A tricky looking contest opens up the third day of the Paddy Power Open meeting at Cheltenham. This grade two is an early trial for the Supreme novices over the course. All the big boys are represented here and it could be informative race to look back on in early March. The dark horse is probably Simon Squirrel who is the most unexposed and has potential to improve. He won an OK novices race at Newton Abbot. He needs to step up and may just be too soon for him.
Mister Miyagi and Drumlee Sunset are closely linked after the later course and distance win last month. He was well punted that day which would suggest the regard he is held in but the form of that race is questionable and I am much more comfortable with the two at the head of the market.
Maputo is a typical flat bred John Ferguson horse who has done well since switching to jumps. The form off them wins looks poor and he looks a false favourite. While Altior form over timber is also a bit questionable he has improved with each run. He hacked up first time at Chepstow and showed his willingness to battle at Ascot when making mistakes. This stiff finish should be in his favour and I am sure Nicky Henderson has schooled him and a clean round should see him win.
Next up is the Arkle trail, a competitive contest but Garde La Victoire was the highest rated off these over hurdles and has begun in the same vein over fences The race he won at Uttoxeter look a decent enough start and he won readily. Already with a win at this meeting 12 months ago in the Greatwood and also winning a listed hurdle at Sandown at the back end of last season he is very unstoppable and looks sure to go well.
Fox Norton and Calipto look the only dangers here and preference would be for the former who has been lightly campaigned with a view to going chasing.
Garde La Victoire (WIN)
Southern National up next at Fontwell as Channel Four make a whistle stop tour at three tracks in little under a half an hour. This race as always promise to be a battle of wills. It is a tough race to assess as only four of the runners have had a run this season with a couple coming from mammoth lay off. Letbeso will relish conditions and was running well at Cheltenham last April before coming to grief. He is of interest but you would rather see the yard in better form prior to getting involved. One yard that is flying at the moment is Venetia Williams who saddles last years winner Gorgehous Lliege here. He was seven pounds lower last year but gets in here off the same weight and can use that to good effect here. Also going well fresh and the yard capacity to ready one first time all are in his favour here of backing up last years win.
Off the remainder Shammick Boy is the biggest danger. He won a trio of hurdles races and if his jumping holds up is sure to be involved if ready. Express Du Berlais should also go well if ready off a break. A winner in Ireland for Colm Murphy and then improved form for the Good Doctor winning two races last year. His jumping will need to improve here but can also get involved.
Gorgehous Lliege (E/W)
Back to Prestbury Park for the Shloer Chase which was won impressively by Ryanair winner Uxizandre last season and sees the seasonal return of Sprinter Sacre. Although that has now been thrown into doubt due to wet conditions. However if the black beast lines up he should take all the beaten. A simple reproduction of his Sandown run last year would put him clear of this field which would be a a good handicap without his presence. In truth the only dangers to Sprinter Sacre are his mental health and the fences in front of him. If he fails I would take Somersby who would be the most likely to pick up the pieces. Savello and Crocco Bay have plenty to find. While the mercurial Mr Mole is talented on his day but shouldn’t be good enough. While Simply Ned probably has the most scope to improve and has the added benefit of a run.
Sprinter Sacre (WIN)
We pop over to Ireland to take in the Morgiana and the return of Faugheen The Machine. It will be nice to see that the 2015 Champion Hurdler is fit and well but this should be won at a hack canter and be no more than a schooling session. Without Faugheen this would be a decent and really competitive renewal and while Nichols Canyon is rated second to Faugheen. This trip just might be a bit short for him and he might not get a handy lead. Identity Thief won the WKD hurdle at Down royal last month and he is taken to finish second given how well his form has been franked in recent weeks.
We finish with the most competitive race off the day. The Greatwood hurdle is run over two miles and is full of unexposed types. Mick Jazz immediately jumps off the page as a well treated type. A couple of runs last year behind Old Guard and Top Notch. He lacks the experience for this race and while he could prove to be a massive blot on the book, Harry Fry horses have needed the run first time out this season. Money for Waxies Dargle is interesting but he looks well exposed and has an additional eight pounds than in Ireland which would seem to end his challenge.
Dexcite looks overpriced at present and has imoroved his jumping from last season which was his biggest flow. He should come on bags for his run at Chepstow and looks a big player and one you have to keep onside.
The main selection in this wide open contest is Days of Heaven who looked progressive winning three on the spin with the fitting of a hood. Found out at the top level at Aintree. Dropped back down in class he can pick up the winning thread here.
This is a wide open handicap and a case can be made for many. Others on the short-list would be Nabucco, Mad Jack Mytton and Redera. With the last one getting in off bottom weight for chief plotter Tony Martin.
Days Of Heaven (E/W)
Podcast – Episode 27 – Open Meeting Preview
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