Tom Stanley has an 8/1 and a 14/1 selection for Friday at Cheltenham.
The Open Meeting signifies the National Hunt season is back in full swing and we’re rewarded with some smart sorts taking to the track on Day 1. None more so than 2014 World Hurdle winner More Of That jumping a fence for the first time. How he is in himself is perhaps the most pertinent question because on all known racecourse form he’s a good thing. That last run over hurdles 349 days ago is a niggling worry though and a wind-op since may not have done the trick. This is a hot race and I’m inclined to take him on with one of Might Bite and Ballyalton. The latter edges it given the depth of his hurdles form and I thought his reappearance over too sharp a trip was encouraging last time as long as his late unseat/fall hasn’t left a mark. It’s very much a sit back and watch race. So too is the poorly contested novice hurdle where Penglai Pavilion will be looking to follow up his course and distance win last month. He looked the real deal 21 days ago and I hope he wins but am none too excited about the price. Elsewhere on the card, the opener sees Minella Present with a little juice in his price but the Pipe mare scares me. Another likeable favourite lines up in the handicap hurdle which Martin and Walsh won a few years ago with Quick Jack. Dollar And A Dream is clearly talented, potentially well treated and well found in the market as a result. Perhaps Baraka De Thaix would be the more sensible play at the prices but it’s a little clouded by Martin’s could-be-anything handicap hotpot.
2 plays come from races I might normally swerve on a day like this but the prices jump off the page. First up is Dogora in the Cross Country. A disappointment over fences, he took to this game well at the festival when hampered late on but keeping on and he’s 2lb, 3lb and 7lb better off with those that finished ahead of him that day. I fancy he’d have been competitive at Punchestown too but for falling 2 out and he’s getting lumps of weight back from Uncle Junior now returning to handicap company. Perhaps the biggest plus though is his age. Just a 6 year old, there’s surely loads of improvement to come in this sphere and I think he should be closer in the betting to the favourite.
The last is a staying chase for amateur riders and the Pipe team have a good record in the race. Alternatif looks well treated, I just have a niggling doubt about the trip. It probably wasn’t the 3 miles that beat him at Haydock but this is stiffer and further, for all there’s not much pace on. Either way there are stronger stayers, particularly in the form of the overpriced No Duffer. He was swinging away turning in last time here in April over an extra furlong but didn’t really see it out. I’m not sure it was for lack of stamina though. A 3 mile winner at Sandown, he was mentioned as a horse for the regional nationals going forward and the trip should be no problem here. He finished distressed at the end of the race and perhaps the longish season had taken it’s toll but he’s won fresh before and still looks fairly treated.