Good morning all,
It’s the first meeting of the new Jumps season at Cheltenham (oh, yes it is…) and what better way to kick off than with the Hunter Chase evening, one of my favourites.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see how the ground rides, as they always put plenty of water on for this fixture and it rained midweek, with 17mm falling on Wednesday! I have a feeling it is going to ride slower than the official good would suggest. We shall see. Anyway, I have looked at three of the more interesting contests, including the four-miler at 7.45. Should be fun!
5.00 – 2m Hunter Chase
A mention for standing dish Sam Cavallero, who at the age of 15 is trying to win this for the fourth time, having taken it in 2015, 2016 and two years ago in 2019. He really is what this night is all about for me, he simply comes alive at this venue and is a proper two-miler, which you can’t say for many of these.
Sadly, his form this year suggests age is catching up with him, but he will at least have enjoyed the bit of rain that fell in the week. It’s hard to see him winning again, but we wish him all the best.
6.45 – 3m2f Open Hunter Chase
There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house if Garde Ville could come out on top, having been Lorna Brooke’s last winner at Sandon at Easter, and it was clear how emotional it was for Immy Robinson and connections when he won at Ludlow last time too. He’s not out of this if he takes to the track, although he could have done with the rain staying away, and he is better going right-handed.
In what looks the most open race of the night, I’ll go with the ex-Nicky Hendersonn trained Sugar Baron, who does nothing but stay and ran well at Mollington after a year off the track earlier in the month, only giving best in the dying strides. I have a slight reservation about him on the track but this could turn into a real stamina test, which ought to suit him.
7.15 – 3m f Mares Hunter Chase
The improving Highway Jewel wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Foxhunters itself, and looks a cut above the rest of these. After thrashing Hazel Hill out of sight at Chaddesley back in December, she went to Warwick for a very hot contest, and was only just denied by the useful Latenightpass, who made all the running. After looking outpaced on the home turn, all she did was stay on from that point, and stamina is clearly her long suit. I’d have her odds-on for this, so it will be interesting to see what early price the books go last night. I suspect any odds-against will get mopped up.
7.45 – 4m½f Open Hunters Chase
Four miles in rain-softened ground is going to take some getting, and there’s no room for non-stayers.
Many of you will remember Bob Ford, a proven stayer, from his time with Richard Newland and Rebecca Curtis but he’s not looked the same horse in two starts this season, and is risky. It’s not impossible that if the ground is genuinely soft he could bounce back, but you’d want a big price before getting involved.
Excitable Island won this three years ago when the unfortunate Battle Dust lost most of his tack on the way around, and barely finished with any. It was a formality that he’d get thrown out, with the weight cloth going on the run in. You can expect him to improve on his third at Dingley, his first start for almost two years, earlier in the month and he has a chance.
Know The Score ran in a Champion Bumper here back in the day, and after a year’s absence ran out a length winner at Flete under a good ride from Martin McIntyre, pouncing in the shadows of the post. That form probably needs a bit of improvement but he’s clearly in good heart, and stays.
I’ll take Optimised as my pick though. Second to Southfield Theatre in this two years ago, he’s had two starts this season which should see him match fit for this. He lost little in defeat to the classy Sausalito Sunrise at Sandon over Easter and a repeat of that takes him close.
Today's selection – Optimised (e/w) 7.45 Cheltenham
Good luck with all your bets today,