You have to go back to 2004 (Haafhd) for the last time a colt did the Craven/Guineas double but it remains the premier British trial for the first classic of the flat season. The Frankel colt Eminent looked a horse with a big future when winning his sole start over C&D back in September but I was hoping for a bit more sparkle from the yard’s (Martyn Meade) runner on the opening day and he is overlooked.
War Decree (2/1 fav at BetVictor) improved with all three runs for Ballydoyle last season and ended the campaign with a cosy success in the Gp 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. That was back in July, however, and his subsequent absence from the track is a bit of a concern. Preference is for the Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet (3.35) who was given a fine tactical ride by Andrea Atzeni from the front when scoring at Doncaster.
Frankie Dettori takes over this afternoon but the Italian was in the saddle when the colt shed his maiden tag in the Convivial Maiden at York’s Ebor meeting. Rivet is 5/2 second favourite with BetVictor and the hope is that Frankie can ride them to sleep from the front.
Accession won the 7f Handicap on the card by six lengths from a 9lbs lower mark last season and is likely to be primed for a repeat bid. The vote goes to the filly Mix And Mingle (2.25) whose sole career success came over today’s C&D and did run a good race in the 1000 Guineas when beaten seven lengths behind Minding over an additional furlong.
Brando (3.00) has won first time out for the last couple of seasons and it is hard to see past the five-year-old given he was improving at a rate of knots towards the end of last season winning the Ayr Gold Cup before finishing third in the Champions’ Sprint.
The selection won at this corresponding meeting last season so we know he handles the track although he might not want firm ground. The selection is 5/4 at BetVictor and I think he is a bit better than his six rivals.
At Cheltenham Dusky Legend (2.05) steps up to 2m 4f for the first time having finished third in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival last month for a second time. The selection finished behind Coillte Lass (3lbs worse off) at Taunton at the minimum trip earlier in the season and the latter failed to show much sparkle last time.
I am a big admirer of both Briery Belle and Antartica De Thaix (2.40) and both have done us more than one favour this season but it is the Nicholls runner who has improved in leaps and bounds of late and her jumping has been quite exemplary. Her ability to handle ground this quick ground has to be taken on trust, but she represents a yard in very good form.
Snow Leopardess is likely to be all the rage for the listed Mares’ Handicap Hurdle despite having been raised 12lbs for her fluent Newbury success last time. Connections were considering a crack at next week’s Punchestown Grade 1 in the immediate aftermath of the race but they appear to have had a change of plan – she is good but she is 12lbs worse off with Theatre Territory (3.15) for the 12 lengths the selection was beaten and they is entitled to bring the pair much closer together.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has won this corresponding race three times in the last six years and I will be disappointed if this inmate doesn’t go very go close to adding to that impressive record.
The mare Two Swallows (4.20) can bounce back to form in the 3m Handicap Hurdle back on decent ground – the selection was below par at Ludlow last time but had won two of her last three starts before that and ran out a ready winner on her sole start on good ground at Doncaster back in December.