Simon Holt: Bad advice!
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt nominates his best bets for the opening day of The Open from Cheltenham.
Baden (l) highlights his potential at Punchestown
BADEN, a highly promising novice for the Nicky Henderson team last season, should have strong claims in the Neptune Investment Management Hyde Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.
Being a non-winner, the grey receives weight from most of his rivals yet his form is arguably the strongest in the race.
Baden made his hurdling debut on this course last December splitting North Hill Harvey, who went on to run creditably at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, and Drumlee Sunset, a three-time winner in 2016 including when beating Aux Ptit Soins over fences at Exeter earlier in the week.
Upped in trip next time, the selection faced a tough task behind the high class trio Yanworth, Shantou Village and Champers On Ice but wasn't disgraced, and his subsequent third at Punchestown in late April confirmed the obvious potential.
Well regarded at home, Baden can take advantage of the 7lb he receives from Wholestone and West Approach, who fought out the finish in a three-mile novice hurdle here last month, while Leith Hill Lad (Kempton) and Pilansberg (Fakenham) were not overly impressive for their respective wins.
Peregrine Run, the winner of his last three starts, looks better than fellow Irish raider Crosshue Boy but, on official ratings, is 6lb worse off at the weights with Baden.
The Dan Skelton-trained Spiritofthegames escapes a penalty for winning a class 5 event at Ayr last month, but this is clearly a steep rise in grade.
Earlier, the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase brings together the likes of Barters Hill, O O Seven and previous chase winners Rock The Kasbah, Flying Angel and Its'afreebee in a fascinating contest but, for a second selection, I will chance ASTRACAD in the opening Glenfarclas Veterans Handicap Chase.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained ten-year-old scored first time out at Chepstow last October and certainly knows his way round Cheltenham having raced here 23 times during his career!
While only successful on one occasion, Astracad has often run well and, but for a blunder at the final fence, could have finished a bit closer than sixth (of 22) behind Empire Of Dirt at the Festival in March off a 4lb higher mark having also run well off higher ratings at Cheltenham last October/November.
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