Nicky Henderson likes to run his good juvenile hurdlers around Cheltenham and it’s quite telling that he let’s Never Adapt take her chance here. JP McManus loves a Cheltenham winner and is going for three in a row in this contest after Apples Shakira and Defi Du Seuil both won. I’ll take her to win at the expense of Quel Destin.
The Worlds End is a short-priced favourite, but it is really hard to look past him. He jumped brilliantly at Chepstow when winning on debut, but Theatre Territory could be the each-way play as some of her form is really strong. There’s a lot in her favour and she’s had a wind operation too.
This has lots of old favourites in it and Callet Mad is the one open to the most improvement so he gets the nod. The fact he is only carrying 10st 7lbs is another plus. Of the bigger-priced ones, Paul Nicholls’ Vincente could be the play to be placed. He will love the ground and is on an attractive handicap mark.
The big race of the day has such a rich history and any jockey will want it on their CV. Runners with Cheltenham experience have an advantage and Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be ticks all the boxes for me. He ran a blinder when mugged on the line by Mr Whitaker at the Festival last March and is 9lbs better off with him on ground that should really suit.
Paddy’s paying 7 places so I’ll also throw in the Barry Geraghty ridden Movewithetimes, who was narrowly beaten by Ballyandy in the Betfair Hurdle previously. He has not had a great run of things as a novice chaser, but is attractively handicapped because of it.
Neill Mullholland’s Kalondra is another that will love the way this race is run and ticks the Cheltenham experience box. He was running a huge race at the Galway Festival before hitting the deck three fences out. The trainer did us a favour on Friday with The Young Master and he can be among the places.
First Assignment is favourite for good reason. This five-year-old is a real improver and got up close home last time at Chepstow so this 2m 5f trip will suit. He’s the win selection but I’ll give a mention to Anteros who has run some nice races at Cheltenham and can hit the frame again at a big price.
I have to confirm my involvement here, as I own the horse I am going to go for. Westend Story is a horse I love and can’t wait to get him back on track. This will be his last run over hurdles before going chasing and he has a decent chance on this ground. He looks a decent each-way bet. The main worry is just how well handicapped Speedo Boy is at the foot of the weights.
He finished sixth in the Newmarket Cesarawitch and if you add the ‘rule of thumb’ 45lb to his Flat rating to gauge how far he could go over jumps, it becomes very clear.
He was rated 98 on the Flat and 45 added to that is 143. He races for trainer Ian Williams here off 118! It doesn’t always work out that way – but it is a reasonable guide. He is the obvious danger – but I am still hopeful of a good run by Westend Story.
Willie Mullins saddles Royal Illusion in the bumper and how can we oppose her? She has won both her starts to date, but Danse Idol has to have a chance of upsetting this favourite. Her form when second to Relegate at Puncheswtown reads well and she’s certainly one to watch. but I am loathe to go against a WPM trained bumper horse.
We had a good day on Friday with four winners so best of luck again. Good luck!