With the Charlie Egerton runner an absentee Wyldello was left with an easier task at Hereford today but by all accounts she won well. Ursis won the beginner’s chase from Fountain Hill, both “listers” from previous seasons. Fountain Hill, who always threatened to be a better chaser than hurdler was coming back from a long absence, so all the more credit to him.
Former winning Irish pointer Miss Mitch won for Robert Alner. She was one I considered for this years list.
Cheltenham 1.00 Tidal Bay followed up some smart bumper form last season by notching a quick hat trick of wins over hurdles. Wichita Lineman, who is a half brother to Rhinestone Cowboy, looks the main danger, even though he has been beaten on both his previous visits to Cheltenham.
1.35 Six of the last 9 winners of this handicap have carried 11 stone or more, which is rather surprising. Yes Sir and Good Citizen represent our list to follow in this. Yes Sir won 7 times in the summer but was well beaten last time on Boxing Day and although he seems to act on any surface he may have too much on his plate here. Good Citizen, trained by Tom George, won in heavy ground at Sedgefield earlier in the season but was a faller last time out. He is 2 lbs out of the handicap and has quite a bit to find but he is lightly raced and could well have scope for improvement. He comes from a yard that does well with chasers, Lord of Illusion and Idle Talk for example. A bit of a dark horse in this race could be Ofarel D’Airy, a lightly raced type apparently well regarded by connections.
2.10 Black Jack Ketchum should maintain his unbeaten record here with the slick jumping Inglis Drever the one most likely to benefit is he has an off day.
Of the rest Fire Dragon is better than his form this season and at 50/1 is over priced. Blazing Bailey would probably prefer better ground but Flight Leader will act on the ground and could take a hand.
2.45 Halcon Generlardais, Neptune Collonges, Fundamentalist and Idle Talk are the runners from our list to follow in a very competitive renewal. This race almost invariably goes to a top class horse and I think we can narrow it down to 4. Our Vic has only been beaten 3 times when completing and looks a very likely contender. He won the Charlie Hall which has been a good trial for this race over the years. He can be a bit of a fragile customer but he has oodles of talent and is strongly fancied. Neptune Collonges loves this ground and won the Rehearsal chase last time. He looks held by Our Vic on their running at Wetherby though.
Exotic Dancer bagged the two big handicaps at Cheltenham before Christmas and did little wrong when chasing home Kauto Star in the King George. I just think that this trip and stiffer track might put a bit too much strain on his stamina. Stamina is something that Halcon Generlardais has in spades, having won the Welsh National. He jumps well and if he is able to lay up with the pace might just expose any flaws in Our Vic in the closing stages.
Of the others Idle Talk will like the conditions and the track and could run into a place. Fundamentalist looked a great prospect before injury struck but it is hard to be optimistic about his chances .
3.35 Roman Ark and Bold Bishop are our list runners in this one. Bold Bishop has yet to find his form this season and Roman Ark looks to have the better chance of the two. He has gone up in the weights as a result of his two easy wins this season but he revels in the mud and has proved he acts of the track. He has an each way chance. No Full is another I like the look of in this race.
4.30 Ashley Brook is having his first run for well over a year but is thrown in on his chase rating. Could take some beating if fully would up. French Saulaie won easily at Huntingdon last time and looks on an upward curve. Proven on the ground and in with a chance. Both have each way chances.
Southwell 1.50 Madison Du Berlais won in heavy ground at Warwick a fortnight ago and the second that day has since franked the form.
3.05 Trompette has to carry 11 stone 10 in testing conditions. She won really easily at Ludlow last time though and may well be up to the task.
3.35 Opera de Coeur also has 11 stone 12 but I am going to tip him as well. He is back over hurdles after not really taking to fences but has a touch of class and can defy the big weight.
There is only one runner from our list to follow in action at Navan tomorrow, Ballytrim in the 4.25.
See you tomorrow evening