Simon Holt: Order of the day
Simon Holt previews the feature action at Cheltenham on Sunday, with Call To Order fancied to defy a rise in the weights.
Call To Order can go in again
Cheltenham stages a re-run of the 2016 Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle on New Years Day when Camping Ground, Lil Rockerfeller and Cole Harden, the first three home 12 months ago, re-oppose in very different circumstances.
Last January, with the race run on heavy ground, Camping Ground was most impressive beating Lil Rockerfeller (gave 4lb) by 11 lengths with Cole Harden (gave 8lb) another nine lengths away in third.
Ground conditions on this occasion will be much faster and there is a big change in the weights too with 2015 World Hurdle winner COLE HARDEN now set to receive 8lb from his two old rivals.
Almost certainly at his best on a dryer surface, the Warren Greatrex-trained stayer ran better when finishing fourth to Thistlecrack at the Festival in defence of his title in March and, tried over fences on his reappearance, jumped hesitantly at Wetherby.
Chasing didn't look to be his game that day, but he is an excellent jumper of hurdles and even with a downgraded official rating of 159 Cole Harden is still the one to beat at these weights, with his peak figure if 166 showing what damage he could do if back to his top form.
Camping Ground is almost certainly at his best with plenty of cut in the ground and also reverts to hurdles after a fall at Newbury last month so the danger is probably Lil Rockerfeller, an admirably consistent sort who has run some fine races in defeat this season behind the likes of Silsol, Yanworth and Unowhatimeanharry.
However, two of those runs were over three miles and Neil King's standard bearer could be taken out of his comfort zone over this distance now if Cole Harden, as expected, sets a good gallop.
There are others worthy of respect, especially L'Ami Serge, who finished fourth to Douvan in the 2015 Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham before being switched to fences last season when he again ran well at the Festival behind Black Hercules, albeit showing a strong tendency to jump left.
With the latter problem persisting on his reappearance behind Le Prezien at Exeter, he is another who switches back to the smaller obstacles.
Earlier, CALL TO ORDER is strongly fancied to follow-up last month's course and distance success under similar conditions for which he was raised 7lb.
Jonjo O'Neill's progressive seven-year-old still has joint bottom weight here and looks one to follow given the way he travelled when stepped up to three miles for the first time.
I thought Call To Order ran out a decisive winner that day and, given that he runs in the colours of John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, it is not surprising that he is a very good looker.
Conceding 17lb (less Michael Legg's 5lb claim) looks a tough task for Whataknight but Harry Fry's gelding is a likeable sort who beat the useful Minella Daddy over hurdles at Haydock last May, and has since finished second to the same horse over fences at Ffos Las before beating only one other finisher at Hereford.
Meanwhile, Zeroshadesofgrey is another who returns to hurdling following two chase starts this season and, while a bit disappointing in the spring, is quite well handicapped on his best form.
Posted at 1220 GMT on 31/12/16.
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