Cheltenham trials day takes centre stage this weekend with a plethora of clues that head towards the festival as James Watson takes you through the card.
The first race I will talk about is the Juvenile Hurdle trial at 1:20.
I’m surprised the market has swung in the way of Pied Piper in comparison to Iceo and it’s the latter that I think will take the beating.
He won at Dieppe in August for master French trainer Guillaume Macaire by a comfortable five lengths.
Having put in such an impressive performance he was then bought by Chris Giles and sent to Paul Nicholls.
His debut was arguably more impressive cruising home under Bryony Frost at Kempton.
He took a keen hold early on which looked like he might not finish his race however turning the bend for home he put on the afterburners and blitzed the field by seventeen lengths.
His jumping was also notably good for a juvenile with so little experience.
This race will be a different proposition with good handful of juveniles lining up.
With there being plenty of pace in the race I think this will only help him settle and get a nice seem into the race.
My next selection will be in 1:20 the novice handicap chase.
A race that has seen former Cheltenham festival winner Simply the Betts win on way to festival success. Oscar Elite is a horse who I think will find success over fences for the first time here.
His debut run over fences at the track in November caught the eye when falling three out behind Threeunderthrufive.
He travelled the best of the lot that day so a lot was still to play out however I believe he’d have got the better of them. His two performances subsequently have been disappointing but i have put that down to the ground the first time and quality of race the second.
He broke a blood vessel the last day which I will put the disappointment down to but back in easier company here should see him competitive.
My third selection comes in the Cotswold Chase at 2:30 which sees Chantry House look to get back on track towards the gold cup after a disappointing King George performance.
He won the two major grades chases at both Aintree & Cheltenham last year beating the cream of the crop. However put against the big boys for the first time he was found out. This is easier waters against some very good handicappers who may be found out by the quality of Chantry House.
Last of all, my main fancy of the weekend comes in the Ballymore trial at 3:40.
Hillcrest is a horse that has been on my radar for a while after running well in bumpers and he’s franked that form over hurdles. His debut win over hurdles at Aintree I think is a key part of form beating subsequent winners in behind. The big Henry Daly trained seven year old cruised into the race and jumped them into submission.
His win at Cheltenham showed the progression he’d made beating once favourite for the Supreme I Am Maximus.
Given a very enterprising ride from the front he showed a turn of speed that o had never seen before and flew away from the Nicky Henderson second. I think this lad is going places and think it will pay to follow him throughout this season and seasons to come.
Cheltenham Lucky 15
12:45 Iceo 15/8
1:20 Oscar Elite 5/1
2:30 Chantry House 10/11
3:40 Hillcrest 6/4