The opening day of The Showcase meeting begins with the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, which is the first race on the Road to Cheltenham, in this case for the Grade One Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle.
The New One, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies took this very race on route to dotting up at the festival and although probably not quite in his league, Twiston-Davies’ runner this season, PURE SCIENCE, looks the value call at the prices.
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It’s hard to get too excited about the market leaders, with Rum And Butter having already being beaten in a handicap this season and Saint Roque hailing from the Paul Nicholls yard that rarely sends their top novices to this race.
In fact, all five horses that Nicholls has saddled in this race were beaten, with four of those going off shorter than 5/2.
Clondaw Draft is very unexposed after two victories but didn’t beat much last time out while Man Of Leisure is a nine-year-old and surely will be too slow for some of these progressive types.
Cloud Brook looks a nice prospect for talented trainer Rebecca Curtis and is hard to rule out, but we’re happy to side with Pure Science, who finished sixth in the Champion Bumper last season, which in our eyes, is the pick of the form on offer if he returns to that level of performance.
He was backed off the boards following that Cheltenham effort at the Scottish National meeting but failed to run his race in fifth as he finished miles ahead of the second in the Champion Bumper.
By Galileo out of Rebelline, a Tattersalls Gold Cup winner, he was bred to win a Derby but four years after owner Raymond Mould’s initial investment a campaign over hurdles now awaits him and he looks a typical Twiston-Davies type that will appreciate making his debut over hurdles at Cheltenham.
It’s worth chancing the potential we saw in the Champion Bumper and on his bumper debut at Warwick, when he romped away with a decent race, at the current advised odds.
The proceeding Cheltenham Annual Members Novices’ Chase looks likely to be a very informative race despite only REBEL FITZ, Third Intention and Taquin Du Seuil going to post.
The market is speaking in favour of Rebel Fitz and his fitness edge should be enough to get him to the line in front, to complete a six-timer on ground which he should bounce off. Taquin Du Seuil will be one for later in the season in the mud if he takes to fences while Third Intention is classy (placed in three Grade One’s last year) but is nearly impossible to win with.
UP FOR AN OSCAR landed a decent race over 2m5f at Hexham on his latest start and has been strangely overlooked by the market in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, probably due to his trainer Kim Bailey being 0-35 in the last five years at Cheltenham. He’s in red hot form now though, boasting a 24% strike rate with his runners and the selection looks a tasty each-way poke.
The Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices’ Chase is arguably the most intriguing on a sparkling card with all runners having already won over the timber.
A case could be made for many of these but at the prices it looks profitable to side with previous course winner SIZING SYMPHONY from the powerful Henry De Bromhead yard.
The seven-year-old son of Sadler’s Wells was a smart novice hurdler two seasons ago but was always thought of as a chaser, and defied a 597-day absence when successful in a beginners’ chase over two and a half miles at Tipperary before finishing third in a similar contest at Listowel.
That third is by no means a bad effort and he has the gears to produce the good at Cheltenham once again.