Cheltenham Open meeting eyecatchers
Ben Linfoot picks out five horses for your My Stable trackers that are worth following after running at Cheltenham over the weekend.
Behind Time: His win could've been the start of a winning sequence
The Opus Energy Novices' Handicap Hurdle on the Friday of Cheltenham's Open meeting has a habit of working out well or producing a good winner. This year's renewal looks no different despite the winner, Wildmoor Boy, dominating from the front under Charlie Poste. Very little else got into contention, apart from Tony Martin's Tudor City, who travelled into the heat of battle like a good thing (traded at 1.03 in-running on Betfair) before finding very little up the hill. However, the one I took out of the race was Harry Fry's Air Horse One. Making his handicap debut here off 122, he had shown promise in bumpers and novice hurdles and he's one to bear in mind next time off what will be a similar rating. He shaped well in this before fading from the last, but the first five home had all had a run this season and he was making his reappearance, so perhaps he lacked for fitness. There was enough in this performance to consider him strongly next time out.
The BetVictor Gold Cup was, as always, a fascinating spectacle and Cheltenham punters were treated to a thrilling climax as Taquin Du Seuil saw off the renewed effort of the brave Village Vic up the hill. The race was run on ground the majority of jockeys considered soft and with that in mind the efforts of Bouvreuil and Thomas Crapper, who finished fifth and sixth, can be viewed in a positive light as they'd both prefer better conditions. But with the deep midwinter ground just around the corner the one I absolutely have to take from the race is Venetia Williams' Aso. Having just his second start in a handicap over fences, Aso moved into contention stylishly half a mile from home and looked the likely winner at one point before late mistakes diluted his challenge. Beaten a little over five lengths in fourth here, the handicapper shouldn't punish him too much and this was massively encouraging given the Williams yard is likely to move up a gear soon. He could be an interesting one back at Cheltenham for the December Gold Cup on this evidence.
Having his first run for 19 months, Paul Nicholls' Irish Saint ran a race full of promise in the Regulatory Financial Solution Handicap Hurdle with a view to a return to fences this season. Held up by Nick Scholfield, the pair moved through the field stylishly, looking likely to challenge at one point, before their effort faded rounding the turn for home. This will have blown the cobwebs away and a chasing mark of 152 makes him of interest in handicaps in that sphere, considering his Grade One form as a novice behind the likes of Vautour. Whether he will stay in the Hennessy, if he runs, is debatable, but there could be a good handicap chase in him at some point this season, probably around two and a half miles, and he's definitely worth sticking in your My Stable trackers.
Ann & Alan Potts' decision to move their horses to Colin Tizzard's has reaped instant rewards. At the Open meeting they had nine runners, two winners, two seconds and a third. One of the winners was at 20/1 and the other is now a bona fide Champion Chase contender. They wanted Cheltenham winners and, sometimes, you pay for what you get in this game. As for Solatentif, he was one of those seconds, but Tizzard looks likely to get a win out of him sometime soon on Saturday's evidence. This six-year-old was having his first run in over a year but he travelled supremely well throughout the Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle off a mark of 130. An inevitable rise will follow on Tuesday but he's going to be of interest whatever the assessor does. He looks versatile regarding underfoot conditions considering this Cheltenham run and his earlier profile, while he'd probably be able to cope with a drop back in trip a few furlongs too judging by the way he moved through the race at the weekend. He's one to look out for.
This time last year Harry Fry unleashed Unowhatimeanharry in the Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle on the Sunday of the Open meeting. He won by three lengths off a mark of 123 and that kicked off a sequence of five victories, culminating with a win in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Fast forward 12 months and Fry was at it again in the same race, this time with Behind Time, this time off a mark of 115. He travelled nicely, effortlessly moved to the lead at the bottom of the hill and was value for plenty more than the official winning distance given he wandered around on the run-in. It would be some achievement for Fry to have found another Unowhatimeanharry, but this horse looks to have plenty more to offer, too, and this could well be the start of a winning sequence of his own.
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