Cheltenham Festival Race Preview, Wednesday 11/03/2020

Cheltenham
Wednesday March 11th

Cheltenham 1.30
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Class 1 Grade 1
2m5f – Going: Soft – Over the Old Course – 12 runners

Not a competitive opening and it revolves around Envoi Allen**, last season’s Champion Bumper-winner, who is three from three over hurdles, beat Abacadabras and Darver Star in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in December, ridden out after a mistake at the last – that race might end up the strongest novice hurdle of the whole season, let alone pre-Cheltenham – and had no problem with the step up in trip at Naas next time when beating Elixir D’Ainay. Dangers: we’re probably looking at Easywork, who’s two from three and was a good 2nd to Asterion Forlonge at Leopardstown, but didn’t impress with his finishing effort, travelling the better at the second last but hanging and done with after a mistake at the last, and my idea of an each-wayer here Longhouse Poet*, who disputed the lead two out against Latest Exhibition at Leopardstown in the 2m6f Grade 1 on February 1st and was still upsides at the last under pressure before fading on the run-in. Best British challenger is probably Ascot winner Sporting John, who beat Pipesmoker in workmanlike style on February 15th, preferred over The Big Breakaway, who has a bit to find on his defeat of Papa Tango Charly at Newbury in December.

Selection: ENVOI ALLEN – Alternative: Longhouse Poet


2020 Grand National Runners


Cheltenham 2.10
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase Class 1 Grade 1
3m80y – Going: Soft – Over the Old Course – 10 runners

Allaho*
Best work at the end when 3rd to Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett at last year’s Festival. Ran Easy Game to a length at Leopardstown over Christmas then had a solo round Fairyhouse to land his beginners’, jumping soundly and stretching well clear. Last year’s experience could be useful
Aye Right
Improved handicap hurdler but lacks experience over fences, unseating in race won by Sam Spinner at Doncaster then not troubled to beat Mulcahys Hill in a match at Newcastle. Bit to find on chase form
Battleoverdoyen
Blew out in the Ballymore on this day last year and, after an impressive start to his chase career, dropped away markedly against Faugheen and Easy Game in Flogas at Leopardstown last month, led or disputed till weakening off the home turn and crumpling to the ground in an undignified heap. The one of the big players to take on
Castlebawn West
Beaten halfway, blundering 5th, in Ballymore on this day last year. Was a well-held 4th against Faugheen and Easy Game in Flogas at Leopardstown last time and no reason to suppose he’ll be bettering that
Champ*
Runner-up in Ballymore this time last year, arguably travelled best as pulled clear with City Island home turn, soon pushed along, ridden and one pace approaching last, hard driven as winner asserted, no extra last 175 yards. Impressive start to chasing career and should be three from three but fell in Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, pressed on and clear 12th, pushed along from home turn, stayed on, was 5 lengths in front and looking the most likely winner when steadied into and fell 2 out. Proven at 3m, quite possibly compensation awaits
Copperhead
Progressing novice and best to date when landing Reynoldstown at Ascot last time, disputed lead 16th, chased leader 3 out, led home turn and immediately challenged, asserted under a ride and was 2 lengths clear 2 out, ridden and drew further clear, some 15 to 20 lengths up when steadied into and mistake last, eased inside last 150 yards, readily beat Two For Gold. Ground less testing here but contender
Easy Game
Well-held 8th to City Island in Ballymore on this day last year, pushed along and kept on a bit going to 2 out, all over the place there, well held home turn. Cracking effort when serving it up to Faugheen in Flogas at Leopardstown last time, started a move after 4 out, ridden into 3 out, closed on leaders and within 3 lengths on outer 2 out, loomed up looking strong approaching home turn, pushed along turning in, outpaced as Faugheen went on, stayed on approaching last, the better jump, hard driven, 1st 2 clear, sustained effort but no extra final 100 yards. Pedigree says this step up in trip isn’t the right thing – dam won over 1m5f and bred a 2m2f-jumper in France
Minella Indo*
The 50/1 winner of last year’s Albert Bartlett, arguably travelled best going down the hill to 2 out, led half a length, was the only one on the bit when pushed along home turn, ridden clear against stands’ side rail approaching last, was soon 3 or 4 lengths clear, hard driven, was closed on and jumped last 2 lengths up, 1st 2 clear, driven out up the hill to beat Commander Of Fleet. Won second chase, a beginners’ at Navan, made all, jumped soundly and travelled comfortably, was closed on after 2 out, hard ridden, only a neck up when the better jump last, ridden out, stayed on well, genuine solid performance to beat Captain Cj, who then went on to win the Grade 2 Ten Up Novices’. Contender again
Pym
Had been a progressing, sound-jumping novice, once stepped up in trip winning at Ascot then Cheltenham, up with the pace and jumping soundly, but blew it in the Reynoldstown at Ascot last time, maybe on account of testing ground, lost ground 12th, last pair 13th and pushed along, hard ridden and detached last in Swinley Bottom, well back and tailing off when blundered 4 out, pulled up immediately. Now not sure what to expect
Slate House
Looked the most likely winner of the betvictor Gold Cup when falling last, made amends by winning Kauto Star Novices’ at Kempton, but is another to come to this race under a cloud, albeit after he was given a tough ask in Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January; looked well in the paddock, dropped to last 7th, niggled along in detached last 12th, struggling when reminder after 4 out, passed a couple and raced 5 lengths 4th after 3 out, weakened off home turn and dropped to last approaching 2 out, tailed off when pulled up before last – wasn’t going anywhere after a circuit. Having run below form at the last two Festivals, supporting him here would be a serious leap of faith

