The rumours emanating from Seven Barrows suggest the Supreme Novices’ third could be a dark horse for the Champion Hurdle at the Festival back here next March.
There’s no doubt a mark of 147 looks surmountable. Vautour, who beat him by six and a half lengths in the Supreme Novices’ is potentially one of the best National Hunt horses we’ve seen in years. He’s a solid 160-rated beast and there’s more to come from Vaniteux on just his fifth start under rules.
The only worry is really soft ground as I wouldn’t expect connections to run him if it got very testing with bigger targets in mind.
If that was the case then the progressive Exitas, a wide-margin winner of his last three starts, would be the pick. Phil Middleton’s four-timer seeking inmate has been well-supported in recent days and off a very low weight his claims are clear. He’s 8/1 with Paddy Power and a real danger to the favourite.
Looking at today’s action and there are two shorties which will be difficult to beat. BLAKLION should take the 3.00pm and complete the five-timer under rules as he marches on to the Neptune next spring.
The 10-year-old BALTHAZAR KING, runner-up in the Grand National, has won nearly £500,000 in prize-money and can add another £15,640 to his haul by repeating his win last year in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at 3.35pm.
As a seven-time winner at Cheltenham, Philip Hobbs’ horse is as reliable as they come. I wouldn’t put anyone off the pair in a double.
ASTRACAD is worth a nibble in the 1.50pm at 14/1. Nigel Twiston-Davies is another running off a decent mark and has plenty of form over the fences here. This race is full of out of form horses or ones coming back from a break and, with fitness on his side, the eight-year-old can go close.
My best of the day, though, is CUP FINAL in the last 4.05pm. Continuing this week’s theme of well-handicapped Henderson-trained hurdlers, this one’s form behind Irving last season is standout here and it’s easy to forgive a poor effort at the Festival in a hot Grade One when last seen.
1.50pm Cheltenham (today)
3.00pm Cheltenham (today)
3.35pm Cheltenham (today)
4.05pm Cheltenham (today)
3.15pm Cheltenham (Sunday)