The National Hunt season really begins to kick up a gear this weekend with Cheltenham’s three-day November meeting, featuring the Paddy Power Gold Cup, Greatwood Hurdle and the Shloer Chase.
Plenty of big names have won here before going on to win at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years including Put The Kettle On and Coole Cody – we’ve nominated five worth considering this weekend and for the season ahead.
Hereditary Rule (9/2)
Friday 2:20 – SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
In a race that has seen the likes of Gin On Lime, Protektorat and More Of That prove successful in recent years, Hereditary Rule might not have the scope to reach them levels but could well prove good enough here for the John O’Connell team.
O’Connell enjoys plenty of Prestbury Park winners and couldn’t have this seven-year-old in better form, having won a decent novice chase at Cartmel in August before taking advantage of a lowly hurdle mark at Downpatrick in September.
He’s been freshened up for this and could well have a little in hand, with several in here disappointing in recent starts while favourite Unanswered Prayers makes chasing debut – no easy task at this stiff jumping venue.
Remarkably, Hereditary Rule is the only runner in the field to have won over the larger obstacles and that may prove crucial.
Saturday 12:35 – JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
The Milton Harris-trained three-year-old did plenty wrong on hurdling debut at Sedgefield but showed lots of ability to land the odds and create a decent impression in the process.
That was a slowly-run race and surely a better pace will suit the former Ballydoyle horse, having finished fifth for Aidan O’Brien in both the Ballysax Stakes and the Autumn Stakes.
The second and third from that race have both placed since so the form has a fairly solid look to it, although you would expect Scriptwriter to improve considerably for the experience.
If settling off what will likely be a decent speed, he could provide Harris – who has excelled in recent years with juveniles such as Knight Salute – another success in this division.
Tommy’s Oscar (3/1)
Saturday 1:45 – Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase
Experience of chasing could also come to the fore in the Arkle Trial, an excellent heat featuring classy hurdlers in Monmiral, Pentland Hills and Banbridge.
However, the one that stands out for me is Tommy’s Oscar, who showed plenty of heart to get up late despite giving 17lb to a race-fit Geromino on chasing debut in a match at Carlisle.
Them fences take some jumping and he took to the task fairly well, defying a lofty mark of 155 which has now been nudged up a further pound.
It goes without saying that Grade One winners Monmiral and Pentland Hills pose a threat if taking to the task, while question marks hang over Martin Pipe winner Banbridge’s ability to be quick enough for this distance.
Il Ridoto (17/2)
Saturday 2:20 – Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Another ultra-competitive renewal of the Paddy Power in 2022 with 16 runners going to post, and Irish raider French Dynamite the likely favourite for Mouse Morris after a smart hurdling win last time out in Ireland.
Ga Law has been well-backed after a good third in the Old Roan off the back of a long lay-off, but Il Ridoto could well be one to take a chance on at the prices for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
The five-year-old has been hard to catch right since moving to Nicholls, having bolted up at Newbury last season but was subsequently disappointing up in grade at Sandown and again at both the Cheltenham and Scottish National Festivals.
But that has meant he drops down to a mark of 140, gets his ground, and has had wind surgery which could unlock further progress from this five-year-old that surely has a bit more to offer.
The same trainer had Protektorat run an excellent second on seasonal reappearance last year in the same colours – they might well go one place better here.
Nube Negra (6/4)
Sunday 1:45 – Shloer Chase
Winner of this race last year, everything looks nicely set up for Nube Negra to record a second Shloer Chase success for Harry and Dan Skelton on Sunday.
The eight-year-old enjoys it around Cheltenham, is best fresh and on decent ground which all looks to be in his favour as well as a decent record in smaller fields.
He does however have to give 3lb to main market rival, last year’s Arkle hero Edwardstone for the Alan King team.
Edwardstone was without doubt exceptional last season, but questions could be asked about the quality of his rivals in that division and King could well have bigger targets in mind, whereas Nube Negra will surely be primed for this heat.