Astracad makes another trip to Cheltenham this afternoon and he looked as good as ever when winning on his seasonal debut at Chepstow. He followed that up with another solid effort overt this course and distance a few weeks ago when chasing home the improving Boondooma. He finished in front of both Sew On Target and Next Sensation that day and with the stable in fine form he can confirm those places. Sam Twiston-Davies has partnered him to four victories in the past and it would be of little surprise to see them go well here once again.
The Clock Leary has gone well fresh in the past and represents a trainer enjoying a red hot streak at the moment. Venetia Williams has sent out ten winners in the last twelve days, so this seven year old commands plenty of respect. La Vaticane is a French import that went very well on his British debut at Kempton Park back in March. He is one of the least exposed in the line-up and if he has strengthened up over the summer he would look to be the biggest threat to all here. David Pipe is renowned for getting winners at this meeting so La Vaticane also has to be high on any shortlist.
Astracad has been here and done it all before. He knows every blade of grass on the track and is reunited with the jockey that has gotten the most wins out of him. He is still well handicapped on the best of his old form and he is more that capable of putting in another rock solid effort.
Astracad (E/W if 9/2+)
More Of That is set to make his chasing debut this afternoon and the Jonjo O’Neill trained runner at one time looked to have the world at his feet. He made a brief return to action at Newbury last season when firmly put in his place by Medinas in a Grade One hurdle. A breathing operation subsequently followed meaning that he missed the remainder of the campaign but if fully tuned up he could take quite a bit of stopping here. At his peak he saw off the attentions of Annie Power in the World Hurdle and with Barry Geraghty in the plate a bold effort is expected.
As De Mee already has a run under his belt this season and he would have gotten a bit closer to Cocktails At Dawn had he not fluffed the third last at Chepstow most recently. He is likely to strip a great deal fitter for that run and he has to be considered as the main danger. Might Bite improved with each run last season and one of his victories included one over this course and distance. He needs to take another step forward, but as he hails from a top yard that cannot be totally ruled out.
More Of That has been reportedly working well at home and connections think this game will see him in an even better light. If able to translate his hurdles form to fences he is likely to use this as a stepping stone to better things this season.
More Of That (WIN)
Champers On Ice looks a decent recruit to the game and won his bumper nicely on debut for the David Pipe team at Punchestown back in April. He got the better of the more experienced First Figaro from the Dermot Weld yard and the two pulled almost thirty lengths clear of the rest of their rivals. That suggests that the front pair could be worth following and this step up in trip is unlikely to pose too many problems for this exciting prospect.
Penglai Pavillion looks the most obvious of dangers given the form of the John Ferguson yard. He also has winning course and distance form. He could do no more than win last time but the level of opposition that he faced on that occasion was not as select as this. He remains undefeated over hurdles and if Champers On Ice fails to live up to expectations then he is the most likely beneficiary. This is a big step up in class for Shantou Village and Alcala who are both progressive. The former completely demolished Delusionofgrandeur at Carlisle whist the Nicholls horse won in a canter at Worcester last time.
Champers On Ice makes his hurdling debut this afternoon but he comes from a yard that do so well in this sphere. With any amount of improvement likely, he is taken to make his presence known in this small field.
Champers On Ice (WIN)
Josies Orders was a useful recruit when trained by Jonjo O’ Neill at Jackdaws Castle and won three times in hurdle races at Ascot, Aintree and Huntingdon. He had no problems staying three and a quarter miles in those races and whilst this represents a significant step up in trip he showed that he was more than capable of being effective at this level when winning at the second attempt having moved to the yard of Enda Bolger. The trainer specialises in these types of races and has trained the likes of Garde Champetre and Spotthedifference to win numerous similar events in the past.
Uncle Junior has won this race twice in the past and once again has Patrick Mullins in the saddle. He is certainly no spring chicken but he always commands respect at this level and will undoubtedly throw down a challenge in his customary fashion. Champion Court is without a doubt the classiest horse in the race and if he were to take to these unique fences and hills he would rate as a massive danger. He has his fair share of weight to reflect that though and could sneak a place if he can get into a decent rhythm.
Josies Orders will be partnered once again by Nina Carberry who is a master tactician in events such as this. Having already won on the seven year old she ought to know exactly what she has beneath her. A prep run at Galway is likely to have blown away any cobwebs that were lingering and Enda Bolger’s charge commands utmost respect.
Josie’s Orders (WIN)
Listen to our full preview of all three days of the Open Meeting in our latest podcast. Podcast – Episode 27 – Open Meeting Preview [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFVfG85Nkr4&feature=youtu.be]