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12:55 Cheltenham The Open meetings at Cheltenham kicks off with a highly competitive handicap chase over 2m4f. A field full of older horses means there is not much between a number of these contenders, which makes for a fascinating opening contest. Irish raider Realt Mor for the Gordon Elliot team looks to have a massive chance here today. The veteran has won two of his last four starts, and although those were both over 2m, the horse has won over this trip before so comes here in top form. Slight concern is that sandwiched in between those wins was a fall and an uncompleted race. The manner of the win last time out suggests he could have plenty in hand to shake off the penalty, but never a horse known for its consistency so easy to look for value elsewhere at the prices. That value will likely come from Jonjo O’Neill’s 10-year-old Eastlake in the hands of Barry Geraghty. The horse looked to have needed its reappearance when pulled up last month at Aintree. Very interesting to see the reapplication of the cheekpieces given its last outing in them was a success in the prestigious Topham Chase at Aintree. He can go well here back at the track he has won on before and looks a cracking each way bet. The other interesting contender in the field is Nicky Henderson’s Ericht. The horse has shown some real signs of a return to old glories. A solid runner up spot at Newbury last week had some clear signs of revival and not beyond the realms that he has more to give given he is only 5lb higher for a runaway success at Kempton back in February. The big concern for that one though, is its record of no wins from 11 starts at the track, so the Gordon Elliot horse remains the pick. Eastlake (E/W)

13:30 Cheltenham The Colin Tizzard trained Sizing Codelco will likely start as favourite for the Betvictor Handicap chase over 2m. An ex-Henry De Bromhead horse, who now makes his stable debut today, was impressive when last seen romping to victory in a highly competitive 2m chase at Punchestown. The horse in actual fact had a really poor record outwith Ireland last term unseating at the first obstacle in both starts including in the Grand Annual chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. That has to be a clear concern here on his return to the track for the Tizzard team. Bold Henry for the Phillip Hobbs team is another likely contender for the JP McManus & Barry Geraghty combination. The horse was pulled up when last seen at Punchestown in a race where Sizing Codelco finished third. He has work to do based on that, but there was a genuine injury excuse for that run, and he has won this contest before two years ago off of a similar layoff so he could be interesting if on a going day, but consistency is a clear concern. Monbeg River on the other hand has been a picture of consistency filling the runner up spot in his last four completed starts including off this mark at Wetherby last time out and he can take a hand here for the Martin Todhunter yard. This test is another step up in class, but the horse looks up to the task and the assistance of Noel Fehily in the saddle is another big plus so he gets the nod. Monbeg River (E/W)

14:05 Cheltenham The Steel plate and sections novices chase will likely be one of the feature races of the day with a number of high profile star hurdlers locking horns over the larger obstacles. Rock the Kasbah was a grade 3 hurdle winner at Ascot last season and did all of his winning in the early part of his campaign last term, so should be in fine fettle here. He won his debut over fences at Chepstow with a comfortable win over 2m3f and should be involved here again today, but now has to concede weight to a very competitive field and may have to settle for a place. All eyes will be on the top class hurdling superstar Barters Hill for the Ben Pauling yard. The horse only lost for the first time in eight starts when fourth in the Albert Bartlett at the festival here back in March, but that was still a creditable run and he now looks a terrific prospect over fences. He was a grade 1 winner over hurdles and oozes class, so expect him to romp to victory here to set on him on the way to bigger and better things this season. Another horse who could go way at the price today is Flying Angel. A former Imperial Cup winner over hurdles as a novice and quickly made an impression over the larger obstacles when landing the spoils at Perth in September, but would have to be at his very best to touch the selection if it converts the hurdles form to fences. Barters Hill (WIN)

14:40 Cheltenham The Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle rounds off the Channel 4 TV coverage with a field full of potential hurdling stars. One horse who fulfils that description is definitely Nicky Henderson’s five year old Baden. The horse has still to get his head in front in three starts under rules, but each of those runs showed signs of star quality and his high-profile trainer looks to have found it the perfect opportunity to get off the mark today receiving weight from the rest of the field. The last outing at Punchestown was a solid effort to be third in a decent field and he could prove to be a cut above here and gets the confident nod. The main danger will likely come from long time rival of the Henderson yard, Paul Nicholls, who lines up Pilansberg. The horse was well beaten in this type of company on debut in February, but followed that up with a win in a four runner and in safe hands with his top trainer. He would need to step up on that form here to concede weight to the selection. Spiritofthegames for the Dan Skelton yard is two from two after following up a point to point win with an impressive wide-margin win at Ayr on his hurdling debut, but may have to settle for a minor placing in this field. Baden (WIN)


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