Man On The Spot: King for Sunday
Man On The Spot previews Sunday's quality action at Cheltenham, featuring the StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle.
A splendid opener which sees a renewal of hostilities between Moon Racer and BALLYANDY who clashed at Perth in September. Choosing between the pair is tough but with the Twiston-Davies charge now 4lb better off for a defeat of less than a length, he receives narrow preference. His handling of this track is also assured after his defeat of Battleford by the minimum margin in this year's Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the festival meeting. Keep In Line, a triple winner on the level for Godolphin, has made a fine transition to his new discipline and is fully deserving of this step-up in class and could well exploit any deficiencies in the aforementioned pair. The unbeaten Movewiththetimes and fascinating hurdling debutant What About Carlo, a six-time winner on the level, add further intrigue to a fine contest. Crosshue Boy was well beaten behind peregrine Run at this level here on Friday.
This will almost certainly be determined by which of these promising novices fence most fluently around this unique track. Le Prezien has already confirmed he's a useful chaser in the making with a fine first effort over fences at Uttoxeter when failing by less than a length to handle Charbel, whilst Three Stars has impressed in landing his last two chasing starts at Listowel and Punchestown, beating Ball D'arc on both occasions. However, his stable companion, SOME PLAN, appeals as a value option as he was a very useful hurdler who jumped most intelligently on his chasing debut when easily outpointing the far more experienced Art Of Payroll. Flying Angel disappointed here on Friday and Hammersly Lake and Mick Thonic will need to improve on recent efforts, although both have shown ability over fences.
If Simonsig is anything like the fine performer he was in 2012 and 2103, he'll be more than good enough with race conditions ideal as he receives weight from four of seven rivals. His first two comeback runs suggested a decent level of ability remained before he was easily swept aside back over hurdles in France. Hopefully, all is well with him and he'll deliver a good performance but if SPECIAL TIARA, also well suited by race conditions, can repeat the level of his Champion Chase third back in March, he could prove the toughest of nuts to crack. Fox Norton was most impressive when landing a competitive handicap here at the season's opening meeting and is the likeliest beneficiary should the aforementioned pair arrive a little too ring-rusty. Top Gamble may also need the run, whilst Simply Ned and Savello have each-way chances at their best.
The majority can be given some sort of chance in a typically competitive renewal but the vote goes to LEONCAVALLO, who could prove very nicely treated when the 7lb claim of his useful amateur is taken in account. Both jockey and rider could be considered as relatively inexperienced over timber but the combination came home in the runner-up spot here last time behind Sceau Royal and, with fitness assured, should give us a good run for our money off an attractive mark. Winter Escape looked very good in an unbeaten campaign last season and his performance here will inform Alan King which route to take with him. He's a live threat, as are the Skelton pair of Ch'tibello and North Hill Harvey, both of whom should progress again this term. Mad Jack Mytton and A Hare Breath are longer-priced options with a 'squeak' and the likes of Brain Power and Modus are others to note in a wide-open affair.
This looks nearly as tricky as the Greatwood from a punting perspective but CLONALIG HOUSE has quickened up stylishly to land two of his last three starts and was particularly impressive the last day at Musselburgh. He has really found his form on recent outings and looks just the sort Tony Martin does well with as he ascends the handicap. Looksnowtlikebrian and Zara Hope both chase the hat-trick and have been found excellent pilots in Shane Shortall and Jonathan Moore respectively. Both make the shortlist along with the totally unexposed Behind Time who may well have got in here very lightly. Market support for the McManus-owned gelding should be taken as significant as he makes his handicap bow for Harry Fry after an absence dating back to February. Ballyarthur and My Wigwam Or Yours have place claims.
Bumpers featuring so many promising previous winners are inevitably competitive but SUMKINDOFKING (NAP) could not have been more impressive when scoring on his first start for Tom George at Chepstow and it's no surprise to see him thrust into this demanding company. The son of King's Theatre is certainly bred for the job and with fitness guaranteed is preferred to Bags Groove. The latter progressed run-by-run in bumpers for Harry Fry last term but has been absent since early March and may possibly just need this. He is, however, one to follow closely this season. Brahms De Clermont overcame trouble in running to score here at the last meeting and should give a good account as he seeks to maintain an unblemished record, whilst recent winners Boreham Bill and Poetic Rhythm also make some appeal.
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