Theatre to take centre stage
Anita Chambers expects Southfield Theatre to shine on day one of Cheltenham's International meeting.
Southfield Theatre (l): Holds a good chance at Cheltenham
BANGOR: 12.20 Pougne Bobbi, 12.40 Winged Crusader, 1.15 Ballyboker Breeze, 1.50 Lower Hope Dandy, 2.25 Report To Base, 3.00 Robben, 3.35 Rio Bravo.
CHELTENHAM: 12.20 Arpege D'Alene, 12.55 Dawnieriver, 1.30 Southfield Theatre, 2.05 Cantlow, 2.40 L'Aigle Royal, 3.15 Maestro Royal, 3.45 Sumkindofking.
DONCASTER: 12.00 Rear Admiral, 12.30 Post War, 1.05 Might Bite, 1.40 Minstrels Gallery, 2.15 Dancing Shadow, 2.50 Aliandy, 3.25 Tullow Tonic.
DUNDALK: 5.35 Go Kart, 6.05 Midsomer, 6.35 Red Avenger, 7.05 Richard Strauss, 7.35 Royal Roslea, 8.05 Asian Wing, 8.35 Lucca, 9.05 Palavincini Run.
NEWCASTLE: 3.10 Island Flame, 3.40 Lil's Affair, 4.15 Khelly's Edge, 4.50 Blue Cliffs, 5.20 TADAAWOL (NAP), 5.50 Edith Weston, 6.20 Chandresh, 6.50 Eternalist.
Southfield Theatre can get Cheltenham's International meeting off to a cracking start for Paul Nicholls by lifting the Unicoin Group Handicap Chase.
The eight-year-old posted a career-best effort when chasing home Don Poli in the 2015 RSA Chase, but he failed to really build on that last term.
Well beaten by Coneygree on his return, he was then outclassed at Aintree and was slightly unlucky to be brought down at the Festival when just winding up his challenge in the Ultima Handicap Chase.
The cheque for fourth place in the Bet365 Gold Cup on his final start of the campaign offered a little solace, but hopes would likely have been high ahead of this term, particularly as Nicholls appeared to have found him a highly-winnable opportunity at Wincanton on his return.
However, he crashed out at the last when looking a certain winner, so he again goes in search of compensation here.
Southfield Theatre should be making it a double for Nicholls as Arpege D'Alene holds an excellent chance for the champion trainer in the opening Jockey Club Ownership Syndicate Novices' Chase.
He made a bit of a false start to his fencing career, having two chase outings last winter before connections opted to revert to hurdling after his jumping came apart at Newbury last December.
His subsequent second in the Pertemps Final at the Festival was a noteworthy performance and there was plenty of confidence behind him when he made his return over fences at Chepstow in October.
He put up no kind of show that day but with blinkers applied at Aintree on his latest outing, Arpege D'Alene finally hit the target, although it was not totally plain sailing.
Enda Bolger can notch up another Cheltenham success as Cantlow goes for glory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase.
Bolger is a master in this type of race and Cantlow's recent success at Punchestown marks him out as the one to beat in this three-mile-six-furlong affair.
Pougne Bobbi can get his fencing career off to a perfect start in the bangorBET Novices' Chase at Bangor.
Winner of one of his two hurdle starts, Pougne Bobbi was last seen when beaten 10 lengths by Ballyoptic at Uttoxeter back in March, with the winner having gone on to Grade One glory.
He always looked as though he would make a better chaser though, and Nicky Henderson has found him a nice starting point here.
Minstrels Gallery outran his odds of 20/1 at Market Rasen on his return and can build on that in the 188Bet Handicap Hurdle at Doncaster.
Tadaawol made a fantastic start for Roger Fell when winning at Newcastle last month and can complete a quickfire course double in the Neigh One Will Give You A Better Deal Handicap back at Gosforth Park.
The three-year-old started life racing in the colours of Sheikh Hamdam Al Maktoum after being bought for £82,000 as a yearling but was shipped out of Richard Hannon's yard after failing hit the target in two outings.
He was not disgraced in finishing second at Goodwood and fourth at York, but those achievements were not enough to convince connections to persevere and he was snapped up for £14,000 earlier this year.
Initially with David Loughnane, for whom he did not actually run, Tadaawol then ended up with Fell and the new team were soon off the mark as he ran out a comfortable three-quarter-length winner of a six-furlong maiden.
While that was hardly a ground-breaking race, he could do little more than win with ease and the handicapper was obviously suitably impressed as he begins handicap life on a mark of 72.
Tadaawol will obviously have to raise his game now, but appeals as just the type to make hay through the winter months.
Edith Weston is the pick in the first division of the Ascent Homes Handicap, despite the fact she has yet to win in 16 starts.
She was within a head of breaking her duck at Nottingham in August off a mark of 45 and is now back on that basement perch after a couple of fruitless subsequent runs.
Clearly she would not be among Robert Cowell's stable stars, but equally she would not have to be anything special to win this race.
Posted at 1455 GMT on 08/12/16.
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