AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Cheltenham Sunday

Thanks to the extremely hard efforts of Cheltenham’s ground staff, BHA and ITV, jumps fans got to enjoy a bumper Saturday card. So did we, thanks to the brilliant Richard Patrick and the extremely game Happy Diva, who gained a super deserved win after 13 runner-up efforts in the Bet Victor Gold Cup. That also gave us a big winner after Achille only found one too good earlier in the handicap chase, although the eye-catcher of the race was surely the favourite Slate House. The 4/1 shot barely jumped a fence before moving through the back of the pack to travel right alongside the first two and then knuckling on landing and falling two out. He looks much more like the horse that was so promising as a hurdler, assuming that he jumps with more fluency in the future. We move onto today’s card, on another bumper day of racing which should have something for everyone to enjoy.

The opening Cheltenham Club Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (12.45) didn’t appeal a huge amount with nothing appearing to be especially ahead of the handicapper. The Cross Country Chase (1.15) will be a very testing grind here with a number of horses looking well handicapped on their best form over the banks, but also perhaps being more proven on good ground. Tea For Two would look to be the exception from the market leader, but he must settle better than he did at Fontwell.

The Arkle Trial (1.50) promises to give us a fascinating rematch between the high class hurdlers Al Dancer and Getaway Trump who met at the Showcase meeting here in October. Al Dancer made a winning chase debut that day, but he’s now 5lbs worse off with the runner up, who was clearly significantly less fit at the time, and the two should be very close here.

Rouge Vif, who was third in the Top Novices’ Hurdle last season and an impressive winner at Market Rasen on his chase debut, won’t be far away either and this looks to be a watching brief with outsider Put The Kettle On dropping back in trip and going up in class.

The Shloer Chase (2.25) is the definition of a small but select field and we’ve got a real treat with last season’s JLT Chase winner Defi Du Seuil facing off against Champion Chase second Politologue. There’s not much between those two at their best, but it would be unwise to forget about Saint Calvados either. He hasn’t quite hit the heights that his deeply impressive Kingmaker Novice chase win suggested – nor his fine win in the Poplar Square Chase last season – but he went off too fast in front in the Tingle Creek and Dublin Chase before finding the early pace too hot when seventh in the Champion Chase.

He had wind surgery in September, which appeared to have made a big difference when he defied top-weight and a mark of 155 to win a valuable handicap chase here at the Showcase meeting. He looked extremely tractable that day which suggests he might be an easier ride since the surgery and the way that he managed to give two stone to the runner up (and 10lbs to the third) was a notable effort. That came on heavy ground (he’s a two-time winner on a heavy ground, including his British debut) and a small field should be an advantage that makes him interesting enough to back at 4/1.

Simply Ned, who has a wonderful record around here, is worthy of respect too and almost made it into the selections, although he might want the ground to be slightly better to show his best.

Cheltenham November Open Meeting
Sunday 17th November
Racing UK / ITV1 HD
First Race: 12.45pm

The Greatwood (3.00) is typically competitive as ever, even if it doesn’t appear to have a Champion Hurdle contender in its ranks. Monsieur Lecoq’s gutsy win in the Welsh Champion Hurdle on soft ground at Ffos Las was probably as good a preparation as one could have asked for ahead of this, and he did well to get the better of the smart chaser Le Prezien with the rest of the field six lengths behind. One can forgive his poor effort in the County Hurdle at the Festival, when he unseated on the way down to the start, and as a dual winner on soft ground and a winner on heavy too, the surface isn’t going to be a problem. There’s an argument as to how well handicapped he is, but as a five-year-old with only five British starts – one of them a write off – under his belt, it’s possible he can handle a 7lbs rise in the weights here.

There are plenty of strong each/way chances, including Benny’s Bridge, Quel Destin and Quoi de Neuf, but perhaps it’s best to stick with the favourite in this tricky encounter and keep stakes lower.

The Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (3.30) features a field of promising types, most of whom have their best form on better ground apart from Eden Du Houx, who won a Listed bumper before being a disappointment on his hurdling debut when it didn’t look as if he’d stayed properly. That looks one to swerve and so does the closing listed bumper (4.00), with a number of names likely to be worth watching in future.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Saint Calvados in 2.25 Cheltenham 1 pt win at 4/1 with
BACK Moinesur Lecoq in 3.00 Cheltenham 1 pt win at 4/1 with

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