Every Saturday should start with a fry-up as far as we’re concerned, and the opening handicap chase on a cracking jumps card at Cheltenham can go to Harry Fry’s Henryville. He’s a hold-up horse, so will need luck in running, but there’s plenty of pace in the race and he’s gone well on his two previous starts at Cheltenham.
Thistlecrack’s half-brother West Approach just about sets the standard for the second race, a novice hurdle, but Wholestone readily justified strong market support when winning at Warwick on his return and could be hard to crack in the novice hurdle at 2.25pm.
Some big names have won the Masterson Holdings Hurdle 3pm in recent years, including Dodging Bullets in 2012, and that gelding’s trainer Paul Nicholls has the one to beat again in Adrien du Pont. Luckily, Manchester United aren’t playing until Sunday, which frees up amateur jockey Mr Alex Ferguson to ride Leoncavallo, who has been transferred from the now defunct stable run by John Ferguson (Alex’s dad) to Ben Pauling’s up-and-coming stable.
Boondooma won the two-mile handicap chase on his return last year 3.30pm and he looks the one to be on again as he attempts to repeat the trick for Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland. Even if Boondooma doesn’t win, the Good Doctor may still be needed after the race to help the jockeys of lazy sort Minella Definitely and suspect jumpers Dunraven Storm and Witness In Court.
Call The Cops cracked the case like Kojak when winning the Pertemps Final at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, but he ran like Chief Wiggum after a dozen donuts in the Coral Cup there when last seen in March. Because of this, the same owner’s For Good Measure in preferred in the qualifier for the Pertemps Final 4.05pm.
A fascinating novice chase can go to Shantou Village 4.40pm, who looked a smart recruit to racing over fences when winning at Fontwell in August, though the closing bumper looks a pin-stickers’ affair, with a big field containing loads of well-bred horses from leading yards. Maybe Paul Nicholls’ Brahms de Clermont will be led down the path of success by 7-lb claimer Stan Sheppard in the Cheltenham finale at 5.15pm.
For Flat fans, Yucatan is the one they all have to beat in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, (3.50pm) with the pesos having well and truly come for him in recent days. His backers are getting Moore for their money, too, with outstanding jockey Ryan Moore riding the colt for the first time, while Aidan O’Brien’s recent domination of the Arc, Fillies’ Mile and Dewhurst Stakes is another big positive.
Should Yucatan or one of his stablemates, The Anvil or Finn McCool, give O’Brien his 22nd Group 1 win in 2016, O’Brien will get even closer to the record of 25 top-level wins in a calendar year held by American trainer Bobby Frankel. You can see why they named a great horse after him!