Steve Hughes looks ahead to a belated first day of the Cheltenham November meeting
After the loss of Friday it looks like Saturday’s big card will survive the elements meaning the BetVictor Gold Cup can proceed as normal. On an extended eight race card I have selections for half of the contests. Totterdown was a winner in Sunday’s previous column (advised 6/5).
Cheltenham 12.05: Thyme Hill
Probably the top bumper horse trained in England last season, Thyme Hill has made an excellent start to his hurdling career and take another Grade 2 contest here.
A close second in the listed bumper at this meeting last season, he went on to chase home two top class Irish horses at the Festival. On both occasions he was staying on strongly right to the line. As such an immediate step up beyond 2m looked in order.
Sent straight into the Grade 2 Persian War at Chepstow last month he responded by beating horses with more experience. Again he was doing his best work at the finish and I can only see him improving for an extra 2f. He seems versatile regarding ground conditions and he can defy a penalty here.
Cheltenham 12.40: Prefontaine
Despite an extremely eccentric performance, Prefontaine got off the mark over hurdles at the third attempt at Kempton last time and being battle hardened off the flat he can cope best with testing conditions today.
His concentration levels appear low and he seemed too distracted to jump the hurdles properly on his first two starts. However blinkers sharpened him up last time and he made nearly all to win at Kempton despite racing keenly and then suddenly slowing up into the odd hurdle in front. He will probably be better suited by taking a lead today.
There was no doubting his stamina though as he comfortably saw off the well backed Paseo (winner of a class 3 handicap since). He saw out 14f on the flat strongly in the summer and soft ground seems to be fine. Given his experience, an each-way bet looks the best way into this contest.
Cheltenham 2.25: Siruh Du Lac & Springtown Lake
This race has massively suited front-runners in recent years and two horses that usually race prominently are favoured here.
Siruh Du Lac is a brilliant jumper who won on all four starts over fences last season. Significantly the last two came at this track, albeit on the New course. Given the soft ground though, this sharper track should not inconvenience him unduly and he can defy a 9lb rise for seeing off the strong challenge of Janika (recent victor of the Haldon Gold Cup) at the Festival. He can provide jockey Lizzie Kelly on her comeback ride from a broken arm.
I also want an each-way play on Springtown Lake who gets his ground conditions today. The ground was too quick for him on his last two starts, where he was well beaten. His chasing career started in great fashion with a game win at Sandown over this 2m4f trip last November. He did not really go on from that, but the stable was out of form and his fifth at the Festival was not too shabby. He was ridden with restraint that day, but perhaps a more forceful ride today can pay dividends. That recent Ascot run will have blown away the cobwebs.
Cheltenham 3.00: Tobefair & Golan Fortune
Two horses at opposite ends of the handicap market are fancied.
Tobefair is becoming something of a legend from his small South Wales stable. A tough, genuine stamina laden gelding, 3m plus around this track suits him so well. After an unsuccessful spell chasing he bounced back to top form with second places in a Pertemps qualifier and then the final itself here in the spring. He got a deserved victory on quicker ground here in April and then defied an absence to win on heavy ground at the last meeting. He is up to career high 154 now, but is the class act in the field.
If there is one on the card at a huge price to have a go with then Golan Fortune is it. He effectively had a school round in that same race won by Tobefair here last month on his first start for eighteen months. The usual cheekpieces are re-applied today, suggesting connections mean business today. He had an excellent novice career highlighted by a third on heavy in a Haydock Grade 2. The handicapper has given him a chance by dropping him 6lbs since that season and his jockey’s 7lb claim means he has very little weight to lump around here.
1.5pts win – Thyme Hill – 12.05 Cheltenham – 13/8 Paddy Power, Boylesports
0.75pts each-way – Prefontaine – 12.40 Cheltenham – 10/1 general
1pt each-way – Siruh Du Lac – 2.25 Cheltenham – 7/1 William Hill, BetVictor (1/5 odds 1st 5)
0.75pts each-way – Springtown Lake – 2.25 Cheltenham – 11/1 Paddy Power (1/5 odds 1st 6)
1pt win – Tobefair – 3.00 Cheltenham – 4/1 Betfred
0.5pts each-way – Golan Fortune – 3.00 Cheltenham – 33/1 Bet365