The burgeoning sense of anticipation surrounding the Cheltenham festival seems to grow each year, with the huge four-day extravaganza beginning on March 14. Our leading horse racing expert has been studying this season’s form with a fine tooth comb and has readied five horses who are expected to make a splash at Prestbury Park.
All the ante-post talk has been about the impressive duo of El Fabiolo and Jonbon, who head the market for this Grade 1 novice chase over two miles. The latter survived a scare in a match-race at Warwick, to remain unbeaten over fences, but may have shown he isn’t a certainty as many may have thought previously. El Fabiolo ran out a devastating 10-length winner of the Grade 1 Goffs Irish Arkle Chase at Leopardstown, finishing well ahead of DYSART DYNAMO, but there is enough to suggest a reversal at Cheltenham is not out of the question.
There is a real likelihood of a small field, given the other engagements of the majority of entries below this front three in the betting, which will suit Dysart Dynamo. An effortless 28-length scorer on chase debut at Leopardstown, the son of Westerner was hard to restrain in the aforementioned Irish Arkle Chase, stretching away by double-digits down the back straight. To his credit, he fought on well enough once headed in the home straight, and holds strong claims eased a furlong at Cheltenham. The course is likely to play to his strengths – his pace will be a serious weapon on the old course – where they are on the turn throughout. If the front pair leave him alone up front, they could easily be too far behind rounding for home. Dysart Dynamo looks the value play with the potential to blow this race apart from the outset.
Dual Grade 1-winning hurdler, THYME HILL, progressed hugely on third chase start, scoring by 15 lengths in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton. First-time cheekpieces clearly sparked improvement that day and with further progress within reach, he looks a big player in this stayers event. His chance is bolstered by excellent Cheltenham form figures of 23142, with stamina assured for this extended three-mile contest.
One of the ‘bankers’ of the Cheltenham festival will surely be DELTA WORK, in the Glenfarclas Chase on Wednesday. The former Grand National third is attempting to claim back-to-back victories in this race, following his determined half-length success ahead of Tiger Roll. Delta Work has been primed for this event after his excellent third over course-and-distance, when giving lumps of weight away, prior to a fine hurdle sixth at Group 2 level. He’s undoubtedly the horse to beat, granted a clear passage during his run.
MIGHTY POTTER has been a revelation over fences, winning all three starts, including a brace of Grade 1 prizes, notably an eight-and-a-half-length romp at Leopardstown last time. The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old continues to improve with his jumping technique and has already established a professional attitude to fencing. His main danger ought to be Banbridge, who ran on strongly to take second behind El Fabiolo over an inadequate trip last time out, but he’ll need to raise his game to get near Mighty Potter, who oozes class.
LUCCIA has caught the imagination of plenty in her two Listed Hurdle wins this season, including a decisive 11-length win at Exeter. She entered the season with a lofty reputation after impressive bumper form, which she has enhanced over obstacles, despite a few sketchy errors. Her jumping will be put to the test at the festival, but with this race on the new course, she ought to have more time to recover from any jumping inaccuracies. It’s worth bearing in mind, she does have the option of racing in the Grade 1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, in which she would have a good chance, so may be worth backing in the non-runner no bet market.
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