THE Cheltenham November Meeting starts today. Don’t be confused. That is now the official name of the three-day mash-up that many regard as the beginning of the “proper” National Hunt season. For 18 years it was The Open Meeting. But more of that later… Today’s opening salvo is an appetiser to tomorrow’s main course where the BetVictor Gold Cup, the “Mackeson” to those of us of a certain vintage, takes centre stage.
The Greatwood Hurdle, now sponsored by Unibet, is the highlight on Sunday but today’s racing is none too shabby. The second run over fences of Finian’s Oscar (2.25) is probably the highlight for jumps purists. Hopefully he won’t do a Yanworth and hit the deck on his second venture over fences. Finian’s Oscar, who won at Chepstow, has to give 8lb to Movewiththetimes and William Henry, which is no mean feat. It’s a race to watch rather than risk the shopping money on.
Better punting opportunities exist in the first two races. What Happens Now (12.40) was an impressive course winner last month and should be a tough nut to crack with Derek O’Connor in the saddle, despite an 8lb hike in the ratings, and 7/1 (bet365) looks decent value. Counter Shy (1.15) (best price 9/2) has caught the eye in two novice hurdles and JP McManus likes to have a winner or two at this meeting.
On The Blind Side (3.35) (best price 10/3 Boylesports) made a huge impression on his hurdling debut at Aintree and could have the edge on Vision Des Flos in the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle which is always an informative contest.
Cheltenham November Meeting: so what’s in a name?
The November Meeting continues tomorrow with the BetVictor Gold Cup the obvious highlight although there is a strong supporting cast. Back to the name change and I still find it bizarre that the Open Meeting name was jettisoned due to apparent confusion with the British Open Golf Championship. I’m not joking… Wanna know more? There is more on the Cheltenham November Meeting name change here.
Back to the racing and Foxtail Hill (2.25) (9/1) looks pretty bombproof in the BetVictor Gold Cup. He loves the course and although he is up 7lb for his October victory Jamie Bargary takes off 3lb. Le Prezien rates a huge danger as he has a serious engine.
Talking of name changes again, the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase over 3m 3f could do with one so it’s not confused with the BV Gold Cup. It led to the erroneous declaration of Cloudy Dream for the longer race earlier in the week rather than the 2m 4f feature. This mini-marathon is always a great race to watch. Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco (1.50) (7/1) carries top weight but if he is to win a Gold Cup then he really has to win this. Saying that, if he can give the weight to Three Faces West and Premier Bond then it will be a mighty performance.
I like KK Lexion (3.00) (7/1) who ran well on his reappearance and would have finished closer if ridden with a bit more restraint. However, the outcome of this depends on which Thomas Campbell turns up!
Can Jenkins fulfil reputation in Greatwood Hurdle
In tomorrow’s Greatwood Hurdle, Jenkins has been all the rage since the defection of Defu Du Seuil earlier in the week and could well be thrown in at the weights. However he is plenty short enough for a horse who was disappointing last season. Elgin (3.30) (14/1) looks a more solid bet after a good win at Ascot and he came up the hill well in the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival. Hopefully the race won’t come too soon after Ascot. The same applies to London Prize, who won the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last Saturday and is clearly well handicapped.
Prices correct at the time of going to press.