Shortlist: Allaho, Champ, Minella Indo

Cheltenham 2.50
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3
2m5f – Going: Soft – Over the Old Course – 26 runners

Kilfenora
Whacked up the weights for winning good handicaps at Naas and Navan, was below his best tried in Grade company in Boyne Hurdle at Navan last time, looking held between last 2, and has a bit on now
Cracking Smart*
In this race last year led 2 out and weakened after headed approaching the last. Decisive winner of Boyne Hurdle at Navan last time beating former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Penhill 4 lengths at level weights, staying on to maintain clear lead run-in. Has a chance, given he ran better than his finishing position last year
Eglantine Du Seuil
Last year’s winner of the mares’ novice hurdle was 4th in Grade B handicap at Leopardstown last time, took a hold, midfield but only 6 lengths off the lead bend before omitted 2 out, pushed along and further ground wide to close on leaders approaching home turn, ran on strongly wide approaching last and every chance, steadied into it, put under strong pressure, stayed on till no extra last 125 yards. Has some placed form over 2m4f but very much shaped as though 2m would suit ideally at Leopardstown and should have gone for the County
Bachasson
Yet to complete a race at the Cheltenham Festival, unseated last when on for a midfield finish in 2016 Albert Bartlett and fell 2nd in 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Shaped well on belated reappearance when 3rd to Cracking Smart in Boyne Hurdle at Navan,  within 2 lengths and held a chance going better than a couple approaching 2 out, every chance jumping, hard ridden, faded approaching last, dropped further back run-in though didn’t lose places, kept on last 100 yards. More exposed than some
Ballymoy
Hasn’t been seeing out races over fences and it was the same returned to hurdles at Ascot behind Thomas Darby back in January, weakening after the third last and well held in the straight; the performances of the stable’s runners on Tuesday suggest that the Twiston-Davies yard hasn’t come to this Festival on form
Franco De Port
Best run since joining current connections when 2nd to Stormy Ireland  in Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas in January, niggled along and closed up well approaching 2 out (to an extent this was the 1st 2 coming back), took 3rd jumping, pushed along, stayed on, closed on 2nd approaching last, no impression on Stormy Ireland, took 2nd early on run-in, driven and stayed on well to assert in battle for that place, no chance with winner. Dam was a two-miler and this one’s no certainty to stay, but the dam’s dam’s progeny were/are more effective at 2m4f than shorter
Top Moon
After winning at Cork in November ran well in a better race at Navan in December when 2nd to Alfa Mix, a couple of mistakes, headway from midfield and closing from the third last, no impression on the winner from the last. Was well held in midfield over 2m behind Thosedaysaregone at Leopardstown last time. High in the weights for what he’s achieved
Birchdale
At last year’s Festival didn’t last home in the Albert Bartlett, moved comfortably as edged closer 10th and prominent at the top of the hill, niggled along approaching 2 out, ridden along home turn, weakened under a ride once in line for home, soon well held, dropping away quickly when eased right off and pulled up before last. Only start this season, tailed off behind Angels Breath in novice chase at Ascot in November, and seems to have issues
Canardier
Came here in good form this time last year and ran 5th to William Henry in this race, noticeable ground past a few at the top of the hill before 3 out, niggled along home turn, soon more firmly shaken up, stayed on and held half a chance approaching last, hard driven, one pace up the hill, faded last few strides and was being closed on by the 6th. Not in the same decent nick this time, falling and tailed off in two chase starts. Left Dermot McLoughlin, joined Willie Mullins and could do something, though wouldn’t want to be any higher in the weights
