WHEN trainer Philip Hobbs identified tomorrow’s Stan James International Hurdle at Cheltenham (3.05pm) as Menorah’s next target immediately after last month’s Greatwood Hurdle win, I remember thinking how desperate I’d be to oppose him. Don’t get me wrong, last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner is one of my favourite horses in training, it’s just that I’m convinced he relishes a biggish field and a strong pace – neither of which he will get tomorrow. Therefore, I’d far rather be a layer on Betdaq than a backer at as short as 6/4.
Paul Nicholls’ impressive Silviniaco Conti is unbeaten in all five career starts, but is passed over because he is shouldered with a penalty and may not have the speed to cope with the hugely exciting CUE CARD. Our selection is another who is unbeaten and connections have stepped him out of novice company for the first time.
I suggest taking the 2/1 now (as I’m sure he’ll trade shorter on the day) and then look to lay him back in-running on Betdaq at the top of the hill as he travels so well in his races. I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off taking the 16/1 about him for the Champion Hurdle either as that is bound to become his revised target if successful here.
Elsewhere on Cheltenham’s cracking eight race card, Master Minded will be a warm order to win the rescheduled Tingle Creek. However, I won’t be backing him at odds-on as he has been well beaten on both his last two visits to Prestbury Park.
I’d far rather take a chance on either Nicky Henderson’s Petit Robin, who has won first time up for the last two seasons and is a different horse going left handed, or SOMERSBY, who so nearly landed last year’s Arkle over this course and distance. Henrietta Knight’s charge made a really pleasing seasonal reappearance at Exeter and will relish a strongly run two miles. Snap up some of the 8/1 available each-way as he looks sure to be in the shake-up.
WYMOTT is an extremely interesting runner for Donald McCain in the red-hot Novices’ Chase at 12.45pm and may well be a lot shorter than 16/1 for the RSA Chase if successful. The Vote AP Gold Cup at 2.30pm looks as tricky a handicap to solve as you can get. Little Josh will put up a bold bid to add this prize to the Paddy Power Gold Cup he won last month, but he has taken a hike in the weights and may not get such an uncontested lead.
Nicky Henderson’s DAVE’S DREAM was impressive here last time and his summer wind operation seems to have done him the world of good. He is reportedly flying at home and could well be a few pounds ahead of the handicapper. He is the main selection at 5/1 with Paddy Power, but I’ll also be having a few shillings each-way on Gold Cup sixth CALGARY BAY. He has far too much decent form in the book to be sent off at 20/1 off just 10st6lb.
Finally, looking at today’s card, I’ll be backing SPIRIT RIVER to bounce back from a fall on his chasing debut last time in the opener.