenham and was trained by Phillip Hobbs when he won at Cheltenham. Hobbs has Thyme Hill. He was third in the Champion Bumper behind Envoi Allen, who’s already won impressively over hurdles. In October, Thyme Hill won the Persian War on hurdles debut , by two lengths, and he sets the standard for the field. Looking ahead to Cheltenham, he is 25/1 for the big race.
Some Day Soon ended a long streak of wins when third to Thyme Hill at Chepstow. He’d won four times over the summer and was keeping on towards the end without reaching the first two. He gets 5lbs from Thyme Hill in this.
IK Brunel won on debut at Carlisle and then came third to two very smart horses – Elixir De Nutz and Jarveys Plate – on his second start. In February, he came sixth in the Dovecote at Kempton. He made a winning reappearance in October and he could shape to be a nice individual.
Fergal O’Brien won this in 2018 and has Champagne Well. He won on his second start and had a campaign over hurdles last term with no luck. It culminated in a sixth behind Champ at Aintree. He won a race of the same name over course and distance here at Cheltenham last month, with L’Air Du Vent, really well. He’s 40/1 for the big race in March.
L’Air Du Vent won very nicely in April at Bangor. He was 10/11 and skipped clear very easily. Robbie Power rode him when he was third to Champagne Well. His jumping was satisfactory but he’d previously fell in a point to point. Happygolucky comes from the Kim Bailey yard and he was a long margin winner at Stratford on his sole start under rules. He’d previously been second in a point to point and remains unexposed.
The Irish runners are Born By The Sea and Dancing On My Own. The former won a maiden hurdle in August and has been fourth and third since then. He is a 50/1 shot and that explains his chances. Aidan Coleman rides Dancing On My Own for Henry De Bromhead. In 2018, he was second to Buildmeupbuttercup and Klassical Dream twice. He pulled up in the Coral Cup at the Festival and won last time out on heavy going so will definitely handle conditions.
However, I’m keen on THYME HILL. He was very good in the Persian War and should be and exciting horse. I think Champagne Well will run well as he’s the only horse to have won over this trip. IK Brunel has started his hurdles career well and the McNeil Family and Warren Greatrex deserve a nice winner in this company.
12:40- JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
Eleven runners go to post for the next race – a grade two contest. Allmankind’s colours are more synonymous with flat horses like Big Orange. He’s in training with Dan Skelton and his debut hurdle victory was just eight days ago. He won by thirty seven lengths in good to soft ground, despite being keen. He’d run once on the flat before but I think he’ll be extremely successful over obstacles.
Paul Nicholls trains Mick Pastor, who won on heavy going at Auteuil in May, beating a subsequent grade one winner, and has his first run for the yard. Botox Has is ex-French but has already had one start for Gary Moore. He was second on soft at Auteuil in April and then won at Fontwell in October on good ground, beating Prefontaine by eighteen lengths. Prefontaine ran three times in October – unseating, coming second to Botox Has and then won at Kempton Park on good going. The ground may be a little soft for both horses.
Repetitio is a horse I’ve been keeping my eye on. He won at Newton Abbott against older horses at the end of August and then was third at Market Rasen and third to Nordano at Chepstow. The ground will be a problem sadly but, when Nordano won, it was soft/heavy and he did so by three lengths. He used to be with Mark Johnston and came third last time out in a listed race at Weatherby. Chocks Away came second to Nordano at Huntingdon in early October and he kept on but couldn’tcatch the winner.
Admirals Bay makes his hurdles debut for Hey Oliver in this hot race. He won once for Andrew Balding and is an interesting recruit but is a big price like Dawn Treader and Green Etoile. Thatsmyseat gets 7lbs from the boys and is a bit of an unknown quantity.
My selection is MICK PASTOR. He’s an exciting newcomer and Paul won this last year with Quel Destin.
13:15- mallardjewlers.com Novices’ Chase
For personal reasons, I hope either Wholestone, Minella Warrior, Rockpoint or Aye Aye Charlie as my favorite racehorse Mulcahys Hill beat them over track and trip in late October. Wholestone battled out the finish with him and went down just a neck. He was a high-class staying hurdler but only made one bad error last time. He has first time head gear to aid his cause and he has a penalty.
