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The first fixture of the new Jumps season at Cheltenham start on Friday with the two-day showcase meeting. Friday’s card remembers Andy Stewart who passed away recently and was a great supporter of the jumping game. His Big Buck’s won four World Hurdles back in the day and here’s my four fancies Friday’s card.
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Just the five runners are declared, but this is a cracking contest. Paul Nicholls’ FIDELIO VALLIS is the most experienced in this novice chase and is a very fast, accurate jumper.
He can put that to good use and win this. The Dan Skelton-trained Third Time Lucki is a smart individual who finished fourth in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree last April behind County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter. He has some very good form to his name and may turn out to be the best of these longer term over fences. The experience factor swings it in Fidelio Vallis’ favour though.
Calagogo was a tidy winner at Killarney for Gordon Elliott under an enterprising ride from a very good 5lb claimer in Jordan Gainford. Davy Russell takes over now so, on the ratings, Ian Williams’ DRAGON BONES is the one to beat.
She blotted her copybook when chucking Charlie Todd into the wing at Southwell four runs back, but is unbeaten since. She has had a little break and comes here fresh, so she could still be improving.
Chris Gordon’s ANNUAL INVICTUS was second at Uttoxeter over fences to Faivoir earlier this month, and meets that rival again on 8lb better terms now. That will have blown away the cobwebs for the season ahead and he has some very good back form over hurdles to his name – notably a good fourth in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last season to Soaring Glory.
He should be too strong in the finish for Faivoir as Dan Skelton’s charge has looked a little awkward in the finish a couple of times. Annual Invictus’ style of running means he may mug the Skelton horse late on.
The Albatross club who own CAPTAIN MORGS are very enthusiastic and headed by the England cricket team captain, Eoin Morgan. His form is decent, he will love conditions and trainer Nicky Henderson has his string in very good form.
The obvious danger is Guard Your Dreams for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies. The team has a very strong record at this time of year and love having winners at the Showcase meeting. He was a good novice last season and signed off with a 10-length third to My Drogo in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. He has every chance now, but Captain Morgs has scope to improve off his current rating.
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