Cheltenham 14/12/19 Preview

Elixir De Nutz (Copyright JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

By Samantha

This Saturday’s card at Cheltenham looks really interesting and there are lots of good races to light up this winter afternoon!

Race One-

JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle

BOTOX HAS ran once in France before moving to Gary Moore. He won on debut for them by a whopping eighteen lengths. Last time, he was second over course and distance to the smart Allmankind and one place ahead of Repetitio, who won on the Friday of this meeting. He seems a really exciting horse. Dan Skelton trains Allmankind and has Langer Dan in this race. He won at Ludlow on debut and then defied running green to win a listed race easily. He’s a threat.

Race Two-

Ryman Novices’ Chase

This is a decent little race. One of my 20 To Watch, BEAKSTOWN, runs in this race. I always thought that he was made to be a chaser but he’s followed in Sam Spinner and Champ on his two tries over fences. You definitely can’t discount him. Nigel Twiston-Davies has two representatives- Topofthecotswolds and Good Boy Bobby. The latter is preferred as Sam Twiston-Davies is on board. He won very convincingly last time. Nicky Henderson has Mister Fisher and Champagne Platinum. The former was second to Torpillo on chasing bow and Champagne Platinum is having just his fourth start and first run over fences. Nestor Park and Garo De Juilley are outsiders.

Race Three-

Cheltenham Club Handicap Chase

Top weight is the Dan Skelton trained six year old DESTRIER. This horse won at Ayr on good to soft in January and then he came third in a grade one novices’ chase at Aintree. On seasonal reappearance, he came third in the Haldon Gold Cup and that was a good run. He seems to have a bit of class about him. Ballywood ran creditably at Ascot last time and Croco Bay won at the Cheltenham Festival in March. He’s not been seen since coming third in a Grade B Chase at Punchestown.

Race Four-

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase

This race lost some of its depth when recent emphatic winner Riders Onthe Storm was mistakenly deemed a non-runner. This, though, plays into the hands of one of my 20 To Watch, Cepage. This horse followed in Frodon on his sole start of last season and was second to Riders Onthe Storm, running a brilliant race. When the initial weights came out, I was pleased because Kalashnikov kept Cepage‘s weight low but that horse is out so Cepage has top weight of 11st10.

The weights of Clondaw Castle and Knocknauss caught my eye. The former has 11st1 and he was last seen coming second to Diego Du Charmil in that controversial race. He ran gamely to the line but he’s having his first try past two miles. Knocknauss carries 1lbs more. He is an extremely free-going sort but he came fifth in the Arkle and fifth in a grade one at Aintree. He took a keen hold the last twice but I know there’s a good prize in him at one point. Benatar is making his seasonal reappearance. He was last seen coming seventh to Cyrname in January and he’s not won since he won a grade two in December 2017.

Secret Investor (Copyright JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

Secret Investor is a previous Persian War winner and he went chasing straight after that. He ran into the smart Bags Groove at Wincanton and Kempton in good races. Sandwiched between that, I saw him come second at Warwick to Ok Corral. He won in March and April and, on seasonal reappearance, they sent him to Ireland, where he came second in a grade two. He’s one of the favourites.

Brelan D’As and Not That Fuisse are also well-fancied. Brelan D’As is Secret Investor‘s stablemate. This horse was third in the Grand Annual but was well beaten at Aintree. He unseated on his first try out this season but only got beaten a neck in the Bet Victor Gold Cup. Warthog and Spiritofthegames also ran in that. Warthog made a bold bid from the front and this lovely grey only weakened on the flat. The ground may have been the problem that day.

Not That Fuisse (Copyright JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

Not That Fuisse and Spiritofthegames are stablemates. Harry Skelton rides Not That Fuisse. The bottoms weight, he has ran three times over fences – second to Erick Le Rouge, second to Al Dancer and fourth to Torpillo. His jumping is decent but he’s very unexposed. Spiritofthegames was third at the Cheltenham Festival and fifth in a grade one novice chase last season. He pulled up on debut this season and then came eleventh at Newbury on Ladbrokes Trophy day.

Keeper Hill has second top weight. He won at Warwick in January over three miles and a furlong and was then well-beaten in decent races, including the Stayers Hurdle. He came third at Aintree over hurdles but ran an absolute blinder to win at 18/1 in a graduation chase at Haydock. Connections like him a lot and he deserves his place here. He hasn’t been running over fences much lately though.