Coko Beach
At this meeting last year ran in the juvenile handicap and was 2nd to Band Of Outlaws, chased new leader home turn, put under pressure, stayed on, every chance approaching last, led a neck on landing, headed 175 yards out, outpaced as winner asserted. Winning reappearance at Punchestown in October but nothing since, although ran well till falling over 3m at Navan in December, niggled along  after 11th, headway approaching home turn, tracked leaders approaching 3 out and moved comfortably, mistake there, niggled along, every chance 2 out, ridden and outpaced between last 2, dropping back under pressure when fell last behind The Jam Man. Well tailed off behind Kilfenora and Alfa Mix at Navan next time. Others preferred
Sayo
Was 3rd to Farclas in the 2018 Triumph: winning chaser but reverted to hurdles. Hit and miss but best effort this season when 3rd to Burrows Saint in conditions hurdle at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, didn’t jump well, detached last 7th, pushed along 8th, outpaced when mistake 3 out,  stayed on under a ride and took 15 lengths 3rd 2 out, kept on from home turn, took 3rd under a ride after last, stayed on and was closing on the 2nd final 100 yards. Was tailed off over 3m at Leopardstown last time. Not sure about him in a field this big and the way he went at Punchestown suggests he’s likely to get out of it before getting into it
Stratum
Best run this season last time out when 4th in conditions hurdle at Punchestown, midfield by 8th, further good ground and about to move into 2nd anyway (8 to 10 lengths off clear leader and winner Burrows Saint) when left clear in that position 3 out, niggled along, more firmly ridden along 2 out, hard ridden, hung right and made no impression coming off home turn, faded and lost 2nd then 3rd after last under pressure, weakened final 100 yards and eased late. Ignoring the winner, with the jockey arguably the first to realise that Burrows Saint wasn’t coming back, he was effectively asked for his effort from the third last and used up by the home turn, so a better run than his final position. Not out since, chances although he’s seeing Cheltenham for the first time
Protektorat
Good novice and won at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, shaken up approaching last, effort and led jumping, ridden a length clear, went right and across Imperial Alcazar’s path to stands’ side rail, hard driven, stayed on, all out last 100 yards, held on well. Not as resolute against Harry Senior at Cheltenham on January 25th, mistakes 3rd and 5th, last pair but only 4 lengths down 2 out, finally shaken up home turn, stayed on and disputed 3rd last, hard ridden and no more last 150 yards. Probably needs exaggerated waiting tactics, so don’t expect to see him till late
Mister Blue Sky
Not much form this season, midfield in good handicaps at Fairyhouse (mistake 4 out, hard ridden and struggling after 3 out, lost place, well held under a ride approaching 2 out) and Leopardstown. Was a 1m2f horse on the Flat and no pretensions to staying this trip
Black Tears
At last year’s Festival ran well to get 4th to Eglantine Du Seuil in the mares’ novice, travelled best approaching last, shaken up nearing it and every chance, hard driven, stayed on till faded last 125 yards, stuck to task but lost ground close home –  arguably produced too soon. Progressing mare chased home Elfile in Grade 3 mares’ event at Punchestown on February 19th, niggled along approaching 2nd, closed up 5th as pace slackened, not fluent 6th, within 5 lengths 7th, niggled again approaching 3 out, shaken up on landing, not fluent 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on home turn, put under pressure approaching last, lost ground nearing it, rallied run-in and closed on 1st 2, took 2nd and was closing on the winner final strides. Was on and off the bridle, niggled early and best work late. Good claims
