There’s plenty of rain forecast overnight at Cheltenham and that could throw all the good ground calculations out the window. We were expecting unseasonably good ground and the track had watered the course this week to keep it safe. However, another 5 or 10mm will definitely have an effect.
The first four home in the BetVictor Gold Cup meet again in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup 1.50pm, but it’s a different ball game on the New Course where the emphasis is going to be on stamina not speed.
I originally thought that last year’s winner Village Vic, who was just denied at the Open meeting, would find it a little easier to concede weight all round. But with the forecast rain I’ve had to revise that. That also goes for the admirably consistent Buywise who finished just behind Village Vic last month.
Fitting him with a visor on ground softer than anticipated is just one too many steps into the unknown for me. So I’ll pass him over.
The one I think will win is Kylemore Lough who shouldn’t mind any ease in the ground. I saw him in action at Ascot last time and it was a really good comeback run behind Royal Regatta. He was just beaten a head with God’s Own (finished third in the Tingle Creek) a length further back.
He’s a very good jumper, won a Grade One at Fairyhouse last season and the New Course should suit him. He’s got plenty of weight so he’s not well handicapped as such, but he’s handicapped fairly on what he’s achieved so far.
Venetia Williams’ Aso also comes into calculations if the ground rides soft. If he had of jumped the last two fences better at the Open meeting, he may nearly have won there.
Yanworth is a high-profile absentee from the Grade 2 International Hurdle so how much of a trial it is now for the Champion Hurdle has to be taken on trust. It looks like it could be a real tactical affair.
My Tent or Yours is too short in the market for me after disappointing at Haydock. Everything went right for him that day where he settled beautifully, but found nothing on the heavy ground. Maybe he’ll improve for his first run of the season, but at the prices, I’m not interested.
I wanted to see The New One over fences but connections come here after his planned first run at Exeter was lost to the weather. He’s a dual winner of this contest but has to concede 9lbs to My Tent or Yours. Mister Miyagi doesn’t strike me as a Champion Hurdle winner-in-waiting but if races like this get too tactical, they can throw up surprise results. Was sixth in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season.
There’s some decent contests on the undercard at Cheltenham and Doncaster and Colin Tizzard’s West Approach is a half-brother to Thistlecrack and the softer the ground the better his chance in the 2.25 at Cheltenham, the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
The 2m 4f Mares Hurdle at 3.35pm is the TV finale at Cheltenham and I like Briary Queen. She’s good enough, if fit enough on her seasonal debut, as the rain may have really gotten into the ground by then.
She won her last two races last season (one under today’s rider Barry Geraghty in the Stewards Room) and seems to handle all types of ground.
I was really impressed with O O Seven at Cheltenham and the good ground at Doncaster will suit. Looks the winner of the 2.40pm to me.
The Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster 3.15pm is interesting and the bottom weight Timoteo is an interesting runner for Alan King. He makes his British debut and is worth chancing in a race that doesn’t look packed full of superstars.
Paul Nicholls’ Cliffs of Dover has been very well placed to run up a winning sequence and Joseph O’Brien’s runners have been aggressively campaigned too, but Timoteo is unexposed.