Our racing expert has three to back over jumps at Cheltenham.
Cheltenham opens its doors for the first time since April and there are some big fields for punters to consider, especially in the handicaps.
I’m going to stick to the more manageable non-handicaps and the seven-runner 2m novices’ chase features my bet of the day in Gary Moore’s DIAKALI.
A dual Grade 1 winning hurdler for Willie Mullins in 2013, he has been revitalised by the switch to fences for his current stable, winning both his starts from the front and by an aggregate of 52 lengths. He didn’t have much to beat, admittedly, and was odds-on on each occasion, but it’s clear he still has a big engine at the age of nine and probably ran tight up to his 153 hurdles mark.
His excellent jumping is going to stand him in good stead around here as getting into a rhythm over the fences is crucial, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him make every yard.
The name of Tom Lacey is one we are likely to hear a lot more of as the season progresses as the Herefordshire trainer is on the up and already has 13 winners on the board this season, those coming at a respectable strike rate of 24 per cent.
His SEBASTOPOL, who runs in the 2m maiden hurdle, looks sure to add to that tally as the winning pointer impressed in a competitive Ayr bumper on his Rules debut in April and has the scope to make up into a useful hurdler.
He’s a son of Ascot Gold Cup Fame And Glory and therefore should stay further than two miles, but he’s not short of speed either and I’m confident he can get off at the mark over hurdles at the first time of asking.
Lil Rockerfeller is going to be a warm order for the 3m novices’ chase on the card having made a winning debut over fences at Uttoxeter 19 days ago. However, this high-class staying hurdler was made to work hard on that occasion by an inferior rival and his jumping was safe rather than fluent. While he should improve in that department, he looks worth taking on at odds-on.
The obvious alternative is Dan Skelton’s SHANNON BRIDGE, who has the scope to be a much better chaser than hurdler. That said, he was no slouch over the smaller obstacles and only found Enniscoffey Oscar a short head too good in a Grade 2 at Doncaster in January, when trying 3m for the first time. That brave run probably took its toll as he disappointed on his next start and again on his final outing at Sandown, where the tacky/holding ground was against him.
Given that he won first time up last season and with his in-form trainer reaching for a first-time tongue-tie, presumably to help his breathing, today might be the day to catch him.
All odds were correct at time of posting.