CHELTENHAM DAY ONE TIPS: Alan Thomson, former racing editor of the Daily Record, fancies Punjabi in the Champion Hurdle, Captain Cee Bee for the Arkle and Razor Royale in the William Hill Trophy.
PUNJABI (3.20) comes alive in the spring and is fancied to successfully defend his Champion Hurdle crown on Cheltenham’s opening day.
Barry Geraghty has stayed loyal to Nicky Henderson’s warhorse over last year’s Triumph Hurdle hero Zaynar, whose forte appears to be stamina, and it’s worth noting that the Triumph Hurdle course isn’t as sharp as the Champion Hurdle configuration. I thought Punjabi looked a different horse when quickening away from sub-standard opposition at Kempton and his confidence should be sky-high for today’s supreme test.
Arkle Trophy favourite CAPTAIN CEE BEE (2.05) returns to the scene of his finest hour in the 2008 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when he quickened away from Binocular, Snap Tie and Kalahari King. Injury curtailed his career but he has looked top drawer material again on his return. He would have taken Sizing Europe’s measure but for a final-fence tumble at Leopardstown over Christmas and he will appreciate today’s better ground.
RAZOR ROYALE (2.40) just gets the nod over The Package in the William Hill Trophy Handicap on the back of his gallant success in the Racing Post Trophy at Kempton. He pulled well clear along with Nacarat that day and boasts form figures of 421 from his last three Prestbury Park visits.
The Package races off a lighter weight and he did well to finish third to Poquelin and French Saulaie in a 2m novice chase here 18 months ago. He ran another good race at Cheltenham in a 3m handicap hurdle when chasing home Made In Japan and Kayf Aramis last April. Veteran Knowhere, well in arrears in the Gold Cup 12 months ago, could go well at a loud price.