Cheltenham 2.50 runner-by-runner guide to the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle

11 runners are set to go to post in the Listed race on Saturday.

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Sporting John

Trainer: Philip Hobbs Jockey: Tom O’Brien Age: 6 Weight: 11st 12lbs

Multiple hurdles winner who impressively landed Scilly Isles Chase in February. Jumping let him down in Grade 1 company during the spring but could easily get back on track. Has had a wind op.

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Proschema

Trainer: Dan Skelton Jockey: Harry Skelton Age: 6 Weight: 11st 11lbs

Signed off last term on a high, landing competitive handicaps here and at Aintree (2½m). Fifth in Silver Trophy at Chepstow on return and then took form up a notch when second in 3 Grade 2 latest.

Shannon Bridge

Trainer: Dan Skelton Jockey: Bridget Andrews Age: 8 Weight: 11st 5lbs

Perked up by blinkers and a return to hurdles when winning at Wetherby and Ascot in January/February. Looked rusty on reappearance 12 days ago minus usual headgear (off again here).

Ballymillsy

Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies Age: 5 Weight: 11st 1lbs

Fairly useful hurdler who scored at Warwick in February and improved gain when landing 26.5f handicap on last month’s reappearance at Newton Abbot. 8lb rise perfectly fair.

Dragon Bones

Trainer: Ian Williams Jockey: Charlie Todd Age: 6 Weight: 10st 12lbs

Sprung a surprise in 3m Doncaster listed event on hurdling debut in March. Landed another trio of novice events later that spring and stuck to task when runner-up on recent C&D return. Handicap bow.

Onagatheringstorm

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien Jockey: Paddy Brennan Age: 6 Weight: 10st 10lbs

Winning pointer who confirmed hurdles debut promise when running out a comfortable winner of a maiden/novice during the spring. Behind Dragon Bones when third on C&D return and now goes handicapping.

Valentino Dancer

Trainer: Fergal O’Brien Jockey: Connor Brace Age: 6 Weight: 10st 9lbs

Solid start for new yard, winning 2m handicaps at Kelso and Market Rasen either side of an excellent third in the Summer Hurdle. Collared close home at Chepstow latest but stamina for 3m to prove.

Optimise Prime

Trainer: Ben Pauling Jockey: Nico de Boinville Age: 5 Weight: 10st 9lbs

Bagged 2 2m4f novice hurdles at Hereford before Christmas and better form when third in listed race at Market Rasen. Out of depth in the Ballymore at the Festival and goes up in trip for handicap bow.

Dorrells Pierji

Trainer: Chris Honour Jockey: Ciaran Gethings Age: 8 Weight: 10st 7lbs

Dual bumper/hurdles winner for Willie Mullins but left that yard after failing to fire on chase debut back in November 2019. Almost certainly needed the run in the Silver Trophy.

Scheu Time

Trainer: James A. Nash Jockey: Gavin Peter Brouder Age: 8 Weight: 10st 7lbs

Fairly useful handicap hurdler/chaser and fit from the Flat, he showed a bit more when fifth at Gowran last month (3m). Usual tongue tie back on but looks vulnerable from current mark.

Kansas City Chief

Trainer: Neil Mulholland Jockey: Miss Victoria Malzard Age: 12 Weight: 10st 5lbs

Veteran who was all the better for his comeback run in Jersey when landing a C&D handicap 3 weeks ago, going with zest and keeping on well. 5lb rise still leaves him competitive.

Timeform Verdict: The intriguing runner here is SPORTING JOHN returned to hurdling on the back of a breathing operation. His jumping failed to pass muster in Grade 1 company over fences during the spring but he could easily get back on track in handicap company over timber. Ballymillsy and Proschema are very solid alternatives, while Dragon Bones can boast an excellent strike rate.

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