Former Talksport presenter Charlie McCann marks your card for Saturday’s big meeting at Cheltenham with six horses to keep an eye out for.
A wonderful card from Cheltenham with eight great races including a fascinating renewal of the £150,000 StanJames.com International Hurdle with the inexperienced but hugely talented Festival Bumper winner Cue Card locking horns with the Supreme Novices’ and subsequent Greatwood Hurdle winner Menorah.
It may appear folly to side with a novice with only two starts over timber but Cue Card (3.05) could be anything and has to be followed until his limitations (if there are any) are exposed. Racing historians will tell you that the game is littered with “talking horses” and that Menorah has already shot down a similar type in Dunguib whose colours’ he lowered at the Festival back in March.
Menorah will appreciate the forecast good ground and he may become the first horse to date to get Cue Card off the bridle. It is possible that the Tizzard animal will find little when push comes to shove but I believe this small field will suit Cue Card who is taken to maintain his unbeaten record and consolidate his claims as a potential Stan James Champion Hurdle winner.
This is no two runner race, however, with both Silviniaco Conti (winner of both starts at 2m 4f for Paul Nicholls) and Clerk’s Choice (bogged down in the Haydock mud last time) worthy adversaries in a race that will tell us much about the batting order for the Big One back here in March.
The racing world is getting right behind AP McCoy in his bid to add the coveted BBC title of Sports Personality of the Year (live Sunday 19th December) to his midweek award of Sportsman of the Year from the British sporting press. Cheltenham are doing their bit by naming the big betting race of the day the Vote AP Gold Cup and the 15-time Champion Jockey will ride Galway Plate winner Finger On The Pulse as he bids to win the race named in his honour.
Little Josh made all to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month and the handicapper has not necessarily caught up with him as a 9lb rise looks fair given the manner of that victory. I just favour Robinson Collonges (2.30) especially after the news that Noel Fehily has been passed fit following his recent wrist injury. The selection crumpled on landing with the race looking in safe keeping at Wincanton on his penultimate start and was given a confidence booster at Hereford last time.
Dave’s Dream looked a reformed character over a shorter trip last time but first time out may have been the time to catch the Henderson runner given he had a wind operation in the summer.
The rescheduled Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase looks at the mercy of former Champion Chaser Master Minded (1.55) who looked back to his brilliant best at Ascot last time. He has lost on his last couple of runs at Cheltenham (jumped right-handed last November) but that is no real concern as at his best he is a class apart from today’s opposition.
Karabak finished ahead of Zaynar (1.20) at Ascot last time but the latter can reverse the form in the first time blinkers. The recommendation finished third in the Champion Hurdle back in March but patently needs this trip (and more?) nowadays and if there is to be a danger to Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle in the spring Zaynar could be the one. Celestial Halo is only small and it was no surprise to me to see him fail over the larger obstacles. If that experience hasn’t soured him this former Champion Hurdle runner up will be a danger to all back at the smaller obstacles.
The 3m Novice Chase would be a feature race on any normal card with World Hurdle runner-up Time For Rupert likely to start a very warm order having created such a favourable impression on his chase debut at the last meeting over an inadequate 2m 4f. He must give 8lbs, however, to Cannington Brook (12.45 ew) who will need to jump with much more fluency than he did on his chase debut but he certainly looks the part and can reward each way support.
Highland Valley was very impressive at Exeter but could have been flattered given the prevailing soft ground. He must give 4lbs to Sybarite (3.40) who lost little in defeat over a shorter trip last time and is considered potentially top class by connections.