The first race from The Open meeting at Cheltenham is the two mile Paddy Power handicap chase over the minimum distance.
Festive affair is clear at the head of the betting and has obvious claims. Finishing a credible ninth at the cheltenham festival last year behind Present View, the drop back in trip should really suit. I’m against him however as most of Jonjo O’Neill’s horses have needed the run first time out and appears very short for an ultra competitive affair.
The selection is last years winner Anay Turge, he runs today off a similar mark to last year and conditions will suit. The jockey booking of Jamie Moore, who has been in great form, also really catches my eye. He will obviously need to improve for his seasonal return bit offers a genuine each way alternative to the favourite.
Off the remainder there isn’t many who can be ruled out at first glance with Next Sensation and Astrcad the most likely to get involved.
Anay Turge (E/W)
A two and a half mile novice chase up next with some very likeable sorts on show in what looks a hot renewal in the race won last year by festival winner Taquin De Sueil.
Colour Squadron defected from the feature of the meeting to come here but is a very quirky sort. He will likely go off favourite but is still a maiden over fences and stable jockey Richard Johnson opts to ride Champagne West.
With the favourite overlooked and only seven runners in a hot renewal it’s a wide open contest for win purposes. The second Hobbs horse looks a chaser in the making and the yard have been firing this season. However I’m very wary of backing horses without a run over fences so will bypass.
The selection comes from Northern raider Malcom Jefferson and Urban Hymn. A grade two winner over hurdles and a credible seventh in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival. He should improve leaps and bounds from his first run where he was beaten narrowly over an inadequate trip. The step should really suit and I think he will be tough to beat.
Dell Arca won the greatwood at this meeting last year and comes from respected connections who have won this race twice. He is respected along with Splash of Ginge.
Urban Hymn (WIN)
A grade two novices hurdle event is the third race on the card over two mile five furlongs. The Twiston-Davies team have the current favourite and the form horse in the race. He won a grade two at Chepstow last time out and is unbeaten in career to date. While he will be tough to beat he has to carry a penalty for that win and there are some nice types behind him.
Minella Present represents the inform Neil Mullholland and is also unbeaten over timber. Should run his race but may come up short at this level.
Port Melon comes from a long lay off and is best watched while Upsanddowns needs to price himself on this ground.
Parlour Games also needs to show he can handle the ground and also there are stamina doubts.
Selection based on above is Champagne Present who was only just beaten on debut and was an expensive purchase. He should come on plenty for that and Ruby Walsh looks a great booking. He is taken to get off the mark at the second attempt.
Champagne Present (WIN)
The final race live on TV from Cheltenham is one of the spectacles of any Open and Festival meeting on the Cross Country course.
Today’s race features the last three winners in Balthazar King and Uncle Junior (who finished second last year).
In truth on these terms Balthazar King should be very hard to beat and has if anything improved since winning last year. Following up at The Festival and a game second in the Grand National while also winning in France. He will be very hard to beat. The only concern I have is the ground, he needs good in the description and with the rain tumbling down over the last couple of days this is not guaranteed.
Uncle Junior finished second last year before disappointing at The Festival. He is now thirteen and will find it very hard to reverse the form.
Any Currency was beaten a head at the festival but faces up here on much worse terms and is overlooked.
The interesting one for me and the speculative selection against the favourite is the former Dessie Hughes trained Rare Bob, not seen since last year. All his wins have come on soft ground and previously finished fifth in the National. He is by no means a confident selection but may just come in under the radar at the bottom of the weights.
Rare Bob (E/W)