Paul Ferguson has two each way selections from Cheltenham for us on Friday; Court Minstrel in the 2.25 and Titan De Sarti at 3.35. Compare odds and bet.
Cheltenham’s Open meeting kicks off with a cracking renewal of the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase, in which Fingal Bay bids to make it two from two over fences, following his debut success at Chepstow.
I am hopeful Philip Hobbs’ star can go to the top over fences this term, but he faces no easy task here in conceding 5lbs to high-class hurdler Dynaste, so I’m happy to watch rather than play in the opener.
Dodging Bullets was a winner for this column at the October meeting and, given he is officially rated 150, he sets the standard in the Grade 2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.
However, while he clearly has plenty of talent, Paul Nicholls’ four-year-old took a bit of time to warm to the task last time and he won’t get away with that here. Classy Flat performer Tominator is next best and has the engine to win at this level over hurdles, though he needs to jump more fluently than he did on debut at Bangor.
River Maigue is thrown in at the deep-end on his debut, which indicates Nicky Henderson thinks a fair bit of his Ayr bumper winner, but this is a stiff introduction, so there could be a bit of each-way value to be had here.
Run With The Wind travels well and could be the pick of the Irish but, at the prices, it is worth siding with Court Minstrel (2:25) who won in impressive fashion here at the last meeting, in a race that is working out well.
Runner-up The Romford Pele scored yesterday and the sixth home Landscape won last week, while the fourth, fifth and seventh have all finished runner-up on their only subsequent outings.
Evan Williams’ five-year-old travelled powerfully throughout and looks ready for this step up in class, so the 15/2 on offer with Stan James this morning looks on the big side.
Should Court Minstrel go well, expect there to be plenty of support behind Titan De Sarti (3:35) in the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, a race Nicky Henderson won in 2008, 2009 and 2010, as well as saddling the second and third last year.
The selection finished third behind Court Minstrel here last month and, having been off the bridle some way from home, he stayed on well in the manner of a horse ready for a step up in trip.
While he may have fallen short of expectations since arriving in Britain, he can undoubtedly win off his current mark and looks worth another chance today. In a 24-runner handicap, he is also worth supporting each-way (betvictor are 11/2 and paying 5 places).
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Last Year’s Book Results – Leading Prospects:
- SPRINTER SACRE – Unbeaten – winner at Aintree & Cheltenham
- SIMONSIG – Winner at Aintree & Cheltenham
- CINDERS AND ASHES – 10/1 winner of Supreme Novices Hurdle
- BOBS WORTH – 9/2 winner of the RSA Chase
- MENORAH & SILVINIACO CONTI – Both Aintree Winners
- SIR DES CHAMPS – Unbeaten inc 3/1 Jewson Cheltenham Winner
- FINGAL BAY – Won 4 times inc Challow Hurdle
- RAYA STAR – 10/3 winner at Wetherby, 12/1 Ladbroke Hurdle winner, 15/2 Scottish Champion Hurdle winner
- AMBION WOOD – 14/1 EBF Final Sandown winner
- CHAMPION COURT – 6/1 G2 Dipper Novices Chase winner
- PALACE JESTER – 14/1 winner at FFos Las
- SWINCOMBE FLAME – Hat-trick winner inc Lanzarote Hurdle at 9/2
- TEAFOR THREE – 5/1 NH Cheltenham Chase winner (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)