The Mighty Don
Raced in novice chases this season and struggling with the fences – should have won at Market Rasen last time, had gone clear and was drawing further clear when fell last. Has lots of good handicap hurdle form to his name but has hardly had an ideal build-up
Traffic Fluide
High-class chaser: after a lengthy absence, looked like winning Ascot Chase when falling at the last, became detached final circuit, stayed on from 13th, ridden and stayed on into 2nd home turn, chased winner between last 2, hard driven and hung, had become hard work but still looked like getting there when fell last. Well treated over hurdles but after a shattering experience after his absence, hard to fancy
Chesterfield
Chasing career put on hold, returned to hurdles in National Spirit at Fontwell but started 40/1 and did little, mistake 7th and pushed along away from it, struggling disputing last 3 out, no impression when blundered 2 out, well back last, took 4th but weakened further run-in, cantering on the spot at the end. Better at 2m
Alfa Mix*
Unexposed hurdler, won at Navan in December and good run to chase home Kilfenora in good handicap there last time, effort delayed and seemed poised home turn, pulled wide and travelled comfortably after 3 out, closed on Kilfenora, a length down when mistake 2 out, shaken up, outpaced as winner asserted, came clear of 3rd, 3 lengths down last, put under pressure, stayed on, closed on leader till no extra final 100 yards. Good chance
Champagne Well
Consistent novice, probably best effort when chasing Redford Road home over 3m at Cheltenham in December, slow at the early hurdles but coming there strongly at the second last, ridden and wandering a little after the last, keeping on last 100 yards but never pulling the winner back. Checked out readily against Ramses De Teillee at Doncaster last time, a neck down at the last but beaten 17 lengths at the line, and resolution under suspicion
Dame De Compagnie*
Progressing mare took good mares’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in December when last seen, closer order 7th, niggled along after 2 out and more firmly pushed along straightening, 3 lengths to find, stayed on under a hand ride approaching last, a neck down jumping, hard ridden, put under pressure last 200 yards, stayed on well to pull clear, workmanlike and decisive in beating Indefatigable. Unexposed and claims
Honest Vic
In form when last seen, second win of the season when taking competitive handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day, he and Star Of Lanka pulling clear. Has shaped as though needing exaggerated waiting tactics in the past
Thosedaysaregone
A bit inconsistent but landed competitive handicap at Leopardstown last time, held up and coming late and last to lead 100 yards out and beat Golden Jewel. Effective at 2m4f too; is normally ridden with exaggerated waiting tactics though and his BHA-mark (139 here, compared to a Turf Club-rating of 126 at Leopardstown) gives him a tough task
Golan Fortune
Best this season when taking Listed handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November,  led going comfortably going down the hill to 2 out, sent clear, hard ridden from home turn, in close to last, hard driven, wandered right (right-hand whip) across Eminent Poet’s path and was closed on by runner-up, ridden out and stayed on well last 150 yards. Pulled up in the deep mud at Sandown last time, around 3m looks his best trip nowadays
Burrows Edge
Fortunate Lanzarote Hurdle winner just sneaks in, on and off the bit and closing on Debestyman when that one’s fall left him clear at the last. Often makes mistakes and yet to win left-handed
Fagan
Showed little after a long absence, and on first run for new stable, in Pertemps Qualifier at Haydock in February, steadily-run race and readily outpaced when the sprint finish started on the home turn. Best watched

