With the ground riding good, Ed Chamberlain and the team are at Cheltenham for the final day of the Paddy Power meeting with the Greatwood Hurdle the feature race. There’s also the added bonus of the Southern National from Fontwell where the ground is likely to ride on the soft side. Here are my thoughts on the five races.
Only five have declared for the two-mile Shloer Chase and in all fairness, the race looks a match between last year’s top two-mile novice chaser Edwardstone and last year’s winner Nube Negra. Official ratings have only a pound between them and both are coming here following an absence of over 200 plus days. Alan King’s Edwardstone was last seen when a tad disappointing second at 4/7 at Aintree but had won the Arkle prior to that over course and distance. His trainer stated earlier in the week that he wanted to give him a run before the Tingle Creek at Sandown so one does wonder if he’ll be totally tuned up for this. Nube Negra started out last season in this very race when a comfortable 6L winner from Politologue though failed to back that effort up in two efforts since. He obviously goes well fresh and with the Dan Skelton stable in such fine form may be more forward than his chief rival Edwardstone and I’ll take him to win this. It’s hard to fancy the other three runners with possibly Sizing Pottsie the best of the trio.
NUBE NEGRA 2 points win @ 11/8 BetVictor
A good-sized field of fourteen-line up for the Southern National Handicap Chase run over 3m 3 1/2F of the figure of eight course. I think there’s a decent bet here in Gary Moore’s top weight Full Back. Ridden by his son Jamie he ran well on his re-appearance when plugging on to finish a 14 1/2L fourth in a decent Ascot handicap chase and surprisingly the handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds which must have pleased connections. A Cheltenham winner on New Year’s Day off of a 2lb lower mark he stays well and can give weight all round to a field of mainly exposed stayers. The one horse who isn’t is the Paul Nicholls trained Southfield Harvest as he’s only run the once over fences when winning a five runner affair at Newton Abbot in May of 2021. He’s not been seen since and it will be some training performance were he to take this. Nicholls stated in his Betfair column for the weekend that ‘he’s ready to start now, stays well, and needs plenty of cut in the ground’. I’m not sure he’ll get the latter and for me he’s worth opposing. Last year’s runner up Almazhar Garde is interesting off of a 3lb lower mark whilst Seamus Mullin’s I See You Well is two from three at this track so has claims. There’s a lot of dead wood at the bottom of the handicap in my opinion and Full Back looks sure to run well.
FULL BACK 2 points win @ 4/1 bet365
A decent-sized field of thirteen here for the 3m 3F 71 yards class 1 handicap chase. Kim Bailey has his string in fine form currently and his top weight Does He Know is maybe the one to be with. He loves good ground and has a record here of three wins from six starts which has to be a bonus. Ramses De Teillee looks well handicapped having won this event two years ago off of a 12lb higher mark but he needs the mud so is overlooked. Nick Gifford’s The Mighty Don ran a decent second to Yala Enki in this last year from a 7lb higher mark although this year’s renewal looks significantly hotter. Fantastikas makes his seasonal re-appearance for the Twiston-Davies’s although has won fresh in the past and is another with a chance. Despite the steadier of twelve stone I’ll take second-season chaser Does He Know under David Bass who gets his mounts into such a good rhythm to plunder this prize.
DOES HE KNOW 2 points win @ 9/2 William Hill
A highly competitive renewal of the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle run over two miles and 87 yards. Two Irish horses head the market in Emmet Mullins Thousand Tears who has been the subject of an ante post gamble during the week. As much as I respect the trainer I can’t see why he’s so short and am happy to look elsewhere. Willie Mullins saddles the other one at the head of the market and I can definitely see why. A winner at the Showcase meeting three weeks ago over fences he reverts to the smaller obstacles off of a handicap mark 7lb lower. Brian Hayes rode him that day and keeps the ride. He has to be on the shortlist. It’s not just about the Irish horses at the front of the betting though with plenty of others coming here with decent chances. Top weight I Like To Move It is two from four at the track and can run well but it would be some performance to win off of 12 stone. Sonigino has been raised 10lb for an easy recent win at Chepstow and may be weighted out of it. My fancy is a horse that bumped into Sonigino at Chepstow back at the beginning of last month keeping on to finish just under 3L behind the winner and re-opposes today on a stone better terms. That horse is the Alan King trained Nina The Terrier who followed up that good effort when crashing out three from home when staying on well against two horses rated 11lb and 12lb higher at Wetherby. It was too far out to say what would of happened but she certainly wasn’t done with. She could be well handicapped and I’ll take her to strike each way with additional place terms.
NINA THE TERRIER 1 point each way @ 12/1 Hills 1/5th 12345
Nice novices go to post for this grade 2 2m Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle. Four of the nine are trained in Ireland with the best of them possibly John C McConnell’s Fennor Cross who won a maiden hurdle from the re-opposing Deere Mark cosily at the last meeting. This does represent a step up in grade mind. The Cork maiden hurdle victory of ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s Fascinating Shadow in May has worked out very well and with a recent pipe opener on the all-weather at Dundalk shouldn’t be dismissed. Jonjo O’Neill’s Springwell Boy was an easy winner at Carlisle on his hurdles debut last month although that form was let down by the eclipse of Iorens at Market Rasen earlier this week. I’m going to take a chance on the unexposed Nicky Henderson-trained, JP McManus-owned Iberico Lord who has joined the Seven Barrows maestro after winning a French bumper on soft ground last May for Daniela Mele. Henderson said in a recent stable tour that ‘ he’s an exciting prospect that jumps well’. He’ll do for me.
IBERICO LORD 2 points win @ 3/1 Betfred