I had every intention of providing the tips for TV racing today when I started. Then I noticed two races from Lingfield snuggled among the races, with titles that were so obscure as to make the race name redundant. Perhaps it is desperately important to remind people that this is Polytrack as opposed to Tapeta or Fibresand, but that is a going issue – not a race title part. The same applies to Fast Track Qualifier races. Frightfully important I’m sure, and the whole of the breeding world hangs on their outcome as we know – but wouldn’t FTQ work just as well? C’mon peeps, it all smacks a tad of making this sport completely inaccessible.
As you will have guessed from my tone, today was a bit of a downer on many fronts. A local Great Man had died after one of those never-ending battles that no one deserves. Today was his funeral. We went because Cheltenham was off as did a large number of other racing folks. The widow must have been thrilled that Cheltenham was cancelled as it swelled the congregation by some 15%. Fortunately, I had a racing dinner planned and I write this with two bottles of delicious 30-year old Tawny under the belt and the rain determined to make my old Guccis soaked and useless.
12:05 CHELTENHAM Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Hyde Novices’ Hurdle) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f
THYME HILL was third in the Champion Bumper in March and seemed to creep into his Chepstow race, unleashing a strong run from the last to make a noteworthy winning debut over hurdles. He is towards the very top of the Hobbs’ novice hurdlers. Kim Bailey’s HAPPYGOLUCKY e/w caught the eye on debut and looks a fair type, although I worry about the ground. DANCING ON MY OWN for a place.
12:40 CHELTENHAM JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Registered As The Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle) (Grade 2) Cl1 (3yo) 2m½f
MICK PASTOR makes his British debut for Paul Nicholls (won this five times with Cerium (2004), Sam Winner (2010), Hinterland (2011), Far West (2012) & Quel Destin (2018)).CHOCKS AWAY e/w is a gelded son of Le Havre. Beaten 27 lengths on his hurdles debut at Compiegne in France in April but ran much better next time. Returning from a break of 160 days, he was three lengths runner-up behind Nordano (won again and finished third in a Listed contest since) at Huntingdon (Good) last month. His stable has a good record in juvenile hurdles and he warrants respect.
1:15 CHELTENHAM mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m½f
On this ground, no brainer. WHOLESTONE. REDZOR for a place
1:50 CHELTENHAM BetVictor Smartcards Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m3½f
On the trends I quite fancy BIG RIVER, who fell when still going well in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. 6½l 4th in the Ultima Chase in March and then 5th in the Scottish GN. He has had a wind op – and his first time out seasonal record reads 2121F.
2:25 CHELTENHAM BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4f
SPRINGTOWN LAKE appeals as an e/w proposition; COUNT MERIBEL won twice over fences last term, including at this meeting twelve months ago (beat subsequent Festival winner Le Breuil). Seventh in the RSA Chase in March, he reportedly suffered with sore shins and was pinfired during the summer (similar to Vinndication). 2¼l runner-up behind Lostintranslation in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle this month, it was a pleasing return which ought to have put him spot on for this. His form figures in November are 211112 and his record second time out is 5311. MAGIC SAINT meets various trends and offers decent value at around 20/1
3:00 CHELTENHAM Spinal Injuries Association Big Buck’s Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m
VIEUX LION ROUGE looks possible in a race best left alone
3:30 CHELTENHAM BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m5f
JATILUWIH runs here off 137. You’re kidding me. This french import would be 145 of anybody’s money. TREASURE DILLON looks value.
4:00 CHELTENHAM Karndean Designflooring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) Cl1 (4-6yo) 2m½f
CILL ANNA A head winner of her only start ‘between the flags’ for Colin Bowe, she was purchased by Paul Nicholls on behalf of Andy Stewart for £115,000 in April. She looks as though she would improve after her race LTO and the champion trainer won this with Posh Trish in 2017 (she ran in the same Aintree race beforehand). Expect her to race prominently here. MIDNIGHT CALLISTO looked a different league to her rivals (runner-up finished third at Ayr on Wednesday) LTO and this represents a step up in class and trip but Anthony Honeyball’s Midnight Legend filly looks ready for it. The price is a bit skinny, however, so its an all-or-nothing punt here In oher words ignore everything else and back her or go with my other selections. ISHKARA LADY looks as though this has been a target for trainer Harry Fry