Cheltenham Trials Day takes place tomorrow and then the focus turns to the return of Faugheen at Leopardstown on Sunday so we’ve run the rule over some of the races in the hope of sourcing a few winners.
Cheltenham – Saturday
13:45 – Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase (Grade 1)
UN DE SCEAUX was an easy winner of this last season at Ascot. Though beaten when odds-on in the Queen Mother Champion Chase here later, he returned from a break to land the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month and that’s the best form on offer. Special Tiara was just behind the Mullins’ chaser in the Champion Chase, however, and won the Desert Orchid at Kempton over Christmas, though a line through the second Sir Valentino suggests he’ll do well to overturn the selection.
14:50 – Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase
CANTLOW handled these fences with aplomb in November and ran out an easy winner. Only 4lb higher, he’ll be fancied to complete a cross-country hat-trick. This should serve as a nice warm up for the Cross Country at the Festival in 7 weeks. Any Currency is a standing dish over track and trip and, though not getting any younger, should give a good account. Rocky Creek won the London Grand National two runs ago but ran no sort of race on a return visit to Sandown. Alelchi Inois has won at Grade 2 and Grade 3 level but stamina may be an issue.
16:00 – galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)
This is likely to develop into a real war of attrition as Cole Harden, Reve De Sivola and Knockara Beau all like to force the pace. Ballyoptic had just been headed by UNOWHATIMEANHARRY in the Long Walk at Ascot when he came down but had earlier proved no match for Harry Fry’s prolific stayer in a Grade 2 at Newbury and there’s no reason to suspect that the latter won’t come out on top again, despite worse terms. The likely favourite is likely to take this en route to the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival.
Leopardstown – Sunday
14:30 (Sunday) – Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1)
Disappointing that we won’t see Min turning out here but it’s still a very select field that goes to post. IDENTITY THIEF was struck into early when pulling up at Leopardstown over Christmas and was the subject of a very upbeat bulletin from Henry De Bromhead during the week having been reported to have worked well. Some Plan won a 4-runner Novice Chase at Naas but has an awful lot to find with the selection on hurdles form, as does Royal Caviar. Bleu Et Rouge seemed to take an age to get going at Leopardstown over Christmas and the favourite should have too much toe for all of them.
15:30 (Sunday) – BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)
All eyes will be on the superstar FAUGHEEN as he returns to a racecourse for the 1st time since winning this race last year. If back to anything like full fitness he’ll be almost impossible to beat. Petit Mouchoir is developing into the horse that we all hoped he would during his 4-yr-old season and will likely give the favourite most to do. The rest will be fighting for third place.
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