Minella Warrior was six lengths behind and looks a lovely big horse. He kept on the same page and couldn’t contest with the top two. It’s only natural that he’ll have learned more from that day. Rockpoint looked in trouble at four out but kept staying on in the end but I’d guess the others will finish ahead of him again. Aye Aye Charlie was behind Paisley Park in January here and then eighth in the Albert Bartlett. I think connections have always felt like he’ll be a chaser but he was never really on terms with these.
Poker Play and Redzor both made winning chase debuts but are penalized. The only major issue the former had was when pecking at three out but he was in the lead for a lot of the way. The second has won since. Bridget Andrews rode Redzor to victory at Fakenham by twenty one lengths. He made the running and jumped well enough. Aaron Lad was fourteenth in the Pertemps at this course but he’s previously won over course and distance. He’s making his chase debut.
In conclusion, WHOLESTONE shouldn’t be worn down by the penalty and is a cut above these.
13:50 Betvictor Smartcards Handicap Chase
This is a really nice grade three chase with seven runners. One of my 20 To Watch runs in this race. Relentless Dreamer won at this course in October 2018 and then wasn’t seen until October 12th this year when coming third to subsequent Charlie Hall Chase winner Ballyoptic. He was pulled up after making a shuddering error and never really regaining his rhythm. I don’t think he’ll be victorious in this race as there are questions surrounding the surface.
A horse who’ll love this ground is Ramses De Teillee. David Pipe’s grey won here on heavy over hurdles in October so a lot is in his favour. He’ll be better for the comeback run and is also an excellent jumper. He was pulled up in the Aintree Grand National and came second in the Welsh equivalent so the trip won’t be a problem. This son of Martaline is rated 153 which means he carries significantly more weight than the rest of the field.
West Approach is number two and he carries 11st1 to Ramses De Teillee’s 11st12. He mixes it quite successfully between fences and ran an excellent second to The Conditional, giving him 9lbs, at the Showcase Meeting. He got put up 2lbs for that but he hasn’t won for a very long time. The trip probably won’t be a problem but no horse in this field has won over the trip.
Big River and Achilles are both making their seasonal debut. The former was last seen coming fifth in the Scottish Grand National so the trip won’t be a problem for him. Before that, he was a good fourth in the Ultima here at Cheltenham and he always threatens to do well in one of these races. Achilles has won three of his four starts since the turn of the year at various tracks and the time he was beaten was when he pulled up over a trip much too far.
Pop Rockstar is a seven year old. He’s got form on this ground, having come second on heavy ground before. This Fleminsfirth gelding won at Chepstow in April and Carlisle in October so comes into this in good form.
Potters Legend hadn’t been seen since winning on the 31st March 2018 when coming fifth to Tobefair here on heavy ground over hurdles. He ran a decent race and will be more inclined to show his true running here.
A large weight in this ground is sometimes a burden but I think RAMSES DE TEILLE has the class to overcome it against these horses.
14:25- BetVictor Gold Cup
This is a really exciting renewal of this race. In 2017, Splash Of Ginge won this under Tom Bellamy for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He’s not won since but his best run was second in the Stable Plate to The Storyteller. Because of the long losing run, he has bottom weight. Twiston-Davies also has Count Meribel. He kept high company as a novice chaser last time and finished seventh in the RSA and came second to Lostintranslation on the third of November. Guitar Pete, a son of Dark Angel, came ninth in 2017 but he won next time out in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. He hadn’t won since that day until he came first in a listed chase at Wetherby on the 1st November. He beat Happy Diva, Demi Sang and Splash Of Ginge that day.
