Paul Ferguson has three selections from Cheltenham on Friday; Drumlee Sunset at 12:10; Three Musketeers at 1.20 and Village Vic at 1.55. Compare odds and bet.
Cheltenham welcomes in the New Year with a tremendous seven race card, kicking off with a competitive renewal of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, in which Captain Chaos and Champers On Ice set the standard.
They both have penalties to contend with and, with the step up in trip likely to bring about improvement, another chance is given to Drumlee Sunset (12:10) who looked a smart prospect when beating O O Seven (two from two over hurdles) in an Exeter bumper last February.
Things haven’t exactly gone to plan this term, but he looked to be outpaced when beaten in a maiden hurdle here in October and I have been waiting for him to go up in distance ever since. The son of Royal Anthem will need to settle better today, but there should be plenty of pace on, so he looks worthy of each-way support (11-2 best overnight, with Bet365 offering 5-1 and ¼ odds).
The Dipper Novices’ Chase looks pretty deep indeed this year, with six of the seven having already scored (four of which in decent company) over fences.
Course winner Blaklion, northern-raider Seeyouatmidnight and Nick Williams’ Aubusson all want further to be seen to best effect, so this is likely to turn into a test and the trio might just set it up for the hold up horses.
Volnay De Thaix was the pick of these over fences and probably gets his optimum conditions here, but he was far from foot perfect on his chasing debut at Doncaster and needs to step forward here, so preference is for impressive Newbury winner Three Musketeers (1:20) who can be held on to today, by Harry Skelton.
The six-year-old jumped really well when beating Activial (runs later today at Exeter) in the Berkshire Novices’ Chase at the Hennessy meeting and he has a fine record on soft ground.
This will be the first time that Dan Skelton’s charge will encounter an undulating track, but I don’t feel it will be an issue, especially on the New course. Available at 3-1 overnight, he just about deserves to head the market in my book and can confirm the promise he showed at Newbury in late-November.
Another worthy market-leader is Village Vic (1:55) who won the big handicap here in December in decisive fashion and, with this race looking weaker, Philip Hobbs’ nine-year-old can defy the 8lb rise.
The son of Old Vic made all to beat classy stable-mate Champagne West last month and, with nothing of his class in opposition this afternoon, he can follow up. Apart from Seventh Sky, who had a hard race in bad ground when scoring at Haydock just 13 days ago, there mightn’t be anything to press him on the front end and he can once again dictate matters under Richard Johnson. The 7-2 overnight looks more than fair (trimmed from 4-1 with Ladbrokes early evening).
The penultimate race, the Relkeel Hurdle looks another cracking contest, with World Hurdle winner Cole Harden and dual-Aintree scorer Whisper carrying the maximum penalties. Both have questions to answer here, however, with the former not at home on this bad ground and the latter was disappointing on his return at Newbury.
Therefore, it could pay to focus on the up-and-coming pairing of Top Notch and Virgilio. The former is one I’d want onside with the step up in trip likely to prove a positive, but he is a shade shorter than I had hoped, so the race is best watched unless he eases in the market throughout the day.
12:10 Cheltenham: Drumlee Sunset
1:20 Cheltenham: Three Musketeers
1:55 Cheltenham: Village Vic
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2015-16
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