Robin Des Foret has been sent over by Willie Mullins from Ireland. The 9-year-old hasn’t been seen since coming second at Limerick in a grade 3 in March and he has followed in some good horses. His jumping may come under pressure. The same can be said for Good Man Pat. His jumping was horrendous in the Close Brothers at Cheltenham. Generous Day stayed on well over this trip at Kempton at 33/1 last time out but he likes good going. Imperial Presence is a huge price.

In conclusion, I am going with CEPAGE to defy the weight.

Spiritofthegames (left) (Copyright JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

Race Five-

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade Two)

This is a good little contest for this grade two prize. Valtor and Igor one on the same day at Ascot. The former beat Redford Road over two miles five and he’s a lot older than the rest aged 10. Igor won by seven lengths in the later two miles three furlongs race. I’d be more inclined to prefer the latter as he has more scope. Redford Road is the second string Nigel Twiston-Davies but Sam said that it was a tough decision to pick between him and Mossy Fen. This horse fell and won in points but is now two from two over hurdles. He won over this trip first time and one well last time. I slightly prefer CHAMPAGNE WELL. He won well over this course on seasonal debut and then he came second over the same course and distance last time, behind Thyme Hill. The yard is flying so he should go well. Kiltealy Briggs could run a good race but Saint Xavier and The Mulcair are outsiders.

Race Six-

Unibet International Hurdle

This Grade Two contest, worth £140,000, has attracted a good field with a few grade one performers taking their chances.

One of those is Pentland Hills. This gelding has took the Owners Group to the top. An ex flat horse, he won at Plumpton in February by fourteen lengths and then won by three lengths in the grade one Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Next time, he won the Aintree equivalent, beating multiple subsequent chase winner Fakir D’Oudairies. He is a really smart individual and will inevitably be a Champion Hurdle challenger for a yard who’ve recently had to rule out Buveur D’Air for the season.

Nicky Henderson also has Call Me Lord. James Bowen takes over the ride from Daryl Jacob who is side-lined until after Christmas. He was one of the seven jockeys who received ten day bans for ignoring a stop flag at Sandown last week. This will open up a lot of good rides over the coming weeks. Call Me Lord came third in the Imperial Cup, with Monsieur Lecoq in second, and then, on seasonal reappearance, he battled out a good finish with If The Cap Fits at Ascot in the Coral Hurdle but came out worse to be second. He’s a previous grade two winner.

Monsieur Lecoq runs in this race as well and goes off level weights, despite the fact that he is rated 10lbs inferior. After coming tenth in the County Hurdle, he won the Welsh Champion Hurdle and then came third in the Greatwood, one place behind Gumball. He’s no mug and he beat Le Prezien. Before that second, Gumball was given a peach by Ben Jones at Ascot to win a listed race. He was a smart juvenile, coming second in a grade one and two. After that, he lost his way over obstacles but won on the flat three times. He is meant to be ridden by Richard Johnson but he had a crashing fall from Stoney Mountain on Friday. Both if these horses are stepping up from handicap company.

Gumball is the second string of Terry Warner. The first string is Elixir De Nutz. This horse is part of my 20 To Watch and he was second on debut for the Tizzard yard to Olly Murphy’s Supreme second Thomas Darby. Next time, he won the grade two Supreme Trial, then a novice hurdle and finally the Unibet Tolworth Hurdle. I was all over him for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Sadly, he missed that race due to an injury. He is better now and it is really exciting to see him back out. He has a long absence to overcome but he’s a classy individual.

Ch’tibello hasn’t been seen since coming third to Supasundae and Buveur D’Air in the grade one Aintree Hurdle. He won the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but his record fresh isn’t great. He’s a Scottish Champion Hurdle winner though. La Patriote completed a three timer from November to May. Last time, he was fourth in the Coral Hurdle, behind Call Me Lord, so he has a bit to find. Ballyandy was sixth at Chepstow in October and he then came fourth in a grade two behind The Worlds End. He’s one of the outsiders.

My selection for the race is ELIXIR DE NUTZ as he is a really smart horse and hopefully can pickup where he left off last season.

Race Seven-

Park Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

This race is just for the mares and seventeen take their chances. Lust for Glory is a good mare and she ran a decent race on reappearance to come second at Ascot. She’s trying two miles and four furlongs for the first time but I think she’ll stay Vision De Puy was behind Lady Buttons last time but her fellow JP McManus own rival is preferred. DAME DE COMPAGNIE came off a long absence to run in the Greatwood and she finished fifth, staying on. Two miles four is her ideal trip.

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