2m½f (2m69y) CSP Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+)
This looks a hot race for the time of year and ante post Cheltenham players ate strongly advised to take notice. Countister is extremely hard to weigh up and spent most of her time in France racing in AQPS races, quite what her actual ability will be over timber and against thoroughbreds will be is open to debate but she represents the Henderson, McManus combination and respect demanded. Dame Rose won a Grade2 bumper at Aintree last term and won her hurdling debut in emphatic fashion at Hexham last time, she looks likely to progress and makes more appeal than Oscar Rose though the pair are closely matched on bumper form. Cap Soleil was another top quality bumper winner, in three starts in that sphere she remained unbeaten and is afforded an extremely healthy level of respect on her hurdling debut for connections who can do little wrong at present. Drinks Interval deserves as mention and she has won both of her starts over hurdles to date however, the decision to throw Countister in such deep waters on her hurdling debut has to hint that she’s shown plenty at home and as such she is taken to make a winning start.
2m6½f (2m6f93y) KKA-Highpoint Beginners’ Chase (Class 3) (4yo+)
Despite the poor numerical turnout this looks as good a race as there is on the entire card and a couple of the heavyweight stables are represented. Beat That won the Grade1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ hurdle back in 2014 for Nicky Henderson, in second that day was future world hurdle hero Cole Harden, after that he outclassed the high class Don Poli at Punchestown though things when downhill thereafter. Injured and forced to miss the entire 2016 season he made a promising start to his novice chasing campaign when second on his comeback, once again however he failed to build and fell the next twice, should he finally be back and be 100% he would take a whole world of beating though you have to have concerns. Topofthegame looked an exciting prospect for Paul Nicholls last year, a £120,000 purchase he managed to scramble home in a decent Ascot Maiden before following that up with a fabulous effort when fourth at the Festival. Paul Nicholls charge has so much more scope than his rivals here that it is impossible to dismiss his and given he’s bred to make a chaser, he is handed the vote to land this before going onto better things.
TOPOFTHEGAME (WIN) - NAP