Shortlist: Cracking Smart, Alfa Mix, Dame De Compagnie

Cheltenham 3.30
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase Class 1 Grade 1
1m7f199y – Going: Soft – Over the Old Course – 6 runners

With news breaking via Twitter on Tuesday morning that Altior is to miss the race, it melts down to round two in the emerging rivalry, if that’s what it’s set to become, between Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi*: round one went to the latter at Punchestown last May in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice, led home turn and arguably going best, shaken up nearing 2 out and went through it, pushed along, idled in the clear between last 2, was 2 lengths up jumping last, ridden, ran on last 200 yards to draw clear. However Defi Du Seuil** is a vastly-improved two-miler this season and, having won the Tingle Creek from Waiting Patiently, the speed at which he was trapping over the second last in the Clarence House at Ascot was something else. I think Defi’s going to outpace Chacun this time round.

Battling out third place – well they pick themselves, Sceau Royal putting in his usual honest effort when no match for Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury, having his chance (not a first against him), and Politologue, who I’d rather see in the Ryanair, but with the going on the soft side he’ll be up for third or fourth.

Selection: DEFI DU SEUIL – Alternative: Chacun Pour Soi

Cheltenham 4.10
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Class 2
3m6f37y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – Over the Cross Country Course – 16 runners

As in the days of Spot Thedifference and Garde Champetre (I need a new opening line really), horses who’ve shown their form over this track are the ones to be with. The narrative here is all about Tiger Roll**, who bids to win at the Festival for the fifth time. His run in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan was as encouraging as connections said it was afterwards, holding every chance at the third last before weakening at the last. While he’s around, the Grand National is one thing, but I definitely don’t want to take him on over this cross-country track. Not even with some emerging forces in this genre, mainly from France, Easysland* making a successful British debut in December, kept up to his work to hold stablemate Amazing Comedy – he’s probably the main danger. Not far behind are the two horses who dominated the November-race over this track, Diesel D’Allier* and Urgent De Gregaine, who finished one-two in that order – either of those, probably more attractively priced than Tiger Roll and Easysland, will give you a run. A potential improver is Neverushacon, who won well over Punchestown’s cross-country last month, with Yanworth (yep, the would-be Champion Hurdler from 2017) and the now 12-year-old Josies Orders behind – he has it to do with the French contenders strictly speaking, but the Punchestown win represents improvement. If anything other than those mentioned wins, it’ll be a major shock.

Selection: TIGER ROLL –
Alternatives: Easysland, Diesel D’Allier

Cheltenham 4.50
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3 4-y-o
2m87y – Going: Soft – Over the Old Course – 24 runners

