12.40 Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Racing TV)
The juveniles are the first to come under scrutiny on Cheltenham Trials day. Nicky Henderson saddles the likely favourite in Adjali, just out-gunned by Quel Destin at Chepstow in December. He was only beaten a neck that day, with the pair drawing a long way clear of the third. That was his first run since being gelded and the son of Kamsin sets the standard.
Our Power was beaten at Exeter in November but bounced back to win at Newbury the following month. Nelson River profited from the early departure of Protektorat when staying on strongly to beat Fanfan Du Seuil. Protektorat started favourite on his UK debut and he receives weight from the market leaders here. He could emerge as the biggest threat to the favourite.
Result: 3rd @ 5/4
1.15 Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase (Racing TV)
Daryl Jacob has a good book of rides and partners Kildisart here for Ben Pauling. He has run two solid races at Ascot, most recently beating Activial by a short-head. He escapes a penalty for that victory.
Azzerti is another likely improver, a narrow winner at the same course from Dustin Des Mottes. He finished a couple of lengths behind Kildisart at Ascot in November and is now 4lbs better off. He may have found the two miles too sharp in a slowly run race last time and should give Kildisart plenty to think about.
Result: 1st @ 9/2
1.50 Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase (ITV)
Henderson and Jacob again to the fore here with Janika, runner-up on his UK debut behind Hell’s Kitchen at Ascot. That run was packed with promise and any further rain would improve his chances. Lizzie Kelly is aboard the hat-trick seeking Siruh Du Lac for Nick Williams. The gelding battled on gamely to beat Dusky Lark at Exeter last time and he will only be 2lbs higher with Kelly’s claim taken into consideration.
Activial’s form could be advertised by Kildisart in the previous race but Tom George’s grey faces a stiff task under 11st 12lbs. Brelan D’As wore down Whatswrongwithyou to win a 4-runner race at Haydock under a super ride from Bryony Frost. The second and third have both won since. Brelan D’As receives a stone from Janika and should relish the extra half mile. Bottom weight The Kings Writ fell with the race at his mercy at Chepstow in November. He made amends with a five lengths victory at Exeter and should go well for Kayley Woollacott off a 7lbs higher mark.
Tip: BRELAN D’AS
Result: 5th @ 9/1
2.25 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (ITV)
Another slightly disappointing turnout for the Cotswold Chase but there are one or two intriguing angles here. Frodon is a class act over two and a half miles on this track and now steps up into Gold Cup territory. Welsh National winner Elegant Escape is going in the opposite direction having shown himself to be an out-and-out stayer at Chepstow.
Nicky Henderson is set to run both Valtor (James Bowen) and Terrefort (Daryl Jacob) despite battling with a minor bug in his yard. Valtor missed last weekends Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock after a stunning 33-1 victory at Ascot. He is being trained for the Grand National but was given an entry for the Gold Cup after his impressive win. Bowen rode him confidently at Ascot and he could be the value bet in a trappy contest.
Result: Pulled Up @ 6/1
3.00 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (ITV)
Birchdale has been given the nod to represent Henderson here in place of Champ. The winning point-to-pointer got off the mark in good style in a minor event at Warwick. That form has been boosted by victories for the second, third and fifth-placed horses since.
Jarveys Plate was beaten by Elixir De Nutz here in December before recording an emphatic victory on New Years’ Day. With Elixir De Nutz having won the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle next time, his form is difficult to knock. Jarveys Plate must concede 5lbs to Birchdale and that could just be decisive. Brewin’Upastorm won well at Huntingdon before finishing fourth to Champ at Newbury. The son of Milan was staying on in the closing stages after being out-paced on the run to the final flight.
Result: 1st @ 2/1
3.35 Galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (ITV)
This looks the most competitive race of the day on paper and could certainly influence the Stayers’ Hurdle betting. Paisley Park stepped up from handicap company to outstay a strong field in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and there seems no reason to desert him now.
West Approach reverted to hurdling after a spell over fences that day and almost pulled off a 40-1 shock. He travelled well throughout the race and certainly has each-way claims if reproducing that effort. Midnight Shadow is yet to tackle three miles while Unowhatimeanharry may want more cut in the ground to show his best form. Aux Ptits Sons is another interesting contender, a former Coral Cup winner when trained by Paul Nicholls. He is now with Dan Skelton and was a comfortable winner of a handicap here on New Years’ Day.
Tip: PAISLEY PARK
Result: 1st @ 10/3
4.10 Steel Plate and Sections Handicap Hurdle (Racing TV)
Flash The Steel won by half a length at Doncaster last month for Dan Skelton. He is up 5lbs while the consistent Our Merlin came up against a very well handicapped horse in Monsieur Lecoq at Sandown. Robert Walford’s gelding had previously made all to win well at Wincanton on good ground.
Equus Amadeus finished down the field in the Greatwood Hurdle here in November before wining comfortably at Doncaster. He should still be competitive off a 6lbs higher mark. John Constable, beaten less than two lengths by Buveur D’Air just over 12 months’ ago, seems to have gone into freefall. He has dropped 22lbs in the weights to a mark of 134. Nelson’s Touch travels well but does not find a great deal off the bridle.
Tip: EQUUS AMADEUS
Result: 8th @ 8/1