Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, looks at Cheltenham and gives us five tips for the opening day. View selections below
THE NEW ONE (3.20) can repel a formidable Irish challenge and land the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham for popular local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. Desperately unlucky 12 months ago when badly hampered by the fall of ill-fated Our Conor at the third flight, The New One stayed on doggedly to take third spot behind Jezki. The reigning champion looks sure to give another bold account for Jessica Harrington and Tony McCoy, but Faugheen looks the principal threat to The New One. Willie Mullins’ young pretender could be out of the top drawer and was a mightily impressive winner of last year’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f. Faugheen proved he was no slouch, either, over a sharp two miles when wrapping up the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton with tons in hand.
The New One is the more battle-hardened of the pair, having notched 14 career victories, including the 2013 ‘Neptune’. Indeed, the seven-year-old has been out of the frame only once, when sixth behind Champagne Fever in the 2012 Bumper. There is the likelihood that The New One could be outpaced running down the hill but his stamina will kick in charging off the home turn. With the ‘dead eight’ going to post, Jezki will be tempting to each-way thieves.
The opening day could prove rich pickings for the Mullins yard and Douvan is a short price to get the ball rolling in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. It will be fascinating to see if the on-course layers chose to take on unbeaten Douvan but the one to catch my eye is QEWY (1.30). A 107-rated horse on the Flat for John Oxx, Qewy is now in the care of John Ferguson and he travelled like a dream at Newbury last month when easily accounting for subsequent scorer Cardinal Walter. Trading around 12-1, Qewy is the each-way shout. L’Ami Serge has created a very good impression since joining Nicky Henderson and will enjoy plenty of market support, while Douvan’s stablemate Shaneshill is another to consider.
I wouldn’t care to oppose Mullins’ Un De Sceaux in the Arkle Trophy or Annie Power in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and they appeal as a short-price double. Elsewhere at more attractive odds, VERY WOOD (4.40) should relish the four-mile test of the Toby Balding National Hunt Chase. Last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle winner, Very Wood re-discovered his peak form last time out for Noel Meade and gets the nod over Sego Success, representing last year’s winning trainer Alan King. There has been a persistent whisper for Michael Hourigan’s The Job Is Right and top Irish amateur Derek O’Connor takes the mount.
THOMAS CRAPPER (5.15) should enjoy the prevailing decent ground in a wide-open CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices’ Handicap Chase and the eight-year-old found only classy Don Poli too hot to handle in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle here 12 months ago. Thomas Crapper is a course and distance winner over hurdles, landing the 2013 David Johnson Memorial Handicap from 19 rivals, including the very smart Whisper. That sets a fairly high standard.
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