This looks a strong novice hurdle that features some promising hurdling debutants. The one that stands out, however, is the Nicky Henderson-trained Chantry House, who was impressive when winning on his Rules debut in a deep bumper at Warwick which has worked out well.
Chantry House cost connections £295,000 after winning his completed start in points, and looks an exciting recruit to hurdling for a yard that has an excellent record with such types.
It could be a quick-fire double for Nicky Henderson who will hold leading claims here with Pym. He shaped well on chasing debut when finishing runner-up to one that has run well in graded company since, and made a mockery of his opening mark at Ascot last time, looking well suited by the step up to three miles.
On that performance, Pym is well up to making his mark in graded company himself, and he will be hard to beat back in novice company, with this slightly longer trip also in his favour.
This looks a typically competitive Cheltenham handicap, but Barntown appeals as still being ahead of the handicapper after a 6 lb rise for his Lingfield success. He was set to win over the same Course and Distance seven days earlier but for falling at the last, and Barntown confirmed that promise in no uncertain terms, making smooth headway down the back straight before challenging two out and taking it up on the run-in.
There should be more to come from him on just his third start in handicaps, and he should continue to give a good account.
The top-weight Definitelyanoscar has run well to finish second in a couple of similar races the last twice, but she looks vulnerable from this mark, therefore it could be worth siding with Parlour Maid, who resumed her progress after a breathing operation and eight months off when winning at Lingfield last time.
That was in a lesser race to this, and she is now 4 lb higher in the weights, but she impressed with the way she went through the race given she’d looked a sluggard last season, and could have even more to offer now she has had her wind sorted.
Another competitive renewal of this Grade 3, and it is Onefortheroadtom who makes the most appeal. He shaped well from 3 lb out of the handicap when finishing fourth in a similar event here in October, proving at least as good as ever after six months off.
That looks strong form, so it is a surprise that the handicapper has dropped him 2 lb since, and the addition of first-time blinkers could just sharped him up further. Admittedly, he is yet to win over fences, but with the ones towards the head of the market opposable, Onefortheroadtom is worth chancing.
Not everyone’s cup of tea but this looks an open race of its type. Josies Orders has a great record round here, but he is now an 11-year-old, and it could pay to side with his younger stablemate Yanworth, who was a high-class hurdler/smart chaser at best, and made the perfect start on his banks debut at Punchestown last month.
He was notably strong in the market just before the off on that occasion, and got the job done in good if not impressive fashion. Edna Bolger likely left plenty to work on their, and is likely working backwards from the Festival in March, so there should be more to come from him in this sphere.
Ask Ben was placed in points and caused a surprise on Rules debut last season when winning a novice hurdle at Newcastle at odds of 50/1. He proved that win no fluke when following up at Ayr (by 19 lengths) and performed with credit in a higher grade on his last two starts that season.
Ask Ben shaped encouragingly after eight months off on his handicap debut at Haydock last month, beaten three and a quarter lengths in fourth by some well-handicapped types. The handicapper has raised him 3 lb for that effort, but that looks fair, and Ask Ben rates the sort to do well in handicaps this season.
- Cheltenham 12:10 – Chantry House
- Cheltenham 12:45 – Pym
- Cheltenham 13:20 – Barntown
- Cheltenham 13:55 – Definitelyanoscar
- Cheltenham 14:30 – Onefortheroadtom
- Cheltenham 15:05 – Yanworth
- Cheltenham 15:40 – Ask Ben
*Prices correct at time of publishing, subject to change.