The mare Happy Diva agonizingly got brought down in last year’s renewal when going well. After that, she came second to Aso in a grade three here, came third to Cyrname and her best run was when she won a Mares listed, beating subsequent Grand National second Magic Of Light. She was giving weight to Guitar Pete and lost very little in defeat. She’s ultra consistent and will go on the ground. Demi Sang has been busy over the summer and won at Cartmel twice. He won on soft to heavy when with Willie Mullins but he’s been running on firmer surfaces since. Brelan D’As is from the same ownership and he unseated last time but came third in the Grand Annual with stablemate Magic Saint behind. Since then, he’s fell in a listed chase round Ayr and was second when last seen in April.
The only horse to have ran in last year’s race and not been mentioned was Eamon An Cnoic, who came fifth. After that, he came sixth to Siruh Du Lac at Exeter on this kind of ground, won at Chepstow and then came fourth to Siruh Du Lac at the Cheltenham Festival. His stablemate is Warthog. He was last seen pulling up in a horrific race at the Cheltenham Festival and he’s had a long break to recuperate from that. Before that, he hadn’t held particularly high company. The aforementioned Siruh Du Lac was one of the starts of last season’s Cheltenham Festival when he won the Stable Plate. Lizzie Kelly is back from injury to ride him in this and she rides this course particularly well. Last season, He completed a four timer, concluding in two victories over course and distance, and rose from a mark of 123 to his current of 150. He goes well fresh and doesn’t mind a decent slog. Spiritofthegames was third to Siruh Du Lac at Cheltenham and after that he was fifth in a grade one. He had a wind operation over the summer and, remarkably, he has won on every single seasonal reappearance in his career.
Us And Them and Slate House ran in the Arkle. You could argue that Us And Them played the bridesmaid all through his novice chase season after his initial victory. He was second to the likes of Hardline, Le Richebourg, Duc De Genievres (at the Festival) and Ourna (at Aintree). He unseated behind Chacun Pour Soi on his last start of that campaign and came third to Snow Falcon and Peregrine Run on his reappearance. I’d be interested to see how he went. Slate House didn’t win over fences last year and was eighth in the Arkle but he looked like a new horse on season reappearance over roughly course and distance. He was on the bridle coming down to two out and pinged the last easily. I think people have always thought he’s got untapped potential and that could mean he’s well handicapped in this race.
Springtown Lake and Highway One O One both ran in the Close Brothers. The latter was tenth and after that came third to Mister Whitaker over course and distance. He came second over hurdles last time and he should be spot on for this race. He’s a good horse as he came third in the Wayward Lad. Springtown Lake was seventh to Vinndication when last seen on good to soft and his fifth in the Close Brothers is good form. He relishes soft conditions. Belami Des Pictons has raced just once this year and that was when pulled up in February. He must have had some sort of issue as he was last seen before that coming second to Waiting Patiently. He’s got a remarkable record – five from eight.
Dell Oro is three from fourteen but looks a bit out of his depth and is a 66/1 chance. If you go back to February 2018, Mercian Prince won on heavy going and he’s won once since then at Kempton in January this year. He’s an outsider in this.I think handling the ground will be a big deal at Cheltenham and I know Siruh Du Lac will enjoy the rest.
However, so will SLATE HOUSE. I was so very taken with the way he won last time and he could be relatively well handicapped.
15:00- Spinal Injuries Association Big Buck’s Handicap Hurdle
I’m torn for a selection in this race. Initially, I was going for Tobefair, who won so well on this sort of ground last time but has to give a stone to the rest. And even more to THE BUTCHER SAID. He’s been going all through the summer and was looking for a five timer when beaten by my selection in an earlier race. I don’t think it was the ground was what lost it for him last time. Anteros and Eva’s Oskar are both of interest as they’ve won their last three. Anteros won this in 2016.
15:30- BetVictor Intermediate Hurdle
LEGENDS GOLD has won her last three starts by a combined thirty lengths and she’s yet to tackle any ground like it but she’s a nice filly, getting about 10lbs from Jatiluwih. He’s won all four of his novice hurdle starts but my selection could be more value.
16:00- Karndean Designflooring Mares Standard Open NH Flat Race
MIDNIGHT CALLISTO’s sister had already won a bumper for Anthony Honeyball before the former had made her debut for the yard, which she won by eight lengths. She hung a tiny bit left handed but that was only greenness.