The opening beginners’ chase (12.55) is fraught with danger and it’s very hard to find a horse that is obviously well handicapped so, with a significant degree of trepidation, my selection is ERICHT who ran okay at Newbury on his comeback and will find this sort of trip much more to his liking. Although he’s had a million goes at Cheltenham and never won, he has at least run some perfectly sound races at the track and he’s perfectly capable off his current chase mark of 131. Of his rivals, Astracad is looking interesting off his mark but I’m not sure he showed quite enough last time, while Shuil Royale is the in-form horse but he has to concede an awful lot of weight to my selection.
The Handicap Chase at 1.30 looks a very tough race but in the end the pin came down on JOHNNY OG who needs a career-best to win but he is in the form of his life and looked a totally different proposition when winning at Stratford last time. He’s got a very good record under today’s jockey, he won’t mind the decent ground and he is sure to see this out well even if getting taken on for the lead. The two Tizzard horses are both interesting but the jury is out on whether they ideally want ground as good as this and Bold Henry, who won the race two years ago, is always capable of popping up but a mark of 140 has proved beyond him in the past.
Although he is carrying a penalty and has to concede weight to some very good horses, I couldn’t have been more impressed with ROCK THE KASBAH at Chepstow on his chasing debut, and I think he might be the ‘now’ horse in the novices' chase (2.05). I have got a huge amount of time for Barters Hill, frankly who hasn’t, but you have to wonder whether 2m4f on the Old Course here against decent horses might just be on the sharp side for him.
I’m not sure there is quite as much depth to the Grade 2 novices' hurdle (2.40) as there looks at first glance, with quite a few of the recent winners needing to take a step up on what they have done so far. BALLY GILBERT travelled like a decent horse at Market Rasen on his rules debut before just getting tired late on, and he might be a fair bit better than that, but it was probably a good race in any event. The yard had a winner for these owners at this meeting last year and I can see this unexposed horse outrunning his 16-1 morning price.