Steve Hughes looks ahead to the opening day of the new season at Cheltenham
It might not be the greatest card we will see at jump racing’s spiritual home this season but it is good to see Cheltenham back underway. I have selections for the final two races on the card. Headline selection Pacify was a winner on Sunday (SP 5/4).
Cheltenham 4.55: Cobolobo
There is already a trend in Cobolobo’s race profile to suggest that backing him first time out is the best way to go with the gelding.
A winner of a 3m hurdle at Uttoxeter on his first start in 2017/18, he failed by just a short-head to repeat the feat on chasing debut at Ffos Last last term. That it took Cheltenham Festival winner Kilbricken Storm to deny him adds lustre to that effort. However in both seasons, his form has tailed somewhat after those promising beginnings.
That said he was going well when getting rid of his rider six out in the Devon National when last seen in February. Extreme stamina tests are going to suit him so I think this undulating track will be ideal – he already has winning form around Chepstow for example. There good be a strong race here which will play to his strengths and he seems versatile regarding ground conditions.
Cheltenham 5.30: Havana Hermano & Ballydunblaze
Two against the field in the finale with two of the 5yo’s favoured.
Havana Hermano is a horse I have very much been following already. Whilst he was not in top form when third at Fontwell on his comeback earlier this month, that should have put him spot on for today. His narrow win at Fakenham last season was gained in spite of the sharp track, not because of it and I am sure we will see him to better effect on stiffer tracks such as this. He was in the process of running a cracker when falling at the last at the Aintree National meeting in the spring but otherwise is a good jumper.
Gordon Elliott rarely goes home from this meeting without a winner or two and whilst Ballydunblaze is not his highest profile runner at this fixture, she must have claims from such a low weight. The winner of a fast ground bumper last season, she has been kept on the go this summer so will be fitter than most here. She battled to success at Limerick in July and has been consistent since. A strong finishing third up the Navan hill last month, the going was probably too heavy at Limerick recently, though she still plugged on well enough into third. Already experienced in big fields, this race could be set up to suit her.
1pt each-way – Cobolobo – 4.55 Cheltenham – 7/1 Bet365
0.75pts each-way – Havana Hermano – 5.30 Cheltenham – 16/1 Bet365
0.75pts each-way – Ballydunblaze – 5.30 Cheltenham – 9/1 Skybet, William Hill, BetVictor