Patience really is a virtue when it comes to jumps racing, as will be demonstrated once again if Cheltenian lands the Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Newbury this afternoon.
The winner of the 2011 Cheltenham Champion Bumper was tipped for the very top, but a tendon injury has restricted him to just three runs since. Now, nursed back to fitness without the semblance of rush, Cheltenian (3.35 Newbury) may not have had the most conventional of preparations, but in one striking detail he fits the bill perfectly. The last four winners of the race – Get Me Out Of Here, Recession Proof, Zarkandar and My Tent Or Yours – were all having their fourth run over hurdles and so, uniquely among this field, is Philip Hobbs’ eight-year-old. Dangers are everywhere, from Paul Nicholls’ pair, Far West and Irish Saint, near the top of the handicap, to Totalize and the heavily backed Alaivan, near the bottom. Dell’Arca and Vendor are others on a long shortlist.
Al Ferof has his Cheltenham prep in the Denman Chase, but there is a strong suspicion he will be outstayed on the ground by mudlarks Harry Topper (2.25 Newbury) and Katenko, while another of Nicholls’ Festival fancies, Dodging Bullets, might find Module (3.00 Newbury) too strong in the Game Spirit. Rydon Pynes (1.50 Newbury) is by no means harshly treated on his handicap debut.
Rubi Ball, due to contest the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown tomorrow en route to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is lame and will miss the rest of the season.
On the Flat, the 1,000 Guineas co-favourite Chriselliam had to be put down after a foot infection deteriorated badly.
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