Mick Pastor
Something in hand when winning at Ludlow, still on the bit at the last, but pulled very hard early on and worried he might not settle. Lot of weight
Aramax
Up with the pace and stayed on well at the end to beat Recent Revelations at Naas on February 8th – had a little in hand although it might not be as high as I have it rated
Palladium
Made most to win at Sandown in February, a couple of mistakes but stayed on thoroughly in testing conditions to beat Flic Ou Voyou. Possibilities despite a big weight and likely to settle
Langer Dan
Wensleydale winner at Wetherby back in November: pair clear when 2nd to Garry Clermont at Ludlow last month, staying on one pace from the second last and shaping like more of a test would suit
Blacko*
Won both starts in Britain, looked straightforward bar a mistake at the last when defeating Zoffee at Taunton – defeated The Pink’n (won at Stratford on Monday) at Warwick next time
Zoffee
Ran into one when 2nd to Blacko at Taunton in December, chased leader, wandered going to 3rd, led 5th, moved well 3 out, headed 2 out, no extra from last; won easily at Doncaster next time
Clemencia
Regressive for Brendan Duke, well held the last twice: joined Tim Vaughan, but not much hope on form
Galahad Quest
Won weak running of Grade 2 at Cheltenham in January, chased leader from 3rd, ridden home turn, stayed on and led approaching last, driven out, stayed on well to beat Night Edition. Unusually for a winner of a race of that grade, needs more here
Saint D’oroux
Not hard pressed to win his maiden at Gowran Park in February, led 4th, drew a little way clear after 3 out, moved best going to 2 out and not hard pressed to draw further clear before and after it, still on the bit approaching last, not shaken up at any time
Thyme White*
Got the job done in Listed juvenile at Musselburgh, shaping as though could have done with more of a test, mistake and went left 6th, led 3 out, moved much the best till joined 2 out, hard ridden, headed, stayed on, mistake last but led, driven out, stayed on well, sustained effort and maintained 2-length lead to the line to beat Group Stage. Wouldn’t be the first time Paul Nicholls has run this type of juvenile in this race (think Qualando in 2015)
Night Edition
Doesn’t impress in build – leggy and narrow framed – but ran well at Cheltenham in weak Grade 2 behind Galahad Quest,headway and in touch 2 out, ridden home turn, stayed on to chase winner last, hard driven, no extra last 150 yards. Won half a length at Ludlow next time and form looks short of his mark
Bajan Excell
Has won nowhere else but Limerick, on the Flat and over hurdles; two runs ago in January got his latest win, shaken up off home turn, stayed on approaching 2 out, was a length up jummping, wandered a little but stayed on well approaching last, wandered nearing it, took off on the wrong leg, ridden out, stayed on well, decisive from Nobel Joshua. Plenty of placed form elsewhere, but not much of it when going left-handed. First-time visor
Fraser Island
Didn’t seem to do anything wrong, just not good enough against Goa Lil at Kempton in January, was within a length home turn, soon niggled along, pushed along straightening, outpaced 2 out, put under pressure, lost 2nd approaching last, stuck to task, went right last, driven and no extra last 150 yards. Chased home Calva D’Auge at Plumpton last time. Probably needs more of a test than he’s had up to now
Recent Revelations
On the form of the Naas race in which he was 2nd to Aramax he has a chance, keen, raced a length and a bit off 1st 2 as pace quickened 4th, effort and chased leader 5th, disputed lead 6th, moved largely comfortably till nudged along approaching 2 out, ridden along after it, narrowly headed between last 2, still a chance when mistake last, no extra run-in. Before that won at Cork and might be one of the less exposed
Sacchoandvanzetti
Until blowing out at Leopardstown last time was a progressing juvenile, reasonable style marks when winning at Punchestown on November 17th, midfield, a little keen, mistake 4th, ridden into 3 out, closed up going largely comfortably, prominent 3 out, closed up and tracked leaders when in close to 2 out, shaken up approaching home turn, strong effort and led turning in, was a length up last, put under pressure, driven out, stayed on well to pull clear of Pasley last 150 yards. Has had a break and might be in better form now, but as recently as August he was running over 5f and 6f on the Flat and might find this too much of a test 
Group Stage
