TRAINERS finally got their wish last night when 16mm of rain fell at Cheltenham. With the Open Meeting days away, the ground is good, good to soft in places and forecasters are predicting another band of rain from late on Friday into Saturday. Great news for those of us wanting to see some serious equine talent at this marvellous three-day meeting, including Thistlecrack. Here are five horses who could flourish at the Cheltenham Open Meeting.
BUYWISE (BetVictor Gold Cup, Saturday): Yes, I know, this little monkey has the ability to make you swear profusely and tear your hair out. He was unlucky in this race last year when beaten narrowly by Annacotty after jumping into the back of another horse at the last. But the rain is good news and he is seemingly none the worse for his Grand National run as he ran a lovely race over hurdles the other week at Aintree. He is only 2lb higher than last year and is still a well handicapped horse in my book and the 18/1 still available at the time of writing seems good each-way value. I can see Annacotty running well too although he is 9lb higher. He will like the rain. The Nicholls camp are bullish about Frodon but I prefer his As De Mee, who was very professional at Fontwell after being thrown in at the deep end for most of his novice chase campaign. 12/1 is decent value.
BRAHMS DE CLERMONT (Sunday): Ignore the Nicholls yard at your peril this weekend, such is their rich vein of form. This five-year-old is unbeaten in two bumpers and defied a penalty to win a useful contest at the Showcase meeting. This is a Listed bumper and he does not have to carry any penalty. Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham singled him out as one to follow at a press briefing on Monday and the Ditcheat winner machine clearly hold him in very high regard.
SIMONSIG (Shloer Chase, Sunday): Now 10 and with no success in three years, Nicky Henderson will have to emulate his skill at reviving the career of Sprinter Sacre if he is to get Simonsig back to performing his A-game. His third to God’s Own and Vautour at Punchestown in April would probably be good enough in this race. But Henderson has been talking up Simonsig this week and the fact that he has, unusually for him, had an uninterrupted preparation is encouraging. In addition, the horse avoids any penalties as he has not won for so long, so this race looks set up for him if he can recapture his form.
CONSUL DE THAIX (Greatwood Hurdle, Sunday): Winter Escape has been backed as though defeat is out of the question this week. There’s no doubt that he might be an extremely well handicapped horse but I’d be worried if the ground turned very soft. If that happens, another JP McManus horse, Consul De Thaix, might be worth an each-way punt at a big price. He is unexposed, lightly raced but showed enough last season to suggest he has an engine. Soft ground is an absolute must though.
WHO DARES WINS (Saturday): A talented juvenile, Who Dares Wins has been in decent form on the flat and ran really well behind Ballyoptic at Chepstow over hurdles when I thought he was slightly unlucky. He reeks of stamina and this 2m 5f test looks tailor-made.