WHEN the rain finally arrived a month ago in time for Cheltenham’s Open meeting, trainers breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of some proper winter jumping conditions.
Yet, just four weeks on and clerk of the course Simon Claisse has been forced to turn on the taps to maintain decent ground.
It’s been a bizarrely dry winter which means tomorrow’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.50pm) is going to be a totally different kind of test to normal.
The best trial for this race has always been the BetVictor Gold Cup and four of the first five are set to line-up again tomorrow.
The winnner, Taquin De Seuil, is missing on account of the ground but, despite the burden of top weight, I’m going to side with VILLAGE VIC who was only just touched off last month.
Philip Hobbs’ nine-year-old was a hugely impressive winner of this race 12 months ago and then followed up over course and distance on New Year’s Day.
He was put in his place by Vautour in the Ryanair, but that was at the end of a hard season and I thought he ran an extraordinary race on his comeback.
The type of jumper who puts his rivals to the sword at every fence with his aggressive front-running tactics, he was really unlucky to get caught near the line.
Although he’s now far higher in the weights than last year, he’s such a solid and consistent horse that you know you’ll get a decent run for your money.
Bouvreuil looks by far the biggest danger after a respectable fifth in the same race last month. He ran well on a number of occasions last season and loves decent ground.
I’ve no doubt that he’s well-handicapped, but his price disintegrated earlier in the week and I’d rather back Village Vic each-way at 7/1 with Betway.
There is a dearth of top class two mile hurdlers in the UK at the moment, so there is a decidedly open-looking feel to the Stan James International Hurdle (3.00pm).
Final declarations won’t be known until later this morning, but I suggest you back MY TENT OR YOURS at 13/8.
The conditions of the race massively favour Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old and on three visits to Cheltenham he’s finished second in two Champion Hurdles and a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Don’t read too much into Haydock last time, he was never going to handle that ground. He’s the class horse in the race, has his ideal conditions and gets weight from all of his rivals.
It was a shame that WHOLESTONE didn’t get the job done here last month, but compensation awaits in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.25pm).
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ inmate will relish the step back up in trip and is strongly fancied to see off regular rival West Approach.
There is some competitive action at Cheltenham this afternoon where the highlight is the Unicoin Group Handicap Chase (1.30pm).
I like the look of Tom George’s A GOOD SKIN who has some excellent course and distance form, including a handicap win in April 2015 and a second in this year’s Kim Muir.
The ground is perfect and he should be backed at 7/1 with Betway, who are giving money back as a free bet if your horse finishes second in all Channel 4 races today.
A Good Skin e/w 1.30pm Cheltenham (Fri)
Village Vic e/w 1.50pm Cheltenham (Sat)
Wholestone 2.25pm Cheltenham (Sat)
My Tent Or Yours 3.00pm Cheltenham (Sat)