Improving and best work at the end when 2nd to Thyme White at Musselburgh last time, tracked leaders, a bit guessy 1st, in close to 5th, niggled along off home turn, ridden into 3 out, stayed on under a ride and chased winner when mistake 2 out, put under pressure approaching last, outpaced and 3 lengths down jumping, driven and hung right but stayed on into 2nd close home, no impression on winner. A bit to find with Langer Dan on earlier form here behind Botox Has but unexposed
Gerolamo Cardano
Modest form when 3rd to Galahad Quest in weak Grade 2 at Cheltenham in January, on his toes in the paddock, midfield, every chance 2 out, outpaced from last. Tailed off behind Sir Psycho at Haydock next time and a bit to find
Theatre Of War
Maiden hurdler, improvement on previous when runner-up to Leagan Gaeilge at Leopardstown in a maiden on December 27th, moved comfortably 3 out in midfield, niggled along bend before 2 out, steadied into it, pushed along and stayed on approaching home turn, put under pressure approaching last, closed on those ahead, jumped last in 4 lengths 6th, hard driven, sustained effort, stayed on but never getting there. Best work at the end that time; poor win-to-run, but that race has had winners since, notably Saint D’Oroux (faded to 5th after upsides last in the Leopardstown maiden)
Repetitio*
Took on older horses over the New Course here in December when last seen and was successful, moved comfortably at the top of the hill, mistake 2 out, produced to challenge when not clear run approaching home turn, pushed along and momentarily outpaced, got a split and stayed on under pressure approaching last, jumped it in 4 lengths 3rd, put under pressure, stayed on well last 175 yards, gradaully reeled in leader, led close home and beat Oakley. Likely to be contesting favouritism
Goa Lil
Appears to need to dominate and was able to when making all at Kempton in the race Fraser Island was 3rd in, but arguably checked out readily when headed at Musselburgh behind Thyme White and Group Stage, holding the lead to the third last and no more approaching the next – surely won’t be able to dominate this
Tronador
Looked a difficult ride when winning at Thurles on January 10th, never on the bit and needing a deal of persuasion to win; didn’t look as difficult a ride at Navan last time out when 3rd to Floueur. Blinkered here, but didn’t improve for first time blinkers when tried in them on the Flat (slowly away, hanging and all over the place in the straight at Chelmsford last August) and not sure what we’ll get here
Gealach 
Improved in recent starts but checked out rather readily when only 4th to Wolf Prince at Fairyhouse last time, moved comfortably approaching home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, chased leader as pace increased approaching last, faded and lost 2nd then 3rd, well held between last 2. The time before at Punchestown when winning his maiden he had the strongly-run race he appears to need, and the race will be run to suit here
Manucci
On an upward curve and best to date when 2nd to above-average-looking-recruit Grand Roi at Warwick on February 21st, mistake 2nd, moved upsides leader 3rd, niggled away from 4th, flat-backed jump 5th (2 out), lugged right home turn, stayed on under a push from home turn till outpaced nearing last, well held extended run-in, ridden out and stayed on to take 2nd final 100 yards. Give in the ground will be important to this one as he has a markedly high knee action, so this one could have done with it raining all night, and that’s not forecast
Scorched Earth
Was also against Grand Roi at Warwick and did okay though didn’t jump well, mistake 3rd, starting a move when blundered 4th, niggled along tracking leaders home turn, effort home turn, went 2nd last, hard driven, outpaced as winner went clear, no more run-in, faded and lost 2nd close home. Could do something

Shortlist: Blacko, Thyme White, Repetitio

Cheltenham 5.30
Weatherbys Champion Bumper NH Flat Race Class 1 Grade 1
2m87y – Going: Soft – Over the Old Course – 23 runners

Cutting to my long list, as I always do for this race (never a betting race for me), I’m looking at:
Ferny Hollow*, easy winner at Fairyhouse on February 22nd;
Appreciate It, decisive winner of a Grade 2 contest at Leopardstown on February 1st;
Eskylane, who made all the running at Navan on January 18th;
The Glancing Queen* – an unusual candidate in that she’s running in this for the second time – she was 5th to Envoi Allen last year, ridden along home turn and a bit outpaced, hard driven a furlong out and kept on without making an impression on those ahead, rallying late to take 5th final strides. She gained compensation in the mares’ event at Aintree;
Ocean Wind*, who took the Listed bumper at Newbury on February 8th by the scruff of the neck in the last two furlongs to beat Brief Ambition.

Shortlist: Ferny Hollow, The Glancing Queen, Ocean Wind

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