Hell Red displayed promise to finish runner-up on his hurdling debut in France and he looked a useful prospect when bolting up on his first start for Paul Nicholls at Chepstow last month. That probably wasn’t a strong race, but Hell Red impressed with how accurately he jumped and powerfully he travelled on his way to a 12-length success. He has plenty more to offer and can make the most of the 5 lb he receives from Duffle Coat.
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Kilfilum Cross was disappointing on his reappearance at Fakenham last month but he looked rusty on his first outing since March and could be a different proposition with that outing under his belt and cheekpieces reapplied. The return to Cheltenham is a positive for Kilfilum Cross who has finished runner-up in the ultra-competitive Kim Muir Handicap Chase (on the New course) at the Festival for the past two seasons. He is only 3 lb higher than when runner-up in March and a bold bid is expected here. Lamanver Pippin is much less exposed than many of these and ran well for a long way in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival, so appeals as one of the leading dangers.
Fusil Raffles looked an exciting prospect when winning the Adonis Hurdle and a Grade 1 at Punchestown during his juvenile campaign, but he failed to meet lofty expectations last season, running no sort of race when joint-favourite for the Christmas Hurdle before also disappointing in the Champion Hurdle. That meant he had a point to prove, but he has made an excellent start to his chasing career, following up an encouraging success at Uttoxeter with a wide-margin win over this course and distance. It was not a competitive event that Fusil Raffles won last time but he did so in an excellent time, which adds substance to the form, and he should take plenty of beating.
Simply The Betts enjoyed a tremendous novice campaign over fences last season, winning four of his five outings and finishing runner-up on the other occasion. Simply The Betts beat Imperial Aura in a novice handicap chase at Cheltenham on Trials Day and that turned out to be one of the strongest pieces of handicap form all season. They both followed up at the Cheltenham Festival and it would be dangerous to dismiss the prospect of further improvement from Simply The Betts this season. He makes his return to the track with Harry Whittington in excellent form and the forecast rain will not be a problem as he is a thorough stayer at the trip.
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Tea Clipper did plenty in a short space of time as a novice last season, winning three of his four outings, and he continued on his upward curve when landing the Silver Trophy at Chepstow on his reappearance. Tea Clipper impressed with his response to pressure at Chepstow, finding plenty when asked for his effort, and he should be suited by this step up in trip to three miles. A 7 lb rise in the weights demands more, but he has a likeable profile and still has more to offer.
Topofthecotswolds developed into a useful chaser last season, notably racking up a hat-trick at Stratford, and it’s possible that he’s better in that sphere than he is over hurdles. However, he won a novice hurdle at Uttoxeter in September and then wasn’t disgraced when third behind a couple of promising rivals over this course and distance last month, and he doesn’t look badly treated on his first start in a handicap hurdle. He should give a good account for the in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies yard.
This is a fascinating contest, featuring a host of promising performers, but Elle Est Belle gets the nod after making such an impressive winning debut at Aintree last month. Elle Est Belle was up against four rivals who had won a point or a bumper but she brushed them aside with ease, looking a mare out of the ordinary as she cruised by on the bridle. She was value for much more than the winning margin of five and a half lengths and is a most exciting prospect.
Timeform’s tips at Cheltenham on Saturday
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